Using Metrics and Dashboards to Forecast Business

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Dashboard design is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, but a strategic tool to assemble and display data relevant to an organization’s key performance indicators

Data analysis and reporting are becoming critical components of monitoring operations and supporting the growth of businesses. Radiology practices and imaging sites are faced with increased competition and reduced reimbursement rates; these have precipitated the development of monitoring tools for administrative staff, who are, in turn, pressured to increase market share and improve efficiency.

Technological advances in PACS, RIS, practice management systems, and customer relationship management systems provide an abundance of data to analyze. Today’s rich IT provides computing environments with low-cost computing power and disk space, and as a result, access to information is not the issue. The daunting task is to get your arms around the data and determine how to communicate the salient pieces of information that can help steer your business on a profitable growth path.

Business administrators are faced with the task of assimilating data from multiple disparate data systems, and they often lack tools to consolidate data. Dashboard technology can address these issues and facilitate informed decisions. Tools for implementing dashboards are provided by a variety of technology vendors and can vary in cost.

Understanding Dashboards

Dashboards assemble key performance indicators and display them to the user in a clear, concise format. Key performance indicators are used to define and measure progress towards organizational goals. The performance measures are conveyed in a logical, direct manner, with just enough content to be meaningful. Focus is placed on what is currently happening, rather than on what has happened in the past.

Effective dashboards use a variety of methods to display information, including graphs, gauges, and tabular charts. The context of a dashboard should not be oversaturated with color or cluttered with extraneous visual aids (such as grid lines on graphs, legends, and so forth). Dashboards should be aesthetically pleasing, making it easy for the user to read them, as well as capturing attention when appropriate.

Dashboards provide a common ground for management to use in monitoring the enterprise. They tell a story that keeps the management team on task and up to date on how the enterprise is doing as a whole. Dashboards facilitate collaboration between departments, emphasizing organizational performance and how the enterprise is progressing toward goals and against benchmarks.

Defining Users

Traditional approaches to monitoring organizational performance have often been departmental, especially as they relate to revenue and costs. Building an environment focused on performance improvement, however, requires interdepartmental communication. Metrics that make it onto the dashboard should be universal enough to convey organizational goals and should be reliable in their computation (to measure performance accurately).

Dashboards facilitate communication between departments. For example, a particular imaging site might be booked several weeks in advance, causing delays in scheduling appointments. Wouldn’t the marketing manager want the representative for that territory to be aware of that, and to take proactive steps to prevent losing business from referrers? Might the management team want to monitor capacity and workload to determine when additional equipment should be purchased?

While computers can speed the process of compiling and displaying data, determining what makes it onto your dashboard is dependent on its users. The key decision makers, including department heads, need to drive which key performance indicators are on the dashboard.

Determining KPIs

What becomes a key performance indicator depends on the organization’s goals. For example, key performance indicators for a radiology practice might include those shown in Figure 1. Key performance indicators communicate to the organization opportunities for improvement, as well as areas of success. They share good news and point out deficiencies. Through continuous, organization-wide monitoring, key performance indicators provide an avenue for maintaining accountability and performance standards

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Data Into Dashboards

The dashboard provides views into the data from the end-user perspective. How those data are extracted from the source system, scrubbed, and