Pay Yourself First

Financial advisors will often tell you to “pay yourself first.” That is, if all of your paycheck goes to pay the bills, you’ll never have any savings or build any long term equity. Set something aside for yourself right off the top; then pay everyone else. The same concept works with data. In the US, the new rules for ‘meaningful use’ of EHRs require physicians and hospitals to report quality data in order to qualify for incentives through Medicare and Medicaid. In a paper-based environment, pulling quality metrics for reporting purposes can be time consuming. In an electronic environment, there will be all kinds of data collected during the course of providing care, and some of it will be used for quality reporting. The bottom line is that in theory at least, technology will make it much easier to collect the kind of data that agencies currently require. If you look at the meaningful requirements as nothing more than a checklist, you may miss a great opportunity to learn something about your organization and the community you serve.

Remember that it is first and foremost, your data. Certain elements must be reported of course, but here is the chance to “pay yourself” by thoughtfully planning how to analyze the data you will be collecting by asking:

  • What are the missing pieces of information about your practice or hospital that would really help improve efficiency, safety, patient satisfaction, etc.? (This is not a question you ask the IT department.)
  • Does the information exist?
  • If it does, who has it? If not, can it be captured?
  • Can the EHR capture the data? Is reprogramming required? (Now you’re talking to the IT department.)
  • How can the data be accessed?
  • How will the data be validated and analyzed?
  • Who should do this?
  • What will be done with what is learned?
  • How have you prepared everyone in the organization to accept the analysis as 1) valid and 2) contributing to the overall success of the mission?
  • What else can be discovered?

Welcome the flood of data; use it to your advantage. While the requirements for meaningful use will be met through federal reporting requirements, your organization will see the immediate benefits of this “self reflection” because you had the foresight to pay yourself first.

-Rod Piechowski

Copyright © 2010, Rod Piechowski, Inc., Consulting

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