How do you know if your ASC's business is doing well? Not just think you know, but how do you really know? That's where data comes in. Only by collecting appropriate data on key performance indicators (KPI) and then measuring your performance can you paint an accurate picture of your ASC's revenue cycle success (or lack thereof).
Follow these 10 quick tips to help your ASC more effectively leverage the KPIs you track and benchmark.
1. Aim high
When setting goals for KPIs and benchmarking performance, it's best to be realistic about achievable goals. With that said, you should strive for the high end of what you believe is possible for your ASC. Just be careful not to set unrealistic goals — or goals perceived as unrealistic — as this can alienate team members. You want your staff to believe in your goals so they will buy into efforts to achieve them.
2. Learn from others, but focus on your needs
You can find a lot of information about surgery center KPIs and benchmarking online, and even more is shared during conferences and webinars. This information can provide recommendations concerning everything from how you should analyze data and establish goals to how you should measure and monitor performance. The information may also highlight revenue cycle areas to focus on for improvement.
While these resources can be helpful in improving revenue cycle performance, it's important that the efforts you ultimately undertake speak to your ASC's specific needs. For example, your surgery center may already do well with patient collections (an area receiving significant attention these days) but can improve days in accounts receivable (A/R) over 90.
3. Get into the weeds
Once you have identified the areas where you should focus improvement efforts, it is very important to "get into the weeds" of your data. After all, to use another phrase, "The devil is in the details."
By taking a deep dive into your data and performance, you will be in a better position to determine why a metric is not where you want it to be and the contributing factor(s). While this can take a fair amount of work, it will help ensure your time and energy is better spent.
4. Lean on staff for insight
As part of getting in the weeds, speak with your business office staff about their experiences, including what problems they may have noticed and the opportunities for improvement they think exist. Staff are often in the best position to tell you what is and is not working with your revenue cycle and what should and should not happen to address issues.
5. Challenge your team
An often-effective way of bringing about improvement is by encouraging staff to step up and help tackle a problem. This may entail challenging them to step outside the comfort zone of their daily work routine. For example, you might have an AR specialist who has expressed an interest in credit balances. If credit balances become an area you want to target, this specialist may be a great person to involve in the effort.
You should also challenge staff to take a more active role in moving your KPIs in the right direction. This may entail assigning staff small projects, such as performing a data analysis to determine why a metric is not where you want it.
6. Support your staff
If you find that a KPI is going in the wrong direction or you benchmark your results against external entities and learn your performance is not where you feel it should be, this does not necessarily indicate that you have a problem with your staff. Rather, it might mean you have an opportunity.
Suboptimal performance often indicates the need for staff to receive additional education. Ask your ASC software vendor if it provides training that can help staff better use its solutions. In addition, as noted, there is a lot of education available concerning the ASC revenue cycle that you may want to share with staff. It may even be worthwhile to send team members to a conference or allocate time for participation in a webinar.
Revenue cycle staff fill positions that are typically dynamic. They tend to experience frequent changes thanks to ever-changing rules and regulations. Continuing education is very important to ensuring staff can adequately fulfill their job responsibilities on an ongoing basis.
Unsure where staff may be struggling? Ask them. They will often be able to tell you where they require assistance.
7. Don't be afraid of a little friendly competition
Competition is a part of our culture. In an ASC's business office, it can be an effective means of motivating staff. For example, let's say your ASC has multiple people focused on credit balances. Set a goal for these team members.
For everyone who achieves that goal, recognize them in some manner, such as providing a small prize (e.g., $5 gift card). For the individual who performs best, reward them a bigger prize (e.g., $25 gift card).
The opportunity to earn a prize will help drive performance. If staff know they are competing against one another for a bigger reward, that may help give an even bigger push.
8. Hold staff accountable
If staff performance is subpar — and you determine it's not due to lack of education — it is important to make it clear that there will be ramifications if performance does not improve.
Set reasonable, measurable goals. If staff fail to meet them, they may try to come up with excuses, including questioning how you measured their performance.
That's where having data is key. When you can show that someone is doing a poor job compared to another team member or industry standard and have the numbers to back that up, it's easier to dismiss excuses. Then you must hold staff accountable and follow through on the ramifications you noted. Any wavering will establish a bad precedent and can give the impression that what you say and what you do are different.
9. Never assume a change will work
Just because you believe or expect that a change will deliver the KPI improvement you expect does not mean it will actually happen. Gather data, identify a problem, and implement solutions. Then go back and monitor that same data again to determine whether what you set out to accomplish was actually accomplished. If it was, share this positive news with your staff.
Note: While changes are important for improving performance, avoid making a change just for the sake of change. If staff believe that's happening, they are less likely to buy-in when you need to make a meaningful change.
10. Don't settle for average
Can you run a solvent ASC with an average-performing revenue cycle? Perhaps, but why would you just want to be average when you know you can be better? At the beginning of this column, I talked about the importance of aiming high. That means above average.
Set KPI and benchmarking goals that will help elevate your performance to a level that will allow you to tell and show — through data — your governing board that you have a strong revenue cycle they should be proud of. Then aim even higher. Being well above average may be in reach.