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How to figure out what you are doing

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Executive information is increasingly important for private doctors. Jane Braithwaite shows how to analyse your business and make changes based on practice data.

All business leaders need executive information to enable them to review and manage their business. And that is equally true of private doctors and clinics.

Executive info B&WWhile patient data is often reviewed, the actual management of the practice is often overlooked. So, this month, I’m taking a look at how independent practitioners can get the most out of non-clinical data.

What is executive information?

The term ‘executive information’ relates to information provided to executive-level employees about what is happening in their business.

In a private medical practice environment, executive information systems can allow principal consultants to look at trends and figures extracted from their practice management systems.

These systems could come in the form of a dashboard, providing users with an overview of the figures they consider most important.

Business intelligence and reporting

Dashboards can be constructed to include ‘drill down’ capabilities, so you can dig a little deeper into your information based on the parameters you build in. Some­times referred to as business intelligence, these systems can also include analytics, forecasting and reporting functions.

Two issues you will need to consider are:

  1. What do you want to see from your dashboard or executive information system;
  2. How do you go about displaying this.

In other words, you are asking ‘which program can I use to extract the data from my practice management system and display it in the format that I want?’

There are many user-friendly programs available that can be used to build dashboards – Tableau or QlikView, for example – and there are online tutorials available that will help you to familiarise yourself with their functions.

Executive info colour sliderBut creating a dashboard may be something you might prefer to leave to an expert. An expert will also be able to advise you on how best to link your medical practice management system database to a business intelligence program, which could involve data cleansing or a knowledge of structured query language (SQL) queries.

They will also be able to advise on the usability, cost and maintenance of such programs.

Once you have decided on which tool you want to use, you then need to think about what you want to see. You could use your information system to show you:

 Attendance rates: Taking an in-depth look at this will allow you to co-ordinate clinics to maximise attendance;
 Source of referral: By recording in your practice system where a referral has come from – word of mouth, through another facility, social media – you can understand where your patients are coming from and focus your marketing accordingly.

You will also need to think about how you wish to display the information. Formatting a report or dashboard in an audience-friendly way will maximise understanding and allow you to make informed decisions.

Reviewing your systems

If you do not already have a dashboard or an executive information system, it is worth talking to an IT specialist to get advice about which of the business intelligence programs would be best for you.

Your existing systems will need to ‘speak’ to these programs, feeding them the information that will ultimately be displayed in your dashboard.

Questions you may want to consider are:

Arrow kiteWhich systems do you use? Business intelligence software can speak to most databases. For example, you can easily link Microsoft Access and Excel to these programs.

Arrow kiteDo your current systems have reporting capabilities? Some medical practice management systems already have reporting capabilities built in. Depending on your requirements, a simple report may be all that you need.

For example, if all you require is a report once a month on the number of patients who attended clinic, it may be that you can easily extract this from your system without the need to build a dashboard.

Arrow kiteDoes the data need to be cleansed in order to be interpreted easily? Some data will need to be ‘cleansed’ – that is to say, it needs to be amended into a version that the business intelligence software can understand.

Resources needed

Executive information panelDoes your practice manager have a penchant for business analysis? Is your secretary keen to develop new skills? If your answer is yes, it sounds like you already have the capability within your team.

If they have the time, why not help them develop their skills? Tutorials for business intelligence programs are available online, and there are even classroom training sessions available for those who prefer face-to-face learning.

If you are not sure if you want to commit to purchasing business intelligence software, you can try using Excel to build a dashboard.

This comes as part of Microsoft Office and is therefore likely to be available on office computers. So using Excel can be a cost-effective way of getting started with dashboards and, if you need to, you can move on to more dedicated business intelligence software at a later date.

However, it may be that you and your team simply do not have the time to dedicate to setting up and maintaining a business intelligence system.

In this case, you may want to outsource part of or all the work. A data visualisation specialist could help you to set up a dashboard, but you may need help to support you in terms of maintaining the system. This should be considered at the point you think about your requirements.

So, to sum up, business intelligence and executive information systems can be a real asset to any business, and private medical practices are no exception.

The data held within your systems is valuable and holds the key to really understanding the way your patients interact with your practice.

Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.

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