If you read the previous article in this series, you already know that your EHR is a marketing powerhouse. The next step is narrowing down the mountains of data to get the info that’s most useful for your individual practice’s marketing needs.
The quality of data you can extract from your EHR is only as good as the data you enter into it. If you’re not collecting many types of data about your patients, this is your wake up call. Figure out what data is most important to collect and make a concentrated focus to do so, emphasizes healthcare consultant and SECO2016 speaker John McDaniel. Ask yourself questions like: What data are you not consistently collecting? Is there any potential value in collecting it? What is the cost in collecting it?
Tip: Create a data map for your system. This is a list of all the data points you can enter
for each patient and for your practice. Can’t find it? Ask your EHR vendor; they should be able to provide it, either free or for a fee (depending on your contract).
Next, develop protocols for collecting the desired data, along with checks for verifying that it’s actually being collected. Make sure everyone’s on board, from schedulers, to intake staff, to techs. For example, when a new patient makes an appointment the scheduler should always ask “How did you hear about us?” They may have to follow up with specific questions to coax from the caller the name of a publication (if an advertisement prompted the call), or the name of a referring patient (if a friend or family member recommended your practice).
Making the Data Work for You
The amount of EHR data you can collect and the number of reports you can run can be overwhelming. Start with a question or assumption, McDaniel advises. Do this for your variables where you have an interest, but not too many at first. That is death by a million cuts, he cautions. “The biggest hurdle for most people is working with the software to generate the reports/data you want it to spit out. Best advice I can give you is to work with the vendors,” McDaniel says.
Below, his 4-step data analysis process:
Step 1: Describe. You need to know what you want to do with the data before you figure out how to do it. Failure to plan what you want to measure ahead of time ensures that you’ll either lack the data, or lack reasonable access to the data, says McDaniel. Start simple with single items to see how they look. Think about variables like the age of your patients, or the number with insurance coverage and number without.
Step 2: Understand: Start to combine variables to get more interesting and detailed measures. The EHR data will help you create specific patient groups that you can market to and track. For example, you could segment your patients that are myopic, wear contact lenses, and are over age 42; then, send them a reminder or promo card for back up glasses.
Step 3: Predict. This is where you’ll plan marketing campaigns based on your interpretation of the data uncovered in steps 1 and 2. Accurate predictions of what will and won’t work come from repeated data extraction and analysis, says McDaniel. But, he cautions against a few caveats:
- Be very selective about what variables you routinely look at. The number of combined variables should never exceed 10.
- Ensure you’re looking at the exact same variables every time. Changing even one can skew your results significantly.
- The frequency with which you should look at the data is longer than most people think. Monthly is convenient, but often too short to be useful. To get the most reliable and valid data sets, quarterly is as frequent as you should get.
Step 4: Control. When you control your data, you’ll be able to introduce interventions with an eye towards the direction and amount of impact on the results, according to McDaniel. Not surprisingly, this takes the longest time to achieve. “Marketing works, and it works very well—over time,” he says. “Marketing segmentation and targeting priorities [are areas] where the game has changed drastically.”
Digging Deep (But Not Too Deep)
When it comes to extracting and interpreting your EHR data, your marketing options are almost limitless. Start small, and start simple, McDaniel suggests. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Medication Missteps: Find out which patients take medications that increase the risk of eye damage. If they have not had a comprehensive exam in over a year, invite them in.
- Constant Contact: Find out which patients are aged 39-50, have never worn contact lenses, and have a prescription compatible with multifocal CLs. Market to them.
- Work It: Do a significant number of patients share the same employer? It’s worth touching base with that employer yearly to find out whether they’ll still offer a plan that includes you.