New Year’s Resolutions in Healthcare Reporting

by | Jan 12, 2022

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In this episode of the Medical Advantage Podcast, we are discussing effective healthcare reporting. Effective reporting is critical for healthcare practices as a means of tracking and improving performance, but this is often easier said than done. As the calendar turns to 2022, the time for conquering challenges and leveraging opportunities with regards to effective reporting has never been better. 

We are joined this episode by Medical Advantage’s Nick Sheridan, Sales Engineer, and Linda Yang, IT Business Consultant, as the two share their own experiences, perspectives, and best practices for effective reporting as learned in the field. Listen in for a detailed and wide-ranging discussion with Sheridan and Yang touching on ways to increase profitability, improve patient outcomes, reduce labor costs and much more – all with the power of effective reporting. 

This is the latest episode in the Medical Advantage Podcast, where each we take time each episode to discuss the ideas and technologies changing healthcare, and the best practices your organization can take to stay productive and profitable. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to ensure you never miss an episode. 


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Full Episode Transcript

Medical Advantage Podcast: Welcome to the Medical Advantage Podcast, where you can hear healthcare professionals, expert consultants, and industry thought leaders discuss the exciting new ideas and technologies that are changing the business of health healthcare. Tune in to each episode as we hear from some of the most innovative minds in medicine about the future of healthcare and how your organization can stay profitable, deficient, and on top of industry best practices. 

Andrew Withers: Hi everyone and welcome back to the Medical Advantage Podcast. Today’s topic is one which many healthcare providers are familiar with, reporting. Effective reporting is critical for healthcare practices as a means of tracking and improving performance, but this is often easier said than done. I’m joined today by two guests who bring their own perspectives and experience in this area, Linda Yang and Nick Sheridan. Hey guys, welcome to the show.  

Linda Yang: Hey, Andrew.  

Nick Sheridan: Hey, how are you?  

Andrew Withers: Great to have you guys. Before we dive right into the problems and solutions and reporting, can you two just kind of introduce yourselves a little bit? Tell me about your roles and how they touch on reporting.  

Linda Yang: Absolutely, I can kick us off and Happy New Year everybody. My name is Linda Yang and I am a business consultant within the IT group at Medical Advantage. One aspect of my role here is to support cross-functional project planning and execution for a healthcare dashboard solutions. So in this role, I help coordinate between our sales, marketing, informatics, analytics, and IT delivery teams to make sure we’re building dashboard solutions that meet our clients needs.  

And prior to joining Medical Advantage last year, I worked at a Fortune 100 healthcare technology company as an implementation data manager for primarily large payer clients. Also helping to build healthcare dashboards and analytics solutions.  

Nick Sheridan: All right, great. So I guess I’ll follow that up. My name is Nick Sheridan. I’m a sales engineer with Medical Advantage. My prior experience is mostly in engineering. I also have a background in economics. My role at the organization is to help clients with our healthcare dashboard solution. So mostly gathering requirements from them, understand technically what they need and working to to build our dashboard solution to suit their needs.  

And it’s always gonna be different, it’s a fairly customized solution. So it requires a lot of work with the client our IT team and informatics team too. 

Andrew Withers: Great. Thank you guys both. It’s nice to have sort of a variety of perspectives. I’d kind of like to start with a big picture overview of just what reporting is and what that term actually means, issues healthcare organizations may run into when reporting.  

And I’ve always kind of thought of this as just the creation of reports to track performance in a given area. Would you guys say that that’s correct?  

Nick Sheridan: Yeah. Yeah. I would definitely say that ‘s roughly correct. In general, in a very broad stroke I would say that reporting is moving from the raw data that any organization creates whether it be healthcare or not, moving from that raw data to some sort of a useful information. 

Right. Typical tools that are used. I guess the more rudimentary tools, things like Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, modern day tools. Some sort of database management system, right? Which would consist of a data warehouse as a backend. A front end would be a BI solution, business intelligence solution. Something like like Tableau or Microsoft PowerBI, or even Spotfire.  

