5 mistakes practice owners make when using metrics

Metrics are among the most powerful tools practice owners have in their arsenal. Working with metrics can transform how you think about and run your practice, helping you grow patient care, productivity, and profits, year after year. But metrics come with a learning curve. To get the most out of this rich source of data takes thought and planning.

I talk with hundreds of practice owners a year about using metrics to grow their businesses. Here are five of the most common mistakes I see.

Not connecting practice data to practice goals

Not so long ago, access to the kind of data EMR systems provide was beyond most imagination. Not anymore. Practice owners today are awash in data. All this information can be overwhelming. To avoid data overload and make best use of the reporting power at your fingertips, think first about your most important and timely goals. Thinking about metrics within the context of your practice’s mission-driven goals helps you prioritize the data that is meaningful and relevant for you right now.

Not identifying targets

Metrics are most useful when you have benchmarks with which to evaluate them. Without targets, how will you know what your numbers are telling you about your practice’s operational and financial health? Data isn’t inherently “good” or “bad.” When it comes to evaluating numbers, context is key.

This is a good time to point out what else metrics are NOT. They aren’t indicators of future or present performance. They are a report card, and a history lesson—a look back at what has already happened. To make metrics a forward-facing tool, it’s essential to set benchmarks.

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Setting unrealistic expectations

Here’s where the objective, data-driven world of metrics meets some tricky mental and emotional challenges. Setting realistic expectations for growth is one of the hardest things for practice owners to do. What makes a goal realistic looks very different from one practice to the next. Take a fundamental metric such as visits per patient. For a generalist outpatient clinic, 10-12 visits might be a solid benchmark. But a clinic that specializes in chronic pain or sports medicine will likely have a higher number.

There’s real danger in comparing your practice to clinics that operate differently than yours. That’s when setting realistic goals often bumps up against the perfectionism that so many high-achieving practice owners embody.

Realistic expectations are based on:

  • What you want
  • The resources you have
  • The experience you’ve accrued
  • Your belief in what is possible

Think I’m overstating the importance of mindset? Mindset, perhaps more than any other factor, drives how we act, make decisions, take risks and react to success as well as to setback.

Not understanding the meaning behind the metrics

Be honest: have you ever looked at an EMR report without really understanding what its data are telling you? If your answer is yes, you’ve got plenty of company. You can’t take advantage of this incredible tool until you grasp the full meaning of what it’s delivering. There are few specific challenges at play here. One is terminology. Different EMR systems use different terms for measuring the same data point. There might be four different terms that refer to utilization (a metric that measures practice efficiency, by comparing capacity to patient visits). Another is formula. The specific formulas that define any given metric also differ from one EMR system to the next.

To get the most from EMR reporting, practice owners need to fully understand how their system defines the metrics they’re using. Invest time in getting that clarity now, and you’ll save yourself time, frustration, confusion—and money—down the road.

Not sharing data with your entire team

In my work helping PT owners grow their practices, I’m a strong advocate for transparency, for sharing more versus sharing less. I’m not saying you need to lay out your tax returns for your entire staff, but sharing operational and financial data with your whole team gives them the information they need to do their best work.

Too often, PT clinics are siloed. Admin and billing, front desk, and clinical staff work within separate spheres, and don’t communicate as effectively as we need them to. Those siloes only get reinforced when different groups are seeing different slices of data. Everyone sees a piece or two of the puzzle, but nobody benefits from seeing the whole picture. Every member of your team has a role to play in reducing costs, errors and inefficiencies, in improving patient retention and collections, in increasing referrals, and so on. Shared access to metrics—and a team-based approach to meeting targets—is one powerful way to bring everyone together, and connect individual team members to a larger goal.


Jamey Schrier, PT

Founder, Practice Freedom U

Dr. Jamey Schrier is a physical therapist and founder of Practice Freedom U, which teaches practice owners how to grow and scale their business so they can prosper in and out of the clinic.

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