Collecting and tracking your clinic’s metrics is one of the most important things you can do to nurture the long-term success of your business. But, it’s one thing to collect and track all your metrics; knowing what to do with them is a whole other ball game—and you absolutely cannot afford to let them sit in a corner and gather dust. In his Ascend 2019 presentation, Brandon Seigel, the President of Wellness Works Management Partners, urged therapists to ensure they’re really making use of their metrics—after all, “What’s the good of metrics if we don’t do something with it?”
At this point, you may be thinking, “There are so many different metrics that I track in my clinic—is there really one cookie-cutter plan that can address all of them?” Well, that’s a valid question, because the answer is no: each individual metric is going to need an individual plan of attack. (A patient satisfaction survey isn’t going to increase your profit per visit, for example.) But, the planning phase is only one piece of the puzzle. To ensure the success of your metrics program, there are a few things you need to do even before you start planning.
Step 1: Identify the metrics that need help.
First thing’s first: you gotta know which of your metrics need help before you move forward. Benchmarking (i.e., comparing your current metrics to previous years’ or to regional/national averages) will be your best friend here. Just know that if you’re benchmarking with your competition, you need to prepare yourself to do some serious research, because most clinics don’t exactly wear their metrics on their sleeves. Luckily, there are software solutions—like WebPT Analytics—that can help you benchmark and track KPIs. Not to toot our own horn, but thanks to the sheer size of WebPT’s Member base, WebPT Analytics provides reliable benchmarks against similar practices at both the local and national levels.
Step 2: Read your metrics with the right context.
Second, be careful not to misinterpret your metrics. It’s really easy to draw conclusions from data—but it’s hard as heck to draw right and accurate conclusions. “If you don’t read the right story [in your metrics], you can really invalidate the good things that are happening,” Seigel said.
At Ascend, Seigel shared a story about a time he misinterpreted a clinic’s data and mistakenly thought its performance had tanked. Luckily, before he approached his staff, he looked a little closer at the numbers and discovered that the clinic’s busy season had shifted a little bit—and it was actually performing exceptionally well that year.
“The problem with today is we look at metrics, and we make assumptions, and we look from a black and white standpoint,” said Seigel. And that’s the key, really: you must be willing to look at your numbers from different angles to ensure that you’re not reading the wrong story.
Step 3: Devise a plan of attack.
Here’s where the cookie-cutter approach crumbles a little bit. As I mentioned above, different metrics are going to require different fixes—and sometimes, when you have a metric that can be too high or too low (days sales outstanding, for instance), the different ends of the bad-metric-spectrum will need different fixes. The trick here is to identify what will generally influence the metric you’re looking at—and then think critically about how you can positively influence that metric in your practice. But that’s easier said than done, so here are some examples:
Patient Attrition (a.k.a. Churn)
Your practice’s patient attrition rate (or churn, as we like to call it), reflects the percentage of patients who fail to complete their course of care. So, let’s say your practice’s churn rate is higher than it should be—a widespread problem in rehab therapy. You need to figure out why your patients are unhappy and what it is about your clinic’s experience that is driving them away. The goal here is to identify holes in the patient experience—whether that’s a therapist whose bedside manner could use some work or a flawed back office policy that frustrates patients to the point of no return.
To sleuth out why your patients are opting to leave your practice, you might consider administering patient satisfaction surveys or—even better—tracking patients’ Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) in your practice. You could also tap your staff for their insights, observations, or ideas. You might be surprised with how much they come up with; the people who are in the thick of clinic work are generally acutely attuned to its problem areas.
Whatever method you use, once you identify gaps in the patient experience, be sure to address them head-on—and openly communicate with your staff and patients about the changes you’re implementing.
Profit per Visit
The profit per visit metric is pretty self-explanatory. It boils down to one question: are you making money when you see patients? More clinics would answer “no” to this question than you might think. “We often miss the fact that we lose money on each visit,” said Seigel.
When it comes to identifying your profitability problem areas, look closely at your revenue and your overall expenses. Look at your payers: are there any contracts that pay too little to support your business? If so, you may need to renegotiate your contracts—or even drop a payer. Are you offering any services at your clinic that aren’t financially viable for your practice? You might need to discontinue those services.
On the flip side, with expenses, you need to consider costs associated with things like your location, equipment, and staff. Is your part-time tech really helping your PTs enough to justify the expense? Would it be more financially beneficial to outsource your billing to an RCM team? Could you find a new clinic location that’s closer to your target patient population—and cheaper, to boot?
The productivity stat, as you may know, measures the number of patients a therapist sees in an hour or a day, depending on how you prefer to look at it. This is a tricky metric to fix, because it’s possible for productivity to be too low or too high—and it’s also possible for productivity to ebb and flow for perfectly acceptable reasons. If your therapists have a complex caseload, their productivity might dip because they’re spending more time with those patients. Conversely, if you’ve hired a PTA or tech, your therapists’ productivity could rise exponentially, because the extender has freed them up to treat more patients.
That said, if you find that a therapist’s productivity is too high or too low for no good reason, then the best way to fix this metric is to:
- sit down with the therapist,
- frankly (but kindly!) discuss your goals and expectations,
- determine why those goals haven’t been met, and
- hash out a game plan that you both are willing to stand behind.
Step 4: Communicate the plan to your staff—tactfully.
I touched on this step a little bit in my examples, because you really can’t fix your metrics if you don’t have staff buy-in. Now, don’t get me wrong—I think metrics are a great tool to propagate buy-in (it’s hard to argue with the cold, hard truth), but you have to know how to correctly use that tool. If you present your stats to your staff in the wrong way—like if you’re accusatory instead of collected and open—then your numbers won’t mean anything to them. In fact, your metrics could end up alienating them or making them feel unappreciated.
Fixing bad metrics is almost an art. A heavy hand could mess up the whole operation, but a delicate touch (and a knack for motivating others) can help practice leaders turn those bad metrics into better results.