Data impacts your practice, whether you use it or not.
Business – and the way we conduct it – has been changing dramatically over the past few decades. If you came into private practice in 1980, you’ve witnessed the transition from paper records to EHR, the dawn of autorefractors, computerized scheduling, social media reviews, and a host of other innovations.
The landscape of an optometric practice is decidedly different than it was just 40 years ago. And the speed and scope of those innovative changes are increasing with time. “Business as usual” isn’t really a thing anymore, because we operate in an environment where change is the norm. This has been particularly true for one critical thing in our office – our data.
It’s Not “Just Data” – It’s Your Story
Data occupies a unique space in business; it’s both a by-product of our technology-based functions and a tool that we can harness to understand, control and/or modify our activities. For instance, we like technology options that provide us with more information, more “data points” to consider.
The more data points we can capture about the eye, the more likely we are to be comfortable with our diagnoses. The better we understand our patients’ behavior, the more confidently we can make choices in merchandising and pricing strategy. Data is handy stuff; it can be used to describe every moment of our day, from the time we open the door in the morning, until the office custodian leaves at night – and then some.
If you’re not convinced, then consider how you might change or rearrange your practice if you knew the following:
Sample Data Points:
- Data Point: My patients arrive average of 7.5 minutes before their scheduled appointments.
Data Point: My patients are escorted to pre-testing an average of 2.5 minutes after their scheduled appointment time.
- Data Point: The average wait time for my patients between the conclusion of pre-testing and the beginning of the optometric exam is 4 minutes
Summary: My patients have an average of 14 minutes of “free time” in my office before they receive their exams and any eyewear prescriptions.
- Data Point: My Patients spend 98% of their waiting time clustered around the coffee pot and seated in the waiting area in the front of the office.
- Data Point: On average, 2% of my patients’ waiting time is spent viewing frames or browsing in the optical before they are seen in the exam room.
- Conclusion: My patients are not being exposed to my frame selections and are not spending much of their available “browsing time” viewing our product offerings.
- Hypothesis: Maybe I need to re-organize my office flow to optimize patient exposure to products.
It’s not “just data,” it’s the story of your practice. With a little observation, and a little research, you can literally quantify or measure any aspect of your business, from patient satisfaction to lab preferences. Imagine the power that information can give you to positively impact your practice.
Do You Know Who’s Using Data?
If you’re still on the fence, here’s a quick reality check – even if you’re not making use of data analysis – also known as “business intelligence” – your patients are.
They’re checking data from external resources about you – often before they even schedule an appointment. Internet sources tell your current and future patients what other patients think about you, how they like your staff, what your standing is with the BBB, what your hours are, if someone was impressed with your frame selection, and on and on.
If you think for a minute, you’ll probably admit to the same behavior when you’re shopping for a new provider. “Shopping” for medical care is how we do it now. The advent of the smart phone and its myriad apps have made this easier than ever.
Anybody can offer their opinion, to anyone, at any time, and it’s just as easy to access that database as it is to add to it. All you have to do is pick up your smart phone and spend a few minutes on your favorite search engine.
The challenge with data isn’t really about its existence. It’s always been there. Now, however, with our digital storage interfaces so “close to the ground” (accessible to pretty much everybody), it’s far easier to store it and retrieve it. Add to that the dozens of digital interfaces in your office, from desktop computers to the connections between your equipment and your EHR.
Data has gone from an abstract concept to a highly concrete reality. The tough bit is how much of it is now available. Unstructured, or “raw” data is almost as meaningless as no data at all. If you’ve ever tried to build a spreadsheet to manually analyze your information, you can probably relate. It gets complicated – fast.
Many large corporations, including big box retailers in our industry, were early-adopters of business intelligence. Even though data systems were far less common, those organizations had the resources to collect and house it.
They created custom tools to organize the information and make it both more accessible and more meaningful. These programmatic solutions allowed them to analyze large data sets and made the results available to local, regional, and company-wide management.
Managers used those data points to make shrewd decisions about everything they did: hiring, training, and dismissing personnel; optimizing product selections and merchandising choices; setting and refining markup policies; planning and executing marketing materials and promotions.
Because these decisions were based on factual (read: “data”) evidence, they were far more likely to yield success. And boy, did they ever. Those large corporations have been able to gain and expand a significant advantage, even in smaller markets.
Data in Independent Practice
So where does that leave independents? And what does that have to do with your practice? If you are only relying on industry publications and reports, you’re not getting the whole picture. Those sources offer important intelligence about national trends, product data, and basic performance standards.
But what you’re not seeing in the traditional, standard sources is the information about what is happening inside your practice. If you don’t collect and make use of the critical data about your own activities, you can only – at best – make an educated guess about how your practice is really performing. It’s also likely that your nearest competitor is using their internal data to hone and improve their business. Can you really afford to be “out of the loop” with your own?
Fortunately for every small practice owner, forward-leaning software companies have been working to develop systems that retrieve, organize, and standardize the millions of data points that are available in your EHR.
Data analytics platforms like EDGEPro give independent practitioners access to the same valuable information about their own practices that large retailers leverage to optimize their functions. Small, mid-sized, and multi-location practices can now view their data the same way these big corporations do – on a daily, weekly and quarterly basis, in well-organized reports and dashboards that grant the business owner or manager an unprecedented and clear view into the complex story of their practice.