Improving Data Visibility Healthcare

Improving Data Visibility

How Saxony Revamped Reporting for an ACO Client

An Accountable Care Organization reached out to Saxony’s healthcare team and asked for help solving a problem: they needed better data visibility. As their organization grew, reporting had become convoluted. And without access to the right analytics, they couldn’t make data driven decisions. 

Here’s how our healthcare team at Saxony Partners helped them transform their reporting process and improve data visibility throughout the organization.

What is an ACO?

An ACOs is a group of doctors, hospitals, and/or other healthcare providers who join together to give coordinated high-quality care to the Medicare patients they serve. It is critical for all of the providers in the ACO to stay on the same page to reduce patient leakage and provide the best possible care. But with their data siloed into numerous EMRs and software systems, this ACO was struggling to achieve unified reporting results.

The Problem: A Lack of Data Visibility

Saxony Partners VP of Healthcare Alan Stein said that the project began with a search for better reporting techniques, but ultimately revealed a deeper issue with the organization.

“The original issue was that the leadership team did not have the visibility they needed to run the organization,” Stein said. “The reporting they were relying on from their accounting and billing systems, as well as their multiple EMRs, was bad. And even that bad reporting was requiring a lot of manual effort and bandwidth to source. But all of that turned out to be a symptom of a larger problem.”

“The root problem was that they didn’t have any place to put their data other than their hodgepodge of different software systems,” Stein said. “EMR data was stuck in one of their six EMRs, accounting data was stuck in their accounting package, and billing data was stuck in their billing system. They needed a proprietary platform that they could control. That would help them achieve the visibility they needed and ensure that the data feeding into their reports was accurate and complete.”

The ACO had taken measures to fix the surface problem, but ultimately those did not address the siloed data.

“They had upgraded some of their systems, specifically accounting and EMR, thinking it would help,” Stein said. “It really didn’t. The root of the problem was that they were growing rapidly, and their technology was making things more complicated as they scaled up.”

The Process: Starting with Decisions 

Stein said the most effective way to help healthcare organization achieve their goals is to help them determine their top priorities in decision-making.

“We start by asking, ‘what decisions are you making,’ and then we start mapping that back to the data you need to make those decisions,” Stein said. “Then we get an understanding of what technology is being utilized. It was during this stage that we realized they didn’t have a data platform beyond their EMR and billing applications. That was part of the strategy and roadmap they needed us to help them with.”

Once the bigger issue was uncovered, the healthcare team could begin recommending specific solutions.

“We walked through what they need to do as a company, their plans for growth, and began to get a grasp of the future,” Stein said. “For this client, that meant a cloud-based system  (Microsoft Azure) that would provide a solid platform and a place to clean and combine the data from all of these different sources.

“Once we decided on that, we shifted to learning more about their reporting needs,” Stein said. “How do they report, who is responsible for reporting, how they use that reporting, who can see it? For them, Azure Data Factory was a perfect match. It took the data out of these different sources, allowed us to make the transformations needed, and put Power BI on top of it for the reporting and analytics they required.”

The Solution: Coordinated Billing and Reporting

With the core problem identified and a roadmap paved to success, the Saxony team got to work on making improvements. 

“For this client, we started with two meetings, each about an hour long” Stein said. “The first meeting was where we helped them prioritize their needs, and the second meeting was about building that long-term roadmap. Then, that led into a four-week assessment to determine overall goals, costs, timeline, and start date. 

“Sometimes we don’t know how difficult it’s going be to get data out of a source until we start talking to a vendor. So, part of that four-week assessment project involved our data architects talking to the client’s software vendors, finding out how easy or how hard it was going be to get data out of their systems.”

Designating time for strategizing makes the implementation process for clients more straightforward, Stein explained.

“One of the keys to the assessment is determining where to begin,” Stein said. “For them, that meant picking the right set of data to start with. That first set of data and the first set of decisions it ties to is the foundation for everything else. What we landed on for the first step for them was their billing system.”

From there, implementation of the plan took about seven weeks. 

The Benefits of Better Data Visibility

The impact of the implementation has been transformative.

After cleaning and aggregating their data, the company started benefitting from better visibility into key internal processes. 

“The client has a better understanding of how they are billing and collecting,” Stein said. “They know things like who is coding more accurately, who are the main culprits for denials, and what practices are most efficient, getting the best returns on their efforts.

“Before, these conclusions were all hunches and guesswork. They were reinventing the billing processes every time they did it. They didn’t know what they were doing well or what they were doing poorly – and that meant they were leaving money on the table. They were slow to collect at times because they had little insight into how to improve their collections.”

The improvements not only equipped the ACO with better analytical tools, they also translated to specific financial benefits.

“Ultimately, they gained a tremendous amount of efficiency in how they get to their collections and improved financial performance,” Stein said. “They were able to improve their net collections rate immediately.”