09:54 AM

UHD Mathematics Alumnus Dedicated to Making a Difference in Quality of Life

Miriam Morales ('01) is all about quality. As a member of Scholars Academy and the speaker at her UHD commencement exercises, Morales passionately articulated her commitment to utilizing the mathematical skills she acquired as an undergraduate to promote better health alternatives for the Hispanic community.

Morales immediately followed up on that commitment, first working closely with the Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine to identify dietary patterns, factors associated with those eating patterns, and dietary trends and outcomes among diverse populations.

Today, Morales, director of Strategic Analytics at Memorial Hermann, oversees the analytics Mischer Neuroscience Associates (MNA) Innovation and Quality and Research Unit, where she manages a team of analysts, statisticians, programmers and clinicians. Thus far in her tenure, she has constructed data warehousing and analytics platforms as part of integrated electronic medical record and financial systems as well as design data systems that tied patient data from multiple disparate data capture and storage systems including legacy data.

Her success in linking data across inpatient, outpatient, financial, and existing quality informatics led the MNA to develop and publish standardized quality metrics that tethered traditional hospital metrics to surgeon-based metrics with aligned business and operational standards.

"We're assessing our patients' perceptions of their status at three, six and 12 months following treatment and every year after that using standardized questionnaires accepted by the neurosurgical community for brain and spine patients," Morales said. "The data we're gathering, organizing and analyzing will ultimately improve physician performance based on evidence-based guidelines and lead to better care and patient outcomes."

This accomplishment enabled yet another important milestone: the development of surgeon and critical care physician driven incentives and bonus programs based on their quality and business metrics. No other integrated surgeon group is tracking such a diverse set of metrics where surgeon performance across all metrics are tied to their salaries.

Morales is adamant about the bottom line, however, with regards to her commitment to quality through data.

"This is not just research for the sake of research," she said. "It's about ensuring that we're providing the right type of intervention to the right patient, and that the intervention is making a difference in quality of life. By December 2015, we'll have enough data to begin to show our physicians their patients' outcomes over time."

Morales' future plans include translating these aforementioned efforts into community-based educational and intervention programs that would reduce emergency room admissions and hospital readmissions in order to reduce overall healthcare costs and provide patients with improved outcomes.

Morales is also developing a blog to facilitate collaboration between analysts, physicians, and revenue teams, and in the coming year will be launching a data analytics lecture series. The fruits of this labor will ultimately be a textbook on how to translate technical results to physicians and hospital administrators.