So in this way you know, healthcare reporting is not too much different from what you would see in other domains. For example, finance. But there are specific challenges within healthcare. For example, in the financial world your reimbursements, your income isn’t really affected by your reporting, right? 

Whereas in healthcare if you think of the QPP world then, your reporting is directly tied to reimbursements and sometimes penalties. So it’s a completely different domain that we need to keep an eye out for.  

Linda Yang: Yeah, and I completely agree with both of you guys. And just to add to that a little bit, I would say that, you know, today we live in a world with a lot of data, and more than ever, it’s becoming a source of competitive advantage for businesses in nearly any field. To have the ability to take like Nick mentioned, quantities of potentially messy raw data and transform it into insights that are clear and actionable.  

So you also wanna be able to trust the insights that come out of reporting and know that you’re getting accurate and reliable information. 

Andrew Withers: Awesome. Thank you guys both. Yeah. I think it’s sort of important to mention how crucial it is for healthcare organizations to have these reports touching on these key performance metrics or key performance indicators as they’re called. What are some of the most important ones that you guys see in your work? 

Linda Yang: Yeah, so I would say it definitely depends on the specific or defined goals for a set of dashboards. Just as an example, a private equity client acquiring provider practices might be really interested in measuring and tracking return on their investments. So to that end, financial KPIs may be the most relevant, right? 

At a high level, that might mean how much revenue is being generated, what are the drivers of that versus what are costs incurred for services, provider services provided, things like that. And the specific KPIs might vary also depending on their payment models and payer contracts and all kinds of variables. 

As another totally different example, maybe the overall goals are more about improving patient care. So to that end, important KPIs to track might include things like identifying gaps in care and rates of closing those gaps.  

Nick Sheridan: Yeah, so that’s a great presentation of you know the metrics there. 

Not too much to add to that, I would say in general, right? The metrics are really anything that the data can support, right? Any data that organization is gathering you know, you can create metrics outta that. So it relates to financials. You know, payer type data you know, clinical metrics. 

In the case of something like orthopedics, you would have surgical yield, yield for radiology. You could have something like high tech versus low tech usage of different types of radiology, different technologies. Emergency department, you could have utilization metrics. So there’s a whole host of of metrics and KPIs that we can keep an eye on with healthcare dashboards. 

Linda Yang: Yeah, at the end of the day it’s all about, you know, solving business problems, whatever they may be, right?  

Nick Sheridan: Yes, absolutely. And I can imagine that just as every organization is going to have unique KPIs that they’re going to want to track, there are also probably issues and problems unique to healthcare organizations as well when they attempt to do reporting. 

Andrew Withers: Have you guys sort of noticed from an IT and organizational perspective some main issues you’ve noticed in the field that sort of impede effective reporting?  

Nick Sheridan: Yeah, absolutely. I would, I would say in general healthcare organizations you know, their mission is to provide, you know, quality healthcare at a reasonable price, right? 

Their specialty is not necessarily IT and database management, right? So it can be a challenge for them to hire the right people, to train them correctly and to give them guidance in what critical metrics they actually need to be looking out for. 

Right. We’ve seen from our clients if they come to us looking for a dashboard solution, for example, or a database management solution we get to see what they have in place as far as reporting goes. And a lot of it, while it’s impressive, it’s extremely manual. It looks like it’s some of these spreadsheets, just look like completely horrendous things to put together, but they’ve done it and it works out for them, but they wind up spending so much time then they devote so much in the way of human resources and even facilities resources into to maintaining this really manual and kind of outdated reporting methods. 

Linda Yang: Yeah, and I would add to that, you know, healthcare is unique in just how complex of an industry it is. So accordingly, you know, healthcare data is not only often in vast quantities, but often fragmented, difficult to piece together in meaningful ways. And there’s that whole layer of security, which is really important in healthcare as well, since you’re dealing with protected classes of data. 

So from an IT perspective, you need to ensure robust data management and governance processes to first even ingest the data. And then of course you need that subject matter expertise that these organizations may not have to transform, join the data, clean it, do all of that good stuff. And finally, analytical expertise to draw out the insights that are gonna make a difference for the organization.  

