Practice analytics made easy: AAHA partners with VetSuccess
VetSuccess harnesses vast amounts of veterinary data to serve up reliable, consistent, and easy-to-understand metrics to veterinary practices based on the information already in their practice management software (PMS).
NEWStat spoke with VetSuccess CEO and founder Martin Traub-Werner, MILR, about the importance of metrics. He says veterinary practices are increasingly using data analysis services to help them use metrics to manage their practices, but it’s not universal.
Not yet, anyway.
“There are a lot of people making do with their PMS reports and calling it a day,” Traub-Werner says. But that’s changing due to the rise of corporate veterinary groups such as Banfield and VCA. “Most of the corporate groups are doing detailed analysis of some sort,” he notes.
Traub-Werner says smaller groups and independent practices are going to have to start doing data analytics if they want to keep up.
One useful metric tracks the net change in active patients.
“For me, the most important thing a practice needs to know is their net change in active patients,” Traub-Werner says, adding that it’s his favorite metric by far. “Patients are like a leaky bucket. A practice often celebrates the new patients that came into a practice that month, but they don’t pay attention to how many patients might be leaking out the bottom.”
Traub-Werner refers to these as “lapsing patients.” VetSuccess defines lapsing patients as those who haven’t been in for a visit for 14 to 18 months. Knowing who those patients are can be invaluable in a hospital’s outreach efforts.
More importantly, Traub-Werner says, when you track that metric every month, you can start to chart your net change in active patients and make sure that, as you gain new patients, you’re not losing as many or more than you gained.
“Imagine trying to calculate this by yourself,” Traub-Werner says. If you wanted to calculate how many patients lapsed this month, he says, you’d have to go back and track all the visits that occurred 18 months ago, look to see which of those patients hadn’t been back since, and figure out how many of those you would now have to consider lapsed. “It’s probably several days’ worth of work. We do it with the click of a button.”
Another way to use metrics is by benchmarking, or comparing your numbers with the numbers generated by hospitals like yours in markets across the US. And that brings up the problem of normalizing data—which means making sure everyone’s using the same information and definitions across an industry—a tough nut that VetSuccess managed to crack.
“Without a common code base, benchmarking is pretty impossible,” Traub-Werner says. VetSuccess is connected to thousands of practices at this point. “And with our normalized code base, we can actually do some really meaningful benchmarking.”
Traub-Werner says the veterinary profession is unique when it comes to normalizing patient data—as an industry, we just don’t do it.
“Every practice is using a different code and a different description for a dental cleaning, for a spay, for a wellness exam, for every one of the different parasiticides,” Traub-Werner says. “We did a quick search for one brand of parasiticide, and we looked at the data from almost 1,100 practices and found 851 unique descriptions for the very same products.”
Fortunately, Traub-Werner says, VetSuccess solved the normalization problem with a sophisticated machine-learning algorithm. “We can now take an entire practice’s codes, standardize them into the AAHA/VMG Chart of Accounts, and do it in a matter of seconds. It’s pretty cool,” says Traub-Werner, a self-described data geek.
Traub-Werner stresses that all the information VetSuccess works with is already in your hospital’s PMS. “Our magic is organizing the codes and looking at them in way that creates apples-to-apples comparisons across other practices that look like your practice.”
Which means you can go back to practicing best medicine.
Photo credit: © iStock/Zmaj88