Top 5 challenges for medical practices

By Healthcare IT News
01:57 PM

Qualifying for meaningful use incentives and choosing the right electronic health record system are among the top 5 challenges medical practice managers are facing today, according to new research from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), which represents 21,500 members.

The MGMA 2011 Medical Practice Today: What Members Have to Say revealed the top challenges of running a group practice:

  1. Preparing for reimbursement models that place a greater share of financial risk on the practice
  2. Participating in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' EHR Meaningful Use incentive program
  3. Dealing with rising operating costs
  4. Selecting and implementing a new EHR system
  5. Implementing and/or optimizing an accountable care organization

[See also: Docs face problems as they fall behind on HIPAA 5010.]

“Operational and financial challenges – and the uncertainty associated with those issues so fundamental to the financial health and viability of a practice – continue to be difficult territory for those who lead medical practices,” said William F. Jessee, MD, president and CEO of MGMA. “Also, the pressure to adopt technology and the morass our members face in determining the best systems for their practices, and then complying with the various government programs to receive incentives and avoid penalties, are proving to be of particular concern.”

The research showed that the issues members deemed to be even more challenging this year than last year were also associated with new operational elements and information technology adoption.

[See also: EMR usability seen lacking.]

“Implementing and/or optimizing a patient-centered medical home” was 8.5 percent more challenging than last year, according to the report. “Implementing standardized, machine-readable patient ID cards” was 9.1 percent more challenging.

“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,” Jessee said. “Our members are at the frontlines of evolving healthcare, and MGMA is working diligently to provide them the resources and advocacy they require to address the issues they struggle with daily.”

Challenges differ by specialty

Within the top five reported challenges, MGMA observed differences among medical specialties. Cardiology practices found the top-ranked challenge, “Preparing for reimbursement models that place a greater share of financial risk on the practice,” more challenging than their peers in other specialties.

Orthopedic surgery practices found “selecting and implementing a new EHR system” to be more challenging than it was to other specialties.

MGMA invited members Jan. 7-21 via e-mail to participate in a Web-based questionnaire about their practices. Members rated 44 issues and identified which challenges were most applicable to their daily work. For each issue, respondents rated the degree of challenge on a five-point scale: 1 = no challenge, 2 = low challenge, 3 = moderate challenge, 4 = considerable challenge and 5 = extreme challenge. MGMA received responses from 1,190 individuals.