How 3 variables impact financial performance

By John Fox |


Please note: the dataset referenced in the interactive data visualizations in this article is current as of October 1, 2017.

Whether running a large multi-state physician network or a single medical group, healthcare leaders are facing the same confounding questions: How do we improve our financial performance in a challenging reimbursement landscape? Where should we train our focus? What are the key levers we can pull that will drive the greatest bottom-line impact?

A data-driven look at high performing physician networks

These are the questions the athenahealth research team have set out to answer in an ongoing project, tapping into performance data from athenahealth’s national network of providers. After examining 39,000 physicians — practicing in thousands of locations, across specialty mixes and sizes — they zeroed in on a set of core business metrics that serve as proxies for these organizations’ financial health. Then they tested a wide range of variables tied to staff capability, physician engagement, and patient engagement and access, to determine which correlate most consistently with overall financial performance.

One of the best ways to understand which levers most directly drive business results is to explore three key areas with the interactive below. 

Collecting out-of-pocket patient expenses

Patient payments are a significant – and for many specialties, growing – portion of revenue. And figuring out how to improve the amounts of those payments is business critical.

As revealed in the interactive, the upside impact on patient pay from being a top-decile performer in all three variables is dramatic: 14 percent above the median in the case of primary care. Becoming an expert at time-of-service collections seems to yield the greatest gain, but the compounding effect of boosting portal adoption and registering patients completely is significant.

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Retaining patients

Organic revenue growth, without reliance on a merger or acquisition, is something most organizations view as a top priority. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the ability to retain loyal patients is a driving factor behind the ability to grow. And the 30 percent spread between the best and worst in this category underscores the importance of patient retention to an organization’s future. More surprising, perhaps, is the connection revealed here between maintaining, and retaining, happy doctors and growing profitably.

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Keeping physicians engaged

As the industry grapples with the rising epidemic of physician burnout, the question of how to keep doctors happy is top of mind for many healthcare leaders.

The data here might suggest that, paradoxically, the best way to retain doctors is to keep them busy. Or that busy, productive doctors are more likely to stay in their jobs. Either way, it’s clear that keeping physicians both engaged and productive is foundational to creating a high-performing physician network.

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