Not Satisfied With the Information You Need: An Electronic Dashboard Can Help Clarify the Numbers
D’Ann R. Meisenheimer
There is a reason why electronic dashboards have been around for a while: They can help your practice better understand its financial standing. Here is a primer on this valuable tool.
Auto enthusiasts understand the value of having gauges that provide real-time feedback on performance. Similarly, electronic dashboards give physician practice leaders data to monitor their practices’ performance in real time.
A dashboard is an interactive, graphical representation of complex practice data that you and your office manager or administrative physician can use to compare with existing budgets, strategic goals or other performance metrics. Financial measures that can be tracked via an electronic dashboard include gross charges and payments by reporting period, accounts receivable by payer and type (i.e., self-pay, government or private), and accounts receivable aging by number of days. A dashboard can also track the number of claim denials due to coding errors and expenses incurred by type and physician.
Data can be normalized by full-time equivalent (FTE) physician or relative value unit (RVU) for measuring performance. On a per-physician basis, the numbers can help drive improvements in resource utilization by individual doctors.
Preparing the Way for a Dashboard
Before you can successfully employ an electronic dashboard in your practice, you must develop strategic goals and priorities that are supported by all your physicians.
Next, your partners must agree to take action on the basis of the dashboard indications and be willing to spend the money needed to acquire the new technology. Everyone in the practice must not only accept the concept of evidence-based, data-driven decision making, but also be willing to follow through on decisions made.
Dashboards empower your office manager to make changes and adjustments in work activities to improve the practice. For example, a dashboard report could alert the practice manager that the largest share of rejected claims is processed by a single clerk, who could then be targeted for retraining. Another report might reveal that an ancillary service the practice just added or a new satellite clinic it opened is drawing a new type of patient that could be further reached through marketing.
Understanding the Needed Features
There are several baseline features of a utilitarian dashboard. It should allow users to select and manipulate data (such as budgets, goals and other previously determined benchmarks) that is important to them and drill down to find the data details that are behind the dashboard outputs.
It should also allow you to view a graphic presentation of the practice’s key performance indicators via pie charts, line or bar graphs and speedometer dials, as well as publish the dashboard outputs in multiple formats to appeal to multiple viewers. Graphic presentations also help to identify trends easily.
A key dashboard component is the ability to gather data from many sources. In fact, if it is capable of interfacing with the practice’s existing scheduling and financial systems, the dashboard may retrieve much of its data automatically, without human intervention.
Assessing the Costs
If you have a computer-savvy staff member, you can keep the cost of developing an electronic dashboard down by having him or her design the tool using Microsoft Excelplus some add-ons. Or hire a consultant to develop a custom dashboard that meets your practice’s needs. Because such a system would likely also require your practice to purchase new software, the cost of implementation could be $2,000 and up.
Getting Ahead of the Game
As you know, physicians and practice administrators must track more and more performance information, but have less time for doing it. Fortunately, the job can be made much easier by using electronic data dashboards.
For more information on electronic dashboards and how to evaluate your practice’s financial standing, please contact D’Ann Meisenheimer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 312.670.7444.