After a year of significant disruption, U.S. physician groups are starting to see signs of financial recovery.
Physician groups across the country continued to see key performance metrics return to near pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2021, suggesting an end to the volatility driven by COVID-19 that rocked practices throughout 2020, according to a new report from Kaufman Hall.
Employed physician groups nationwide saw increases in productivity, revenues and compensation in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, due in part to rising patient visits. At the same time, the average investment required to supplement physician revenues fell slightly, based on the report's data from nearly 100,000 providers representing more than 100 specialties.
For U.S. physician groups, the median investment/subsidy per physician full-time equivalent (FTE) was $239,502 for the first quarter of 2021, down just 1.9% from the first quarter of 2020.
Physician compensation also was close to early 2020 performance, with physician compensation per FTE at $332,187 in the first quarter of 2021, up just 1.1% from the same period last year. Increasing patient visits contributed to an increase in physician productivity, with physician work relative value units (wRVUs) per FTE up 3.6% from the first quarter of 2020 to the same period this year.
Net revenue per physician FTE, including advanced practice providers, climbed 9.4% to $575,113 in the first quarter. Total direct expense per physician FTE also was up 4% over the same period.
Clinical and front-office productivity has largely returned to pre-COVID levels as physician productivity has increased, with support staff FTEs per 10,000 wRVUs falling just 1.3% from the first five months of 2020 to the same period in 2021.
“The first-quarter results show positive signs of stabilization for the physician groups across the country after many months of turmoil from COVID-19,” said Kaufman Hall managing director Matthew Bates in a statement. “Going forward, they face new uncertainties as expenses continue to rise, the number of employed physicians grows, and the average investment needed to subsidize physician revenues remains at unsustainable levels.”