Escaping spreadsheets for provider utilization

Escaping spreadsheets for provider utilization

Most clinics, healthcare practices, and physician groups need to do provider utilization analysis for reporting, scheduling, and practice management. Typically this analysis involves some combination of pulling information from scheduling and calendar software as well as the electronic health record (EHR).

We have been talking to practice managers and executives and asking people how they do this on a practical day to day basis. The most common answer, which will shock exactly no one who has ever worked with data, is that they use spreadsheets they download from the relevant systems and then manipulate to create an overview of their practice.

While this is enough at a bare minimum level, it definitely costs practices valuable time, means that most utilization information is a bit out of date, and causes stress on analysts who have to manually download files every time the utilization information has to be updated.

The folks who have to do this utilization analysis are experiencing the same issue that everyone in data cleaning has had to deal with one time or the other:

Spreadsheets are great if you want to look at numbers once. For anything beyond that, you need automation

We have heard that up to 40% of a senior executive's time can be spent cleaning and organizing provider data to make sure that financial forecasts and hiring are on track!

There is definitely a better way to do this - through automation. But healthcare analytics is notoriously challenging. You need a combination of practice knowledge, best practices for healthcare, experience working with technical APIs that may have limited or no documentation, and good data security and anonymization practices to avoid risk.

Streamline is excited about the work we are doing with partners to help them automate the collection and synthesis of core utilization. With Streamline we set up an automated data pipeline that pulls data from EHRs and other sources and tidies it, organizes it, and then provides the reporting our partners need to make decisions more frequently about how their providers are being scheduled.

The interesting thing we are seeing about Streamlining is that usually our partners have one question they start with that we help them answer. Setting up a tidy data pipeline of course helps with that. But the real value our partners get is in the time and energy we free up for their core analysis teams to focus on asking new, important questions. They aren't spending their time downloading data manually and wrestling with spreadsheets. Instead, the organized data is connected to the tools they are most comfortable with (sometimes a spreadsheet, sometimes something like Looker or Tableau) and they can rapidly explore lots of different options for their reporting utilization metrics that matter most.

Spreadsheets are still the easiest way to report data once. But if you need utilization every day, every week, or every quarter, Streamline can help you escape spreadsheet wrestling and be a force multiplier for your analytics team.

Jeff Leek

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