How to use medical practice data to make better decisions

Medical practices collect and store huge volumes of routine data and billing information. But despite having access to reams of valuable information, most practices don’t actively use their medical practice data for insights into how their practice is performing. However, this data is invaluable and can be linked and pooled to show patterns that can inform:

  • Patient decisions – data can be used for insights about your current and future patient base
  • Practice management decisions – data is valuable in helping you identify breaks in your revenue cycle management processes
  • Clinical care decisions – data can help you recognise seasonal and diagnostic trends within your practice

Senior Insights Analyst at Healthbridge, Saijil Singh, talks about the importance of data insights, especially for smaller practices.

How to use medical practice data to make better decisions

1. What are the specific benefits for practices in looking at their medical practice data?

Better practice management is only possible when we have the information available to us to make better decisions. Data that is accurate and provided within context gives practices the capability to optimise resource planning and to determine the best operating hours to maximise both revenue and qualitative care to patients. That same data can also be used to manage operational elements such as stock control and revenue collections better. So it’s not just about having sight of the data, it’s about utilising information to improve efficiencies.  

2. So how do small practices best get a handle on utilising their medical practice data to draw insights?

It’s important to partner with a progressive practice management application (PMA) solution provider that doesn’t only present low-level reports. A good management reporting tool should show month-on-month trends with actionable metrics in the form of KPI’s or dashboards that will give an overview of a specific area of interest. They should do this regardless of the size of the practice because every practice needs to have a good handle on practice information. It could be the differentiating factor when it comes to financial soundness, practice compliance, and insight into the patient population’s health.

3. What metrics would you recommend small practices turn to for the greatest insights?

There are a number of metrics, but these can be aggregated into 3 specific groupings for consideration: practice management, clinical care and knowing your patients.

For practice management, some of the key factors to consider are appointment volume trends on a daily and weekly basis. This will allow for better planning with regards to walk-in management and chronic patient bookings. Medical practices should also be using their data for medical aid remittance advice reconciliations; as lapses in this regard could pose a significant strain on cash flow, which can distract a practitioner from their primary focus of patient care.

From a clinical perspective, it’s important to quantify and determine the most frequent diagnosis codes used. This definitely helps to decide on the time contribution devoted to research and an essential component of claiming from schemes with capitative remuneration models. It also helps with the decisions around equipment upgrades and locum selection when necessary.

And finally, we have the Patient component. Here we need to consider aspects such as age demographic, chronic condition spread within this demographic and even reliance on medical aid funding. All of these help with simple decisions, such as what support patient information, posters, etc. are needed in the waiting area, all the way to more complex decisions regarding whether or not the practice would benefit from using bureau services.

4. We know there are plenty of tools in developed economies. What type of tools currently exists for small South African medical practices?

Data and insights tools are available, but due to the capital outlay costs and the probable consulting costs for management and development, it does not make financial sense for individual practices to invest directly in this capability. What you should be doing is partnering with a provider that offers these services as part of their product offering and the cost of ownership is spread over the entire client base. Not only should your PMA partner give you insights into your own practice data, but they should also be able to provide benchmarking across your peers, thus improving your ability to make decisions based on both internal and external practice information.

For example, below are the top ICD-10 codes used by a practice over a period of a month. To help with future business decisions, as the practice, you can ask yourself the questions alongside.

ICD10 codes

For further examples of what practice data should look like and the questions you can ask yourself, we’ve created an eGuide. Click here to access the Guide.


Healthbridge has almost two decades worth of experience in helping medical professionals understand and interpret their data to make better business decisions. By choosing Healthbridge as your trusted PMA partner, we’ll be able to help you transform big data into actionable insight that you can use to not only improve patient care, but also the financial management of your practice.

To request a call back to find out how Healthbridge can help give you valuable insight into your medical practice data, click here.  

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