MGMA17: 5 things to know about top performing practices

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The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) has released its 2017 “DataDive Better Performers” report, pointing to areas which can define success for physician practices—which may not also mean limiting spending.

The report focused on four areas of practice improvement: operations, profitability, productivity and value.

“Medical practice leaders grapple with a growing number of factors that can impact performance, so understanding the levers that are in the practice’s control is critical,” said MGMA President and CEO Dr. Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, MMM, at the group’s annual conference in Anaheim, Calif. “The data set provides an invaluable benchmark for practices seeking their own insights about where their opportunities for stronger performance reside.”

Here are five takeaways from the report:

1. Less IT spending isn’t always better…

Past MGMA surveys have shown IT costs to be on the rise, with some practice spending up to $19,000 on IT expenses per full-time-equivalent (FTE) physician. For practices owned by hospitals or health systems, they may be affected by the “significant financial risk” large IT investments like new electronic health record (EHR) installations can carry.

Despite rising costs in both ownership categories, the best performing physician-owned and hospital-owned practices differed on their IT spending. For hospital-owned practices, the top performers in the MGMA report spent an average of $1,216 more on IT expenses per FTE physician compared to all practices. For physician-owned practices, however, the top performers spent $3,865 less per FTE physician.

2. …But spending less overall is.

The best performing practices all spent less on operating expenses compared to all practices included in the report. They also reported earning more in medical revenue after their operating cost, with the numbers varying between hospital- and physician-owned practices.

For example, top-performing multispecialty practices owned by physicians earned $44,553 more in medical revenue compared to all practices. For hospital-owned multispecialty practices, top performers earned $18,344 more. In other areas, the top hospital-owned practices had the advantage, such as in surgical specialties where they earned $72,920 more than all practices, compared to $25,902 more for physician-owned practices.

3. Top practices have more productive, more highly compensated physicians

Most of the better performing practices reported their physicians had higher productivity when compared to all reporting practices, and many of their doctors are also earning more. Among cardiologists at top-performing practices, for example, they earned 5.7 percent while being 1.68 percent more productive based on work relative value unit (RVU).

The biggest difference in compensation among top performers was seen among internal medicine physicians, whose compensation was 15.8 percent higher compared to all reporting practices. For productivity, the biggest shift was with orthopedic surgeons, who had a work RVU 14.6 percent higher at the top-performing practices.

4. Patient portal use matters

The best performing practices reported slightly higher adoption rates of portals among their patients. Increasing use of these tools has been a challenge, with providers going as far as to say “patient portals are dead” because of low adoption rates.

5. For primary care, smoother operations are key

Among primary care practices, the report found the top performers were the ones offered more convenience to their patients. The better performing practices had patient spending less time scheduling an appointment, more same day appointments and fewer cancellations. They also showed a slightly lower rate of patients not showing up for scheduled appointments.