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Unlock the power of data-driven insights with Business Intelligence
We are generating data, constantly. From emails, texts, blogs, tweets, live streams, social media posts to online shopping, Google searches, gaming and app downloads – the list is endless.
Data is everywhere, it’s the new global currency. World-wide data is growing at 66% per year (IDC 2019), with every human creating an average of 1.7Mb of data every second. Interestingly, less than 0.5% of all data created is ever actually analysed or used.
From a dental business perspective, however, we are beginning to treat data as an asset. Something that can be harnessed and leveraged to help a practice grow and thrive.
A dental practice is a rich data generating ecosystem. Let us consider all the applications a dental practice uses; the practice management software, health fund data, social media platforms, payroll systems, stock/supplier systems, point of sale systems, marketing platforms, sterilisation tracking, and the list goes on.
We often do not realise how many data points we are connected to each day, and how much data is generated each time an action is performed.
It’s understandable that practice owners and managers can get overwhelmed by the amount of data available, especially without the right tools to make sense of it.
Not only do we have an excess of data, but practices often receive advice from multiple sources on the best way to use the data – Financial advisers, business consultants or practice management consultants may all ask you to run and monitor separate reports. Running separate reports from different systems will only ever offer information related to the metrics in that single report.
Your practice management system is a rich source of data
We know that practice management software is an operational system that allows you to input data to run your practice – make an appt, take a payment etc. But what is key is that it also records a great deal of data. So, the million-dollar question is – how do we harness all that data and make it meaningful?
An important thing to remember is that a practice management system is not a data aggregator that can analyse data. It’s designed to help you run your practice, provide the data – not analyse it.
So, when we view reports generated by a PMS, we are really looking at disparate pockets of data, which is very difficult to draw meaning from an overall business perspective.
Data vs. Analytics
Most people use these terms interchangeably, but it is vital to understand the relationship and the difference between data and analytics.
Analytics is the process of transforming data into actionable insights.
It is only through analytics that you can glean these insights that will help you grow your practice.
All analytics can be viewed as answers to four basic questions
- What happened?
- Why did it happen?
- What could happen?
- What should be done?
The first quest with What happened?, also known as descriptive analytics, describes, summarises and analyses historical data.
The next question, Why did it happen?, also known as diagnostic analytics, identifies the causes of trends and outcomes of events that took place in the past.
The third question, What could happen?, also known as predictive analytics, predicts future outcomes based on the past.
And the last question What should be done?, also known as prescriptive analytics, recommends optimal actions or decisions based on insights gleaned from the previous three types of analytics.
To put this in context, Descriptive Analytics “the what” and Diagnostic Analytics “the why” is backward-looking from the current point in time. Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics look to the future.
Here is an example from a dental practice perspective:
- What happened? – New patient numbers were 50% down last month from the previous month.
- Why did it happen? – There were 25% less new patient slots available for online booking last month
- What could happen? – If we were to increase our online booking availability by 1%, this will increase our new patient numbers by 2%.
- What should be done? – To get 20 new patients in April, make 38 hours available to book online.
Another way to look at this is that the more sophisticated the analytics, the increase in business value. The power is that when you do the analysis through Business Intelligence, data will tell you what your next step should be.
What is Business Intelligence?
Business Intelligence (BI) is the technology-driven process for analysing historical and current data, visualising information, and uncovering actionable insights to help make strategic business decisions.
At its core, BI about looking at your previous performance through charts, graphs and tables that inform you how to plan for the future, based on the history of your practice.
How does BI help your practice?
Before you analyse your business, it is best to decide where your business is going and what your goals are. It all depends on your business strategy. Do you have a business strategy? What type? Growth by acquisition or growth by retention? Or a bit of both? Are you looking to increase chairs, increase locations, diversify the treatment mix you provide or maybe focus on a specific treatment type? No matter what your strategy is, what is important is that you have one. Analysing data without that understanding will be a fruitless exercise.
If you know your strategy, when you come to analyse your business data, you will be doing so in a logical and strategic way that will deliver insights in line with your business strategy. This is the key to unlocking the power of Business Intelligence.
What to look for in a BI platform
When choosing a Business Intelligence platform, there are a few fundamental you should look out for:
- It needs to be specific to the dental industry. Avoid a system designed for medical businesses or other modalities.
- Ensure it works in harmony with your practice management system. You want to have all your data streaming effortlessly through to your BI system.
- Look for a tool that is non-prescriptive. You should not have to run your business within the constraints of a BI system, it should be the other way around, where you run the BI system according to your needs. Consider the difference in business strategy between a brand-new practice, one well-established and a third looking to expand.
- An analytics tool should be versatile enough to tailor the insights to your business. Every practice is a different ecosystem, financially, socially, and clinically. So, your BI system needs to have a vast library of KPIs and metrics that you can choose from, to align with your business strategy.
- It should be scalable to give you high-level as well as detailed insights whether you are running one practice or 50 practices. It should grow with your business
- Analysing data without specific goals is like a journey without a destination. Your system should have the ability to monitor and track the progress of your business goals.
- No matter how much focus you put on your own analytics, the usability is going to be somewhat limited until you can benchmark yourself against other practices of the same size, or location. It may not be priority at the beginning of the analytics journey, but once you have a significant amount of data on the platform, you will want to compare the performance against peers, and the right BI platform should cater to that.
So, if the BI system of your choosing does all of that, then you are looking at the right Business Intelligence solution.
Where to next?
Once you have determined your strategy and chosen your BI platform, there are a few things to remember on the path to reaching your business goals.
- Regularly check the relevance of your KPIs against your business strategy. You must always find alignment between the KPIs you measure and your current business directions. They must constantly support your business strategy and also change with your business.
- Understand the impact the data-driven insights have on shaping the business strategy. The reverse of the above is also true – you need to be aware of the potential changes to your business strategy that might be based on the insights delivered by your BI system.
- Determine if your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based) and if not, be prepared adjust them.
- Monitor how your BI platform influences the enhancement of your day-to-day operations – huddles, cancellation lists etc.
- Hold yourself accountable to action the insights delivered. No amount of analytics or insight will be valuable or useful if no action is taken.
With your great business strategy laid out, your powerful BI platform at your fingertips and these few pointers combined, you have all the keys you need achieve your goals and maximum success at your practice.
DentalBI is a Business Intelligence platform, integrated with Dental4Windows and specifically designed for the dental space.
With over 450 KPIs, DentalBI allows you to tailor insights to suit your business strategy and scale as you grow, whether you are a single chair practice or a multi-location enterprise.
It enables you to track progress towards specific goals and provides you with the capability to benchmark against other practices of the same size, or location.
About the Authors
Kath Lewis is a Product Manager at Centaur Software and has 13 years of experience in the dental industry across practice management, marketing, and product management. She holds a Bachelor of Media from Macquarie University. Kath is an avid reader and cinema enthusiast, spending her spare time-consuming stories across all genres.
Sean Perera has 18 years of experience in the Australian Dental Information System industry and currently works as the Product Manager for Centaur’s flagship products, Dental4Windows and Dental4Web. Sean holds a Bachelor of Applied Science from RMIT University and a Master of Business Administration from Swinburne University.
Sean is a passionate data analyst who loves everything data. Sean spends most of his time doting on his little daughter Amelia outside work.
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