The Problem With Your Clinic Data (And What To Do About It)
Complexity - The Enemy of Execution
Tracking metrics by its nature is complex.
Many reasons why it is complex…
...the primary being that data is spread across multiple sources, and even if we are able to gather data from all these sources, we need to clean this data for analysis.
As you can see, it requires multiple steps and an issue at any one step brings down the whole system.
If you don't have a technical person on your team, it becomes difficult to implement. Measurement is even more of a problem if you are still using pen and paper in your clinic.
Using a Practice management software (called PMS) makes it easier to some extent but still you need to understand the software to extract value from it.
You need analytical skills to get insights from your data.
And this is not all.
Getting the data and doing analysis is only the first part of the story.
But you will be successful as a practice manager ONLY when you execute on your derived insights.
This requires creative skills.
To grow your practice you need both the skills - creative as well as analytical.
Do you see the problem?
Complexity brings opacity.
There is a simple psychological principle: If it is difficult to understand it won’t be implemented correctly.
In my opinion, most of the practice managers do not make a complex model deliberately. It is a side effect of choosing too many metrics.
Since the general understanding is that more metrics (and hence granularity) is associated with better insights.
To track all of these metrics, you need to collect more data.
Tracking more metrics then we can act on results in wasted effort.
And I don’t blame practice managers for making this mistake. After all, that’s what being fed everywhere.
Look at any of the articles or pick any book out there, and you’ll see the top five or ten KPIs they think, you, as a practice managers should measure.
This lack of understanding and clarity stems from this wrong teaching about metrics and analytics.
By doing a simple google search for the term “Key performance indicators for the veterinary practice,” you can find a lot of these articles.
They’ll ask you to measure so many metrics for which many times gathering data itself is a mammoth task: for example, the productivity of the staff, a number of ratios that can make you mad (staff/doctor ratio, expenses/revenue ratio, & many financial ratios).
A side note: I’ve nothing against these articles, or their authors. It is just not right for most of the practice managers working in small practices. It requires much more resources than available in terms of time and money. And hence these articles do not help in any way as they are not actionable.
I’m not saying measuring these metrics is totally wrong but for most of the practice managers who are short of time, prioritization is a key to their success.
These long list of metrics to measure and then act on brings complexity.
Not to forget the time wastage on non important metrics, or if you don't know what to do to improve those metrics. And in the worst case, if have chosen the wrong metrics will not only hamper your growth but harm you in a negative way too.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when someone recommends tracking as many as 10 KPIs.
Are you working on your clinic, or are you working in it?
Yeah, there’s a big difference.
Modern vet practices are chaotic. And we’ve seen many practice managers spending most of their time dealing with daily issues, instead of working on growing their business.
Keeping clients happy, the incessant competition, managing your clinic team and being on the latest trends makes it difficult to focus on what is most important to your goals as a practice manager – the growth and profitability of your practice.
What can you do about it? - Simplify And Simplify
Why do I choose simplification as the first step?
Because we act more efficiently when things are not complex; when we understand things that affect us.
Let me also remind you of that simple does not mean ineffective as our conventional brain may say.
Here I’ll talk in brief about the growth mindset practice managers should have.
There is a simple & effective way of achieving your goals as a practice manager.
Trim what brings complexity.
First you need to know that, as a leader you have some core metrics, which if achieved, make the rest of things trivial.
This needs identification and prioritization of the activities which will bring you most outcomes. ( Pareto Principle, also called the 80-20 rule, says for most of the things in life 80% of the results come from 20% of effort.)
If these metrics are in place, the rest of the metrics won’t trouble you. It'll be easy to improve them because your core objectives have already been achieved.
So you can do the following things to improve these not so important metrics:
Delegate to someone else:
If you are short of time and want to fully concentrate on the top 20% activities only, then you should delegate the other 80% activities to someone else in your clinic. There are other benefits to this which we have explained in detail in this article.
Tackle these metrics yourself later, once your core objectives have been achieved (with more efficiency):
Since you would have had already achieved on the most important metrics for your practice, that of profit and growth, your ability to focus on automatically increases since now you can approach them with more calm mind. Danial Goleman, the author of the book “Focus” , had written in more detail on this.
When it comes to implementation, less is more.
In this article on developing key performance indicators for your growth goal, we follow the top-down approach to reduce the complexity of the growth model.
We work backwards from the end goal to see what is the highest priority.
Then we simplify the model by breaking down these important metrics into factors, ultimately trimming the rest.
Trimming is required - after all, too many factors at play causes the problem in the first place.
If we’ve a control of those factors, we include them in our key performance indicators.