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The Importance of Data Analytics for Medical Practices

The Importance of Data Analytics for Medical Practices

Medical practices have always tracked their "numbers." From the days of tracking patient payments via paper to EHRs to now monitoring performance on quality metrics, physicians and practice staff are keeping a close eyes on the data their office produces.

"It's shifting away from just an accounting and payroll function to becoming more of a strategic thought partner at the practice, providing real insight to support organizational decisions, whether that person is a physician or a practice administrator," says Mandi Clossey, CPA, a principal with Somerset CPAs and Advisors, in Indianapolis.

At this year's Medical Group Management Association Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif., Clossey will present "Building Real-Time Analytics for Practice Improvement." Her session, scheduled for Monday, October 9, from 7 to 8 a.m. Pacific, will explain how practices can measure progress toward their goals using key financial indicators.

Physicians Practice recently spoke to Clossey about her session and the importance of data analytics, especially for smaller practices.

Physicians Practice: What are the specific benefits for practices in looking at their data analytics?

Mandi Clossey: The benefits of a deeper data analytics person or the ability to do that internally in a practice and benchmarking is pretty amazing. I think benchmarking, as we look at it, is an important tool in data analytics. You utilize it to identify best practices and then areas where improvement may be needed in your practice. So when we think of benchmarking and key performance indicators (KPIs), sometimes [practices] get caught up in a feeling of "I don't know if I want to benchmark as I don't want to see all the areas that need improvement" [and get a little overwhelmed].

Mandi Clossey, CPAMandi Clossey, CPA
But they….can use the KPIs for their core practice metrics, looking internally, and in …broader scope, for performance of ancillary services and [staff] position productivity, for example, especially as more and more practices are utilizing extenders in today's healthcare world.

Data has been around for a long time. The [issue] a lot of practices face, specifically some of the small to medium size ones, is that they've had this data, yet no one has paid much attention to it. Or they take a snapshot view of it and are caught up in day-to-day practice management and don't really utilize the data or react upon it.

So I think the real struggle in many organizations, due to the sheer volume of healthcare information and analytics is: Where do I even begin? The practice with the data that is acting upon it is obviously in a better position, from negotiating with payers to different contracts.

PP: So how do small practices best get a handle on utilizing data?

Clossey: You need leadership on the management team and physicians need to drive and be engaged in the practice data. If you have one person who is all on-board with gathering data and doing all the analytics and no one is else to support them from the management team or physicians, then it all goes to nil.

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