Numbers and statistics can be polarizing, regardless of your profession. To some people, numbers are pure joy. These are the folks who love to keep track of trends and developments, and when all information is collected, can’t wait to slice and dice the numbers and transform them into a compelling narrative. On the other end of the spectrum are those who approach numbers with a bit of apprehension. But if you are a practice manager interested in demonstrating your effectiveness and impact on the practice, numbers can be an effective tool for advocating for your position.
To paraphrase an old nugget, “numbers speak louder than words!” As a practice manager, you are tracking and reporting on a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which are providing valuable insights into how the practice is performing and the specific factors that may influence performance over time.
In a data-driven world, how you mine the information collected and package it for the owner and administrators can influence how your role as practice manager is perceived. Because practice owners are often veterinarians who are trained to rely on quantifiable facts---they respond to hard data. Consequently, practice managers can underscore the essential role they play in the practice and bring greater visibility to the work they perform by using analytical and problem-solving skills to communicate practice trends and developments to owners.
Key Performance Indicators
Most managers rely on KPIs to demonstrates how effectively a practice is achieving specific business objectives, although what is measured may vary from practice to practice. The results gleaned from measuring KPIs are not an end in themselves but rather a means to an end that are designed to improve services and profitability and assist managers in making key business recommendations. The raw data is essential, but to truly offer owners a rich picture of the impact that the numbers have on practice operations, it is important to study and interpret the results and trends.
Hospital Administrator, Jessica Molina, CVPM PHR, CCFP, whose practice is located in Alabama, tracks a significant number of KPIs that include: revenue generated per staff, average invoice transaction, time taken to perform a service, staff changes, client charges, as well as utility costs, the ratio of appointments booked in relation to the number of notices sent, and much more. Molina admits that she probably tracks more KPIs than most managers because she enjoys interpreting and making sense of the information that is revealed and digging deep to discover how these numbers correlate to developments, staff issues, and actions in the practice.
“I like numbers,” Molina said. She stressed that although she collects lots of data, she does it to gain better insights into how the practice is performing and does not regurgitate all that she gathers back to the owners. She also cautions managers not to jump the gun if one piece of data speaks to you. She advises managers to digest the information and then determine if and how it should be presented to an owner.
Tiffany Consalvo, BS, CVPM, is a practice administrator whose office is located in Pennsylvania. She describes patient care as the number one driving factor in her practice. Consalvo’s administrative team is comprised of herself, the business manager/owner, and medical director/owner. She tracks KPIs on a monthly basis and shares them in Google Sheets and Dropbox. Her strategy is to focus on approximately 15 key indicators that she monitors over time. For Consalvo, being very pointed and specific about what is measured allows her to extract and focus on the information that is most relevant to the practice. Among the items measured are average transactions for the hospital, average surgeries for the hospital, new clients, total products, and more.
Packaging the data for owners
Although Molina would prefer to have monthly conversations with the doctors/owners to discuss what she has flagged as the most noteworthy KPIs, she does concede that meeting too frequently can overwhelm administrators. Instead, she schedules quarterly meetings to drill down on key issues and developments. The meetings last approximately two-hours, and Molina takes care to package the information she wants to highlight in an easily digestible format. “I like to use charts and graphs that present a snapshot of a KPI over time and allows those in the meeting to see my precise concerns,” she said.
As a general rule, in selecting which topics to present to the owners, Molina advises trying to continue the conversation from the last quarterly meeting. For example, if there was a concern about the revenue generated per doctor by service, be sure to follow and track this in the months leading up to the next quarterly meeting. After examining the data, draw conclusions, and make recommendations, and have the information available to discuss at the upcoming meeting.
Consalvo and the business manage/owner dissect the data they collect but only share the outliers with the medical director/owner. To increase the impact and for ease of understanding, the outliers are graphed so that the owner can quickly grasp the implications of a trend.
Making a strong case
Molina suggests focusing on the heavy hitters like performance indicators that will have a real impact on the practice and advises against devoting valuable meeting time to inventory issues that could be easily covered in an email to the owner. She also suggests sticking to three to five issues that really matter, cautioning that covering too much---even though you may be tracking a number of KPIs---can dilute the message.
Consalvo recommends keeping an open mind about KPIs and identifying when new ones should be introduced or existing ones retired. By being proactive in what is measured, a manager can ensure that s/he is on top of emerging issues and will be well-equipped to address new developments.
Impact on the role of practice manager
Both Consalvo and Molina agree that through careful monitoring of KPIs and a thoughtful presentation of results to owners, managers can clearly demonstrate how they have created value for the practice and how essential the role of the practice manager is to the continued success of the practice.