Smart SNFs: Improving Operations With a Data-Driven Approach

How skilled nursing providers can streamline operations and improve quality measures by using data to their advantage

While most skilled nursing facility (SNF) operators have a keen understanding of how a data-driven approach to patient care can improve patient outcomes, they may have yet to discover how data can lead to specific operational improvements.

Through data analysis and insights, SNFs can not only streamline their workflows, but they can save significant time and resources as a result. For operations leaders across both small and large organizations, data can be the key driver of success in terms of time saved, reimbursement gained and quality measures improved.

There are some best practices to operationalizing data including setting goals upfront, gaining buy-in among leadership and staff, and ultimately realizing and tracking success metrics.

Setting and achieving goals

A SNF’s data journey does not have to be complex; in fact many organizations begin by starting with one data segment, such as their Minimum Data Set submissions.

Setting goals, however, is a critical first step in terms of operationalizing the data.

“One of the first questions we always ask is: ‘What do you want to achieve?’” says Maria Arellano, product manager for data analytics platform PointRight®, a Net Health company. “In the case of one recent customer, they were very concerned about quality measures, which plays into their Five Star Quality ratings.”

The customer, which has a portfolio of 20-plus skilled nursing facilities, began utilizing PointRight as a pilot in 10 of its communities with a focus first on its MDS submissions.

“Data integrity was foundational to the quality measures goal, and the customer needed to improve the accuracy of their MDS submissions in order to develop good strategies to improve,” Arellano says. “They started at two stars, then improved to a four-star rating and have since improved to five stars.”

Many organizations start with the simple goal of improving data submissions and identifying common coding errors and other areas where data inaccuracies are likely to occur. For others, gaining insights into clinical strengths and weaknesses may be an upfront goal; for others yet, data insights that enable SNFs to participate in value-based care programs and accountable care organizations ACOs) may be a goal.

Whatever the desired outcome, setting these expectations upfront can be a deciding factor for success, Arellano says, as well as proving return on investment.

“For this one customer, they started with 90% of their MDS submissions as having one or more potential issues that needed to be reviewed,” she says. “In the most recently completed month, that number was 28%, and mid-last year it was down to 8%.”

Team buy-in and retention

SNFs that have employed data solutions agree that a data-driven approach is best executed by a team, rather than a single person or role. Many functions and people must interface with the data and understand the benefits and goals of a solution like PointRight, despite the process often starting with the MDS coordinator.

The benefits of a team approach to data are twofold: less turnover, and minimal disruption when turnover does take place.

“Many times we see this responsibility is assigned to one person: the MDS coordinator,” Arellano says. “And when you lose an MDS coordinator, everything else falls apart because that primary champion is gone. But when the whole team is embracing the tools, when they do experience turnover, it doesn’t fall apart. [It benefits the organization] to train all of the departments that interact with the MDS and beyond — even including marketing and admissions and regional leadership.”

The PointRight solution in particular also allows operations leaders to explore “what if” scenarios with respect to staffing and prospective organizational changes to project how modifications are likely to impact target goals, such as star ratings. The tool, Five Star Fast Track, can be used specifically to determine various impacts to star ratings.

“It allows us to say ‘Here are our current ratings and these are our resources. What if we do this? Or what if we change that?’” says Arellano.

Organizations can adjust their staffing of CNAs, RNs, or LPNs and see how those levels will play out to predict the impact to their five star ratings and quality measures.

“The leadership can then look at it to say where they want their teams to focus, or to say ‘We’re going into budget season here pretty soon,’” Arellano says. “‘What do we need to do budget-wise and quality-wise, and let’s develop a plan of action as a team to achieve our goal.’”

Operational impacts

For any SNF employing a data-driven approach for the first time, any accomplishment of the upfront goals will speak for itself. In the case of PointRight’s recent pilot customer, the skilled nursing operator ultimately saw such success in improving its quality ratings that the organization expanded its use of PointRight from the 10 original communities to all 21 of the company’s SNFs.

With the initial goal of improving quality measures, the organization also achieved improved star ratings and an improvement in data integrity as related operational benefits.

And not only did the organization achieve the goals, but it was also able to maintain them through an extremely difficult operating environment.

“One thing I found most impressive was that even through COVID and all the turnover, in 2020 they were still able to maintain their quality measures,” Arellano says.

While these metrics are impactful to show the value of data in skilled nursing, ultimately organizations can also look directly at how they are able to improve their bottom line through ongoing analysis and data integrity.

With more accurate data comes potentially higher per-diem capture for each resident.

“People don’t realize how much money they potentially leave on the table,” Arellano says.

To learn more about how PointRight Analytics, a Net Health Company, can help your organization form partnerships and participate in referral networks, visit

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