Technology meets finance at MGMA

October 2, 2013 in Medical Technology

As medical practice administrators and physicians head to San Diego for the Medical Group Management Association’s 2013 annual conference, Oct. 6-9, they’re likely to have money on their minds. Keeping a medical practice going these days has become a complex and pricey endeavor.

At the top of the list of increasing costs: information technology.

Medical practices’ annual expenditures per full-time-equivalent physician for information technology costs have climbed 27.8 percent, from a median of $15,211 in 2008 to a reported $19,439 in 2012, according to the MGMA Cost Survey Report: 2013 Report Based on 2012 Data. The MGMA survey collected data from 2,411 groups – the largest cost survey and benchmarking tool in the industry, according to MGMA.

[See also: MGMA urges hold on MU penalties.]

“Implementing and optimizing information technology is a significant investment for physician practices,” said Derek Kosiorek, principal, MGMA Health Care Consulting Group, in announcing the results of the survey this past September. “Although an electronic health record can be costly, it’s admirable that physician practices are leveraging sophisticated tools that produce higher efficiencies and impact patient care.”

Several sessions at the conference speak to those concerns of increasing expenses that comes with an increasing focus on technology.

Rosemarie Nelson, principal consultant, MGMA Health Care Consulting Group, promises to offer 30 tech tips in 30 minutes in her session titled exactly that. It’s slated for 11 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 7. Nelson says she’ll talk about specific operational issues and offer tips on how to use physician and staff time more effectively and how to employ technology to help.

Kosiorek will also offer an IT session on Monday, Oct. 7, from 2-3 p.m. He will lead a panel discussion on the current state of healthcare IT and what to expect in the future.

[See also: ICD-10 readiness lagging, says MGMA.]

Several other education sessions throughout the conference will address the intersection of technology and finance in one way or another, echoing some of the themes explored in the MGMA survey results.

In the survey, physician practices reported increases in median staffing costs as a result of adding business operations, clinical and ancillary support professionals to the practice. Total business operations staff per 10,000 patients increased 8.69 percent since 2011, from 6.56 to 7.13. This indicates that physician practices and hospitals are investing in sophisticated, knowledgeable and certified staff to manage physician services, the MGMA report notes.

Staff costs are also on the rise as additional personnel are hired to manage operations and contend with a complex regulatory environment. Increased staffing costs may have also been incurred as practices seek to improve their patients’ experience and satisfaction with their visits beyond the time spent with the clinician, notes the report.

“The patient’s experience extends far beyond the exam room,” says Kenneth T. Hertz, MGMA Health Care Consulting Group. “It’s important to consider how items such as scheduling availability, insurance verification and benefits determination, refill reminders, access to patient portals and other technology enhance your patients’ experience. If you’re devoting resources to employing a team of professionals that can manage and make improvements on these fronts, you’re working to be more patient-centered overall.”

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