Program encourages sharing of hospital data

By Jan Thomas

A new program is encouraging hospitals to share data and performance results in order to improve their business management.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) provided new details about its peer-to-peer business group pilot program during the March AAHA Yearly Conference in Denver, Colo. The conference session, titled Do You Run Your Business as Well as You Practice Medicine?, provided information about the new program, which will encourage non-competing hospitals to share data among themselves.

Created in partnership with the North American Business Association Groups (NABA), the peer-to-peer program encourages geographically diverse, non-competing hospitals to share financial data, performance results and best practices, mirroring an approach NABA members have used since the association was founded in 2003.

"Our goal is to have 4-5 groups in the pilot program," said NABA board member and co-founder Bo Williamson, DVM. "Ideally, each group would have about 10 hospitals, with each hospital represented by an owner and hospital manager."

One of NABA’s long-term members would facilitate each pilot group until new members felt comfortable managing the process on their own.

"We don’t talk medicine and surgery during these sessions. It’s all about business management," said NABA member and AAHA board member Jamie Davis, BS, CVPM.

Since pilot program members aren’t in competition, they have to be willing to share sensitive data — and be challenged on why they do business as they do.

Doing so "gives you all the benefits of a board of directors," said NABA member Wendy Hauser, DVM. "You’re accountable for the choices you make."

The process may sound scary, but NABA members point to the value of this "tough love" approach.

"One practice increased revenue from about $700,000 to $1 million in one year," Williamson said. "Another learned of inventory best practices from a hospital with 15 percent cost of goods and was able to reduce their cost of goods from 26 percent to roughly 17-18 percent in a12-month period."

There are additional criteria to join the pilot program. Hospitals must focus primarily on small animal medicine and commit to long-term membership in the group. The annual fee is $1,999.

"It’s easy to get complacent about the business side of veterinary medicine, but peer-to-peer groups make you review, understand and defend your financials, particularly expenses." Davis said. "Our goal is to bring high-quality practices together to share ideas and have the added benefit of AAHA’s financial guidance."

"Practices can’t be successful unless they know their numbers," AAHA finance director Linda Farrell, CPA, said. "This pilot program gives them the tools to do precisely that."