BI tools not beyond the reach of smaller healthcare entities

Business intelligence tools are often touted as business must-haves, but many small medical practices and other small healthcare companies worry about the cost of such tools. BI experts and users say there are affordable options out there.

Bryon Viechnicki’s practice management software company offers custom BI reports, but he said getting those reports from the company is cost-prohibitive. Instead, he uses computer queries and Excel functions to crunch data in his Pennsylvania-based dental practice. With a calculation system he devised, he can find out which treatment visits accomplish the best results in the least amount of time. He also uses these tools to determine the success of marketing opportunities.

 “Without a doubt, the biggest boon for my practice has been using business intelligence to evaluate treatment efficiency,” he wrote in an email to Healthcare Finance News, a sister publication of PhysBizTech. He expects that he’ll use BI more and more to continue to improve the care he gives his patients.

“Other small practices should, at the very least, see how BI tools can improve their practices,” he said. “A small practice should invest in BI when it can deliver extra value to patients through improving patient care or decreasing the cost of doing business.”

From Dan Hogan’s perspective, BI tools are a must-have for small practices and healthcare companies. Hogan used to own a home health agency but now is the president and CEO of Medalogix, a company that offers a predictive modeling tool designed specifically for the post-acute care market.

“This is an innovate-or-die situation for the post-acute providers in the healthcare world,” he said. “And it’s the same thing for the hospitals. Hospitals have to approach the delivery of care very differently. They have to improve outcomes and reduce costs or they will not be around.”

It is the ability of BI tools to help improve financial and clinical outcomes that make them so attractive to healthcare businesses large and small.

“These technologies are very powerful,” said Bimal Naik, chief client officer of CitiusTech, a healthcare technology solutions and services company based in Princeton, N.J.

BI tools can slice and dice data to do such things as identify patients who need particular services, manage billing cycles and accounts receivables and keep track of contracts, but because many are cost-prohibitive, and because many small medical practices and healthcare companies do not have the technological know-how, Naik said it is not often practical that such companies directly invest in them.

Naik said it makes more sense for small practices and healthcare companies to rely on an aggregator, a company or organization that centralizes the technology and performs the analytics. An aggregator can be an electronic health record software provider or, increasingly, health insurance exchanges, he said. “They can’t afford not to have access to the [BI tools] but the way to have access to [them] is not necessarily buying the entire [package] and hosting it and managing [it],” he said.