How Physical Therapists Can Build, Use, and Optimize a Dashboard and KPIs
Create purposeful dashboards to visualize, track, and manage key clinic metrics
By Adam McCoy
Most rehab therapists pursued a career in order to help people, not because they had a passion for business and data. However, successfully growing your clinical reach and helping patients achieve positive health outcomes also means developing a healthy business strategy—including a deep understanding of business metrics.
These metrics include key performance indicators (KPIs), which offer a clear and objective picture of your practice’s financial health and overall performance. Admittedly, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the variables. Fortunately, creating dashboards is a great — and straightforward — way to manage your KPIs.
Dashboards are an information management tool that track, gather, and display business data in interactive and customizable visualizations. They allow you to monitor the financial health of your clinic, analyze processes, and gain actionable insights. Dashboards are vital in keeping a pulse on KPIs such as initial evaluations, units per visit, referral conversion rate, denial rate, and much more.
Some clinic software services have dashboards built right in, allowing users to quickly get a snapshot of the state of their business in real time. These typically include base analytics with a standard set of KPIs, perhaps with the additional option of adding goal lines. Other setups are fully customizable and allow users to alter definitions or add widgets. Some practices may use spreadsheets. Regardless of the setup, the most important aspect of using a dashboard to monitor KPIs is what users do with the data. Clinic leaders should ask: “What am I getting out of monitoring these metrics? And what will I do with this information?”
Give Thought to a Purposeful Design
Metrics are key to understanding processes, so the dashboard should serve as a lens into your next action. However, actionable data requires forethought. When building a dashboard, focus on how data will affect behavior — and think about how the data will influence your decisions. Monitoring KPIs with the purpose of gaining greater insights into your clinic’s performance and growth is key.
In some cases, a single metric may be an accurate indicator of your clinic’s health. For example, the cancel/no-show rate can be a powerful KPI for unpacking issues with upstream processes. If this rate rises suddenly, this may indicate a problem with appointment notifications or another communication issue at the front desk.
A common pitfall for clinic managers is gathering data for the sake of collecting data. A hyper-granular approach could work to your detriment because too much information can paralyze decision-making. Instead, keep your KPIs clear and straightforward.
As you become more sophisticated in identifying which metrics matter most to your clinic — and are actionable — you can further streamline your dashboard. Remember: more widgets is not always better.
Keep Your Definitions Consistent
Although there is a relatively standard set of metrics used in rehab therapy businesses, there can be slight nuances in how each metric is defined. These small changes can add up to a big difference — and could even contribute to a poor business decision!
While it may be possible to override definitions in some dashboards, it’s important to understand the implications of each data definition and the effects of altering it. For example, how is a visit defined? One way to define it as a finalized billable note. Some end users, however, may switch the definition of a visit to be any checked-in appointment. Doing so may open room for error, depending on the tightness of upstream processes. Why?
A finalized billable note involves several steps: seeing a patient, documenting, finalizing the note, and submitting it for payment. This behavior is very consistent, so there are few natural errors in that process. However, a checked-in appointment leaves room for variables based on loose processes. What if a front desk staff member doesn’t complete the check-in? A patient could conceivably be seen and assessed but not be captured as a “visit” based on an overlooked error at the front desk.
There are pros and cons to editing definitions, and the best definition may depend on how confident you are in your upstream processes. As you settle on definitions, think through possible causes of natural error and develop control mechanisms to catch them.
Capture Adequate Data for Decision-Making
Metrics are only meaningful with adequate context. An example of this is capturing referral data. Unconverted referrals represent missed opportunities for new businesses — and are therefore a very important metric to track. To do so, however, requires sufficient data.
Capturing accurate referral data requires the front desk to engage fully with new patients and obtain baseline information from every new caller or walk-in. First, they need to determine whether it was a referral or not. Second, they must collect a few data points, such as first name, last name, address, insurer, and date of birth. These few details alone can shed light on why referrals are not converting.
For example, are referrals failing to convert due to solvable issues like therapist availability or a lack of front desk callbacks? Or are referrals not converting because of stickier issues such as clinic location or insurance? Digging into the data may reveal that referred patients who live within two miles of your clinic convert at a much higher rate than those five miles away. Or the data may reveal that a significant number of referrals aren’t booking because of a lack of evening appointments. Some of these issues will be easier to solve than others—regardless, the data can spell out whether any action needs to be taken.
As therapists juggle patient care with business prowess, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, technology can serve up the right data to support smart business moves. After all, the numbers never lie. Take the time to identify the right metrics to monitor your clinic’s health, and then evaluate — and reevaluate — your dashboard to ensure it is simple and insightful.
Adam McCoy joined WebPT in 2017 and leads WebPT’s Reporting and Analytics solution. Adam has over 10 years of product and analytics experience. Prior to joining WebPT, Adam has been a strong leader in product innovation within health care and benefit administration. He managed multiple products at Phytel, which was awarded best in KLAS for two consecutive years and later acquired by IBM Watson.