The now normal, part 1: Data analysis for smart business decisions
By Rick Lozano and Susan Weidner, Susan Weidner
As practices prepare to transition out of the current phase of the pandemic and into the somewhat uncertain future, their data hold important insights. Data analysis can help leaders make the best decisions for both their patients' health and their practices' financial future.
Analytics solutions help make sense of changes in patient volume. Practices can search comparative data to see trends in their specialty, geographic area and other demographics. The data show if the flux they experienced is unique to their practice, or part of the wider downturn.
Practices' Financial Future
Data detail specialty practices' patients' decline in drug use and the practices' subsequent drop in purchasing. This yields key information on revenue gaps that practices can leverage to improve their financial future.
The sudden, forced shift to remote work caught some community practices off-guard. As billing staff began to work from home, struggles with adequate connectivity and the inability to use certain tools remotely contributed to delays. Many practices experienced a seven to fourteen-day lag in submitting their medical claims, resulting in a delay in getting paid. Payors were in the same situation of adjusting to remote work and were not processing claims as fast as usual.
The impact of the pandemic will differ from practice to practice, depending on whether their focus is drug delivery or diagnostics and/or procedures. Data analysis can point practices in the direction they need to focus. The information from inventory management systems can guide practices to make proactive adjustments to their inventories.
Partnering with consultants who understand their revenue streams and taking advantage of analytics software that goes beyond just the EMR helps a practice's bottom line. Using technologies to optimize decision-making eases workflows. Solutions can help stabilize business operations in this post-pandemic world.
Specialty physician practices can use tools and analytics to support smart decisions that keep them viable in their community. During the pandemic, patient cancellations became the norm across specialties. Existing patients dropped treatments, and new patient recruitment crawled to a standstill. Our data showed a 40 to 85 percent decline in new patients across all specialties.
A dive into data shows which patients suspended treatment and at what point. Practices can use those insights to direct messaging to those patients. They can affirm any new safety protocols put into place as they reopen and reassure patients that it's safe to return to treatment. Analytics tools can then track the uptick in patients, which practices can use to make smart decisions around scheduling to maintain social distancing.
Community practices were especially hard hit by the lockdown. Data can accurately differentiate the challenges unique to the community setting. What are the trends? How are patients being treated? Practice managers need to be sure their analytics software is continually updating the information it feeds them. The more accurate the data, the more helpful it is to shape their responses.
Slowed-down referral sources are another data point for practices to analyze. Which referral partners stopped sending patients to the practice? Which elective procedures saw a downturn? As restrictions ease, practices, informed by their data, can reconnect with their referral partners.
Tapping into comprehensive patient and financial data can be revelatory for specialty physician practices. As they optimize their data, practices can tap into opportunities to provide better care.