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Data has become the foundation of making smart sales, marketing, and medical decisions. It’s not only available online, but your EMR/PM software is usually collecting information that can help you identify trends and make informed choices about the healthcare services you offer. You can make your OccMed data work as hard as you do by collecting and using data to inform your everyday decisions and help you reach your long-term goals.
What is data? Simple question, right? Until you think about it in terms of your occupational medicine business. Data for OccMed can be divided into two categories: Financial & Outcome.
The first seems simple—pulling financial data seems relatively straightforward, right? Comparing costs and returns is the stuff that usually gets your accounting team salivating. But there can be a lot more to it than that.
Internally, you should be looking at your financials regularly. What services are returning a healthy profit? Which are lagging? Do you notice any trends related to reimbursement from your clientele? Are you staying competitive with fees? Most importantly, are you generating a profit in relationship to the amount of time, training, and staffing that it takes to perform the service?
Too often in the rush to gain the business, new operators will undersell their services, then never go back to adjust or research the industry standard for their region to institute a viable fee schedule. This results in a potential loss of revenue as well as an expectation of continued low pricing from the customer.
The second component of data, outcomes, is related to the medical outcomes experienced by the OccMed patients you treat at your urgent care facility. This data is often more difficult to obtain. Unlike financial information which can be easily collected from your accounts receivable and other available reports, outcome data must be gathered directly from your electronic medical record (EMR) files.
As you grow your OccMed business, it’s important to use the data you’re collecting for planning, adjusting service provisions, and setting future goals. But it’s also equally important to utilize data to evaluate quality service provision medically—quality assurance. While it’s critical to your business to monitor financials and patient satisfaction, one can never forget that the service we’re here to provide is medicine.
Once you have collected relevant data, what do you do with it? What use is it to you other than to stockpile reams of paper, kill the proverbial forest, and collect dust?
Some operators feel like they aren’t doing their business justice if they don’t run a myriad of reports on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis. But the reality is, if you don’t know how to interpret (and take action on) the data contained in those reports, the effort is meaningless.
It’s important to define just what it is you want to accomplish. What sorts of data should you be looking at for your occupational medicine business and what does all of it mean to you?
Most urgent care operators run and review a set of traditional operational reports on a set schedule. These include patient volumes, revenue, P&L, and collection reports. You will want to run these same reports specifically for the occupational medicine portion of your business. For instance, most EMR/PM systems allow you to view information specifically related to OccMed patient visits—like the number of patient visits by CPT code, by employer, or even filtered by both.
You might wonder how that information might be helpful to your business or toward expanding your occupational medicine program? Think of it this way. You can track what sorts of injuries or illnesses a corporate client is most frequently sending employees to be treated. If there is an obvious trend, let’s say lumbar strains, then you might consider offering baseline lumbar x-ray screening. Perhaps another upsell service could be back evaluations or lift training.
Data can also help you discover client-based opportunities. When you compare data from one client company against another, you may find that a particular business utilizes your urgent care for certain medical needs, while a similar client does not. For example, you provide services to UPS and FedEx—both basically the same type of service provider. You run a report indicating that UPS employees are being sent in for yearly EKGs or audio testing, but FedEx employees aren’t getting the same tests. First, find out why UPS deems it necessary and prudent to request these tests. It may lead you to recommend similar services to FedEx—not only positioning you as an expert but also increasing revenue for your urgent care.
Or you could track better, faster outcomes. What if you were to look at how long the average workers’ compensation patient was in your care for a lumbar strain? According to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), most lumbosacral injuries resolve within six weeks regardless of the treatment course. What if your data determined that the average resolution time was less than that? That’s a value that is worth sharing with current and prospective clients. From a quality assurance standpoint, it demonstrates that your urgent care is providing cost-effective, non-surgical, convenient care that most employers seek.
This information is not always easy to obtain. Clinical statistics based on the care you and your providers deliver can often be difficult to gather and may not be readily available from your EMR system. But with diligence in determining what information is important and coordinating that effort with your EMR vendor, it can generally be collected.
