By Tony J. Onaissi
A lot has been said about how smart data can give you insights into referring doctors to identify new referral sources for your agency. But what is smart data and how should you be using it to benefit your agency?
Smart data is digital information that can be acted upon at the collection point before being sent to a downstream analytics platform for further data consolidation and analytics. In the past, most analytics was done with batch processing (also known as “rearview mirror management.”) However, with more modern tools agencies are now able to collect, analyze, and act on their data before it even reaches the office, eliminating the need to exhaustingly process and analyze the data to hunt for new opportunities hidden within it.
Some systems offer agencies recent and complete Medicare referral data allowing managers to zoom in on what appears to be the right referral sources for their agency. However, rich data by nature is complex and entails analyzing thousands of rows of information to glean a few worthy tidbits. This can result in a type of “analysis paralysis” where agencies either do the wrong thing or don’t do anything because the data is so complex and detailed that simply understanding the data and how it is interpreted and related to future actions can be mind-boggling.
Simple things such as a physician who just happens to not refer any patients to home health for two months may appear to be a dead referral source when it is simply the result of chance. Next month that same physician could refer six patients to home health. What matters is that the physician refers to home health!
Unless you specialize in only one or two diagnoses what difference does it make? Most Medicare diagnoses are random events dependent upon the patients rather than the physician. So, no matter how far you drill down into the data, what comes out the other end is little more than a list of physicians that refer to home health. Trying to get too far into the data analysis is a mistake that agencies often make. Just because you have the data doesn’t mean the data is worthy of analysis, and if you do analyze it how far you go reacting to it is another question entirely.
Data modeling, the next level of data analysis is a wonderful tool for directional management. It offers a “bird’s eye view” of data as trends, which can be very important in understanding the ever-changing health care environment and where it is headed. But care needs to be taken here as well. Even the best models only reflect the past – the future can only be projected (read: guessed). And the guessing can get fairly accurate… until it isn’t. Much like the weather, the further out you go the less accurate the predictions become.
So, agencies need to ask themselves – “how smart should the data be?” and “how far should I analyze it?” The answer may be surprising. No matter how detailed Medicare referral data is – it is still a rearview mirror perspective. Just because a physician referred a patient to home health, for CHF, to the agency down the street from you, and the associated episode details layout the entire picture of that case, it does NOT mean that physician will do the same thing again next week and you can get that referral. As they say in investing: past history is not an indicator of future performance! So how much detail do you need?
In fact, what you really learn from a detailed history of an episode is simply this: that physician will refer patients to home health! That says a lot. It says the physician is willing to refer to home health, has managed F2F visits, managed 485s, and works with people 65 and over. Wow, that’s all you need to know to make an educated sales call on that physician. Getting into the nuts and bolts of every referral that the physician made can be a colossal waste of time that should be spent calling on the physicians instead! Learn which physicians refer to home health, then build a plan to call on them.
Once the targets are identified by management, they should be assigned to salespeople to turn the leads into real and recurring referral sources. The key to the sales team’s success lies in having a simple tool to connect with their leads and follow up with them… a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool.
Most CRM systems will include two components, a simple mobile app CRM can be used by the sales team to enter and keep track of all the visit notes and documents, and a centralized desktop solution used by the office to manage and oversee the sales activities of their reps. Reps use the CRM to set up their schedules, record the results of client sales calls, and to collect PDGM referrals. The CRM system needs to accommodate these tasks smoothly and efficiently.
In home health, the key to effective sales and growth is not just to get referrals, but rather to get qualified referrals. This means the referrals come back to the agency with all of the required components including homebound status and medical necessity already documented.
The challenge lies in providing the marketing team with the correct amount of data to pursue their targets. They need to work fast and connect with as many referral sources per day as possible. Strength in referrals is a numbers game. The more prospects your marketing folks call on, the more referrals you will get.
To succeed in today’s very competitive and fast-paced world, agencies should invest in CMS referral data for their management to use to determine target physicians and practices. When coupled with a specialized CRM platform to deliver this vital data to marketing reps the result can be a drastic improvement in the number of regular referrals.
Isoratec offers a comprehensive yet affordable CRM solution for small to mid-sized home health agencies. The system includes CMS physician referral data customized to the client’s service area to assist marketing people with high precision marketing. This dramatically improves the efficiency of marketing staff and reduces wasted and unproductive time. Referrals are captured through built-in forms to ensure that marketers gather the required information for a qualified referral. Isoratec’s unique “grade card” system also allows agencies to compare the performance of each marketing person or business unit against each other, resulting in continuous quality improvement.
Tony Onaissi is the founder and CEO of Isoratec, Inc., a global provider of home care services and products. He can be reached by contacting Isoratec as shown below.
David Cole, Isoratec Program Manager
(210) 338-5101 direct