Docs are paying more for technology than ever before

Uptick due in part to meaningful use
By Erin McCann
10:59 AM
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Medical practices across the U.S. are now spending a lot more on technology this year, up nearly 34 percent from four years ago, according to a new MGMA report.

The annual report published by Medical Group Management Association, which represents physician practice groups nationwide, shows that just from last year alone, physician-owned multi-specialty groups reported nearly a 12 percent increase in technology-related operating costs. Overall, those costs tallied to $20,693 per full-time physician in 2014. This uptick, as the report suggests, is due in large part to the federal meaningful use program and its mandate to switch to digital records.

When looking back just four years ago, that number has shot up nearly 34 percent, according to survey results, which were collected from physician multi specialty practices across the U.S. 

[See also: Listen up, docs: HIT could save your job.]

Overall operating costs since 2010 did not see as marked growth as technology did, with docs reporting just over a 12 percent increase in spending on total operating costs doc.

"As technology continues to evolve, medical practices must likewise also evolve," said Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, CEO of MGMA, in a September 24 press statement announcing report findings. "The way patients ask for and receive care is changing. The increased use of technology can improve the quality of patient care by improving records management, optimizing workflow and meeting HIPAA compliancy requirements."

[See also: AMA docs fed up with EHR woes and For patients, docs' digital prowess still underwhelms.]

Not only did docs report paying a significant amount more for technology-related operating costs, they also cited tapping more non-physician providers, or NPPs.

Physician-owned, single surgical specialities, for example, noted a sizable 44 percent increase in using these NPPs since 2010. This uptick, according to the report, is due to the growing physician shortages combined with the higher number of new patients coming into practices as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

"NPPs are essential members of our healthcare delivery team," said Michael Brohawn, practice administrator at Orthopaedics East & Sports Medicine Center and MGMA member, in a statement. "They improve patient care by increasing the efficiency of our physicians, which allows them to focus on more acute needs. NPPs also improve patient satisfaction by creating greater access and appointment availability, and they reduce the direct and overhead costs of the practice."

The MGMA report findings are based on the responses collected from 3,120 physician groups.