Managing staff shortages as well as mental health concerns will be top priorities for physicians' groups as they head into 2021, according to a new report.

Four in 10 practices reported a staff shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be concerned about staffing, including hiring and retaining staff and providers, a survey from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) found.

The results from the "MGMA Stat 2020 Year in Review," a culmination of MGMA's national weekly polls of more than 4,800 healthcare leaders on the biggest issues and trends in medical practice management, found more medical practices say promoting staff morale through efforts to restore bonuses in 2021 will be instrumental as holding social gatherings will remain difficult throughout the year.

They also identified telehealth in particular as an area that will remain a major focus in the coming year, with 97% of practices reporting they've expanded telehealth services in the past year. 

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Other health IT capabilities will remain a major part of the conversation in 2021, but practices are expected to focus on integrating other capabilities such as remote patient monitoring devices. The poll found most practices have not taken the next steps to make this option, happen with only 21% offering monitoring. 

"While 2020 presented unparalleled challenges, the historic year was pivotal in shaping our industry's future, accelerating us to address and find solutions to problems we have seen and felt for decades," said Halee Fischer-Wright, M.D., president and CEO of MGMA, in a statement.  

The survey said groups' highest priorities in the coming year are:  

  • Cost and revenue, such as cost reduction, collections, contracting, revenue streams
  • Practice transformation issues, such as growth, mergers and acquisitions, consolidation
  • Technology, such as adding and updating software, as well as their electronic health records
  • Operations, such as practice efficiencies, workflows

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The report also found medical practices may need to reassess their space needs in the next year with 12% reporting they are already planning to reduce their physical space in the coming months.

Physicians' practices also indicated they are staying more closely connected to their financial picture. The poll found about 33% of respondents said they are changing what metrics they are watching and how often they look at those metrics to watch for drops in revenue and resulting changes in collections.