Though the implementation of a proper Electronic Medical Records system may be unaffordable for a small clinic most clinics use some form of computerized patient records. Detailed analysis of the data from these systems can provide information on key performance indices and are invaluable for strategic planning.
Computers have become an indispensable part of every clinic. Though, it may not be economically viable to install a huge ‘Electronic Medical Records”. An EMR system in some form or other can be used for patient data management.
Detailed analysis of the data from these EMR will provide information on key performance indices that are invaluable for strategic planning.
An EMR is software that allows you to create, store, organize, edit and retrieve patient records on a computer. But it is more than just the electronic equivalent of paper. Advanced EMRs also allow you to automate many time-consuming, paper-driven office tasks. Most are equipped with ‘Computerized Physician Order Entry tool. EMR software has many advantages which are beyond the scope of this article.
Most of the clinics use custom made software to record patient data, but this does not include all the features of a typical EMR. This is generally used for storage of demographic and personal data, storage and retrieval of patient ID and appointment scheduling. Even these simple software packages require a database backend which in some cases is still is MS Access while some others use more advanced RDBMS (Relative Data Base Management Systems) like Oracle or MS-SQL server.
The data stored in these database systems is usually used only for income auditing, billing and other similar tasks. However this data could provide a wealth of information which is important from the administrative and marketing perspective, but is often overlooked in small practices and clinics.
Important Indices for Clinics and Polyclinics
Big hospitals use various kinds of data to monitor performance. However, small clinics still use traditional financial statements. Going beyond the figures like net revenues and costs and using meaningful financial reporting can offer a deeper and ultimately more effective analysis.
Medical practice is traditionally considered as a venerable profession outside the realm of a business environment. However the trend is slowly changing and more and more clinics and polyclinics are considering their practice as a business and their patients as customers. This is especially true for certain specialties like cosmetology and dentistry and they have started realizing that the principles of management apply to clinic or hospital management as well.
Hence it is important to think what else needs to be monitored apart from total income in a small medical establishment.
A few of the indices which may be important in clinics and polyclinics are mentioned below.
1. New Patient flow: This can be expressed as a percentage of previous month or a certain time period as it is important only when considered with respect to the previous month. It is not relevant for a new clinic. However for an old clinic it indicates the efficiency of their marketing activities.
2. Old patient rate (OPR): This can be expressed as a percentage of total number of patients. OPR indicates the efficiency of the Clinician to retain the patients. However for a more sensitive measure of patient retention, the number of old patients returning after the standard follow-up period needs to be considered.
3. Average collection per new patient: This index may increase the income for a short period. However it is important to retain it within acceptable limits for each specialty as the long term effects are not favorable.
4. Average collection per patient: This is a very sensitive measure of patient loyalty.
5. Revenue growth as a percentage of previous years.
6. Descriptive statistics of geographic location, socio-economic status, demographic profile and referral from other practitioners and clinics: This is very important for strategic planning.
It is important to understand that most, if not all, the data needed to calculate the above indices are essentially available with the hospital through some software if not the EMR. This useful information will help make informed decisions even in a small clinic.
Detailed analysis of patient data will also provide useful information for other managerial responsibilities like controlling and staffing. For example, the information will help in procuring the right supplies at the right time and in the right quantities so that there will be less wastage or shortage. It will also help in identifying the bottle necks in patient flow and so adequate staff can be arranged in those areas.