The Road to Actionable Information:Q & A with Robert J. Kebbekus
Radiology practices interface with many disparate information systems that produce data, but generating meaningful reports that pull information from all of those systems—PACS, RIS, billing, and reporting—is too cumbersome to be done with any regularity. As payors begin to link reimbursement to outcomes and episodes of care replace individual medical transactions, the need for an analytics platform that can extract appropriate data points from multiple systems that validate care to support reimbursement became quite clear to partners William G. Pickart (who owned a medical-billing company and had extensive experience running companies in other industries), and Robert J. Kebbekus and Timothy D. Dyer, seasoned financial-services and former bank executives. This realization led Pickart, Kebbekus, and Dyer to form Integrated Medical Partners (IMP), Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they serve, respectively, as CEO, President/COO, and EVP/CFO. Consisting of a portfolio of several synergistic service businesses involving practice-information systems, the company strives to provide practice leaders with complete, deliverable, accessible, and, most significantly, actionable information to help them become more efficient, without negatively influencing patient care. Kebbekus says, “We saw that there was an information gap in health care. Clinical and financial data were sitting on multiple, disparate systems, creating a silo effect. We knew that we couldn’t just rely on the common data points used by most billing companies to drive our business and that of our clients. Rather, we felt it imperative to invest in a robust analytics platform and highly trained client-service personnel in order to properly translate data into actionable, concise information.” RadAnalytics recently sat down with Kebbekus to explore the workings of IMP, as well as the imperatives for radiology practices on the analytics front. RadAnalytics: How would you describe IMP’s mission? Kebbekus: IMP aims to partner with physicians and hospitals through advanced technology, best-in-class services, and robust analytics with the objective of promoting higher quality and better delivery of patient care, as well as enhancing compliance, improving operational efficiencies, and increasing profitability. Our commitment, in managing our group of highly integrated business-information–services companies, entails not only understanding the needs of our clients (and the industry as a whole), but adopting a forward-thinking stance and addressing future requirements, as the health-care landscape continues to change. RadAnalytics: IMP’s approach calls for culling and mining data from multiple silos. Why is this practice so important—and so difficult? Kebbekus: The typical single-silo health-care billing system provides only a narrow scope or view of a practice. Given the advent of episodic care and bundled reimbursement, in order to deliver the relevant, actionable information required by health-care leaders to run their businesses, data must be extracted from various information systems and integrated into a single database that can be queried. Several factors—from the structure of data received to the equalization of data across systems to the extent to which file content can be changed and monitored—can make this process a challenging one. For IMP, the monitoring and creation of relevant linkages between data silos is a critical to success—and a key differentiation point. Through technology and manpower, we are able to stay on top of data-integrity challenges. RadAnalytics: What is the key to turning analytics into actionable data? Kebbekus: The key is to identify the practice business drivers because true analytics requires us to move into a 3D world. In my position as president of Dominion Medical Management, I see most practices limiting themselves to the manipulation of basic billing data. This has its purpose, but from a strategic perspective, it cannot provide vision and direction for our physician leaders. In transforming analytics into actionable information, it is also imperative to look at where the industry is moving, rather than at the past. You can’t drive the bus by checking the rearview mirror. RadAnalytics: How can practices know that they have identified the right analytics for such a transformation? Kebbekus: Most practices still aren’t looking at the right analytics because they don’t have any analytics to speak of; information and analytics received by practice leaders must be leveragable—and with limited (or no) meaningful data, that is impossible. To address this, we have developed a practice roadmap for analytics. In applying it, we work with clients to help them understand that businesses are changing, and that now is the time to act, using analytics as a base. RadAnalytics: What are some of the challenges encountered in turning data into actionable information, and how can these be overcome? Kebbekus: The biggest challenge is having the capital to invest in the technology, training, and personnel to satisfy information needs. Practices continue to see contraction in reimbursements, which puts pressure on leadership teams to control costs, but an investment in obtaining and acting on the right information can lead to better reimbursement and improved physician efficiencies. To handle these challenges and remain relevant in the health-care arena, practices must develop their own vision and strategies—including a commitment to the best analytics. IMP can play a role here by leveraging its breadth and depth of experience and functioning as practices’ low-cost informatics partner. We have made the investment in technology and manpower to support these groups. Accordingly, we can help to guide their analytics needs, in turn, creating a cost-effective solution for each practice that will enable its leaders to make prudent strategic decisions. We work very hard to stay ahead of the curve. Therefore, we need to know what the thought leaders are thinking, where the health-care market is moving (and how that affects our clients), and what the uncertainties are in this space—and we need to develop the necessary informatics to address these factors. Our approach allows us to stay ahead of the curve. IMP continues to look, internally, at ways to improve data integration, and externally, at what other systems or knowledge are required to address these needs. Julie Ritzer Ross is editor of RadAnalytics.com.