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MGMA Shares Physician Practice Keys to Success

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   October 02, 2018

The management association presents survey data that highlights the best practices of the best medical groups.

Among physician practices, better performers excel in three primary areas: strategy, operations, and culture, according to a new report from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

MGMA released its "Winning Strategies from Top Medical Groups" report this week during the organization's annual conference in Boston. The report is based on data collected from more than 2,900 medical groups.

In addition to the common themes of exceptional strategy, operations, and culture, top performing medical groups have an enlightened approach to investment, the report says.

"While better performers have lower costs in some areas, their total expenses are often higher. They invest in good people, good technology and good systems—and then they maximize the return on those investments, achieving lower operating costs as a percent of revenue," the report says.

This week, MGMA President and CEO Halee Fisher-Wright, MD, told HealthLeaders that top performing medical groups are methodical when investing in their organizations.

"We have found that better performers are systematic about improvement and continually invest time and effort in new resources while maximizing the tools and information already available to them. The decision on what to invest in is directly tied to what the practice identifies as organizational goals. They only invest in those items that allow them to make significant progress toward those goals," she said.


Top performing medical groups can overcome "an overwhelmed, in-the-weeds mentality" by focusing continuously on strategic progress, the report says.

Fisher-Wright said planning and monitoring are essential for successful strategies.

"Identify what is important to the practice—more time, more revenue, better culture—then set goals. Those goals are your strategic outcomes. It is crucial to regularly monitor performance against your strategic plan or budget, and plan on making changes as necessary.  We recommend checking in at least monthly. Better performing organizations understand that lasting progress first starts with clear, focused efforts and investing in tools to accompany the vision," she said.

The report identifies 11 successful approaches to strategy:

1. Establish metrics and goals to maintain performance and accountability

2. Assess compensation models to retain top talent

3. Review vendor contracts for cost, value and strategic alignment

4. Invest in appropriate technology

5. Assess costs and reduce them when possible

6. Revise systems and processes that support the organization, particularly revenue cycle, billing, and collections

7. Increase patient access and engagement with cross-departmental strategies

8. Develop and implement standard work

9. Tie incentives to goals

10. Adjust schedules, operating hours and staffing to achieve goals

11. Focus on efficiently reporting key metrics, then benchmark metrics to identify new strategic opportunities


Similarly to successful investment strategies, top performing medical groups take a methodical approach to operational improvements.

"Better performers are systematic about improvement—they invest time in the effort, they invest resources, and they maximize the tools and information available to them," the report says

Better performers reported three top areas for improvement efforts:

  • Analytics and reporting: 55%
  • Billing and collections efficiency: 58%
  • Coding and documentation efficiency: 61%

Better performers reported three top technology investments:

  • New or upgraded EHR systems to support better patient communication, better provider experience, and efficiency
  • Electronic communication systems such as secure text messaging platforms for use between providers and secure file transfer systems to reduce faxing
  • Upgraded billing and coding software as well as revenue cycle management systems


Top performing medical groups focus on patient and staff engagement as well as a patient-focused culture, the report says.

"One example is how they approach provider and staff satisfaction surveys. It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that better performers are more likely to conduct them," the report says.

Better performers had a higher likelihood of conducting surveys to measure satisfaction metrics:

  • 90.4% of top performing medical groups conducted employee satisfaction surveys compared to 79.8% of all medical groups
  • 87.3% of top performing medical groups conducted provider satisfaction surveys compared to 74.9% of all medical groups

It is important for practice leaders model behavior and values to foster a patient-centered culture, Fisher-Wright said.

"Inclusiveness and transparency are keys to success in any organization. Including the main stakeholders on creating and sharing goals and results with everyone within the organization—even with the board of directors—allows the entire staff to collaborate and create positive progress and improvement," she said.

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


Successful strategies include assessing compensation models to retain talent.

In survey data, the top operational improvement area was coding and documentation efficiency.

Better performers reported a relatively high tendency of monitoring patient and staff satisfaction.

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