To further guide choices of metrics, the white paper uses a uniform template to organize each section. Whether the metric is descriptive (volume, data, case mix), operational (hospital cost, productivity, provider satisfaction, length of stay, patient satisfaction), or clinical (mortality data, readmission rate, JCAHO core measures), the user finds a description in each section titled, “Why this metric is important.”
Daniel Rauch, MD, FAAP, explains why a pediatric hospitalist group might choose to focus on referring provider satisfaction rather than volume data—perhaps a more critical metric for adult hospitalist groups.
“Our volume data [a descriptive metric] will depend on who’s referring to us and the availability of subspecialists, as opposed to market share and the notability of the institution in the local environment,” he notes.
Dr. Rauch, director of the Pediatric Hospitalist Program at New York University School of Medicine in New York City and editor of the Provider Satisfaction section of the white paper, co-presented the pediatric hospitalist perspective on the white paper with Flores at the Annual Meeting.
Much more critical to the success of a pediatric hospitalist service is nurturing relationships with local pediatricians, who traditionally want to retain their ability to manage patients under all circumstances. As a result, the pediatric hospitalist group might choose to survey its referring providers to learn how it can provide better service and take advantage of positive survey responses to market its service. (These interventions are outlined in “Performance Metric Seven: Provider Satisfaction.”)
Finding the Data
Once a group has selected its performance metrics, it faces many logistical and political challenges to obtain the pertinent data. Again, the white paper’s template furnishes clear direction on data sources for each metric.
To begin, hospitalists must understand their practicing environment. Many smaller rural or freestanding hospitals do not have the IT decision-support resources to generate customized reports for hospitalists. “For instance, the hospital may be able to furnish information about length of stay for the hospital in general, but [may] not [be able] to break out LOS numbers for the hospitalist group compared to other physicians,” explains Flores. In addition, some billing services can’t or won’t provide information on volume, charges, and collections to the hospitalist group.
“The other challenge is more of a cultural or philosophical one,” says Flores. “Very often, hospitals or other sponsoring entities are reluctant to share financial information, in particular, with the hospitalists, because they are afraid that the hospitalists will use the information inappropriately—or that they’ll somehow become more powerful by virtue of having that information. And, in fact, that’s what we really want: to be more powerful—but in a constructive, positive way.”
In this case, HMGs may need to invest time to ensure organizations that the information won’t be used against them and that its only goal is to improve practice performance.
“Finding the data is not always easy,” concedes Burke T. Kealey, MD, assistant medical director of hospital medicine for HealthPartners Medical Group in St. Paul, Minn., and chair of SHM’s Benchmarks Committee. “Some organizations can give you a lot of these data sets pretty easily, and some are not going to produce many of them at all. And, when you cross organizational boundaries, there are political considerations. For example, if you’re a national hospitalist company trying to get data from individual hospitals, it might be difficult.” (Dr. Kealey co-presented at the workshop on the white paper for adult HMGs with Flores at the 2007 SHM Annual Meeting in Dallas.)
Sources of data will vary from metric to metric. To obtain data for measuring volume (often used as an indicator for staffing requirements and scheduling), hospitalists need to access hospital admission/discharge/transfer systems, health-plan data systems, or the hospital medicine service billing system. For an operational metric like provider satisfaction, the hospitalist group may have to float its own referring provider survey (by mail, by phone, or in person) to gain understanding of how it is viewed by referring physicians.