How to build a data-driven healthcare practice: 4 tips to get you started

Data can help you create a snapshot of your business's health and improve your decision-making. But what is the best way to start using it? Diana Xhumari has some advice on how you can get started creating a "data-driven" culture in your practice.

Guest author

Diana Xhumari, Dataplayer·

An illustration of a desktop monitor with patient dashboard featuring lots of graphs

Chances are you already use data to analyse your patient’s health and treatment outcomes. You probably also know data is the key to evaluating the health of your business, too.  With more aspects of healthcare going online, the amount of data you have access to will increase, and it may be simpler than you think to use it to your advantage.

Regardless of the size or type of your practice, there is much to gain from analysing metrics like your top new patient referral sources through to your Patient Visit Average (PVA).

Using quantified information to make better decisions based on better insight about your business is exactly what we mean by becoming a “data-driven” practice. Or, phrased another way, making fewer decisions based on emotions or subjective factors and, instead, being guided by objective markers of what’s going well and what can be improved.

Becoming data-driven means making data a central part of your business, strategy, and culture. It may surprise you to know, like many things, data’s purpose ultimately boils down to people and not technology.

Where should your practice start on the journey to becoming “data-driven”?  Here are four suggestions to think about, based on my years of working with healthcare practices.

1Organise your data and uncover what's relevant

Let’s start at the source, literally.

  • How many business management tools are you currently using? These could be tools that help with your financial, scheduling, and marketing operations.
  • How accessible and interoperable are all those listed data sources? Meaning, is it easy for you to access the data used by these tools and do they “talk” to each other?

Organising your data into a sole point of referral can be challenging, because even if you are not yet “data-driven” you may already have many different tools measuring different aspects of your business. Think of building the full story of your practice and its performance as you would a patient medical history: you may need all the details about past diseases, illnesses running in the family, previous diagnoses, medical abstract, therapies, allergies, and medication.

In order for your practice to get a 360-degree view of your clinic’s performance, you may need the details from every and any place you are storing data–for example on an individual desktop, cloud drive, or in a specific software platform.

Much of the stress stemming from data analysis comes from confusion over what’s relevant. How do you separate what’s important from what isn’t?

My advice is to archive or disregard anything that is no longer necessary or relevant to you at the current phase of your business and focus your attention on the information that will serve you best going forward.

Think about the problems you are looking to solve today and your goals for your business. Perhaps you have a full diary, for example, but aren’t sure about how many times new patients rebook on average. Or maybe you want to understand how individual practitioners are performing in terms of the revenue they earn for your business, or how often people cancel or don’t show up for appointments.

Organising your data can help you uncover all this insight, and make life much easier as you prepare for the real work to begin!

2Focus on QIQO (quality in, quality out)

As a healthcare professional, you are extremely aware of the effect a good diet can have on the human body. Whenever we consume the right nutrients and amount of water, the results are amazing. We have more energy, feel healthier, and live better in general. However, when chemicals and artificial ingredients come into play, the results may not be as pleasant.

So we understand that whatever we put in, we get out.

The same concept applies to data!

Quality in, quality out (QIQO) refers to the fact that the value of the inputs usually influences the value of the output.

Data visualisation applications and software (i.e. tools that let you create graphs and charts of your business data) rely heavily on the quality and accuracy of the data being fed into them to produce accurate outputs. So you need to make sure that when you are inputting data or setting up an integration, it is coming from a reliable, consistent source.

This also means that if your practice isn’t updating your appointments, patient information, and general activity in your practice management system, there’s no way to create a detailed performance review of how your business is doing.

It’s worth agreeing with your colleagues what information you need to collect and where it should be logged, so you can rely on the insights you derive from it.

Remember: You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

3Convert your numbers into actions, not just stats

You can’t just rely on data itself in order to transform your culture.

To make meaningful and informed decisions from data, you need to ask the right questions, and actively pursue the answers. Take a good look at what your numbers are showing and ask yourself practical questions like:

  • Is your clinic making more appointments than your room capacity?
  • What is the PVA of each of your practitioners and their performance overall?
  • Are your marketing campaigns profitable?

Often, you’ll find answers to these questions will lead to more questions, and gradually the actions you need to take to improve your business will become a lot clearer. The best part? Tracking your data and key metrics allows you to see the incremental improvements in action!

4Consider: what is the actual cost of data crunching?

Anecdotally speaking, we’ve seen that practices spend on average three to five hours a week exporting, uploading, and tinkering with formulas to visualise data when they run manual reports.

Yet, surprisingly it's often the practice owner or clinical lead doing the crunching, wasting valuable revenue-generating, patient-facing hours to the tune of thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Does that sound data-driven and efficient to you? You can calculate the precise cost of preparing your practice reports manually right here.

Or, you can use this simple formula:

Hours spent exporting and preparing reports per week  X Billable hourly rate for the person preparing the reports X 4.2 (weeks) = Your estimated cost per month

This is where using an automated reporting and data visualisation tool can help make the process simpler.


Getting started with a data-driven approach is no small feat, and this really is just a stepping stone. Starting a data empowerment journey for your clinic can be a challenge. The literature is heavy and the suggestions are endless. Hopefully, this will give you the desire to learn more, and start to implement some of these practices in your clinic. If you have decided and committed to making your practice more data-driven, you’re already halfway there and the payoff is limitless.

Author information

Diana is the CEO & founder of Tegeria, a leading digital transformation company and maker of Dataplayer. She's passionate about tech, giving back through mentorship, and skiing - especially a good black diamond slope!

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