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For medical practices, staying productive amid COVID-19 recovery hinges on staffing, systems and more

MGMA Stat - November 17, 2021

RVUs

Staffing Models

Practice Efficiency

Chris Harrop
Whether it’s staffing, supplies or something else, the only things not in short supply for medical practices are challenges, as providers and staff prepare for a winter season in which COVID-19 cases are above their pre-vaccine levels a year ago.



A Nov. 16, 2021, MGMA Stat poll finds that medical practices’ productivity is split almost evenly when compared to expectations thus far in 2021. Many respondents say their practices’ productivity has exceeded expectations (35%) or is on target to reach their 2021 goals (35%), while another 30% reported their practices are below their expectations.

The poll had 618 applicable responses.

While the summer Delta variant surge got a lot of attention, it wasn’t necessarily the cause for productivity to be hampered for many medical practices: A Sept. 7 MGMA Stat poll found that only 15% of practices reported patient volume declines during the Delta variant spike in the summer months, compared to 43% that experienced the same volumes compared to the spring months and 42% that saw volumes increase.

So what’s influencing productivity performance in medical practices post-Delta? Practice leaders who noted their productivity metrics aren’t meeting expectations say:
  • A severe shortage of staff and loss of physicians to burnout, which limits how many patient visits can be done.
  • Limits on elective surgeries, largely due to a lack of beds at hospitals due to COVID-19 cases. Several practice leaders from states hit the hardest by recent surges in COVID-19 cases (including Idaho) noted that the dire situations in those areas were cause for crisis standards of care and pauses on surgical procedures.
  • Ongoing issues with patient turnout, ranging from increased levels of cancellations and no-shows to lingering hesitance to return for in-person visits amid the pandemic. Several pediatric primary care practice leaders noted that there were significantly fewer wellness visits, with “parental reluctance to bring kids in for minor issues.”

But those factors aren’t universally preventing medical groups from hitting their 2021 benchmarks. Getting back on track for many practices was as simple as getting patients back in who avoided the office and deferred care in 2020. Among respondents who are on target or exceeding their performance goals for the year, some of the major factors leading to improved numbers included:
  • Keeping staff safe and getting high vaccination rates among practice workers limited interruptions caused by COVID-19 cases and resulting quarantines.
  • Targeted efforts on patient access, such as extended hours, and improved scheduling, including optimization of schedule templates in the EHR to allow patients to schedule themselves online, as well as templated schedule slots for video visits via telehealth platforms.
  • Telehealth services, during normal clinic and after hours, were credited with keeping many practices on track with productivity goals, especially for practices with a higher share of patients who still aren’t comfortable coming into the office.
  • Focusing on social media and marketing opportunities to grab the attention of patients, such as using Google ads and other efforts to boost visibility and convince patients that their care needs cannot wait.
  • Managing COVID-19 testing and vaccination centers within the community helped some practices boost their productivity and revenues.

Some practice leaders who have met or exceeded their productivity goals this year still express frustration and concern that even though their visit volumes are on target, reimbursement remains a struggle, and some have focused their attention to ramping up their A/R teams.

Do you have any best practices or success stories to share on this topic? Please let us know by emailing us at connection@mgma.com.

Participate in MGMA data

The MGMA Compensation and Production Survey, launching in early January 2022, collects data on compensation for medical practice leadership and support staff, physicians and advanced practice providers (APPs). It also benchmarks by specialty, including provider collections, encounters, work RVUs and more. Learn more about participating in an MGMA survey.

JOIN MGMA STAT

Our ability at MGMA to provide great resources, education and advocacy depends on a strong feedback loop with healthcare leaders. To be part of this effort, sign up for MGMA Stat and make your voice heard in our weekly polls. Sign up by texting “STAT” to 33550 or visit mgma.com/stat. Polls will be sent to your phone via text message.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

About the Author

Chris Harrop
Chris Harrop
Senior Editorial Manager MGMA

Chris Harrop, senior editorial manager, MGMA, serves as editor of MGMA's flagship print publication, MGMA Connection magazine, and oversees various association content publications while also serving as a contributing author for the organization. Prior to MGMA, he was managing editor of multiple news organizations in the Denver metro area. Email him.

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