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Non-physician providers, support staff a driving factor behind more profitable physician groups, MGMA survey says

Survey was based on data from more than 2,900 organizations, 40 specialties and practice types, MGMA said.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Utilizing non-physician providers like nurse practitioners and physician assistants, as well as other key support staff is a key driver of productivity and profitability in medical groups, according to the 2017 MGMA DataDive Cost and Revenue Survey.

The survey was based on data from more than 2,900 organizations and 40 specialties and practice types, MGMA said.

The survey said practices with a non-physician provider to physician ratio 0.41 or more NPPs per full-time equivalent physician brought in more revenue after operating cost than practices with fewer NPPs regardless of specialty.

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Also, they see increased productivity. Throughout all specialties, the difference is one to three more support staff per FTE physician in physician-owned practices than in hospital-owned.

Other key survey findings affecting costs included payer mix, drug costs and IT expenses. First, payer mix showed a direct link to revenue. PC practices with a lower government payer mix share had higher operating costs but even higher revenue after operating cost per physicians in both physician and hospital owned practices. Looking at just the physician-owned practice groups, the groups whose government payer share was 30 percent or less yielded $159,307 more in revenue per physician than those with 50 percent or more. In hospital-owned practices the difference was $221,497, MGMA said.

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From 2015 to 2016 drug costs spiked more than 10 percent per physician, with the biggest increases seen in multispecialty practices of 53 percent more per physician and 87 percent in primary care practices.

Finally, IT expenses are slowly but steadily creeping up for medical practices as well. Over the course of the last year, physician-owned practices spent between nearly $2,000 and $4,000 more per FTE physician on IT operating expenses than they did the year before, which meant roughly $14,000-19,000 in IT operating expenses per physician each year. The expenses included EHR and patient portal maintenance, as well as repair of practice hardware and software needs.

Hospital-owned practices saw fewer expenses.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn