Real-Time Analytics and Dashboards for Streamlining Revenue Cycle Automation

Last month CareCloud announced a new real-time analytics dashboard to help doctor streamline revenue cycle automation. The core of their product is what they call CareCloud Analytics. As I think about the announcement, I wondered if it was really a big deal or not and why we hadn’t seen more of this in the various practice management systems and EHR software on the market today.

Is Data Analytics important in Healthcare?
I think this type of information is a big deal. Information is power and this is never more true than in healthcare. The press release does a great job of describing how real-time analytics and dashboards provide information which provides transparency and accountability to a practice. One quote from the article says, “The practice can now manage the productivity of the office staff, monitor in real time the productivity of billers, and gain transparency into the business side of operations to help form better decisions through data, instead of intuition.”

I’m a huge fan of analytics in my business. I call myself a stats addict. I have 2-3 stats programs running on my websites at all times. I get stats from my ad server, from Google’s ad server, and from every other stats engine I can find that has reliable data. Much of my success with my websites is because of my passion for knowing what’s happening with my websites. To me, Data is power! The same can be said for a practice. Data is the power to make important decisions that are needed for the success of your practice.

Why don’t more EHR and PMS vendors provide these analytics?
I’m sure there are a number of reasons why we don’t see real time analytics happening very often in the small practices. Hospitals are a bit different. There are whole companies devoted to just providing these types of services to hospitals that can pay for a full scale data warehouse environment to provide this type of data. A hospital that doesn’t do this type of data mining is missing out as well, but they have a number of options. Although, I don’t think many hospital HIS vendors offer this info by default.

The key reason I think real-time analytics and customizable dashboards are missing in the small practice environment has to do with doctors demand (or lack thereof) for such a feature. This will surprise some, but most will agree that the majority of doctors don’t care much for the business side of the practice. Sure, they care that the business side of the practice effects how much money they take home at the end of the day, but a large portion of doctors would love their lives a lot more if they didn’t have anything to do with the business of a practice. Yes, I know there are exceptions to this, but most doctors want to practice medicine not business.

With this as background, if you ask most doctors what they want from their EHR and Practice Management software, they’ll start to list off all of the clinical and workflow needs that they have. Very few of them will even venture into the business requests like real time analytics. Plus, even if they did venture into the business side of things, would they know how to request such a feature?

EHR and Practice Management Vendors have to show them why it matters to have these real time analytics. It reminds me of the famous quote attributed to Henry Ford. “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This can often be taken too far, but I think it applies well when it comes to things like real-time analytics of a practice.

One other reason that a number of companies are missing the analytics and its relationship with revenue cycle management is that they’re too focused on EHR. Many just consider the PMS a standard thing that everyone has already and that there’s no room to innovate. Last I checked meaningful use didn’t have any practice management elements and that’s taken up at least one development cycle for most companies. Too many doctors later dismay, the EHR selection process often puts the practice management side of the puzzle on the backseat. This is a mistake that many practices are paying for today.

As one PR rep for a major EHR company said to me, “Revenue Cycle Management isn’t sexy.” Although, she said this directly after telling me how beneficial it was to their bottom line.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

6 Comments

  • John,

    To your point that most providers want to practice medicine not businesses, we’ve begun to witness, and will continue to see an increasing focus on the analysis of the clinical data being captured in the EHR. I was reminded of a great article “Data mining in electronic health records could reveal unexpected patterns” posted in the Stanford Scope Blog: http://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2010/08/data_mining_in/

    While this point is not applicable to the small practice, but rather the hospital, it is compelling nontheless:
    “For example, we can see whether or not a bare metal stint is better in all populations. In general, we’re looking at the effectiveness of a stint. It’s a high-cost item, and we can see if one brand is doing better than another in a population. We can see whether a hip replacement treatment is doing well and whether the patient is out of the hospital and not having to come back multiple times, or whether they have an infection. We’re trying to help our hospitals figure out what is the best and most efficient care at the best cost. That turns out to be the best care for our patients at a reasonable cost.”

    Further, EHRs provide a utility in looking at population effects – specifically with syndromatic surveillance. Real-time EHR analytics solutions allow providers to make decisions at the point of care, improving patient outcomes.

  • John, great points.

    Here are some additional points from our perspective on why most physicians don’t typically have access to this type of information:

    1) Vendors who provision EHR solely aren’t on the hook for financial results. In other words, they get paid whether the practice does or doesn’t get paid. Since CareCloud focuses on the entire revenue cycle, the real-time analytics capabilities significantly increase the practice’s visibility into how the system is performing and we’re proud to be held to a higher standard of performance.

    2) Most Practice Management systems provided by Health IT vendors deal with the basic functionality of scheduling, billing and payment posting. However, because these vendors typically charge an additional fee for analytics and reporting capabilities, most doctors would avoid the additional expense, not buying into the potential Return On Investment associated with these tools.

    3) You would be amazed at the dysfunctional data models that permeate most Health IT systems. Some of these systems were written in the 1960/70s based upon 1960 technology (such as MUMPS). Unlocking actionable data from these systems is an expensive, cumbersome and people-intensive task — you can argue that there are vested interests in keeping it that way.

    4) Most systems are not cloud-based and therefore inherently struggle to provide comprehensive reporting and analytics across multiple locations, practices and care settings.

  • Albert,
    Thanks for adding to the conversation. Some interesting reasons why others aren’t doing this. When a company doesn’t have direct financial impact from a piece of software, then they don’t do it well. Which points back to the customer needing to ask for it, but not knowing that they need it so they don’t ask.

    You’ll have to be careful with your MUMPS 1960’s argument since SQL was started in the 1970’s. Although, they’ve both taken quite different paths since then.

    On point 4, what do you think of GE’s move: https://www.healthcareittoday.com/2012/01/26/ge-centricity-advance-ceasing-operations/ Looks like they’re getting out of the truly cloud based EMR business.

  • Response to Justin Campbell’s inquiry about dashboards.

    FormFast is doing dashboards:

    Dashboard View – The dashboard view of all RAC requests and appeals in progress gives appeals managers a single control center from which they can track and manage the progress of each active appeal.

    Those required more information can read this web page:

    http://www.formfast.com/Solutions/Audit-Management

  • I have to agree with the MUMPS problem. We simply cannot access our MUMPS data in real time. We have to wait until we can either interface the data out or have a nightime move to a real database platform. We would love a (realtime or not) dashboard for clinical and revenue cycle decisions. We consistently struggle to build them since they are not packaged with the EHR.
    As far as clinical needs – IHC has done a great job with their diabetes dashboards – proving that there is a clinical need for dashboarding.

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