Andrew Withers: I see. Okay. So it seems like even though reporting is obviously something that can bring a lot of benefits, there are issues and problems that can kind of get in the way. So without further ado, why don’t we jump into our New Year’s resolutions for reporting and improving reporting for healthcare practices? 

Nick Sheridan: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s do it.  

Linda Yang: New year’s resolution for reporting. I like it.  

Nick Sheridan: Great. Great. So just to kind of tee it off broadly as we get into reporting best practices, what are just some sort of general, I guess, to say, best practices that healthcare organizations can leverage to increase profitability? 

Linda Yang: Well, Andrew, I would say reporting. So you know I think it’s very common, you hear about healthcare as an industry. It generates a ton of waste. Not necessarily everybody is super clear on what that means. So some sources of waste in the industry include things like overtreatment or low value care, failure of care, care coordination, failure of care delivery, things like that that add cost into the system. 

So good reporting can be the tool to make these issues more visible and therefore empower provider organizations to take action to reduce that waste and therefore increase their cost efficiencies at the same time. Right? So to be a little bit more specific, you can do this through things like procedure tracking, evaluating referrals efficiency to keep patients within a provider or health system. You can identify over prescription to brand name drugs over generics and the list goes on, right?  

So financial metrics reported on over time can help people see trends and also find issues with payments from payers to be frank. So delays, denials, things like that, you can drill down into those issues and see what’s going on there. 

I think one other thing that comes to mind is looking at scheduling and operational efficiency, just to determine if there are additional revenue opportunities via maybe reducing cancellations, no-shows or improving schedule utilization in general.  

Nick Sheridan: Yeah, absolutely. Very, very well said. Not too much to add to that. 

I would just say in general, one of the biggest challenges facing our healthcare industry in the US specifically is the idea of fragmentation, right? And when you can think of fragmentation, you can carry it over into the database management of the organization itself, right? So all these different systems, financial, operational you know, things like patient tracking, looking at, you know, charges, costs, reimbursements all of this needs to be basically unified as as much as possible, right?  

And the dashboard solutions are a great tool for that brings everything together. It gives you one view just to really keep an eye on everything and make sure that it’s within the ranges that you expect it to. 

And yeah, this is, you know, in terms of profitability, right? When you have eyes and everything, it makes that decision making much more reasonable.  

Linda Yang: Yeah, absolutely.  

Andrew Withers: Great. And you talk about how sort of reporting can decrease fragmentation, decrease waste spending, but I can also imagine that it probably has a positive impact on patient outcomes and quality of care. Can you guys talk a little bit about how that might be?  

Linda Yang: Of course. So of course it’s a huge goal in healthcare in general to achieve better patient outcomes, right? So one way that reporting can help with that is to identify gaps in care and coordinate efforts to close those gaps. So this is something that is also especially important for those who engage in value-based care contracts and payment models. Cause that’s something that definitely gets incorporated into reimbursement.  

So with reporting, you know, not only are you getting data in real time but again you’re getting it presented in a meaningful way to help you with things like patient segmentation and targeting for outreach and special programs and things like that. And then in terms of an overall population health perspective reporting can help you improve that.  

So one example there, and this actually ties back to profitability even as well. But just something like tracking emergency department visits over time. And, you know, if you’re noticing the trends going in the wrong direction, the data will help you take action to prevent unnecessary ED visits, which end up being super costly, right? It can also help you avoid costly readmissions. 

So there’s definitely a tie in between Improving patient outcomes as well as increasing your cost efficiency much of the time.  

Nick Sheridan: So, Yeah, for sure. I would just add that, you know what Linda saying is absolutely correct, right? So in general, we wanna achieve our value-based care objectives, right? And the triad being to increase quality, reduce costs, and increase patient access, right? In terms of patient outcomes our proxy for driving that is quality, right?  

So Linda mentioned, we want to visualize our gaps in care. Visualize our patient population, right? See which part of the population which cross section is being most affected. If we can track our social determinants of healthcare that’s even better. But yeah, theoretically closing gaps of care will lead to better outcomes. That’s kinda what our whole value system is predicated upon. 

