Data Collection 2.0: A Q&A with Andrea Stark
How providers can better understand the ways their IT systems can serve up strategically advantageous data.
- By Joseph Duffy
- May 01, 2017
Andrea Stark is a managing partner of MiraVista LLC, a consulting firm
dedicated to serving the HME industry, including helping providers to
understand and use their data for business success.
HME Business: How are HME providers using their
Andrea Stark: Providers are still struggling with knowing where their
money is coming from and where they are losing money by payer and
by product. I find that a lot of providers struggle with getting acceptable
management reporting that helps them make their business decisions.
Some people need a third set of eyes to be able to point them in the
right direction. They don’t have that high-level, bird’s-eye view. They
are very close to the numbers and sometimes it can be helpful to get an
expert to help you go over your numbers and make sure that the reporting
you’re getting is consistent. I see a lot of providers go after data to
answer one specific question and that leads them down a rabbit hole to
go after more information. Without direction, we end up getting lost in
all of these custom, one-time reports that keep us from monitoring the
up-and-down trends that happen over time. If you don’t have a consistent
reporting package, you will miss important changes and can’t really
benchmark success or failures.
Beyond operational reporting, the next generation of data collection will
require us to leverage our specialties to make DME relevant in our broader
clinical community. For example, if you have a respiratory specialty
practice, how will you use your data to make yourself marketable to area
hospitals? It is important to establish ourselves as partners that make a difference
with patient outcomes. We need to demonstrate with data how we
are reducing the amount of readmissions and the length of hospital stays.
We should also be mining for data within our own software to market
additional products to existing customers. If you have customers that
you know are diabetic, and you carry diabetic shoes, make sure they
know you can help them. Just because you set them up with a CPAP
doesn’t mean you shouldn’t market diabetic shoes. We can increase
sales by sending targeted mailers to customers with relevant diagnoses
for when they next need that service.
Data can be used to solve lots of problems. As we just discussed,
there’s a host of metrics to help the owners and the management make
better business decisions and to hold people accountable within the
organization. There’s other information that we can use to help grow
the business, make it profitable and also expand product offerings. We
can even use data to promote better clinical outcomes if we track and
HMEB: What should all providers be doing today to make
use of their data?
Stark: Collection percentage has proven to be the most important
metric. What are you putting to the bottom line and how you get there is so important. To get this data, providers need to monitor activity by
payer. Is your AR [Accounts Receivable] going up? Is it going down? What
are your sales doing? How much are we collecting? Evaluate these questions
in terms of product and payer mixes. Solid answers to these basic
questions can really give you helpful insight to dig in deeper and prune
or expand where the numbers support it. From a high-level overview,
these are a few starting points. You need to run your reports at the end
of the month after all activity is posted. Determine where you sit by
payer and product, then do it again next month. The numbers should
tell you where change is most needed, especially as you monitor month
HMEB: What are some of the reasons providers may not be
the right data?
Stark: Many providers don’t, or can’t, make the time; perhaps they’re
frustrated because they’ve been unsuccessful at creating a useful
reporting package. But making time is important — we tell clients
that collecting and acting on data is something you have to do. If it’s
not something you will or can do, then find someone who can get you
started and, most importantly, help you be consistent about it.
Not everyone needs outside help for extended periods. Some just
need a jumpstart, a diagnostic health checkup using their data and their
software. Others acknowledge they just won’t stick with it if left to their
own devices and distractions. Those are real challenges. It is not dissimilar
to a personal trainer. For some, they just need to be shown how
and they can go from there; others acknowledge they need that outside
pressure to hold them accountable. In our firm we see both scenarios.
But either way, the end result is a healthier company.
While they all differ, I have yet to find a software package that can’t
facilitate the necessary data extraction. I think for some providers this
is the initial hang up — they can figure out how to get to the useful data.
However, in my experience, the trick is to export the data, get it into
Excel or some type of database format, and then manipulate it from
there. We’ve taught several courses at Medtrade and at state association
conventions with the end goal of getting people over their discomfort of
working with exports and database programs. It doesn’t require rocket
science. Suppliers sell themselves short all too often, but these are really
smart people who can understand the numbers once they get there.
After you get a base level of comfort, you can always build up experience
with higher functions and do more with the data using pivot tables and
other whiz bang — but you just have to get started.
HMEB: Who in the HME organization typically does the
Stark: It doesn’t really require an IT professional. Most of the billing
software packages enable end users to export data. In the right culture,
we should be encouraging our AR managers and even our AR staff,
intake managers, owners, and other personnel to leverage data to help
them perform better. The healthiest companies have a culture that
staff to leverage data to solve problems and evolve.
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of HME Business.
Joseph Duffy is a freelance writer and marketing consultant, and a regular contributor to HME Business. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.