6 Reasons Why Working with Data Can Be Hard

by Martin Traub-Werner / June 7, 2018


There are no two ways about it. Working with data isn’t easy.

Within the veterinary industry, there’s a lot of talk about practice data and a number of misconceptions as well. I’d like to share some thoughts on the complexity of managing and understanding data in our industry.

  1. Comparing data with other practices is complicated

  2. Working with data descriptions and how VetSuccess normalizes them
    When working with data, one of the greatest challenges is the fact that practice data isn’t normalized — or harmonized, if you will. Every practice uses different terminology for their code descriptions. One practice calls a dental prophy ‘1003A – Capror, while another calls it ‘Dent1 – Dental cleaning.’ This makes apples-to-apples comparisons really tough.

  3. There’s still some disagreement on what the right metrics are

  4. There are tons of different benchmarks in the industry. A few of us have made it our mission to spend time carefully thinking this through. In many cases, benchmarks are still complicated by (among other things) the underlying data, practice geography, and practice mission.

  5. There are very few independent groups involved with practice metrics

  6. There are very good companies in the practice data space — they just also happen to be very good at other parts of the veterinary business at the same time. At VetSuccess, we advocate that practice metrics and the use of data in practice management needs to be a stand-alone discipline. This is admittedly self-serving, but it’s important.

  7. Pulling data takes time

  8. The Practice Information Management Systems (PIMS) haven’t done themselves any favors. We consistently hear: “I can get that information from my system.” This is technically true — you should be able to get just about any piece of information from your system. But as we get more sophisticated about the queries we want to make, pulling data from a PIMS becomes more and more complex for practices to do on their own. Click To Tweet Mercifully, VetSuccess has a squad of serious software programmers to get the practice data into useful ship-shape, so it can then be pulled quickly and consistently.

  9. Pulling data manually can cause errors

  10. Many data comparisons require participating practices to pull their data manually. This results in a much higher likelihood of inconsistencies. Click To Tweet This can happen when we try to compare data between practices. It can also happen within the walls of your own practice when you compare data practice from one month to the next.

  11. OK, I’ve got the numbers. Now what?

  12. Fair question. Gathering data is one thing; working with data is a different animal. Without exception, one of the most common things we hear anytime we present a report is: “This is great — what do I do about it?”

    Metrics need to be contextualized. Practices need to work on understanding what they can do to take action. They often need help with that. There are lots of tools and pros available to help with making sense of practice metrics.

To recap, here are 6 reasons why working with data is hard:

  • Comparisons – it’s hard to get apples-to-apples data
  • Uncertainty – it’s hard to know what data to use
  • Lack of data specialists – there are few stand-alone analytics companies
  • It’s time-consuming – pulling data takes time
  • It’s error-prone – pulling data consistently can be hit-and-miss
  • Taking action – knowing what to pull and what to do with it can be hard
VetSuccess' POR helps you assess your practice to help gain more positive online reviews If you’re looking for a way to ease the pain of working with data, take a look at our Practice Overview Report. It saves you substantial time by presenting your key practice metrics in easy-to-read graphs and charts. It also includes key benchmarks so you can compare your results to other practices, and trend lines so that you can see your practice’s average performance against each metric over time.

Have a question? See something you disagree with? Drop me a line or leave a comment and let’s talk about it!


Martin Traub-Werner is the dedicated founder and CEO of VetSuccess. His number one focus is providing the most value possible to VetSuccess members – and he loves to talk data so don’t hesitate to contact him. Martin can be reached at martin@vetsuccess.com

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