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Finances, EHRs Top Challenges for Practices

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 12, 2009

A new study by the Medical Group Management Association finds that finances, and the adoption of electronic health records continued for the second consecutive year to be the top concerns of most medical practice professionals.

According to the Englewood, CO-based MGMA's 2009 Medical Practice Today: What Members Have to Say, the top three challenges of running a group practice remain the same as in 2008. They are:

  • Dealing with operating costs that are rising more rapidly than revenues
  • Maintaining physician compensation levels in an environment of declining reimbursement
  • Selecting and implementing a new electronic health record

Beyond that, however, the 2,077 respondents to the Web-based questionnaire say their No. 4 challenge is collecting from self-pay patients, particularly those with high-deductible plans and health savings accounts, has become a growing concern.

The No. 5 challenge concerns managing finances in the face of uncertain Medicare reimbursements. Recruiting physicians, which in 2008 was the fourth-ranked challenge, slipped to No. 6 this year.

MGMA also asked study participants how the recession is affecting their medical groups and how they are responding. Ranked by average score, the participants indicated the most probable effects of the recession on their practices are:

  • An increase in uninsured patients
  • Improved billing and collections and/or denial management processes
  • Decreased revenues
  • Postponed capital expenditures
  • Operating budget cuts
  • Staff hiring freezes

Many respondents said they were experiencing the effects of the recession on their practices. For instance:

  • 36.6% say they have postponed capital expenditures
  • 34.7% are seeing a rise in uninsured patients
  • 34.5% have implemented a staff hiring freeze
  • 33.9% have cut operating budgets
  • 33.3% have improved billing and collections processes
  • 33.1% have witnessed a decrease in revenue

On the positive side, nearly 82% of respondents say there was a zero probability that their group would file for bankruptcy protection. Nearly 80% also said there was a "zero probability" their practice would close because of the poor economy.


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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