Join the club: Most practices find today's operational issues overwhelming

July 21, 2011

Overwhelmed by changing reimbursement models, emerging regulations and adopting new technology? You?re not alone. Respondents to a recent survey said four of the top five ?considerable or extreme challenges? they face relate to these operational issues.Three of the most troubling issues for practices had not even been on practice group leader?s radars in previous years.

Overwhelmed by changing reimbursement models, emerging regulations, and adopting new technology? You’re not alone.

Respondents to the 2011 Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Medical Practice Today survey said four of the top five “considerable or extreme challenges” they face relate to these operational issues.

Three of the most troubling issues for practices had not been on practice group leaders’ radars in previous years.

One new concern-and the most significant for practice leaders-is reimbursement models that place a greater share of financial risk on the practice. Many health plans have begun implementing risk- and savings-sharing programs, as has Medicare through its Accountable Care Organization (ACO) initiative. Not surprisingly, implementing or optimizing an ACO also made the top five, another new challenge for many practices.

Electronic health records (EHRs) continue to be a significant challenge for practices, particularly for small and medium-sized groups wrestling with system selection and planning. Respondents rated participating in the EHR meaningful use program as their second most serious issue. Selecting and implementing a new EHR was number four, a move up from eighth place last year, no doubt driven by approaching deadlines for incentive payments.

These reimbursement and technology concerns pushed the perennial practice focus on rising operating costs down to number three-and moved all the other financial and payment challenges that worried practice leaders most last year into the second tier of issues for 2011.

Still, “practice leaders clearly need to balance their attention among very serious financial issues related to their practices, alongside the need to rapidly innovate and adopt technology in an uncertain time,” said William Jessee, MD, FACMPE, president and chief executive officer of MGMA.

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