Recent analysis of costs associated with physician practices gives credence to rheumatologists who’ve felt rising administrative expenses chip away at their bottom line.
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The MGMA Cost Survey: 2014 Report Based on 2013 Data recorded a 4.6% rise in administration costs for physician practices in 2014 compared with the previous year. Average spending increases for general administrative staff, information technology (IT) staff, general and patient accounting staff, and managed care administrative staff came to $52,009 per full-time equivalent physician, according to MGMA’s analysis.
The report suggests the bulk of cost hikes have come from the health IT sector, which rings true for rheumatologist Deborah Dyett Desir, MD, medical director and founder of the Arthritis & Osteoporosis Center in Hamden, Conn. Her practice has used electronic health records since 2001 and finds the new meaningful use requirements as “onerous” as they are time consuming.
“We are not tech naïve,” says Dr. Desir, a member of the ACR Committee on Rheumatologic Care. “We always reconcile medications. In order for this to ‘count’ for meaningful use, we must click seven additional boxes after we complete the review of the patient’s medications. Taken separately, these things seem small. Unfortunately, each small requirement is just one of many. We are being destroyed by a thousand small cuts.”
Dr. Desir adds that the new study serves as support that physician practice costs have been skyrocketing for some time.
“The problem is not limited to government regulations,” she says. “Private insurers increase costs by requiring [practices] to employ staff solely to handle things, such as ‘prior authorizations.’ Billing staff spends countless hours appealing denials for services that we already have rendered.”
Combine the inability to raise rates for services, the fact that adding too many new patients can reduce the quality of care and the difficulty in changing a payer mix, and Dr. Desir says, “the only option [for many practices] is to limit pay raises and reduce physician compensation.” (posted 11/14/14)
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.