What’s the Biggest Challenge for Today’s Medical Practices?


Healthcare is undergoing a sea change, and a rapid one at that. The very way medical practices do business has changed substantially, and more alterations are on the near horizon. With change, of course, comes challenge. Two recent surveys illuminate the top issues facing healthcare executives and practitioners. The medical group management Association (MGMA)’s 2013 survey Medical Practice Today: What members have to say details medical practice executives’ biggest challenges, and the Wolters Kluwer Health 2013 Physician Outlook Survey does the same for physicians. Not surprisingly, both provider groups struggle with the changes in healthcare and their attending costs.

Three Doctors Standing Outside A Hospital

Medical Group Management Association members list their top five most applicable and intense challenges as:

1. Dealing with rising operating costs

2. Preparing for reimbursement models that place a greater share of financial risk on the practice

3. Managing finances with the uncertainty of Medicare reimbursement rates

4. Collecting from self-pay, high-deductible, and/or health savings account patients

  1. Understanding the total cost of an episode of care

Other day-to-day difficulties noted by MGMA survey respondents included:

  • Collaborating with payers to implement new payment models
  • Using systems to manage and evaluate population health
  • Implementing and optimizing electronic health record (EHR) systems

“Today, smaller outpatient practices are challenged with significant long term projects on top of the day-to-day operations. For example, meeting meaningful use requirements, preparing for transition to ICD-10, and other revenue cycle issues—these all take a cumulative toll on our already taxed resources,” notes Barbara Couch, CPC, Practice Manager at Physical Medicine Consultants.”

Susan L. Turney, MD, MS, FACMPE, FACP, MGMA president and CEO agrees. “Physician practices are doing more and more to innovate and respond to our rapidly changing environment to meet the needs of their patients, but with fewer resources,” says Turney. “They are working diligently to manage rising operating costs and prepare for potential cuts to reimbursement rates, and are also navigating a number of other transformative federal policies that will soon go into effect, such as health insurance exchanges. It’s understandable that financial management issues rank among the most pressing concerns for our members.”

Financial management issues also made the top of the list in the Physician Outlook Survey, which categorized physicians’ biggest concerns as:

•   Managing shifting reimbursement models with payors

  • Financial management (cost management/ increasing costs/declining reimbursement rates)
  • Spending sufficient time with patients
  • Dealing with impacts of the Affordable Care Act
  • Keeping up with the latest research
  • Improving patient care
  • Utilizing health care information technology in their practices
  • Managing increasing new patient volumes

The survey also uncovered a disturbing possibility: More than one-third of physicians say they are likely to leave their practice in the next two years. Though retirement is one of the top two reasons cited, the other is that physicians are finding it difficult to make their practices profitable.

“Physicians are facing increasing pressure to create efficiencies across their practices and drive down costs while at the same time demonstrating improved outcomes for patients,” said Sean Benson, Vice President of Innovation, Clinical Solutions, Wolters Kluwer Health. Technology may help struggling physician practices rise to the challenges they face, but only if well utilized. According to Benson, “To derive true benefits from HIT and EMR systems, physician offices and health systems must integrate clinical decision support into the workflow to enable improved decision-making at the point of care with patients.”

 About Author:  Mark Colangelo, CEO of Medlanding.com.  Mark has vast knowledge in the healthcare business sector.


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