One way physicians can be successful in today’s healthcare environment is to have a good handle on what is going on in their practice. Among the best ways to do that is through data.

For starters, physicians should get patients involved in their own care, according to Todd Evenson, director of data solutions for the Medical Group Management Association-American College of Medical Practice Executives (MGMA-ACMPE).

You can do this for patients with diseases such as diabetes by using your electronic medical records (EMRs) to create a patient dashboard. When they visit, let them know their A1C levels and where they should be. You can use a stoplight application – let them know if they are in the red, and if so, how to get to yellow or green.

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Patient surveys

Another way to measure quality is through patient satisfaction surveys. There are a handful of benchmarks to use, like the Clinical & Groups Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CG-CAHPS). You can track survey findings over time to ascertain the “pain points” and how you compare with your peers, Evenson said.  

Where patient satisfaction is low or where you know you need improvement, data can help track and improve the practice. For instance, if referral patients complain about having to wait long periods before being seen, you can create metrics to find the problem. Using an excel spread sheet, you can track when people call and when they are seen. This can be helpful in figuring out areas that might be sticking points, like getting information from a referring physician.

Referral sources

Furthermore, knowing more about your patient referrals can also help understand your revenue stream. For a urologist, one of the scariest things would be to find out that all of your patients are referred from one big general practitioner’s group,” said James Gaston, senior director of clinical and business intelligence at HIMSS Analytics. “Then think about the business risk. If that big group decides to hire a urologist or if they get cut from that provider network, they would lose a huge block of income or patient volume.”

Another option is tracking the origin of your income. Creating a pie chart to show where money is coming in will help you find who your payers are and who is generating the most revenue. You might see that one of your most common payers is Medicare but you net more income from a private payer like Blue Cross Blue Shield. This could allow you to focus on getting more of the higher-income patients.