Andrew Withers: And as you guys talk about gaps in care, segmentation, fragmentation, another term I’m kind of thinking about here is benchmarking. Can you guys kind of talk a little bit about what benchmarking is, if that’s something that’s relevant here and sort of how it factors into improving performance? 

Nick Sheridan: Yeah, absolutely. I can start off with that one. So for benchmarking in general you’re basically establishing some sort of standard or referring to some sort of standard and kind of raising your performance to meet that standard or setting an objective to meet the standard. Right.  

In healthcare, these could be perhaps national averages in outcomes. They could be quality metrics percentile group. And, you know, as far as where these benchmarks come from it’s essentially based on the data, right? There are certain data aggregators out there. An organization called Care Journey is one of them. Omnilytics and Axiom are others. 

But these are companies that access either publicly available data or perhaps private data sets from payers. And basically aggregate them together. And they develop insights. They sell the data as well. And from this data, we create our benchmarks, right?  

Our specific company Medical Advantage, our benchmarking is powered by Care Journey actually. So that data is integrated our data warehouse. So we have the ability to work with our customers to basically show them this is your benchmarks, right? This is what we recommend as far as setting your objectives. 

Linda Yang: Yeah, I think this just adds another layer of utility to the information that’s provided because within your own individual organization, you can track how you’re doing against yourself year over year. But it’s extra useful to see how you’re doing compared to everybody else. Or national average and see where there are areas of opportunity for improvement or you know, even to see areas where you’re shining. 

So definitely one thing that I would add is that you can have benchmarking available within dashboards, not only against these national averages, but within your own organization as well. So benchmarking provides a way to compare physician performance, performance across different practices and stuff like that within your own group as well. 

Andrew Withers: Okay. I see. That’s kind of a good transition to what I wanted to ask you guys about next, which was sort of more broadly the integration of comparing information across systems, locations, databases. I know that can be a challenge for small to mid-size practices especially. How can practices sort of do a better job of this and why is this something that’s so important? 

Nick Sheridan: Yeah, so the integration of data is the kind of the crux of the database management system, right? This is really the problem that we offer solutions for. And so, you know, there are so many different systems out there with healthcare practices, with really any sort of organization in general, right? 

We have specific to healthcare. We have the EHR obviously, which is a big one. We have the software supporting HR like Paylocity and Paycom. We have enterprise resource planning, like SAP, for example. And Sage. You could have sort of a practice marketing side, Salesforce and HubSpot, these are CRM systems.  

Patient intake software accounting software such as QuickBooks and FreshBooks and Wave, et cetera. And yeah, if you have a practice marketing side, obviously you have your website and your gathering data related to scheduling bookings, cancellations and those shows and all that stuff. 

So the database management system, the objective of it is actually to integrate this. So we access our data sources through either API or through flat file export. There are many different ways and the purpose is discover insights which you would normally get if you don’t look at these, you know, different disparate data sets. 

If they’re kept in silos, you really can’t see how they relate to each other, right? So for example if you, from your EHR, if you look at business data you can compare that to data from your HR system. Let’s say the way you schedule your personnel, right? And if you look at these, if you kinda integrate them in the same chart, for example, you visualize it, you can do some sort of a supply demand analysis, right? Where you match your labor to the demand. So that’s just one example of many where you’re pulling data from the disparate sources and you kind of glean insights from those.  

Linda Yang: Yeah, and I know a lot of our clients too, even will have multiple different EHRs as well, right? So private equity clients are acquiring a bunch of practices now. You have to deal with not just one EHR, but maybe three different EHRs that really don’t talk to each other at all. So our work with dashboards really helps integrate that for a holistic, integrated view. And I would say too it’s not just a huge one-time effort, right? Like part of the value of having these dashboards set up is you get these systems integrated and they continue to refresh on an ongoing basis as more data goes in, which is every day so. 

Andrew Withers: You mentioned the visualization and the viewing of the reports. I’m beginning to understand even as a non-tech person, sort of how the data is being pulled, but how are, how is practice leadership able to view these reports? How are they being presented? Can you guys kind of dig into that a little bit? 

