4 Signs Your Bariatric Practice is Internally Bleeding
A medical practice is much like a human body. Slow bleeds for a patient can be life threatening – just like slow bleeds for a practice can be catastrophic for the organization. But where do these financial or organizational “slow bleeds” occur?
For bariatric medicine, one of the most important places to look is the patient pipeline. Some call it patient tracking – essentially the pathway a patient takes from initial interaction with your practice to the proper course of care and beyond.
Effectively managing this pipeline from start to finish can help patch many leaks that could otherwise drain the life from your practice over time. Here are four signs to help you master this pipeline and gain predictable control over the life of your practice.
1. Patient Education and Communication is Ineffective
Whether your practice is surgically dense [or non-surgically based], the demand for effective patient communication and education throughout the process typically falls short of patient expectations for a number of reasons.
Case in point, how much time does your staff spend repeating information, providing redundant education, or muddling patient engagement unintentionally? It’s not difficult to imagine where “leaks” can develop in patient education alone. Don’t underestimate the importance of education in clinical environments.
Effective education has been shown to reduce hospital re-admissions following inpatient discharge by 30 percent. Therefore, if your methods aren’t effective, it will cost both your practice and your patients.
Taking advantage of best practices in patient education can help not only your practice, but your patients as well. If your practice still relies heavily on paper patient education pamphlets as the bulk of your education and engagement, for example, you are likely missing some important opportunities (and wasting valuable resources). Analytics associated with electronic education materials can lend some critically useful information such as whether or not materials were viewed, for how long, and how many times patients viewed them.
2. Your EHR isn’t Helping You Track Your Patient Pipeline
Within the past several years, EHR adoption rates have skyrocketed. Over 80 percent of office-based physicians use electronic health records in their daily operations, and nearly all hospitals in the U.S. now use certified EHR systems. Amidst controversy over their functionality, these systems don’t offer providers many powerful benefits that can help keep patient flow towards treatment methodologies at a predictable rate.
“The capacity for an EHR system to help providers manage and track their patient pipeline is limited, at best.”
There’s definitely confusion in the marketplace about Patient Relationship Management and Electronic Health Records. The two are very different.
Simply put, using an EMR as a PRM would be as if you went to use your road vehicle as a boat. Very few cars [only amphibious vehicles] can actually operate in both environments. So why is it that so many choose to take their vehicles and submerge them in water thinking that they’ll stay afloat?
It’s actually quite simple. Expectations have been completely mismanaged with technology capabilities.
And it’s resulted in a long line of upset clinicians, bariatric coordinators and advocates.
Ask yourself: am I creating a transparent patient pipeline by filling in the knowledge gaps about my patients?
The less missing information about how patients move through the pipeline, the better. Just some of the examples of how a patient pipeline system can help you fill these gaps include:
This information can encompass anything from insurance verification to billing status and everything in between. Insurance trends are a good example of an important indicator you should be following to gain actionable insight into your pipeline.
The quality care that your patients receive should be accessible and translatable to quantifiable indicators. For example, what is your surgery conversion rate? Of all new patient inquiries, how many go on to get surgery? What is the average length-to-surgery? An effective patient pipeline system can help you answer these questions.
Systems enable providers to quickly and efficiently identify valuable information regarding the patient pipeline. Indicators in scheduling or e-prescribing are just some of the ways that Patient Relationship Management systems can help administrators keep track of patients across very different regions of the pipeline.
3. A Linear Pathway of the Patient Journey is a Myth
When you think about the “patient journey,” do you consider a linear pathway from “awareness” towards “treatment?” If so, you’re not alone, but you’re also missing out on some critical understanding and opportunities for growth.
The patient journey is not linear – rather patients move from stage to stage very differently from one another.
In bariatric medicine, the patient life cycle is often multifactorial with procedures, consultations, and follow-ups.
Two different patients may have two different types of insurance coverage, two different schedules, two different clinical needs, or two different social needs. So how, then do you quantify your patient journeys?
One excellent method is through a Graduation Rate, which is simply the number of patients who have completed care divided by the number of patients who started an initial plan of care.
4. Clean Silos of Information are Lacking
When it comes down to it, managing your patient pipeline is really a numbers game. But do you have an effective way to organize (or even access) these numbers? This is where the importance of information silos comes in.
Let’s take the example of patient origin. Understanding where new patients come from is a small but critical piece of information that you should always collect. Lead source tracking can quite literally make or break your marketing efforts, and each one of your providers and staff members should have a thorough idea of your marketing efforts for all varieties of encounters for both new and returning patients.
In the hyper-competitive market of specialties like bariatric medicine, you absolutely need to know where your patients are coming from. Today, many patients’ first step to finding a doctor is through a simple web search. Your practice should be paying attention to trends in how patients are discovering you digitally; there are many tools available at your disposal for just this.
Google Analytics or other similar services are reasonable methods of tracking digital traffic sources. Of course, asking patients both on intake forms and verbally “How did you hear about us?” is still a must-do as a safety net to help fill in any possible gaps. Don’t forget about referrals – these are important origin points to document as well, and will help you gain a more holistic picture of your patient inflow over time.
However, mastering your patient pipeline comes with a myriad of other measuring protocols that need to come in combination of EHR and marketing efforts once patients initiate contact with your practice.
Monitor the real-time status of enterprise-wide flow operations is the only pathway towards predictable momentum and growth for your practice.
Once you’ve set systems in place to patch any financial “slow bleeds” in your practice, it’s time to run the numbers. You should be able to determine the overall cost of obtaining new patients as they work through your system and move through to care completion, be it through surgery or other methods.
Knowing all of this is far more powerful than guessing, it’s the difference between flying blind, and truly gaining control of the future of your practice.