In many respects, today’s physician practice operating model isn’t working. Not only is there wide variation in patient care and operations management across medical groups, but there are numerous challenges with which practices continue to struggle, such as limited resources, operational complexity, physician burnout, patient satisfaction, and rising costs. Taken together, these multifaceted dynamics can be overwhelming, but with the right data, a physician practice can successfully navigate many of these hurdles.
As health systems continue to align with physicians, it is imperative that they provide their medical practice partners access to timely, accurate, and actionable data to effectively respond to external forces and optimize medical group performance.
The challenges with practice performance data
Many medical group leaders lack the information needed to understand and guide the direction of their practices. A recent panel discussion of more than 100 health systems, led by Premier Inc., determined that more than two-thirds of medical group executives do not have the necessary business intelligence to perform their duties. Furthermore, when data or information are available for review and comparison, it is often unreliable because it contains outdated benchmarks, insufficient subspecialty sample size, misstatements due to unclear data definitions, and skewed results because of the questionable accuracy of the information provided.
“Physician practice benchmarking organizations that use survey data as their source may one day be a thing of the past,” says Chris Smedley, vice president of physician enterprise solutions at Premier. “Surveys that are used to measure physician practice performance are often based on twelve-month-old data that takes several additional months to compile. The industry needs business intelligence solutions that can collect timely and accurate information with analytical capabilities that provide peer comparisons on a monthly basis. The next frontier in terms of physician practice performance comparisons will come from solutions that have the ability to pull and integrate validated, reconciled, and timely data to understand variation and practice-specific opportunities.”
Smedley, who leads physician enterprise performance improvement work at Premier, is tackling this issue head-on. His team works with health systems to challenge how they think about and address medical group performance, leveraging Premier’s physician enterprise analytics, which are powered by InflowHealth. With more than 30,000 active providers using Premier’s proprietary software, the team delivers as close to real-time benchmarking as available to understand practice variation and opportunities.
For example, in a recent analysis of 300 family medicine clinics, Premier identified wide variation in how clinical support staff are being deployed. Of the family medicine clinics in Premier’s database, 30 percent were only staffed with medical assistants; 20 percent were staffed with registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and medical assistants; and 50 percent were staffed with a combination of registered nurses or licensed practical nurses along with medical assistants. This insight into clinical staffing variation enables organizations to use advanced business intelligence to begin to understand how various staffing models impact provider performance, as well as the overall costs of care.
“If family practice staffing and related outcomes are any indication of the level of operational variation among medical groups today, a significant opportunity exists to better leverage evidence to minimize variation and close care gaps,” says Smedley. “It is critical that we put the right information in the hands of our health system and physician practice leaders to help them succeed in navigating the complexities of the healthcare landscape.”
Providers don’t need more data, they need the right information
To drive effective provider discussions, organization leaders need to be sensitive to the demands being placed on providers and bring to bear the right information that results in effective and informed decision-making.
The move to value-based care has resulted in a shift toward managing utilization, quality, and standards of care. However, healthcare professionals still must navigate the pressures relative to productivity, consumerism, and the increase in documentation requirements.
To ensure value, physician practice analytics must be able to accomplish the following tasks:
- Become more data-driven and move beyond “the data is wrong” conversation by using standard data definitions and validated, reconciled, and trusted sources
- Provide relevant, relatable, and recent benchmarking peer comparisons
- Integrate often disparate data sources (e.g., billing, scheduling, payroll, general ledger) into a simple, interactive, and easy-to-use management tool
- Automate data management and reporting processes so professionals spend time managing information versus creating it
- Enable organizations to understand critical areas of variation and how to address them to reduce waste and improve outcomes
“The organizations we work with are all striving to understand and connect operational variation and financial performance,” says David Olson, vice president of physician enterprise analytics at Premier. “Specific and accurate insights give leaders meaningful information on which to act, addressing common issues like access and capacity, staffing, and space utilization. Eliminating these burdens can go a long way toward reducing physician burnout and rationalizing the medical group subsidy.”
When providers have valid and timely information, it can also better support their decision-making processes at the point of care. That is why Premier’s physician practice analytics are moving closer to real-time peer comparisons as the next evolution toward relevant feedback. For example, advanced clinical decision support (CDS) capabilities are an effective way to reduce low-value and unnecessary patient care. CDS solutions can be integrated into the electronic health record (EHR) workflow to alert a clinician on the best practice to use in the moment. However, alerts must be based on highly-reputable, real-time source data. There can’t be an effective and meaningful alert without timely and relevant data.
“A new trend is for organizations to address physician variation more proactively through bolt-on technologies or interactive decision-making within their EHR,” says Smedley. “Premier’s CDS technology, for instance, is embedded in the EHR and integrated into routine provider workflows. This allows physicians to get their work done smarter and faster, alleviating some of the causes of burnout. Information moving through CDS systems must be clean, prompt, and accurate, so organizations can be confident that their physicians have the right information on which to act.”
Improving the health and well-being of the physician enterprise
Increasingly, providers are realizing the value in using technologies to alleviate the day-to-day pressures of practice performance and productivity. Business intelligence solutions that are shifting from understanding historical patterns to providing closer to real-time comparisons are the new reality in terms of effectively addressing costs and quality.
Physician practice software must incorporate accurate, timely, and reconciled benchmarks to help health system and clinical leaders challenge existing and sometimes outdated perceptions and practices related to medical group performance. Using the right solution, healthcare leaders can simplify the conversation and allow decisions to be based on evidence.
As health systems increase their partnerships and collaboration with physician practices, it is critical that they employ solutions that physicians will embrace and that will move the needle on performance. Premier’s physician practice intelligence and enabling solutions are helping health systems and medical groups crack the code on how to achieve improved performance across the board.
Large-scale healthcare transformation is not easy. However, with the right partner, organizations can realize meaningful change. Premier is working with medical groups and health systems to better leverage business intelligence to identify and seize performance improvement opportunities.