Regional information and well-adapted data from national surveys guide James Gardner, MD, chief medical executive for Pro Health Care Inc., a two-hospital system just west of Milwaukee, when he’s hiring new hospitalists at 300-bed Waukesha Memorial Hospital or launching a new HM program at the system’s smaller, rural facility. In fact, Dr. Gardner currently is weighing options to expand the HM service at 80-bed Oconomowoc Hospital, less than a year after the program started.
“We like to look at a number of sources of data. The MGMA and SHM survey data, historically, have been two of our preferred sources,” Dr. Gardner says. “I think we tend to look at more regional data from the Midwest because the national data varies so much.
“We try to get a sense as to what our local market is.”
Dr. Gardner says he’d like to see a “couple years” to confirm the validity of the new SHM-MGMA report. That said, he says he knows how useful the data can be in regard to benchmarking hospitalist productivity.
“It’s been very helpful; it helps us know where we are at,” Dr. Gardner explains. “It’s one of the guideposts to decide when we are approaching the need for additional resources, whether that is midlevel providers or full-time hospitalists.”
Advice From a Numbers Guy
A self-described “numbers” guy, Dr. Ahlstrom agrees regional data is just as important as, if not more important than, the national numbers. He stresses knowing your market, your competitors, your hospital culture—and using that information along with the benchmarking data to formulate expectations for your group.
“Oftentimes you are measured against the guy next door,” Dr. Ahlstrom says. “You have to know the numbers, because [administrators] are going to know the numbers.”
Dr. Ahlstrom offers these tips for incorporating benchmarking data into your practice:
- Know your local market. “If you keep in mind your local needs, then you can look at the data and start to evaluate what parts are going to help you better formulate a practice that brings on the right people, does the right work, and continues to produce the amount of workload and compensation that makes sure they are happy in the future,” he says.
- Evaluate how applicable the data is. Pay attention to the total number of survey respondents in each category, and the standard deviation around the mean. “In other words, what is the central tendency of the data? You might find data in subsections that you find interesting, but it might not be data that has a central tendency,” he says. “Find data sets that are most applicable to your practice while assessing variations from the larger data sets. Consider how and why your practice might vary from the report as part of your evaluation.”
- Pick out trends and look at them in total. The key is to avoid looking at data points in isolation. “It’s important to look at trends in the data over time, and pick out where those trends are going to go,” he says.
- Involve your people. “I think that this data being available from the [provider] side and management side is a good thing,” Dr. Ahlstrom explains. “The more we are involved in understanding the trends in HM, the better we are going to plan where we are going in the future.” TH
Jason Carris is editor of The Hospitalist.