Create a healthy business future with weekly vital signs reporting.
By Larry D. Briand, PT, MS, ATC
At the beginning of a patient’s visit, the patient’s height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse are taken, even before getting into the details of “How are you feeling today?” These are known as vital signs. It is paramount information in learning a patient’s overall health status and shows where they are and potentially where they need to be.
In today’s ever-evolving market, all physical therapy practices must operate like disciplined businesses to survive and prosper. Like any enterprise, business intelligence and quality analytics are essential to improving performance. Just as tracking the vital signs of a patient can assist in detecting a problem area that can be more easily remedied before a major medical episode might occur, the same holds true for tracking the vital signs of your business to ensure business health and growth. Weekly monitoring and understanding of these metrics is essential. Knowing what the data are telling you about the health of your practice and what changes can be made in the practice to improve is the ultimate goal.
An important key to the success of a practice’s vital signs program is weekly monitoring. It is much easier to notice the emergence of changes or problem areas on a weekly basis, which makes it easier to remedy the cause. If you monitor on a monthly or quarterly basis, downward trends continue to grow before the information comes to light in a quarterly report. Weekly reporting allows a better turnaround time for any areas that may need to be addressed.
Another key factor is to have vital signs that make sense to your practice. All critical success factors that are gathered from practice management intelligence should be able to be measured in an objective manner in order to gauge that your practice management is efficient and effective. All of this will give your practice overall health and longevity by growing your business in a planned manner.
Vital signs reports should promote management efficiency by providing clear data on:
- Patient volume statistics: Is the census rising? Is there a mix of new patients and returning patients?
- Provider productivity: Are your providers being scheduled in such a way that maximum efficiency is being met?
- Payer mix: We all want to work smarter, not harder. Is the payer mix providing the types of reimbursement necessary to keep the clinic viable?
- Patient compliance: Do patients understand the need to be an active participant in their plan of care and how to work it thoroughly to achieve the restoration of performance desired through physical therapy? Is your entire staff a part of making sure patients are remaining compliant with their visits? Does your front desk communicate to the patient effectively about any upfront collections or payments that are necessary at time of service? If a patient perceives a financial burden by coming to their appointments, that burden may be affecting their plan of care compliance.
- Clinical documentation compliance: This is not only necessary for maximum/proper reimbursement, but also for Medicare certification status, documentation status, and discharges being appropriately completed. Compliance in clinical documentation is a critical success factor in billing as well as for timely reimbursements, which improve a practice’s cash flow. And finally, compliance in clinical documentation brings peace of mind that the patient’s episode of care is closed appropriately.
All of the aforementioned critical success factors can be objectively measured, analyzed, and acted on for a positive turnaround in a short period of time, especially when reported on a weekly basis. These vital signs also can measure and help identify:
- Best referral sources for patient volume
- Implementation and responsibility of staff for helping patients keep appointments and collecting any payments at time of service
- Payers’ payment cycles and specific rules for faster claims reimbursements
Creating a meaningful vital signs reporting program can help to achieve stability in the practice both financially and motivationally.
Changes on the horizon will never stop, but the best way to predict your future is to create it. By implementing your own vital signs tracking of critical success factors, you can begin the journey to creating your successful future.
Larry D. Briand, PT, MS, ATC, is the founder and chief executive officer of Rehab Management Solutions where he owns and operates a nationwide network of private practice physical therapy clinics. He has more than 25 years of experience leading clinics. Larry is an APTA and PPS member. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.