MGMA: Finances, EMR top 2009 challenges for practices

Keeping operating costs down, maintaining physician compensation levels and buying/rolling out an EMR are the three biggest challenges to running a medical practice this year, according to a new survey by the Medical Group Management Association.

Collecting from self-pay patients and those with high deductibles was a close fourth, and coping with wavering Medicaid reimbursement rate came in fifth in the survey, which reached 2,077 respondents.

MGMA found that one-third or more of respondents were seeing the financial effects of the recession, such as postponed capital investments, rising volumes of uninsured patients, staff hiring freezes, cuts in operating budgets and revenue decreases. Many were responding with improved billing and collecting processes, MGMA said.

Despite all of these stresses, practices seemed surprisingly strong financially. Nearly 82 percent of respondents said that there was zero chance that their group would file for bankruptcy, and almost 80 percent said there was no probability their practice would close because of the poor economy.

Your editor's guess about all of this is that practices are in a somewhat better position than, say, hospitals to survive recessions. For one thing, even if patients come less often, they're still less inclined to see regular visits as completely dispensable, and they'll still show up to deal with routine problems. Also, while practices obviously have capital needs, they're not going to be open-ended and subject to change in medical device innovation or competition, as with hospitals. What's more, luckily for everyone, this may be as bad as it gets.

To learn more about the study:
- read this HFMA News piece

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