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Benchmarking Call Coverage for a Better Bottom Line

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, July 18, 2011

Call coverage is a necessity at every hospital, but if it isn't calculated properly (and recalculated frequently) it can quietly bleed your budget. So how can you get your call coverage costs under control? Simply, you must benchmark them.

I've written more than my share of articles on RVUs, incentive compensation, and benchmarking. What has held true over the years, is that some calculations are harder than others and call coverage is on the list of challenging areas. At the recent Health Care Financial Management Association meeting in Orlando, I asked numerous financial leaders what their compensation planning pain points were and the answer was invariably one of two topics:

1. How to create a compensation plan for the new health care models (which I'll save for another column).

2. How to get call coverage "right" – which generally means "pay less, but stay market-competitive and encourage physicians to participate."

Perhaps what makes this area so difficult and irksome for financial leaders is that for many years call coverage was an unpaid expectation placed on physicians, but today doctors want to be paid, and increasingly, hospitals are doing so.

According to MGMA's Medical Directorship and On-Call Compensation Survey Report, nearly two-thirds of providers in hospital-owned group practices report some compensation for on-call duties, either via an hourly rate or through a stipend (hourly, weekly, monthly, or annually.

So, how do you arrive at what to actually pay these physicians? Naturally, it varies depending on specialty and region and in some instances supply and demand.

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