MGMA: Practices' technology costs, NPP use on the rise

The cost of doing business is on the rise for medical practices nationwide, with much of that expense being driven by the need to adopt new technologies, according to the Medical Group Management Association's (MGMA) 2015 Cost and Revenue Survey.

Overall, the survey of 3,120 medical groups found that operating costs have risen 12 percent since 2010 on a per-physician basis. Respondents spent an average of $20,693 per full-time physician (FTE) on technology-associated operating costs in 2014--an 11.8 percent jump since 2014. During the past five years, technology spending has increased by nearly 34 percent.

"As technology continues to evolve, medical practices must likewise evolve," Halee Fischer-Wright, M.D., MGMA CEO, said in an announcement. "The way patients ask for and receive care is changing." She went on to explain that technological investments can also benefit practices through better records management, enhanced quality tracking and reporting, optimized workflow and easier compliance with HIPAA.

To offset rising overhead costs and keep up with patient demand for access, practices are continuing to add nonphysician practitioners (NPPs) to their teams. The sharpest rise in NPP employment has been seen among physician-owned, single-surgical-specialty practices, with a 44 percent increase since 2010. In other words, these practices now employ 0.85 NPPs per FTE physician, up from 0.59 five years ago.

Practices may broaden their use of NPPs to fill gaps created by physician shortages and increased patient loads created by the Affordable Care Act's coverage expansion, the announcement noted. Separate research released earlier this year found that Medicare payments to nurse practitioners and physician assistants are actually beginning to outpace those to physicians, with NPPs also billing for increasingly sophisticated procedures.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- access the full results (purchase required)

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