The Essential EHR Data Points You Should Be Tracking

By: Lisa Morris on October 12, 2018

I’m willing to bet you’ve heard the words “health care analytics” recently.

Thanks to the push for interoperability between electronic health records (EHR) software, medical practice analytics are a big deal right now and will only get bigger. It’s estimated that health care and medical analytics will be worth $31 billion in market share by 2022.

Hospitals are already dropping big bucks on fully integrated practice analytics systems to help them learn about their patients.

Small and independent practices can’t afford this expense.

Here’s the good news, though: You still have the ability to access data that can help you gain insights into your practice and your patients, and you’re probably already using the software you need to to track it.

Yep, I’m talking about your EHR.

Using your existing EHR system to collect and analyze data related to three key components of your practice will help you increase patient satisfaction and reduce patient attrition without spending thousands of dollars on software or marketing campaigns.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Patient Satisfaction Is King for All Medical Practices

Appointment Processes: Is It Easy for Your Patients to See You?

Patient Experience: Is It Convenient for Your Patients to See You?

Quality of Treatment: Is It Effective for Your Patients to See You?

Next Steps: Going Beyond EHR Data Tracking

Patient Satisfaction Is King for All Medical Practices

Electronic health records systems are already set up to document patient health information, so in addition to already having the tool you need for analytics, you’re probably also already tracking some of the information you need as well.

By systematically ordering the data you’re collecting with your EHR, analyzing the results and coming up with specific strategies to improve performance, you can do what big hospitals are doing without having to pay for their expensive analytics systems.

First things first, though, you have to figure out which data points you need to track and benchmark to determine how your practice is performing.

We’ve found that patient experience and satisfaction is the most important metric for measuring performance.

When we surveyed patients, results showed that:

  • Eighty-two percent use online review sites to research or leave feedback for medical practices.

  • Seventy-two percent of patients use information from online review sites to help them select new doctors, so making a good impression online matters.

There are other reasons to pay attention to patient experience as well. Fostering loyalty among existing patients minimizes attrition and keeps you from having to spend more on marketing to continually bring in new clientele. It also helps you get paid and avoid lawsuits, which should be two goals on top of every physician’s list.

So with all of that in mind, we’re focusing on EHR data that helps you track patient experience and satisfaction over other—also important—metrics such as claims denial rates and medication errors. Below we’ll cover the three most essential categories of EHR data for small practices to pay attention to.

Appointment Processes: Is It Easy for Your Patients to See You?

So first things first: When aiming to assess processes within your practice that affect patients, looking at the steps involved in making appointments is a good place to start.

 THE GOAL:  Figure out how available you are to your patients, and come up with strategies that make it as easy as possible for them to get in to see you.

 THE SOLUTION:  Measure the following EHR data points:

Time from appointment request to actual appointment

Whether you’re using a scheduling system or you prefer for your patients to call and make their appointments, you should start paying attention to how far in advance patients are having to schedule their appointments due to availability.

This metric allows you to gauge how accessible you are to your patients, determine where scheduling inefficiencies occur, set ideal goals for appointment turnaround time and come up with a plan to achieve those goals by addressing those inefficiencies.

Rate of cancelled and missed appointments

Practices can run daily reports at the end of business to identify exactly how many appointments were canceled or missed.

Not only will this help establish a baseline for how much play you have in your daily schedule, it will also help your team create and test their process for documenting and following up on missed appointments.

Effectiveness of appointment reminders

Another important aspect of the appointment processes is the use of automated appointment reminders sent to patients via text, email, phone or patient portal.

If you’re not already using a system with this function, by the way, you should absolutely correct that; about 36 percent of patients miss appointments because they simply forget them, so automated reminders could dramatically reduce that number for you.

For those who are utilizing appointment reminders, you can take advantage of confirmation options to determine how many of your patients are actively using their reminders.

Patient Experience: Is It Convenient for Your Patients to See You?

