The past several years have seen sweeping changes in the healthcare industry. From the introduction of the Affordable Care Act and the evolving health priorities of our population, the landscape of healthcare and healthcare management is required to change. Changes in healthcare as a result of Accountable Care Organizations and new value-based payment methodology also require that today’s medical practices take steps now to prepare. This holds true for the industry as a whole and in the microcosms of each medical specialty.
Benchmarking studies can help healthcare organizations and medical practices measure these changes and formulate sound business strategies now, before many of the impending changes become requirements. Benchmarking has long been used by many healthcare associations to provide information to medical professionals. Information on compensation and benefits, practice management, performance and productivity and other factors have been measured, analyzed and compared for years, providing critical data for use in improving both business performance and quality of care across the entire healthcare field.
Quality of Care: Costs and Outcomes
As a first step, practices need to have systems in place to understand the costs and outcomes of the care they provide. More specifically, they need to be able to measure and compare costs and outcomes by diagnosis, procedure, episode of care and revenue stream. Data points that should be collected in an effective study include patient encounters, Relative Value Units (RVUs), physician allocation of time and compensation so appropriate ratios can be calculated to measure productivity. It’s important to include quality of care measures as well, such as tracking avoidable emergency room visits and hospital readmissions and utilizing data from patient satisfaction surveys. A simple means of evaluating patient satisfaction is if they would refer their physician/practice to someone they know. This is a relatively easy measure to quantify and provides valuable insight into the quality of patient experiences.
Financial studies for specialties can shed light on what the typical revenue and practice payer mix is for like practices, providing data to guide practice business strategy. Benchmarking studies can also provide valuable feedback and performance measurements to Accountable Care Organization members to gauge the quality of care provided as well as the financial benefits achieved through participation.
It’s one thing to understand productivity within a practice, but much more important to compare this productivity against other practices. When it comes to improving medical operations as a whole, data gleaned from others working in the same medical specialty offers a perspective on data that more generalized studies cannot always provide. Measuring and comparing RVUs and patient encounters at the specialty level can offer insight not only into staff productivity, but also open the door to potential cost savings and operational efficiencies that are unique to that specialty’s niche. Comparisons should be relevant and take into consideration geographic area, specialty and subspecialty, size of the practice, etc. These measures and productivity comparisons will become the norm for many, if not all, medical practices.
For the Greater Good
As healthcare professionals, there is a shared sense of responsibility for providing the highest quality of care and this means continuously seeking out better medical outcomes and delivery of care while improving the efficiencies of our practices and the quality of each patient experience. Benchmarking is a great means of collaborating with others in your industry on a large scale to produce the data that can help realize these goals not only for individual practices, but for the medical community as a whole. By sharing and comparing key data points, practices can learn from each other and work toward improving patient care and organizational performance through the development of field-specific, evidence-based best practices.
Specialty-specific benchmarking studies can be of great value to your members by providing valuable comparisons of metrics unique to your niche. These studies are able to deliver truly meaningful peer-to-peer comparisons that can be used to increase productivity, improve medical outcomes, and ensure fair compensation of your staff while helping to develop relevant best practices for your industry. We invite you to read about the benchmarking experiences of some select medical specialty organizations and see the many ways benchmarking is being used to improve performance, productivity and more in each of their highly specialized fields.
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