Leveraging outcomes to improve the bottom line

Those of us in the healthcare community are well aware of the importance of data and outcomes measurement with respect to value-based care.

Naturally—because many of us got into this line of work based on our desire to help patients—much of the conversation surrounding the use of data in health care focuses on the benefits to patients. However, the “business” side of our work is just as important—after all, operating in the black makes it possible for us to continue doing the work we’re so passionate about. And data could be our ticket to maintaining both profitability and the continued ability to serve our patients.

While hospitals are on the front lines of payment reform, more and more outpatient providers are leveraging outcomes data to improve their bottom lines and better manage their businesses. The fact of the matter is that everyone in health care is feeling pressure from many directions right now. But as we look to reduce costs across the spectrum of care, operating expenses are going up. The good news? We can solve many of the business challenges in front of us by simply looking to the metrics we’re already collecting.

Putting data to use
Most providers are required to report some type of quality data—functional limitation g-codes, for example—to satisfy compliance requirements for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) and other payers. The introduction of MIPS has put even more of a reporting burden on providers. And even though rehab therapists aren’t eligible for MIPS until at least 2019, forward-thinking therapy providers are becoming increasingly interested in things like payment bundles, accountable care organizations, and other programs in which reimbursement is dependent on outcomes.

Because of these developments, using outcomes data in daily practice has become integral to maximizing payments as well as patient care. So, it makes good business sense for everyone to take it one step further—that is, to use patient-reported outcomes to not only ensure compliance and track functional progress, but also improve business operations, efficiencies, and ultimately, profitability.

Let’s look at some key ways providers can start leveraging outcomes data to impact their bottom lines:

Improve staff productivity. Some providers are now using outcomes data to support patient communication and promote consistent appointment attendance. For example, providers might use this data to manage expectations from the start of care by:
● presenting anticipated outcomes and
● predicting the number of visits patients will need to complete to achieve those outcomes.

Such data helps patients make a concrete connection between number of visits and the desired end goal—which may disincentivize them from cancelling their appointments. In turn, better patient attendance helps clinics ensure patients actually complete their care plans. Furthermore, it leads to efficient scheduling—and thus, helps practice owners better manage the overhead costs associated with staffing.

Effectively negotiate with payers and partners. Patient satisfaction data—along with clinical outcomes data—empowers providers to objectively demonstrate care quality and value during payer and partner negotiations. By tracking what patients are saying about the service they receive, you can proactively assess (and address) patients’:
● satisfaction with their care,
● progress toward their goals, and
● overall feelings about whether they’ve improved.

Monitor and market your results—and make adjustments when appropriate. Providers like Mike Manzo, MPT, of Atlantic Physical Therapy Center (APTC), are also leveraging outcomes data to maintain their clinics’ competitive edge—in terms of both effectively allocating individual practitioners’ strengths and generating new business. “We have 13 outpatient PT offices, and we are now measuring our outcomes as a company against the outcomes of the nation,” he said. “Each clinic gets a report card and a ranking against the more than 1,200 clinics around the country that are collecting data through this database.”

With this information, APTC is able to identify its strongest clinicians for specific areas of the body or certain diagnoses. On the other side of the equation, the company can also pinpoint which clinic locations or individual clinicians may be struggling. They can then tailor employee development opportunities or schedule patients accordingly. This process has greatly improved APTC’s overall clinical product.

Of course, step one is finding and implementing an efficient system to capture, evaluate, and report on outcomes data. With an EMR platform that offers integrated outcomes analysis tools, generating meaningful reports is simple. More importantly, your outcomes tracking solution should be flexible enough to (1) fit the specific needs of your facility and area of practice, and (2) communicate with other systems across the care continuum. After all, only then will you truly be able to use the data to improve efficiencies and profitability at scale.

Dr. Heidi Jannenga is president and co-founder of Phoenix-based software company WebPT, the country's leading rehab therapy platform for enhancing patient care and fueling business growth, with more than 68,000 members and 9,600 clinics as customers.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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