Naturally, the next thing you have to worry about after you’re through with scheduling is your patients’ experience with the exam itself and everything related to it.

 THE GOAL:  Figure out what processes your patients want you to be offering and create workflows for your staff to start implementing them.

 THE SOLUTION:  Measure the following EHR data points:

Intake and registration options

Just like appointments, you can use a check-in kiosk or practice management software to provide pre-registration materials for your patients before they even arrive for their appointments, but some EHRs also offer options for collecting patient information before they see you.

If your system is one of those, start tracking the processes you use to share this option with your patients. Do you send emails as soon as appointments are made asking for patients to register and fill out medical history paperwork?

From there, assess the results of your methods to learn whether or not they’re working. For example, if you do follow-up after appointments are made, how many patients take you up on that option before they see you?

Patient communication

Many providers are using patient portals for the day-to-day communications with patients, but you should be using your EHR when sharing protected health information (PHI).

Thirty-four percent of patients we surveyed said they still collect their health records from providers and share them manually with referrals or other specialists.

To assess this information, you first want to produce a report of all the patient information your practice releases so you can see where the requests for that information are coming from, then you can assess your methods for sharing that information in those situations and whether or not they should change.

New patients vs. patient return rate

Finally, by using your EHR to see how many new patient records are created in a given period—monthly, quarterly or yearly—and comparing that to the number of returning patients in the same time frame, you can work out how many of your patients like your practice enough to come back.

While you definitely want to see both types of patients, you should be looking for a higher number of the latter category since returning indicates your patients are happy with your practice.

Quality of Treatment: Is It Effective for Your Patients to See You?

Finally, you’re going to want to look at data that tells you how valuable the supplemental services you’re offering are to patients. This includes anything that doesn’t take place when they’re in your office.

 THE GOAL:  Figure out how many services you’re providing to patients outside your office, and make sure they’re enough to simplify your patients’ lives.

 THE SOLUTION:  Measure the following EHR data points:

Prescription-related information

What EHR-based features do you use to make all medication-related tasks easier for you and your patients? You can learn something from most of them.

Medication lists and drug interaction or allergy alerts are lifesavers both literally and metaphorically, but these features rely on having the information they need. Track how many times patients report drug allergies or adverse side effects, and then look at what you’re doing to address those issues.

You can also use this feature—also known as e-prescribing—to audit your prescription refill process, the number of prescription errors you encounter etc.

Test result tracking

Using built-in lab integrations, you can use your EHR to track how many tests you’re ordering in a given period, how quickly you’re receiving results for those tests and how quickly you’re communicating those results to your patients. Obviously, you want the timelines for those last two things to be as short as possible.

You can also track the number of test results that go overlooked by you or your staff. Doing so can help you minimize your risk of malpractice lawsuits by heading off claims related to failure to diagnose.

Referral tracking

Your EHR can help you keep track of how many patients need and/or request referrals, which can then let you review your referral process to see how effective it is. This will also allow you to more closely track patients whose diagnoses require follow-ups, and you can create workflows to include communication with those patients after they leave your office.

You can also tie this to your interoperability and PHI sharing goals, which should in turn optimize those processes and make them easier for your patients.

Next Steps: Going Beyond EHR Data Tracking

So those are the data points you want to start keeping an eye on, but I can already hear you asking what to do after you start collecting this information. With each piece of data you decide to collect for your practice, you’ll want to follow up on using this three-step process:

  1. Analyze

  2. Act

  3. Adapt

For each metric, start by analyzing the data you collect, looking for trends, patterns or anything else of significance within those numbers that tells you something about your practice.

Once you’ve had time to understand what the numbers are telling you, act by coming up with and implementing specific solutions—be they new workflows, new processes or new strategies—that fix the issues you’re seeing.

Next, continue to track your metrics and adapt your solutions as needed until you find what works for you.

Finally, you can call (844) 686-5616 to speak with our team of medical software experts for more information on EHRs and practice management systems that can help you track and analyze practice data without overextending your budget.