Productivity Benchmarks: The Basics of Physician Practice Management

Last Updated: Feb 10, 2015

Our life begins and ends with measurement. What was the baby’s length and weight at birth? How old was the man when he passed away? At every step in our life we are measured against something or someone.

Measurement, if used correctly, is a means of improving a person or situation. Consider an employee’s yearly review designed to determine if they have met their objectives. Raises or bonus amounts are based on meeting objectives and comparisons to peers. Now consider patient care.

If a pediatric patient’s weight is off the age-height-weight scale at his preventive visit, the patient’s parents are counseled in an attempt to bring the child to a healthy weight. If an HbA1c result is high compared to norms, the diabetic patient’s medications and diet are more closely managed. 

As a physician, you are responsible for monitoring not just the health of your patients but also the health of the clinic, practice, or facility in which you work. You may also be responsible for mentoring peers or managing other physicians.

Your compensation or the compensation of those you manage may also be tied to productivity and quality measures. To be an effective clinician, you must understand many clinical values, and to be an effective manager, you must understand many business values. As management guru Tom Peters says, “You cannot manage what you do not measure.”

While the primary objective in any medical practice, clinic, hospital, or other facility must be optimal patient care, the financial success of the practice is also critical. A practice or clinic that is regularly in the red, will at some point, cease to exist and therefore will no longer be able to provide patient care. By better understanding the performance measures generally used to determine a practice’s health, a practice or department can stay viable, even thrive, and be available indefinitely for the patients it serves.

There are a variety of benchmarks that can be used to set goals and measure success in a medical practice. A benchmark is “a standard by which something can be measured or judged.” Benchmarking provides the opportunity to:

  • Quantify performance measures
  • Quantify the gap between your organization and “best practices”
  • Encourage new ideas, innovation, and creative thinking
  • Make operational improvements using an objective basis for your decision making

Internal sources for benchmarking include the practice’s computer and accounting systems as well as financial reports prepared by your accountant or practice administrator.

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