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COVID-19 recovery for medical groups: Almost half of practices still below pre-pandemic visit volumes

MGMA Stat - April 29, 2021

Benchmarking & Forecasting

Patient Access

Data Analytics & Reporting

Nate Moore CPA, MBA, FACMPE

The Medical Group Management Association’s most recent MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “How do your 2021 visit volumes compare to pre-pandemic levels?”
  • 23% report volumes are above pre-pandemic levels, with some practice leaders reporting increasing levels of patients with higher-acuity care needs, often a byproduct of deferred care.
  • 33% say volumes remain about the same, with telehealth visits largely cited as the reason the practices were able to build back to 2019 levels.
  • 44% note that their practice is still below pre-pandemic volumes, with reasons including restrictions on certain procedures, patients continuing to avoid care out of safety concerns, and scheduling issues related to reduced provider capacity in the clinic or impacts from school closures in various states.

The poll was conducted April 27, 2021, with 848 applicable responses.

There are plenty of things that the COVID-19 pandemic has done to your practice, but what has the pandemic done for your practice? For example:
  • Has the pandemic made your practice more aware of appointment utilization?
  • As patient volumes were limited and surgeries were postponed, how did you prioritize appointments?
  • What did you learn about your appointment templates?
  • How did your scheduling change? 

Medical practices are looking at appointment data in new and different ways to prioritize appointments that lead to more surgeries or ancillary procedures. Practices are also more cognizant of unfilled appointment slots and making more efforts to identify and reduce unfilled slots. A March 2 MGMA Stat poll showed that 28% of respondents had a physician unexpectedly retire from their organization during the past year. As appointment supply is constrained, either by public health concerns or unplanned provider changes, understanding and leveraging available appointment slots is crucial.

Medical practices have automated reports to get information faster and have added metrics regarding telehealth and cash balances to dashboards to better respond to the pandemic. With new financial constraints during the pandemic, more practices are adding cost information from their accounting systems to present physicians and owners with a more complete financial picture.

An Aug. 18, 2020, MGMA Stat poll revealed that one in three healthcare leaders report changing their key performance indicators or metrics in response to COVID-19. How long has it been since you updated your practice dashboards? Consider adding metrics such as percentage of telehealth visits to your dashboard, but also think about how your practice has changed since the pandemic. It might be time to add metrics for appointment utilization or provider access metrics such as days to third-next-available appointment.

Do you have more employees working from home? An April 15 MGMA Stat poll indicated that about 56% of practices have staff working remotely at least  50% of the time. As billing and other teams have moved to work remotely, tracking productivity and comparing to workloads before the pandemic has become increasingly important. Benchmarking remote employees against peers or against pre-pandemic volumes can be very insightful. Whether employees return to the office, reviewing workflows and workloads can help practices become more efficient, especially as patient volumes return to normal. For example, running the same old reports out of habit may not be the best use of employees’ time. Consider focusing reporting on actionable items instead. 

Topics such as these will be discussed during the Medical Practice Excellence: Pathways Conference DX, May 11-13. Especially watch for my session, “Front-Loading Your Revenue Cycle,” on Tuesday, May 11, for an interactive discussion about using appointments and appointment data to drive performance throughout the revenue cycle. I’ll also be speaking Wednesday, May 12, during my session, “Rethinking Metrics, Dashboards, and Appointments After COVID-19.” This session will provide examples from across the country about how practices have changed and how administrators have responded to the unique challenges of the pandemic.

Do you have any best practices or success stories to share on this topic? Please let us know by emailing us at connection@mgma.com.

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JOIN MGMA STAT

Our ability at MGMA to provide great resources, education and advocacy depends on a strong feedback loop with healthcare leaders. To be part of this effort, sign up for MGMA Stat and make your voice heard in our weekly polls. Sign up by texting “STAT” to 33550 or visit mgma.com/stat. Polls will be sent to your phone via text message.

Additional resources

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About the Author

Nate Moore
Nate Moore CPA, MBA, FACMPE
President Moore Solutions, Inc.

www.mooresolutionsinc.com

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