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Benchmarking Call Coverage for a Better Bottom Line

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

These pulse-point surveys can also offer timely insights to guide your assessment. For example, in MD Ranger's most recent survey, comments on call coverage included these nuggets:

  • Regional location of a hospital had no effect on the rates paid for call coverage.
  • Hospitals paid the highest rates for on-call coverage for trauma surgery, at a median rate of $2,379 per day, and lowest for psychiatry, at $161 per day.
  • Trauma status has the strongest correlation to on-call payment rates. Across all services, trauma status meant an average 26% premium to coverage rates. That's a trend mirrored in California state data that shows non-trauma hospital-physician costs increased at a faster rate than trauma hospital costs between 2008 and 2009.
  • Multi-campus arrangements reduced the average payment per campus by approximately 55%.
Areas to Watch

Naturally, getting your call coverage in order doesn't end with arriving at a benchmark number. That's your starting point. As you go through the process of setting a compensation figure for physician services, there are some key areas to keep an eye on. Penny Stroud, CEO for MD Ranger offered her thoughts: .

  1. Know what's reasonable: Stroud says not understanding what "reasonable" call coverage pay is can be a problem for some hospitals and health systems. "Most valuation consultants consider payments between the 25th percentile and 75th percentile to be reasonable, although paying in the 75th percentile is being very generous, she says.

  2. Understand exceptional circumstances: Getting and keeping a star physician may require financial leaders to occasionally go above the 75th [percentile] — which occurs in rural areas, she says. In those instances, you must use document the rationale and include the benchmark as part of your hiring policy and in the development of your contacts.
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