I’ve been reading the (fascinating and fun) book Moneyball. It’s amazing how it exposes that any business — even the $7 billion professional baseball industry — can be guided by market mythology that is intuitively satisfying but not entirely accurate.

The book tracks the efforts of the Oakland A’s in the early 2000s to become more data-driven in choosing new players.  The A’s were motivated by their relatively puny player budget.  They hoped to somehow assemble a winning roster even though they didn’t have enough financial resources to bring on a single superstar.

Historically, dozens of statistics were regularly tracked about baseball, but only a certain few favorites got all the attention.  The A’s dug into the data, and arrived at the surprising insight that the stats that got all the attention weren’t the ones that actually correlated with team performance.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when the general manager finds that the lure of the old, ‘gut feel’ approach to managing a baseball team was so powerful, he couldn’t watch the games live without risking incorrect decisions driven by emotion.  Only by looking at data alone — and not observing the quirks and ups-and-downs of actual play — can he trust himself to decide correctly.

What a powerful idea for managers of all sorts. In the daily pace of a medical practice, how often do emotion, misperception or unquestioned assumptions get in the way of good decision-making?  In our work, we bring surprises to our practice management clients all the time, by simply analyzing data as objective outsiders.  Are you operating under assumptions, or emotional conclusions, such as:

–  “I’ve always coded like this, and never had a problem”
–  “Our no-show rate is about average”
–  “Saturday clinics wouldn’t be popular around here”
–  “We couldn’t make more money in the current reimbursement environment”
–  “No one on our staff would ever steal from us — we’re like a family”
–  “We don’t use outside collections – I’m confident our receivables will be paid eventually”

 Are unchallenged assumptions hurting your practice?  Just like baseball, medicine is a combination of passion, talent, art and business.  Make sure the business side of your practice is driven by accurate data and diligent analysis — and not undermined by assumptions.

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One Response Comment

  • Dr. Ben  October 26, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Great post, Laurie! And some great take-aways for any business – in particular, to question…and become aware of…the potentially faulty assumptions that may be driving our current practices…

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