In an environment where radiologists are consistently being asked to do more with less, a simple increase in production is no longer a viable remedy to a problem. Practice managers and physician owners need to work smarter, instead of just harder. Using business intelligence data for predictive analytics, they are beginning to run their practices more efficiently, but also more effectively, challenging the status quo and using data to affect change. Pat Epting, executive director of Radiology Associates of Clearwater (RAC) and former Radiology Business Management Association President, and Jana Landreth, CPA, MBA, director of practice management with Zotec Partners, share how they used business intelligence data to create a practice management model that works for RAC. The model has had a significant impact on the day-to-day operations, physician scheduling processes, relationships with customers, and has also contributed to the overall job satisfaction of the physicians.
If you do what you’ve always done…
“It was an evolution of the practice’s needs over time that really set us out on this journey,” recalls Epting. “During a period of growth, we took on more physician shareholders as our hospital systems customers consolidated. After some time, we were then facing the opposite situation wherein a number of our radiologists were retiring, and the remaining shareholders asked me, “How do we know if we need to replace them? Can you look into this? We’d like your advice.”
With hundreds of thousands of transactional data points at their disposal, Epting and Landreth used business intelligence to illustrate what services were required of the practice versus when the practice was producing them and created a predictive analytics model for optimizing staffing, the physician schedule and workflow management.
“We aggregated lines and lines of data to summarily describe what was happening in our business. Then, we used the analysis to advise our physicians and help them confidently manage their work day,” Epting continued.
“An evolution was also taking place among practice leaders,” Landreth added, “accepting and embracing the use of business intelligence to help manage what they had historically managed almost completely through experience and feelings.”
The result was a practice management model that predicts and monitors staffing, scheduling and workflow for the practice, as well as a clear understanding of the business as a whole, creating a “health check” for present operations and a solid foundation for future planning.
Looking beyond an increase in volume
For radiologists, who more than likely spent most of their young adult lives training to become doctors, not running businesses, the task of mining data to inform a decision is a daunting one. Landreth and Epting started their project by looking at the resources the practice was providing alongside the work that was being presented to the practice, and then analyzing whether or not the two were complimentary.
“Radiology groups are called upon more and more to use business intelligence to effectively manage resources and prove that effectiveness to customers,” Landreth counsels. There are only a certain number of hours in a day, therefore practice managers and physician owners have to look at the options the data is offering as quality evidence they can use to institute effective changes that will positively impact the business, rather than asking radiologists to increase their workload.
According to Landreth and Epting, the data used to create their model can typically be found in the scheduling software, the financial statements, the hospital information system, and the billing system. The challenge lies in that the information exists in organizational silos, isolated from the other information and rarely looked at holistically. “We married this information – the time, date and substance of the patient encounter performed by an identified physician on a specified shift with a certain financial outcome – to show a broader, aggregated perspective on the countless transactions taking place every day,” Landreth explains.
Many practices schedule physicians and staff based on a legacy model, referring to “the way it has always been done.” Radiologists typically complete a rotation in their practice schedules, so the distribution of work is equitable, or is perceived as such. When the industry transitioned to a PACS environment, radiologists moved from
Claudette Lew is associate editor of ImagingBiz.