Sometimes Simpler is Better When It Comes to Key Performance Indicators


This Memorial Day I found myself thinking about my Dad, the Navy pilot, flying fighters in WWII. His cockpit was relatively simple if we think about it now, but it was complicated for 1945. However, he always knew his status each moment by having a clear and compact dashboard in front of him. When I travel now, I look at the complicated electronics of a modern jet. Even though I understand that planes are technologically advanced, and pilots are tech savvy, I think back to the simpler pictures and dashboards. Even without complicated electronic equipment, pilots knew their goals, what it would take to get there and how to measure it.

Much of my time is spent helping physician offices minimize the data glut so they can develop simple dashboards and KPIs to keep them on track, from both a business and a clinical perspective. Complicated is not always better, especially when it takes everything we have to keep a practice moving. Let’s consider the effort needed to develop workable dashboards with critical KPIs that are easily tracked and actionable for the practice.

First, what are key performance indicators and why do we use them?

KPIs are business metrics used to evaluate factors that are crucial to the success of an organization. Easy to say, but depending on the stakeholder, hard to implement because crucial to the organization can be different things. We use these measures for different reasons, but all are related. KPIs are used for goal setting, trending performance, forecasting future performance, increasing trust and communication and even supporting the coaching process for physicians and managers. With all that being said, because physician groups operate differently, for optimal effectiveness, KPIs should be customized to the practice.

Second, what is a good process to engage stakeholders for buy-in and support of the KPIs?

In reviewing basic Kotter management advice and common sense, the steps become pretty simple. The process includes:

  • Engage the team
  • Define the critical success factors for the organization
  • Choose the KPIs to support the factors
  • Record the measure in a concise dashboard
  • Incorporate the benchmarks
  • Produce and review reports on a regular schedule
  • Use for improvement

Remember that this is not just about the numbers. This is about working toward different solutions as a team, not just to meet the KPIs, but to be aware of changing what needs to be changed to improve the practice.

Third, how do we report the measures?

This gets back to the simplicity of the dashboard. Try to avoid too much manual intervention, especially in smaller groups. Leverage your technology to extract the data to build the dashboards. Data should be consistent and reconciled across systems to produce useful analytics. Work with IT resources from the beginning to assure dashboards are populated with consistent, actionable data.

Finally, how do the conversations take place?

This is all about getting the message out and staying on task. Any types of analytics or key performance indicators are most valuable when they’re presented in a concise and timely manner. Quantitative data can take the sting out of difficult discussions between administrators and physicians. When everyone agrees on the data and sets expectations at the beginning of the process, making thoughtful changes becomes more collaborative for all stakeholders.

While I think about my dad today and all of those who serve and have served, I want to thank him for reminding me that complicated is not always better. Technology is great, but let’s not get lost in what really matters.