Dynamic Chiropractic – August 15, 2015, Vol. 33, Issue 16

Data: The New Frontier in Health Care

Your chance to change policy, perception & paradigms.

By Robert Moberg

Your practice is empowered with the data you need to improve patient health, run a more efficient (read: profitable) practice, get paid in timely fashion and help show the efficacy of chiropractic on the national stage in the midst of sweeping changes in health care! Here's how you can make sure your outcomes data is aggregated and shared for the benefit of your practice, the profession and the patients you serve.

Data's Role in Patient Health

It's a story too many chiropractors are familiar with – but in this case, data and technology played a role in changing and potentially saving a patient's life. The patient had just spent nearly $20,000 on medical diagnostic tests for severe pain in his face / cheek area, which was causing his heart rate to become abnormal.

Tests for heart attack, wisdom teeth and tumors; an MRI and an EKG; and visits to the ENT, cardiologist, dentists and other physicians over a one-week period yielded no definitive answers. Finally, the patient sought the care of a chiropractor and made an appointment for the next day – but only after technology facilitated a vital exchange between doctor and patient.

Normally, these symptoms would not have caused this patient to wonder if his chiropractor could help, as he assumed it was a medical problem. The patient knew his DC was connected to other health care specialists via an EHR system and decided to ask his questions through the HIPAA-compliant patient portal his DC had provided previously. He later told the DC he never would have engaged if not for the easy access and low intimidation via the portal.

data - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark This technology connection resulted in the DC, in less than three quick digital exchanges over the course of a few minutes, informing the patient he might have trigeminal neuralgia or a facial nerve issue that would require an evaluation to determine a correct diagnosis. None of his other doctors had even mentioned these conditions, so he made an appointment for the next day.

The DC performed an evaluation, ordered X-rays and found a C1 major alignment problem. Over the next week, he resolved the condition for less than $500, compared to the $20,000 spent in the allopathic arena. The patient found health – all because his doctor of chiropractic provided the technology and means to enable patient-doctor communication, which led to a visit, diagnosis and proper treatment.

Data's Role in Efficiency

When graduates enter the work force, they're ready to take on the world and fulfill their dreams of helping others achieve health naturally. But then, as is the case with so many careers, reality hits: They're not just doctors – they're small-business owners. And nowhere in their education were they truly prepared for this side of the profession; the side that says, "You've got to invest, hire, train, and run a small business." Taxes. Licenses. Marketing. Websites. Social Media. Equipment. Computers. Compliance. Documentation. Audits. Collections. Banking. Legal Contracts. Demographics. Landlords and Leases. Key Performance Indicators. And we haven't even discussed the adjustment tied to clinical outcomes.

What do all these activities and requirements have in common? They take time – massive time. And quickly chiropractors learn time is the most valuable asset they have.

Now imagine having access to a virtual dashboard that compiled data about every aspect of your practice. And imagine that having access to this data allowed you to redirect resources, improve efficiencies, drastically reduce errors and duplication, understand what was likely to happen in the business, and – most importantly – give you more time. More time to spend with patients while demonstrating the care that keeps them coming back longer; more time to host events that promote your practice; more time to visit longer with each patient and find referrals; and more time to experience that lifestyle you imagined you'd have when you decided to become a doctor of chiropractic.

EHR software provides you insights into the root of efficiency. It's what informs your decisions, which in turn, dictates your actions. Having access to data is not only empowering – it's liberating. Not only can accessing practice data help you be more profitable by 1) improving patient care and 2) lowering operating costs with increased efficiencies; your ability to collect improves considerably as well. And it can make the difference between seeing 50 patients a week versus more than 100 patients per week, as you'll also see your practice reputation and referrals improve.

Data's Role in the Health Care Industry

It's not hard to tell data will help to provide the analysis and evidence to determine if your practice is healthy, and where it needs an adjustment. But recognize that the future of creating significance in our profession is also data. It's well-understood: Decade after decade, the chiropractic profession has fought to establish and validate itself as a true path for patients to achieve health. Without drugs. Without surgery. Without the unnecessary, expensive, and sometimes tragic burdens today's health care environment can place on a patient struggling to get well. And while the changes taking place in health care today can seem daunting, frustrating and downright scary, there is a silver lining – and it's a big one.

The reality in today's health care environment (and the government's role in it) is as it always has been: It comes down to money, and it always will. But in what is perhaps the most ironic twist of fate in the history of health care (and for the first time ever), this ever-present obsession with money can help more patients find health than ever before. Why? Because chiropractic is one of the least expensive and most effective paths to patient health, and, even more important, wellness that keeps patients from chronic compromises in health. And now we have a chance to not just say it anecdotally; we can prove it, empirically.

There truly is an obsession to provide a lower cost to better health. Perhaps the best way to create this is to avert chronic conditions requiring surgical intervention tied to significant recovery. The EHR systems beginning to manage patient experiences in clinical environments are producing the most important commodity: data. Not data that is readily available when patients are significantly sick and under hospital care; critical data when patients are in slightly compromised health, seeing a practitioner, and giving the resulting data that is the best predictor to future chronic health. In other words, fix it early – fix it for less.

It's a 3D perspective: Data Drives Decisions. Data will drive all health care decisions. Data will determine the best protocol. Embracing data and aligning behind the statistical evidence, which is difficult to dispute, will drive decisions by patients when seeking health care services; decisions by policymakers and regulators to embrace reimbursement; and decisions across health care to embrace the chiropractic protocol as essential – and mainstream – and topple paradigms that have long plagued our profession.

Aligning behind this data ushers in an era in which we can speak with a megaphone where previously, we had simply a whisper.

It's Time to Participate in the National Discourse

"It doesn't matter what I believe. It only matters what I can prove." That line from the blockbuster movie "A Few Good Men" says it all. For more than 100 years, chiropractors have known their approach to patient health not only works, but also is a powerful and natural way to help patients achieve true health. Case study after case study, patient testimonial after testimonial, we all believe in the power of chiropractic. And that just isn't enough. We have to prove it.

We have to show the efficacy of our profession to both government and private payers! If we can show that we're not a cost center, but are instead a cost-savings solution – and do so through the power of data – then we begin to change policy, perception and paradigms.

The good news? We can. But it requires your participation. While medical and other health care specialties are flooding government and private payers with data, our profession has, for the most part, chosen not to participate. Approximately 90 percent of the medical profession has "grabbed the mic" to represent their profession, yet less than 20 percent of ours has. It's a statistic that simply must change if we're going to expose more and more patients to the amazing benefits of chiropractic.

How do DCs participate in this national discourse? It's easy: adopt a certified EHR software – any certified EHR software – and document patient outcomes. The aggregate of your data, plus tens of thousands of others (representing millions of patients), can then speak directly to the health care industry.

Again, this all starts with you, the individual chiropractor, playing your role in empowering your individual practice – and the profession – with the data needed to truly make a difference in the lives of millions of current and future patients.

Robert Moberg is a seasoned and tenured business professional with a solid combination of corporate and entrepreneurial business experience. As CEO, he has helped establish ChiroTouch (www.chirotouch.com) not only as a trailblazer in the software industry within the chiropractic community, but also as a stalwart leader in the profession. His commitment to chiropractic is not only evident in the innovations ChiroTouch brings practicing doctors, but also in the countless ways he has led the charge in giving back to the profession. From supporting state and national associations, to chiropractic colleges, to the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, Robert works tirelessly to help raise awareness of chiropractic and the benefits only the profession can provide.


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