Comparing your data to national averages may be the hardest part of the equation. While there is plenty of information out there for urgent care operations to use for comparison—even general healthcare and treatment standards—occupational medicine data tends to be more closely protected than the final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa’s body.
Still, there are resources available. If you are diligent in looking and determined to create a robust occupational medicine program, searching for the comparative data is not impossible and is definitely worth doing.
When it comes to mining data, Google is a powerful research tool, and it can be your best friend. Be aware that it’s most effective when you use the right keywords. For instance, a simple search of the words “occupational medicine, outcomes, statistics” revealed an urgent care center’s outcome report for its 2015 Injury and Work Hardening program. At the very least, you can find out about their program and see how your outcomes compare.
For more reliable and relevant data, consider reaching out to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. ACOEM was founded in 1916 and has been the leader in North America for setting practice guidelines and supporting issues related to workplace/environmental medicine. The organization holds an annual conference, provides continuing education courses, and publishes a variety of papers, journals, blogs, and other forms of media on topics within the occupational medicine industry. Membership provides access to a wealth of information, including data.
Blogs specifically focused on OccMed are also useful places to find data and information. Subscribe to or follow those you find especially helpful. Here are two that always seem to have insightful, pertinent information.
WorkCare – A nationally based occupational medicine provider that offers everything from on-site providers, case management, disability management, and more. This blog frequently covers topics such as workplace illnesses, avoiding disability, marijuana in the workplace, and other timely topics.
HealthCare for Business – This is another blog that might be interesting for data as well as general information. Although the content is primarily focused on the northern Ohio region, many of the topics they cover have impact throughout the country.
DATIA – Finally, consider joining or tapping into DATIA; the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry of America. As the name implies, this organization is primarily focused on providing education, resources, and advocacy to those involved in drug and alcohol testing as used by employers or in the private sector. While most of their data may not be directly pertinent to treatment outcomes, you may still find valuable information to help you compare your services with the competition or national averages. Because of its involvement with OSHA and DOT, DATIA often posts information that bleeds across the drug testing lines.
The real lesson here is that in order to promote your results, you may have to create a standard or benchmark. If that benchmark doesn’t readily exist, then set about trying to make your own. Nothing says that you cannot improve on your own metric from one year to the next and notify your corporate clients that you are excelling in your occupational medicine provision year to year.
Putting the data to use seems like it should be easy, right? But making sense of what you collected might not be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It may be closer to that ominous light at the end of the tunnel—signaling either daylight or an oncoming train. For many operators, interpreting data is a hair-pulling task fraught with frustration, and that can just be looking at patient counts and transit times. So, what happens when you’re trying to compare things like outcomes and other metrics?
Before you run any report, ask yourself a few questions to ensure you get meaningful and actionable data.
Many operators get caught in the reports trap. They run every report available in their system and then go hunting for new ones, never fully understanding what they are reading to begin with. A report is worthless if it doesn’t provide you useful information that you can act on.
When you have a report in front of you, ask yourself:
More and more operators are becoming familiar with the term KPI (Key Performance Indicator). This is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively an organization is achieving a key business goal. Your business should use data-based KPIs to evaluate your success at reaching a target. But, here’s the thing, first you must set a goal and determine a target that you want your occupational medicine business to reach.
Some reasonable KPI examples are:
While sales and marketing will be ongoing for the life of your OccMed practice, monitoring other aspects—including data—are an integral part of the process. Collecting data that reinforces how you compare to national norms gives you the ability to show your clients first-hand that you stack up well against the competition.
Collecting and reviewing the proper reports and monitoring the right KPIs, along with defining the right goals for growth, can help your occupational medicine program expand and deliver the exceptional service your clients expect. Instead of spending valuable time running and reviewing countless, useless reports, you can focus on the information that will help you making smart sales, marketing, and operational choices.
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