By Stacy M. Menz, PT, DPT, PCS
In this month’s issue of Impact, we have multiple articles on data and information management. As we look to the future of health care, we see that information and data will likely drive much of our future, whether it be clinical outcomes data, practice management metrics, key performance indicators, or other data points. As we contemplate this, we must decide what information is useful yet also accurate, because in this information age one can easily become overwhelmed by the data available. We need to identify key metrics to manage our practice and be sure that the data we use we understand not only from a benchmarking perspective but also that we understand how the data is derived and can confirm it is correct. We have all heard the old adage “garbage in, garbage out.”
I look back over my practice as it has evolved, and I have consistently kept data since inception. I have followed the trends of the business through the use of this data and used it as a living history of my practice. Recently, I have been faced with some decisions related to the next steps in my practice that have forced me to really evaluate the way I collect and analyze data. I have given careful consideration to how much data and which metrics I was using to guide my decisions as a practice owner. I found myself paralyzed because of the sheer volume of data available and needed to step back and really look at which metrics I needed to base my decisions on. It provided me with clarity on how to define key metrics I needed and let go of extraneous data as well as inaccurate data that clouded decision making.
Technology allows us to pull and store data, but we still need to know what questions to ask and how to interpret the data. The data we collect from our business is similar to the data we collect on an evaluation when we first see a patient. We start to paint a picture and ask follow-up questions, which lead to collecting more information to fill in the missing parts of the picture. We do the same things with our business. As we discover the relevant data to measure our outcomes and answer business questions, we begin to see pattern recognition just as we do with our patients. Good data does not lie and will hold us accountable to the decisions we have made and will make about our practice. Data can remove the emotional bias we may have as we approach decisions.
The articles in this issue will help guide you to determine what questions you should be asking. They can give you a starting point to see if the systems you have in place are getting you the information you need or if it’s time to revise or revamp the system. I know that in patient care it’s easy to get into a rut. When I go to a conference or am taking a continuing education course, I am able to add new tools or see a different perspective so that I can ask the important questions. My hope is that the articles this month help you to take a step away from any potential ruts you have been in with your business and look at it from a different perspective so you can adjust the systems you have in place and better manage the information you keep on your practice.