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    Chris Harrop

    A new MGMA Stat poll finds that remote work arrangements for medical group workers might be reaching a Goldilocks moment as many other industries grapple with the question of return-to-office policies.

    A June 20, 2023, MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “What percent of your workforce is remote at least 50% of the time?” and found that fewer medical groups are avoiding remote work altogether, and that a smaller share of groups are operating with high levels of remote staff compared to 2021. More specifically:

    • Most medical groups (52%) report between 1% and 25% of their workforce is remote most of the time; this is a significant increase from the 37% reported in a similar poll from April 2021.
    • Only 36% of group leaders said they had 0% of their staff with a majority-remote arrangement, down from 44% in the 2021 poll.
    • The share of medical groups with higher percentages of remote workers fell compared to the 2021 poll, as:
      • The share of groups with 26% to 50% of their workforce remote fell from 8% in 2021 to 6% in 2023.
      • Groups with 51% to 75% of the workforce remote held steady at 3% in both polls.
      • The groups with the highest share of remote workers (76% to 100% of the workforce) dipped from 9% in 2021 to only 3% in 2023.

    The new poll had 629 applicable responses.

    The results of a follow-up question for these respondents gives more insight into how likely these figures will hold going into the future: More than 7 in 10 respondents (77%) said they do not expect to increase their remote workforce later in 2023, while only 11% of medical group leaders said they will, and another 12% reported they were unsure. These results come about 16 months after a February 2022 MGMA Stat poll found that 59% of medical practices had permanently shifted some workers into remote or hybrid settings in the previous year, typically in areas such as call centers, billing and coding, information technology, accounting and finance and human resources.

    Two common themes emerged from medical group leaders who took the new poll:

    1. They are looking primarily for coders and billers to work remotely, with other roles to be based in the office.
    2. Expanded hiring for remote workers might be frozen until organizations can collect and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) for their remote workers.

    Assessing productivity also was a major concern among respondents to the 2021 poll, but collecting the right data on charges, payments or other metrics that remote staff would be working on can give a good sense for how remote workers were performing: “I am monitoring several reports … that show how long they are logged into the system,” said one practice administrator from California. “I can also check on the volume of their work.”

    Strategies to enhance the remote employee experience

    Working remotely regularly ranks as a top request for workers. According to SHRM research detailed by Theresa Agovino in HR Magazine:

    • 70% of employed Americans prefer to work remotely on a full- or part-time basis if given the option.
    • More than 1 in 3 (35%) would accept a salary reduction in return for work flexibility.
    • Almost 20% who prefer to work from home in some capacity would start looking for a remote position elsewhere if their employer did not provide a remote work option.

    A soon-to-be-published MGMA Connection article from a team at the Mayo Clinic suggests that, while the hiring process for remote employees should align with how traditional, on-site workers are hired, there are some critical variations that can help employers stand out to candidates interested in remote work:

    • Full transparency of remote work in the job posting
    • Clarity and expectations in the virtual interview
    • Frequent communication throughout the job offer and acceptance phase
    • Navigation of available technology
    • Engagement of and support from team members via testimonials and social media channels.

    As the authors note, “A commitment to providing a seamless onboarding process that reflects the organization’s culture, starting with recruitment, makes new hires feel they are part of the team and sets them up for success.”

    Learn more

    For more insights, read Hill L, Martin E, Buth S, Katarya S, Salkeld K, Menaker R. “Strategies to enhance the remote employee experience,” in the July 2023 issue of MGMA Connection magazine, available online in early July.

    • For an in-depth exploration of how to structure and operate remote and hybrid work models, read “Assessing place and time” from the April 2022 issue of MGMA Connection magazine.

    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.
     
    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

    Written By

    Chris Harrop

    A veteran journalist, Chris Harrop serves as managing editor of MGMA Connection magazine, MGMA Insights newsletter, MGMA Stat and several other publications across MGMA. Email him.


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