How Business Intelligence Helps Small Physician Practices

July 11, 2013

Why investing in business intelligence technology for data analytics may be a smart move for small medical groups.

Chances are you’ve been hearing a lot about “big data” lately. The government and commercial payers are pushing for quality improvement through programs that call for objectively measuring outcomes. And the formation of accountable care organizations (ACOs) and other shared-savings program puts the impetus on healthcare groups to share responsibility and costs.

Thus the easiest way to keep track of the numbers is by using business intelligence, or business analytics, technology.

But as the market saturates with product offerings, smaller practices might be wondering if investment in business intelligence technology - on top of all the other technology practices have to purchase - is worth its weight.

For Jeff Holm, administrator at Northern Carolina Orthopedics, the answer is yes.

Holm, whose practice employs two physicians and two midlevel providers, has been using MTBC’s Business Intelligence module, a supplement to MTBC’s EHR and medical billing suite, for a few months now and is starting to see how having data can effect change.

“We haven’t had a lot of good access to data, especially graphics data,” Holm told Physicians Practice. “Our previous billing system gave me tons of data. I could ask for ‘give me a certain code’ and I’d get [huge] spreadsheets, which do you absolutely zero good.”

His new system, on the contrary, allows him “drill down,” and request specific data points for comparison purposes. Holm is also able to easily compare payers on several metrics, such as denials, days in A/R, and coverage policies.

MTBC isn’t the only horse in this race. Other well-known vendors, such as athenahealth, are targeting physician practices with similar business analytics technology offerings. Industry talking heads believe that in the future, more practices will need it, especially if they aspire to join ACOs or Patient-Centered Medical Homes. For Holm, ease of use was a big selling point.

“With business intelligence, it shows you ‘is our bell curve matching the industry standard?’ ‘Are we undercoding? Are we overcoding?’ ‘Are physicians seeing the appropriate mix of patients?’” says Holm. “It’s very helpful to get it, to have a picture of ‘geez, our collections are down this month.’ Those kind of snapshots we’ve never had before.”