Data: The Profession’s Megaphone

“What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”
– Christopher Hitchens

Without the facts, assertions often have a hard time standing on their own. Nowhere is this truer today than in the realm of healthcare, where providers are quickly being asked to pony up additional information and bear the burden of proof for their insurance claims. With declining payments and rising costs, the effects of this shifting infrastructure are becoming ever-more apparent right here in the chiropractor’s back yard. To those still lagging behind, the message is clear: there is no more turning a blind eye to the industry’s evolving mandates. Chiropractors must begin to toe the line in order to continue to receive their fair share of payment for their services. In short: if chiropractic were the fashion industry, data would be the new black.

Fee-for-service to Value-based Reimbursements

Fee-for-service reimbursements have long been the standard issue for the nation’s providers. But this traditional model is finally received a long overdue overhaul, and the resultant rewards will be along in short order. Value-based reimbursements not only present a new payment model, they present an entirely new scaffolding upon which the industry’s myriad disciplines can hang their data up for display and review.

Alas, such a transition will not come without growing pains. Health care systems must now keep track of a large amount of additional record-keeping, including Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and meaningful use requirements. As data collection progresses it will require chiropractors to change the way they run their practices and treat their patients, and everyone in the healthcare field will have to start playing by the same rules.

The True Value of Evidence-Based Care

While the pain of these protocols can be seen today, the true value of this exercise will come tomorrow. Data collected now will drive the practice of chiropractic in the future in ways never before possible. The power of de-identified patient data collected en masse will allow the profession to craft best practices, re-imagine outdated methods of long-term patient assessment, and create inarguably defensible, evidence-based courses of care.

In turn, this will also increase the inherent value of each treatment provided. As unnecessary, unwarranted, ineffective, and duplicated treatments and tests begin to be flushed out, we will start to see positive outcomes held in higher regard. Data also lends itself to greater predictive assessments and more accurate care plans, attenuating the rising costs of healthcare over time. Broad data sets and proven outcomes will allow providers to choose the most effective treatment plan based on new industry standards that resulted from actual patient data. From this evolution, the measurable benefits of each patient-provider interaction will start to shine through. This is an important and long overdue stepping stone for chiropractic in the path towards greater recognition.

The Proof in the Pudding

In a world fraught with fierce combat against declining reimbursements, data is king. Comprehensive and representative data collected will begin to demonstrate that chiropractors have provided the most appropriate and effective services, founded on both physical and subjective patient presentation, and increasingly well-documented health histories.

Chiropractors will stand dutifully equipped with the data-driven statistical evidence that defends and validates the care they provide. New, more specific ICD-10 codes and outcomes assessments will pave the way for greater acceptance of statistically proven treatment options. This will lead to fewer denials and better payouts for chiropractors with less back-and-forth during the billing process. The ancillary benefits of culling ineffective or improperly billed treatments will streamline the chiropractic practice and greater efficiency will be a natural consequence. Scrubbing the healthcare vehicle with fistfuls of confirmed data will mean less time spent billing and re-billing, fewer staffing requirements, quicker treatment results, better patient retention, and a smoother ride for everyone on board. But it takes some elbow grease:

  • Data-driven results require—you guessed it—data. Providers must begin to document thoroughly and deliberately, collecting health care information in a structured manner that is in line with national standards.
  • Care coordination results in a full picture of a patient’s health history, but it requires that chiropractors obtain the technology necessary to share information between outside providers, healthcare organizations, and patients. Without this technology, a chiropractor is guaranteed to incur a 1% reduction in Medicare payouts, with rates set to rise every year hereafter.
  • Interoperability requires that providers participate in a free-flowing data exchange between certified systems via a common language and set of standards. Included in the push towards interoperability and data exchange is the participation in provider-patient interaction outside of the confines of the appointment block.

A Podium for Chiropractic

Data has the ability to transform, inform, and inspire. The development of interoperable technology offers the healthcare platform new abilities to garner insight from clinical data and make informed decisions about industry standards, best practices, methods of operation, financial allocations, and patient care. Big data also offers new insight into disease detection. Historical data can be used to make care estimations, evaluate the success of treatments, map the progression of illnesses, identify patients at risk, and make new connections between cause and effect. The health informatics field of study that is focused on merging information technology and healthcare has already started to experience rapid growth, and the eye on data is guaranteed to become ever more focused as we begin to see the palpable effects of using this information to better manage care.

While it may seem invasive at first glance, data will prove to be a great friend to the chiropractic industry. The facts will speak for themselves. Backed by evidence-based treatments, chiropractors will be able to spend less time legitimizing their care, and more time caring for patients while building their businesses. Proven courses of care will become staples within the healthcare industry at large, and they will create a data-driven platform upon which chiropractors can reach a broader audience, and truly begin to be heard.

Byline:

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 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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