Using relative value units for staff pay

August 20, 2010

Understand how to differentiate between pay compensation for various staff positions.

Q: Which job should pay more: receptionist or medical assistant?

A: It often is difficult to determine how much to pay a particular staff person-and how much to pay him or her in relation to other staff in the office. Many factors can compound this decision.

Practices in high cost-of-living and urban locations often need to pay more to attract quality staff than do practices in suburban locations. Practices in rural locations may pay more or less depending on the availability of staff. In some rural locations, a commuting population may accept less pay for a local job, whereas in other rural locations, a practice may need to pay more to attract staff from urban or suburban centers due to a lack of local qualified staff. Local or regional unemployment can be a big factor in any setting, as can a hospital closure.

For this study, I reviewed data from several reports representing a wide variety of practice sizes, locations, years, and specialties of medicine. All jobs were in outpatient settings. I created a baseline, using "1" for a medical assistant to compare with the other jobs. Several free resources online, such as salary.com, can help determine the dollar amount of "1" in your community. Some of the medical-specialist CPA firms that have members who belong to the National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants (nschbc.org) perform annual local studies in their communities that they make available to clients or for a fee. TheHealthCareGroup.com also sells a staff salary report.

I don't necessarily agree with some of the findings of my study. For example, I think receptionists are at least as important as MAs, but the table below represents the reported data.

Borglum is with Professional Management and Marketing, Santa Rosa, California. He is an editorial consultant to Medical Economics. Do you have a primary care-related practice management question that you would like to see answered here? Send it to medec@advanstar.com
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