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People who get into the business of urgent care aren’t typically energized by spreadsheets. They understand that metrics are important, but their comfort zone is patient care. On top of that, running and deciphering reports can feel exhausting, especially at the end of an already long day. So it’s understandable when clinic owners and managers tune out phrases like “data literacy.”    

Thanks to modern business intelligence, however, data can be simplified and interactive so that it’s easy to not only monitor performance but also take the right steps towards improvement. Better yet, clear data can be accessible to everyone at the clinic, so individuals can immediately see how they’re doing and be recognized for their contribution to clinic performance.  

However you define success for your clinic(s,) you’ll get there faster and with fewer setbacks when you can collect, evaluate, manage, and apply data in a critical manner – and act on it. That’s data literacy.  

We know that’s a lot to unpack, so we’ll break data literacy down so it makes practical sense for your team. 

Why a Culture of Data Literacy Matters to You and Your Team 

When you think about the future of your urgent care, what do you envision? What are your goals? Is it to be the number one urgent care people think of when they need on-demand healthcare? Do you want to open more clinics? And once you’ve identified your goals, do you know what you have to do to get there? 

Whatever your answer, much like a blueprint is required to build a house, you need to be able to define and visualize everything involved in reaching your clinic goals. And everyone who contributes to your overall success has to know what’s expected of them in the big picture. 

Furthermore, people want their work measured. They want to know how well they are doing. When people put in effort to learn and study for an exam, they want to know their grade. The same is true for work — jobs are more meaningful when people understand how they’re performing.   

A culture of data literacy does more than set expectations and track progress, though. It’s really about accountability and decision-making. It shows every single employee that they’re not just a cog in a machine. It’s easy for front desk staff, for example, to consider their duties as just a job. But showing them how they fit into the overall success of the clinic demonstrates how vital they are. It helps them care more about the way they ask for payment and how efficiently they manage registration. These aren’t mindless tasks but invaluable contributions.  

So you don’t want to just use data to reach your brass ring. You want it embedded in daily operations and everyone invested in using it.  

How to Create a Culture of Data Literacy 

Creating any new culture takes clarity, commitment, and consistency.  And while everyone is responsible for living the culture, it must be demonstrated from the top down.  Here are some foundational steps to take to create a culture of data literacy at your clinic(s.)  

  1. Define your goals as a leader for the business itself, e.g., financial stability, expansion, brand awareness, etc. 
  2. Determine the metrics every staff member should be measured on to support the business goals. For example: 
    1. If you want your urgent care to be top of mind for patients in need, you might include metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and marketing effectiveness  
    2. If you’re more focused on cash flow, Speed of Service to Payment and Accuracy of Payment might be two of your key KPIs (more in KPI Stacking under Best Practices.) 
  3. Get a Business Intelligence (BI) tool that makes it easy for all staff to track their metrics (more on this in What to Look for in a BI Tool.)  
  4. Use your BI tool to determine where you’re at with each metric now and assign goals for each (see best practices section for help.) 
  5. Align staff on your goals and get buy-in. Cleary explain the why behind the business and individual goals. 
  6. Clearly define expectations on how data will be worked into the rhythm of the clinic. For example, every Monday, we will look at last week’s progress on A, B; every day we will review C. Based on what we see, we will do X, Y, or Z.  
  7. Celebrate the wins and use the habits of high performers to help guide others . Let your staff contribute ideas on how to improve. 
  8. Be consistent. However you incorporate data into your routines and processes, commit to it! 

Best Practices 

When you start something new, you don’t want it to fail before it has a chance to do what it’s supposed to do. Here are a few best practices that can help you approach data lieracy in a sustainable way that lets people ramp up to the process. 

Less is More  
If you’re not already measuring your chosen metrics, especially with the entire team, you don’t want to overwhelm anyone. Choose three to five metrics to start, and get really good at those. Then layer the rest in over time, giving people a chance to gain confidence and get better along the way. 

Use KPIs You can Control
The point of monitoring KPIs is to be able to do something to improve them. KPIs should be a decision-making tool – not a final destination. Something like payer mix does impact your business, as certain payers do not pay as well or as quickly. But you don’t have much control over who comes into your clinic and what insurance they carry. Payer Mix is an informative KPI. However, something like NPS is an actionable KPI. You do have control over how you treat your patients, efficiencies that can reduce wait time, and processes that impact time in the exam room. Monitor the metrics that you can affect to change when you need to. The KPI has to be relevant to the person you’re measuring.  

Baseline to Define Targets that are Right for Your Current Level of Performance
It’s important to use your current performance to set goals rather than industry standards so you avoid setting unattainable targets. You need to be able to understand what’s impacting a number and start to fix what’s broken. The goal shouldn’t be too easy, either, but if you reach too high too fast, you can set your staff up to fail, leaving them discouraged. 

KPI Stacking
Let’s say you’re considering selling up to a private equity firm, so your goal is to be the most financially viable. To get perfect financials, you know you want things like great cash flow, low A/R days, and high payment per visit. Consider how all staff contributes to these metrics. The front desk staff is an obvious player — measuring them on Point of Service Collections helps them be better at collecting copays at the time of service. The providers and clinicians also impact financials, though. They’re responsible for accurate E/M levels, accurate data entry to charge the correct amount, and closing an encounter in a timely way — if they don’t close the note, you can’t get a claim out the door. So focusing on metrics that directly impact your business objective means you’re stacking up the staff KPIs as ladder rungs to your larger business goals. 

What to Look for in a BI Tool 

A good business intelligence program should not only make it easier to get and understand your data but should set you up to take guided action based on insights — and pave the way for more success. You have options but be sure you find the tool with features that make the most sense for your business, based on your needs.  

To create a culture of data literacy, here are a few BI tool features that will make adoption easier. 

Out-of-the-box Visuals
If you’re a small to mid-level urgent care business, and you’re just starting with BI, you don’t want to have to build your own visuals to use the tool. This adds up to a lot of extra implementation time and creates a lot of pain around adoption. Find a tool that provides more of a plug and play feel with templates and dashboards that you can start with and build on as you become more advanced. 

Visuals that Speak to You
BI is not just a series of tables and numbers on a page. You need the ability to drive insights. This is a difference between standard reports out of your EMR/PM and true BI. Instead of tables, you need to be able to look at bars, charts, and other visual representations of data that make the next steps unmissable.  

In addition, you should be able to interact with a data set – say a visual summarizes the combined performance of three providers; you should be able to click into that chart and see individual performance as well. This provides deeper insight than a simple table. The ability to easily move target or adjust for market conditions can give you a clearer picture of where you stand, and what you can achieve. 

You want to make sure that your BI tool is able to ingest not only data you have as growing practice, but also grow over time in different data sets and other integrated systems. It’s also important to partner with a company that hits as many parts of your practice as possible so you can singularly see and operate your business with one tech support method. 


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