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Making the Transition From Data to Information

Collecting data from many sources may seem overwhelming for health centers and PCAs. Read on to see how a benchmarking tool can help.
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Health centers and primary care associations (PCAs) collect data from a vast number of sources on a regular basis in hopes of learning more about—well, that’s the big question. Gathering data from patient management systems, electronic health records, revenue cycle systems, patient surveys, and other systems can be daunting and overwhelming. This is particularly true given the amount of data collected in just these systems. Access to one system may provide specifics on productivity, but not to financial or another function of the organization, leaving the organizer wondering what impacts the productivity or how that productivity impacts the financials of the organization.

Having access to a lot of data can be valuable if given the right context and an idea of what data is useful. While there are dashboards proven to be beneficial for decision making, including financial metrics to assess if there are areas of fiscal concern within an organization, many times the overwhelming number of metrics and data points can distract from the real issues facing the organization.

When considering what data points to use, it is important to ask yourself some guiding questions like: What issue am I attempting to address? Who collects specific data related to that subject, and is it just one department or does it stem through multiple departments? What combination of data will provide the answer, and does it require multiple steps? What other questions get to the heart of the matter? With this concept in mind, FORVIS designed a benchmarking tool, Pulse™ for Community Health Centers (CHCs), which provides data from a number of relevant resources that detail financial, operational, and productivity metrics in one platform.

Health centers and PCAs use the Pulse for CHCs tool in a variety of ways. The content is derived from health center-reported data from the Health Resources & Services Administration Uniform Data System reports, Medicare cost reports, and CHC audited financials updated on a rolling basis. Most subscribers access financial data and comparisons to other similarly structured health centers to identify high-level financial metrics that help the organization understand where there may be areas of strength or opportunity. These higher-level metrics often point to areas within the organization that may require a more in-depth look at revenue cycle, operations, costs, etc.

Some health centers using the Pulse for CHCs tool for the financial data will include other relevant data like productivity metrics and patient and visit growth to help provide a more accurate perspective of issues facing the organization, often helping to narrow down the prospects. One example is to consider if your grant funds are covering your uninsured population. By looking at your available grant funding per patient and operational costs per uninsured patient, you can evaluate at least at a high level if that is true.

Beginning with probing questions about why your organization may be struggling in a certain area is usually enough to guide you to the most appropriate data, which can better focus your attention and lead you to the information you need to work on solving the issue. As you sift through the data in this manner and focus your attention, the overwhelming amount of data available should become more manageable and help you see what is important.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to a professional at FORVIS.

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