Manage Your Practice
Utilizing an electronic medical record system and practice management software can dramatically save time while providing powerful and useful statistics.
By Jerry Rush PT, MPT, OCS, CEAS
Successful private practice owners understand that there is one thing that they need to have a profitable business: data. Data has been important for practice owners to see the performance of their businesses and identify areas that need to be improved or changed. Traditionally, the data needed contains certain critical statistics and information about their practice. However, it is becoming more apparent that practice owners also feel increased pressure to supply data about their practices to insurance carriers for payment negotiations. Further, companies that utilize physical therapy practices for ergonomic, worksite rehabilitation, or contracting services require data about quality, cost, and bottom-line savings up front. Data collecting and analysis can require considerable time and energy. However, utilizing an electronic medical record (EMR) system can save time and provide powerful statistics. An EMR also allows you to put stream-lined operations in place.
Identifying Fundamental Metrics
There are several key financial and operating metrics that practice owners need to intimately know and understand. These metrics include: referral sources and trends, visits per referral, cash (net) per visit, total clinic patient visits per week/month, collection percentage, and productivity information—typically visits per full-time equivalent (FTE) per day per week. Historically, this information came from different manual calculations or utilizing different software programs, taking considerable time. Worse yet, this information may not have been collected at all due to the time it required to collect and analyze. EMR systems, especially programs with practice management software, allow the above information to be gathered by simply running reports from the system. Once you have this information in hand, you can apply it to internal operations. This information can then also be utilized to negotiate with insurance carriers and used in presentations/negotiations with companies looking to utilize your services.
Facilitate Streamlined Fundamental Operations
Data that can easily be applied to day-to-day operations with your staff includes: visits per clinic, visits per FTE per day, visits per referral, referral source statistics and trends (who is or is not sending you patients). Having this information allows you to set guidelines for your staff’s schedule (appointment time length or number of appointments available per day), and also allows you to set productivity guidelines (visits seen per day per FTE and per clinic or visits per referral). Staff members like to know how they are performing. Once you have the above information, you can review this information with your staff on a regular basis. The objective data will show if your staff is being productive and performing at the level you have set. This way, the data does the talking for you because it will show in black and white if expectations are being met. The data will identify your superstars, will help identify future members of your leadership team, and will identify staff on the lower end of the bell curve. This helps to keep emotions out of decision making and significantly reduces any bias from entering into a decision. Data regarding referral sources allows you to monitor trends from year-to-year or month-to-month. This becomes particularly useful in practices that have several clinics in a wide geographic area where your list of referral sources is lengthy. Identifying an increase or decrease in referrals from certain groups/physicians will allow you or your team to develop an action plan accordingly.
Utilizing Fundamental Data to Negotiate with Payers and Businesses
Insurance companies increasingly put downward pressure on payment. They gather significant data on your practice versus your peers. The data they present during payment negotiations will have significantly more power for them if it is the only data presented during meetings. This means that you need to be prepared and bring your own data to show the value and efficiency of your practice. The data you should bring includes the operational metrics mentioned previously, plus clinical outcome/quality data. EMR programs allow you to run reports to show: pre- and post-treatment functional outcome measure scores, which bring to light functional improvements your patients make, the percentage of your patients who reach their established goals, and the percentage of your patients whose total visits fell within the expected norms for their particular diagnosis or practice pattern. This evidence shows the true clinical value of your practice and provides your best chance of having successful payer negotiations.
Knowing the above fundamental data is also critical for obtaining contracts with businesses to provide ergonomic programs, to offer pre/post work stretching programs, and to implement wellness programs. You need to be able to provide data that shows you will give potential clients what they are looking for—typically to save money. They need to feel comfortable that their investment in your services will ultimately keep their employees healthy and improve their overall bottom line. Competition for these services can be intense, so having data available to show your value is important.
You will need to have real-time data on certain fundamentals about your practice. When considering an investment in an EMR/practice management program, be sure to add to the “pro” list that the system will assist you in running an efficient practice, help in future successful insurance negotiations, and help obtain new revenue streams. Undoubtedly, EMR/practice management systems can be a substantial investment. However, EMR/practice management systems can provide you with powerful and critical objective data about your practice that will assist with your profitability and success.
Jerry Rush PT, MPT, OCS, CEAS, is a PPS member and regional vice president with CPRS Physical Therapy, an employee owned multi-location practice in Lancaster, PA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.