Essential analytics for thriving in LTC

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Rob Price, Senior Product Manager, MatrixCare
Rob Price, Senior Product Manager, MatrixCare

Healthcare has a reputation of being notoriously slow to adopt technology that other industries have long since made part of everyday life and analytics is no exception. However, in today's competitive landscape where quality of care and financial results have permanently intersected, analytics has become a compulsory component for operators of all sizes. Long-term care operators who fail to embrace analytics will be at a disadvantage compared to peers who do.

Clinical and financial leaders of skilled nursing facilities must be empowered with the right information at the right time and in the right format. Achieving that level of sophistication requires a technology partner with the core systems for the electronic health record and financial/billing management, but also with solid analytics that accompany the entire package.

Table stakes for analytics

A good analytics system will provide several metrics at a glance, allowing leaders to easily answer questions such as:

  • Census – Who's in the building(s) and what is our overall occupancy percentage for today, month to date or over the last 12 months? Where are patients being admitted from or discharged to? What is our payer mix?
  • Financial accounts receivable (AR) – What is our net revenue or cash trend over the last 12 months? What percentage of our open AR is from private pay, Medicare or Medicaid? Are we writing off more to bad debt now versus historical trends?
  • Quality measures – Which quality measures are above or below the national average? What is the 12-month trend for “Falls with Major Injury” or “ADL Need Increased”? How are the quality measures related to Nursing Home Compare or 5-Star Rating performing?
  • Readmissions – Which facilities have the best or worst readmission rates? What is the readmission rate for my Medicare patients? Which referring hospitals are associated with the highest number of readmissions? How many of our readmissions were potentially preventable based on the diagnosis code?
  • Events – How many falls have occurred in the past 12 months and which facilities had the most? How many skin integrity events have been recorded and remain open for this month? Have infections increased or decreased over the past few quarters?

These are just some of the data points that leaders will be interested in monitoring and managing. Other areas of interest include general ledger reporting, prescription orders to monitor the trend for antibiotic stewardship, or psychotropic drugs or elements that contribute to the cost of care – namely labor and food. A robust analytics system is capable of harvesting and harmonizing data whether from a third-party such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (e.g. Five Star Rating) or from internal and disparate source systems that house the raw material.

Time spent compiling reports for analysis is another important consideration that is often impacted by either lack of technical expertise or technology limitations. For example, operators may get many of the same answers mentioned above but at what cost of full-time employee hours spent compiling and massaging the data into a popular “analytics tool” like Microsoft® Excel?  Imagine the productivity gain if that process were to be eliminated (automated) and employees spent more time analyzing the information.

Typically, a manual analytics process will result in weekly updates at best and monthly or quarterly updates at worst, whereas an elegant analytics system will provide data updates several times throughout the day or even in near real-time if needed.

Flexibility matters

Leaders expect to have access to information in ways that suit their unique schedules and work environments. For example, the CEO is rarely at her desk and prefers to scan metrics on her mobile device, whereas the finance director could be a home-based employee who spends most of his time in front of his computer. The analytics system should equally serve both scenarios while also allowing information to find them on a schedule – which means subscriptions that fire off daily when information is updated, thereby prompting the user to login to review the latest results.

Most operators consider themselves unique and therefore have unique expectations for the way information is displayed. That means customization is a key component that allows swapping one visualization for another or removing a bar chart in favor of a grid. The analytics system should provide this type of flexibility and more – including self-service report building for those operators with in-house expertise to create content that is tailored to the organization.

Additionally, custom dashboards should be possible where the user can “mash up” visualizations from across the broad spectrum of prebuilt content, as described above, thus creating a personal view of important information.

Good information and positive trends can become the centerpiece for leadership to rally around and disseminate to the organization. A powerful analytics system will provide the foundation for clinical or financial leadership meetings where the visualizations are the agenda – moving from area to area (e.g., census stats, financial AR trends, etc.) while stopping to analyze outliers on the fly through filtering at the speed of thought. And, when necessary, the details that underpin summaries are readily available – such as getting a list of residents who made up the census on a given date or a list of residents who were readmitted this month.

Position your analytics system to evolve as regulatory changes dictate the “next big program” that you need to monitor to remain viable. Understand if your staff is spending too much time preparing analytics when you would rather they spent more time analyzing. Make sure your analytics system is providing the right information, in the right format and in a timely manner to allow your organization to perform at its best both clinically and financially.

Rob Price is a senior product manager at MatrixCare.


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