Linda Yang: Yeah. I think going back to just what we said in the beginning of, you know, this is all about solving business problems. Different users of dashboards are going to potentially have different business problems that they care about, right? So you have your practice administrators who really want the details and who are going into the reports on a near daily basis to help with their operational decision making. 

They want it to be data driven and they’re really hands on, right? And then you might have, you know, your COO or CFO, who wants the high level summary? Most interested in terms of things that are varying from what’s expected. Again, your financial folks might want the financial data versus physician users want the patient care data. 

So it’s really important to have the ability to create different views in reporting to meet the needs of different audiences even within the same organization.  

Nick Sheridan: So, yeah, absolutely. I would say nearly everyone wants to have an eye on the organization’s data, right? And the information that you can get from that, right? 

The mentioned leadership clinicians wanna know trends in healthcare outcomes. Yeah, so C level folks, board members, clinicians, practice managers all these people really wanna have an idea on kPI specific to their specific role in the organization. Definitely super important to have access simple reports sign that you easily access.  

Andrew Withers: I wanna transition a little bit here just to talk about efficiency and especially with regards to human resources. I know that reporting and efficient reporting can do a lot in the way of reducing human labor and reducing sort of human resources required to assemble manual reports and other things. Can you sort of talk about why that is and how reporting is able to free up practice resources?  

Nick Sheridan: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah the idea you know, part of the motivation behind implementing a dashboard solution is to use labor more efficiently, right? And since the pandemic began, we’ve seen some really strange things happening in the in the labor market. 

Some of it’s fairly predictable, some of it not so much. Right? I guess an example of the latter is you know, within the past year we’ve seen a lot of mobility on labor market, right? A lot of people quitting their jobs. It’s been dubbed I think, the Great Resignation, right?  

Linda Yang: Yeah. 

Nick Sheridan: It’s really strange. If you look at the economic data, right? At the beginning of the pandemic, obviously unemployment shot straight up, right? And the quit rate, the rate of people, you know, voluntarily resigning that dropped down, huge dip, right? Labor force participation was roughly flat, which is interesting, right? 

So as the unemployment rate goes down the quit rate has, has just skyrocketed, right? You know, totally out proportion, right? It’s pretty unexpected. So we don’t really know what’s going on exactly. It’s not like people are just leaving the labor force, because like I said, labor force participation is fairly flat. 

So it may just be you know, a heightened demand for labor. And just a lot more mobility people quitting in their current job and kinda upgrading to a new job. Right? But environment such as this, you know, you know, these organizations, whether it’s healthcare or not, they’re competing for labor. 

You don’t want to have them doing fairly mundane and monotonous tasks like manual reporting. It’s much more efficient. Oftentimes it just outsources to a company that specializes in it it’ll, you know, reduce costs, reduce the the burden of gathering all this data, reporting yourself. 

And, you know, a lot of these companies have really strong background in healthcare. And it just makes sense to.  

Linda Yang: Yeah, Nick, I feel like your economics background really shined through just now with that. Yeah, I agree. People are burnt out and a lot of these smaller organizations don’t necessarily even have the expertise or resources to do all of this data wrangling and deal with some of this IT infrastructure stuff as well. 

I would just add here we have a client that I’ve been working with and they gave a very specific testimonial where they said our dashboard solution helped with a 20% reduction in their labor cost. Due in large part to the automated data integration and reporting that we’ve been able to provide. 

Nick Sheridan: Yeah. Which, which was, which was huge, right. Was a really significant outcome for them.  

Linda Yang: Yep.  

Andrew Withers: That’s excellent. Yeah. It’s all about reducing as we know. It’s a huge issue in healthcare right now.  

Linda Yang: Yeah. We gotta practice what we preach in this industry.  

Andrew Withers: That’s right. Now one of the last things that I want to talk to you guys as we sort of begin to wrap up is the idea of the cloud. I know that moving to the cloud and migrating reporting services there can have some benefits. Let’s talk about those, why is that and what are those benefits?  

