COVID-19 took significant toll on medical practices’ ancillary services

MGMA Stat - May 22, 2020

Staffing Models

Patient Flow

Patient Access

Andrew Hajde CMPE
Chris Harrop


The Medical Group Management Association’s most recent MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “By what percentage did your ancillary service volume decrease since COVID-19?” The majority (55%) answered 51% or more, while 41% responded in the range of 11% to 50% and only 3% reported a decrease of 1% to 10%.

The poll was conducted May 21, 2020, and had 483 applicable responses.

Telehealth services were added and expanded dramatically amid the COVID-19 pandemic — 97% of healthcare leaders reported their practices expanded telehealth access, per a March 31 MGMA Stat poll.

Once practices made the switch to see a large proportion of their patients via telehealth in the early weeks of the public health emergency (PHE), ancillary services largely went by the wayside for ambulatory clinics. Many types of screenings, such as X-rays and ultrasounds, are impossible to do remotely. This caused a dilemma for many physicians and their patients whose care requires that they be seen in-person for certain services.

These lost ancillary services paired with diminished elective procedures and other factors to cause an average 55% decrease in revenue and 60% decrease in patient volume by April, according to an MGMA Government Affairs financial impact survey.

Practices that are reopening need to take into consideration strict new safety protocols for providers, staff and patients alike. Waiting rooms have been rearranged to provide social distancing, patients are waiting in cars for their appointments, plexiglass has been put up at many front desk counters, masks are required, and extensive cleaning protocols are being closely monitored. These new efforts are paired with an ongoing need to source and secure personal protective equipment (PPE) and additional cleaning supplies to help keep facilities safe and financially viable.

Part of that reopening strategy to bring ancillary volumes closer to normal can involve taking a closer look at data within your practice management system, according to Nate Moore, CPA, MBA, FACMPE, owner, Moore Solutions Inc. On his April 27 BIG Ideas podcast, Moore said that one approach to the issue involves answering a simple question: “What was more likely to drive ancillary business?”

Examining 2019 data could hold the key to which providers, appointment types or referring physicians most frequently result in an ancillary service visit within the next 90 days. For example, if new patient visits often led to an ancillary visit shortly thereafter, a practice leader could prioritize and schedule more new patient visits on appointment templates and build a strategy for a reopening plan that is likely to yield more ancillary volume.

MGMA Stat

Would you like to join our polling panel to voice your opinion on important practice management topics? MGMA Stat is a national poll that addresses practice management issues, the impact of new legislation and related topics. Participation is open to all healthcare leaders. Results of other polls and information on how to participate in MGMA Stat are available at: mgma.com/stat.

Additional resources

About the Authors

Andrew Hajde
Andrew Hajde CMPE
Assistant Director, Association Content MGMA Englewood, Colorado

Chris Harrop
Chris Harrop
Senior Editorial Manager MGMA

Chris Harrop, senior editorial manager, MGMA, serves as editor of MGMA's flagship print publication, MGMA Connection magazine, and oversees various association content publications while also serving as a contributing author for the organization. Prior to MGMA, he was managing editor of multiple news organizations in the Denver metro area. Email him.

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