MGMA Survey Finds IT Costs Rising for Practices

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The promise of cost savings from health care reform and electronic health record (EHR) implementation may still be a ways away judging by a new survey from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA)

The Englewood, Colo., association’s Cost Survey Report: 2013 Report Based on 2012 Data reveals that between 2008 and 2012, annual information technology (IT) expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) physician rose 27.8 percent. In 2008, the medical IT cost per full-time doctor was $15,211, but by 2012, it was $19,439.

According to MGMA, the rise in IT costs per physician reflects the investments practices are making in EHRs. While these can improve efficiency and care, there is a sizable up-front cost in both purchasing the systems and implementing them in practices.

In addition, the survey showed that median staffing costs are also going up as managing physician services becomes more complex. According to the survey, total business operations staff per 10,000 patients increased 8.69 percent since 2011.

The need to add business operations, clinical, and ancillary support professionals to the practice to manage operations and contend with a complex regulatory environment could be part of the reason for the increase, according to MGMA. In addition, some staff costs are going up as physician practices pay more attention to patient satisfaction scores that could factor into future payments.

“The patient’s experience extends far beyond the exam room,” stated Kenneth T. Hertz, FACMPE, of the MGMA Health Care Consulting Group, in the press release. “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 survey’s results were drawn from the voluntary responses of 2,411 groups. MGMA says its survey is the largest cost survey and benchmarking tool in the industry, but cautions that because the responses are voluntary, there may a difference between groups that respond and those that do not.