Nick Sheridan: Yeah, absolutely. So in, you know, in the process of improving reporting, right? It’s very rare that let’s say a healthcare organization is going to improve the reporting process while still maintaining kind of the old IT infrastructure that they had, right? 

So if an organization has it’s own premises, servers, maybe like a mini data center of sorts, right? They’re probably not going to upgrade the reporting and then keep all that stuff right. A lot of times they make them move wholesale to the cloud which allows them to really eliminate the OpEx associated with keeping all that hardware and keeping all the software licenses that they have, right? 

They really kind of switch to OpEx as opposed, right? OpEx is significantly lower then it would be even if they kept everything on premises, right? So yeah, moving to the cloud kind of outsourcing everything, including the infrastructure to the cloud. Something like Microsoft Azure, or even Amazon Web Services, it takes a huge burden off not only you know, physical resources, but also in terms of labor, right? Everything in the cloud is managed. You know, the the networking security usually highly scalable, highly elastic systems. The availability is something like 99.999%. So very minimal downtime. So usually improving the reporting system. It really goes in hand with moving to the cloud. It’s beneficial from a cost and efficiency standpoint. 

Linda Yang: Yeah, it’s an investment, but definitely proven time over time again that there are returns to that investment. And I think part of the journey of migrating to the cloud is you need the IT expertise to support that endeavor, right? So the setup, the maintenance, all of that. The IT expertise helps with just making sure as you set this up, you’re again, securely ingesting this data. You’ve got dedicated environments for loading, staging, mapping, all of that good stuff. And you have those processes in place for good data governance and data management.  

Nick Sheridan: Yeah, for sure.  

Andrew Withers: Great. Yeah, I think that, maybe almost goes for reporting as a whole. Improving your importing processes is a bit of an investment initially, but over the long run I can imagine that it pays dividends in a lot of ways. 

Linda Yang: Right. And a lot of the value here is freeing up time and energy so that healthcare practices can focus on what they do best, which is patient care. Right?  

Andrew Withers: Absolutely. Mm-hmm. Great. Well, thank you guys both so much. I know we’ve covered a lot of ground today and sort of shared a lot of really amazing insights. 

I just wanted to ask you too, if there’s anybody out there listening who maybe has further questions or is seeking further help, is there somebody who you would direct them to, either yourself or somebody on your team? 

Nick Sheridan: I would send ’em directly to Linda, to be honest with you. Full stop.  

Linda Yang: I was just gonna say I would send them directly to Nick. No, there’s a few resources out there, right? Of course. There’s our website medicaladvantage.com that has a nice form that will allow somebody to reach out to you or again, you know, contacting myself or Nick directly that would work as well.  

Nick Sheridan: Yeah, absolutely. We have a whole library of webinars and obviously we have our podcast on whatever podcast people use. We have our presence on YouTube, on LinkedIn, so yeah, many, many different ways to get in touch.  

Linda Yang: Okay. Yeah, I’m happy to share my email address is lyang, lyang@medicaladvantage.com. Office number 734-412-4077.  

Nick Sheridan: Yeah, and my email is nsheridan, that’s nsheridan@medicaladvantage.com

Andrew Withers: Wonderful. Yeah, and I would encourage anybody listening, get in touch with Linda and Nick. They are pros at what they do. Also, as they mentioned, feel free to check out our website, medicaladvantage.com. We have plenty of great content, podcasts, blogs, webinars on the topic of reporting and much more. Thank you guys so much for listening. Thank you to Nick and Linda for coming on. It’s been a pleasure and I really appreciated our conversation today.  

Linda Yang: Thanks so much.  

Andrew Withers: Yeah, great to be with you guys.  

Nick Sheridan: Yeah, and best of luck moving into 2022.  

Andrew Withers: Absolutely. Yeah. Happy New Year.  

Nick Sheridan: Happy New Year.  

Linda Yang: Happy New Year. 

Andrew Withers: Thanks guys. 

Medical Advantage Podcast: Thanks for joining us this week on the Medical Advantage Podcast where we discuss the ideas and technologies changing healthcare and what they mean to your organization. For more information, visit us at medicaladvantage.com and make sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast, so you never miss a show. 


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