4 steps to benchmarking and improving your practice

A physician's stethoscope
Benchmarking can help practices find solutions to some of their most pressing problems. (Getty/millionsjoker)

The adage goes that if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Which is why physician practices need to know how they can improve their performance by identifying and using benchmarks, said Michelle Mattingly, data solutions manager at the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), in an interview with FierceHealthcare.

Michelle Mattingly
Michelle Mattingly (MGMA)
It’s important for practices to know how and when to benchmark and which key performance indicators are most beneficial to them, says Mattingly, who will be teaching practice leaders about benchmarking at the MGMA’s upcoming Operations Conference that starts Sunday in Phoenix.
 

Here’s some of her tips on how practices can get started benchmarking themselves against others:

1. Evaluate where you are and where you want to be. That can help you determine what you might want to benchmark, which may be different for each practice, she says. For instance, there are financial metrics that look at practice expenses and revenues. There are also operational-type metrics that look at look at factors such as the number of no-show patients or physician productivity.

“Focus on where you might need help based on your strengths and weaknesses,” Mattingly says. Your goal may be to improve patient satisfaction scores by reducing wait times or improve your rate of collections.

2. Use data to compare your practice. For instance, the MGMA puts together metrics in its “data dive.” But keep in mind that one size does not fit all.

You may want to filter data to compare yourself against practices that are the same size or in the same geographic area of the country. Data gives you a look at how your practice stacks up against others and where you might be lagging, she says.

3. Look for reasons for performance gaps. For instance, is your practice having trouble collecting money? You may find you want to look for opportunities to collect revenues sooner in the process, such as making sure you collect co-payments from patients up front. Or you may need to bring in more billing/collections staff. That may pay-off if having someone in charge of all the billing or doing all the coding results in fewer denied claims.

But staffing isn’t always the answer, she says. Sometimes practices with fewer staff may be more lean and efficient. It’s also the case that medical groups that hire more nonphysician providers and key support staff can also increase revenues, the MGMA has found. But if you find you can’t afford to hire more staff, you may decide to cross-train staff to take on different functions, Mattingly says.

RELATED: Medical practices that add nonphysician staff often see revenue gains

4. Create an action plan. Decide how you think you can bring about better performance. Then you want to measure your progress. Did your solution work or maybe you need to find another plan of attack?

Benchmarking can be valuable to help you make the right decisions for your practice.