This article was developed from an episode of “Time Out For Anesthesia” with Courtney Franco, Vp of Sales at Imagine Software. You can watch or listen to the original interview via the links at the bottom of this page.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: No two anesthesia practices are exactly alike. From size and infrastructure to personalities and technology acceptance/avoidance, every group has its own unique identity that has developed over time. They’ve put solutions and workflows into place, they have their own set of anesthesia records, and their RCM cycle is nuanced as it, too, has been custom tailored to fit. But despite the variations, anesthesia groups nationwide answer to the same governing bodies and are held to identical standards–think CMS, MACRA and all of the other alphabet soup to which you’ve grown accustomed.
As those kinds of standards and regulations enter into the equation, a discussion about data climbs to the top of the priority list—specifically, the importance of accuracy, clarity, efficiency, and, naturally then, the ability to see and evaluate analytics reports on all of it. All of these are tied to what might just be the two most important considerations for any anesthesia group: The Patient Experience and the group’s financial sustainability.
The conversation around data spiked in importance as the anesthesia industry experienced the impact of COVID. Cash flow that might have been dependable previously based on a normal expectation of elective procedures, for many groups, was minimized or even eliminated altogether for short bursts while cases were canceled. So no longer could an anesthesia practice simply look back at the data from the previous month—they now needed to review case data every day.
Now, looking at daily reports, anesthesia groups are evaluating what to expect from a revenue standpoint.
- What revenue should be coming in?
- When should we expect to realize our accounts receivable?
- How quickly and accurately can we reconcile that with the bank?
An enormous call for more in-depth and specialized reporting has now emerged from nearly every corner of the healthcare industry, anesthesiology notwithstanding. Healthcare providers have realized the need for real-time analytics that can demonstrate where their production focus should be and what they could expect to get reimbursed.
But once COVID exposed an urgent, present need for data, healthcare practices realized something else: the data from within the COVID timeline doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the practice when COVID was not spiking. Without data that predates the COVID timeline, several black holes develop:
- What was the actual impact of COVID on our operations?
- What was “normal” pre-covid in regards to OR utilization rates, turnover times, patient satisfaction scores, quality, efficiency, and more?
- And, if we can actually paint a good picture of what that “normal” was, can we track back to it? Can we do even better? Can we develop plans for future catastrophic events?
With robust analytics, that kind of planning is completely possible.
And once you have the power of data in your hand, other aspects of managing your practice become far more straightforward and data-driven than before. One challenge that anesthesia groups deal with is not only sustaining their current business, but also remaining competitive and winning new contracts. During COVID, for instance, if all they have to rely on is data from last month when there were no elective surgeries, how will they demonstrate their value? They would need to fall back to more historical data to prove their worth.
Aside from contracts, staffing decisions can also become data-driven based on how busy the ORs are – we’ve covered OR Utilization in other episodes of Time Out for Anesthesia. Efficiency and quality reporting become far simpler to understand and navigate. With data, the real questions is just this: “What questions are you trying to answer?”
Which reporting platform is going to best illustrate that answer for you? And then what do you want to do with that data? It’s kind of like taking a COVID test. Say you start feeling poorly, and you think, “Gosh, I wonder if I have COVID.” Well, what are you gonna do with that information? Yes, you should probably find out—but how you act on that information is just as important.
In another example, if you poll a room full of anesthesiologists by asking, “Who here is above average,” it is likely that most, if not all of them would raise their hands. Sadly, it can’t be true that everyone is above average. One catch is that when we bring data into the equation, someone will have to discover that they are actually below average. Without a plan for what to do with that data, friction may arise from emotional reactions—and perhaps this is why some are hesitant to adopt data-based systems. But if we develop a culture around data that supports improvement rather than big- brother supervision & criticism, then perhaps we can make positive, data-driven changes. Maybe my first-case start times have been a little bit late. I can work on that, and I have actual data to demonstrate my improvement. The nice thing about data is it doesn’t lie, and it’s not biased. It’s not trying to hurt your feelings. It doesn’t have that ability.
Anesthesia is a very paper-driven specialty (which, of course, we are trying to change). To say that many practices have no level of confidence in the data that their platform is producing is often an understatement. So many anesthesia groups are unable to make meaningful decisions around their financials, their staff productivity, their doctors’ productivity, or claim volume. Many aren’t even confident in the reports that their system is producing that shows their claims because they know what they get from the hospital is consistently different from what they’re inputting. It’s a bit terrifying to think of the black hole in which data may go missing—and following closely behind it is a quality patient experience and the anesthesia group’s revenue.
But on the positive side, there are now places to record that data and ways to visualize and evaluate the way your anesthesia practice is performing to make informed decisions about how to improve and move forward. If we can change the perception of data capture into something positive, we’re on the right track. You are a wonderful healthcare provider—and here is your chance to prove it.
About The Co-Author
Courtney Franco, Vice President of Sales, Imagine Software
Courtney joined Technology Partners, LLC in 2013 and is the Vice President of Sales leading the direct sales team across the country. Courtney came to ImagineSoftware with 15 years of sales experience after working in pathology billing and selling self-funded health and welfare plans for third party administrators. She successfully reconciled over $2M in errors while in pathology, and currently works with our partners and vendors to strategically grow relationships and provide ongoing guidance and education.
Courtney graduated from Belmont Abbey College with a degree in psychology and currently Co-Chairs the membership committee for EDPMA.