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MGMA Survey: Health IT Costs Climbing at Physician Practices

September 11, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Health IT costs are on the rise as physician practices continue to adopt and optimize electronic health records (EHRs), according to a recent cost survey report published by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

Since 2008, medical practices' annual expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) 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 report.

”Implementing and optimizing information technology is a significant investment for physician practices,” Derek Kosiorek, principal, MGMA Health Care Consulting Group, said in a statement. “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.”

Physician practices also 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 report concluded.

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.

“The patient’s experience extends far beyond the exam room,” said Kenneth Hertz, MGMA Health Care Consulting Group, in a statement. “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.”

The MGMA “Cost Survey Report: 2013 Report Based on 2012 Data” features data from 2,411 groups, and includes data categorized by specialty, organization ownership, and geographic section, as well as data on staffing ratios, medical revenue, total operating costs, and accounts receivable.

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