MGMA survey finds office payrolls rising; radiology may be bucking the trend

Most medical practices are finding it more and more expensive to staff up with essential business and office professionals. The rising payroll expenses have little to do with salary demands and much to do with federally mandated reporting programs: More rules and regulations call for more hands on deck.

That’s one of the key takeaways from the Medical Group Management Association’s (MGMA) latest survey of costs and revenues.

A total of 2,518 groups responded to the survey, collectively reporting an average 4.6% increase in spending on business operations staff per full-time-equivalent (FTE) physician since last year. Among multispecialty practices, this amounted to $52,009 per FTE physician. General administrative workers, IT specialists, accounting people and managed-care administrative staff were counted as business operations staff.

The 4.6% upturn may be a result of practices “placing greater value on employing staff with expertise in the business of care delivery and their ability to strategically align the business and clinical functions of the organization,” according to a prepared MGMA statement. It also is likely, the group said, that business ops staff are busy managing and reporting metrics for disparate government quality programs and negotiating payor contracts.

In the same published statement, Anders Gilberg, MGMA senior vice president of government affairs, put things in notably sharper relief.

“It’s extremely disappointing that medical practices are increasingly being forced to allocate more staff resources to manage onerous government regulations and processes,” he said. “The complex and overlapping requirements of current Medicare PQRS, Meaningful Use, and Value-Based Payment Modifier programs are cases in point, ironically increasing administrative reporting costs for practices instead of supporting their efforts to improve patient care.”

MGMA’s media relations department provided with some interesting numbers specific to radiology:

  • Radiology practices reported a 4.48% decrease in total support staff cost per FTE physician from 2012 to 2013.
  • Radiology practices reported a median of 1.52 total support staff per FTE physician. This compares with 4.43 for physician-owned nonsurgical, single specialty practices and 2.50 for nonsurgical, single-specialty practices owned by hospitals and integrated delivery systems.

Eleven radiology practices from a mix of private and hospital practice settings participated in the survey, however, providing a limited, specialty-specific data pool.

The report also reveals that primary-care practices have a median 2,505 patients per FTE physician and spend $265.21 per patient in total cost. Nonsurgical practices have 1,507 patients per FTE physician and earn $349.14 per patient in total medical revenue.

Access the full MGMA report here.