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    Chris Harrop
    Chris Harrop

    Medical groups struggling with staffing challenges are finding ways to maintain and sometimes increase visit volumes in 2024, according to a new MGMA Stat poll.

    An April 30, 2024, poll found that 77% of medical groups report that visit volumes thus far in 2024 are about the same (31%) or above (46%) last year’s levels, while 23% say that they are behind their 2023 volumes. The poll had 357 applicable responses.

    What’s influencing stagnant or lower volumes in 2024?

    For the nearly one in four groups that have reported lower volumes thus far in 2024 versus last year, the most common challenges noted included:

    • A significant decrease in sick visits relative to 2023, especially in pediatrics
    • Provider availability being a limiting factor
    • Issues of market saturation and new competition.

    Other reasons for reduced volumes range from temporary, intentional shifts — such as purposefully reducing appointments due to an EHR transition — to others that could end up having longer-term consequences, such as slowdowns in bariatric surgery due to the popularity of GLP-1 medications resulting in patient weight loss.

    However, many of the respondents to this poll who reported relatively unchanged volumes in the first four months of 2024 point to many of the same core issues — continued staffing shortages, competition from new entrants to the market — as holding back potential growth. Some practice leaders say the challenge is not with how many clinicians or staff they have; instead, it’s a question of no-shows and cancellations, possibly driven by patient reluctance amid heightened consumer prices elsewhere in the economy.

    What’s working for those with higher volumes?

    The list of factors making the biggest impact for group practice leaders who are enjoying higher visit volumes includes:

    • The addition of new providers
    • New clinics opening and more walk-in clinic availability
    • New therapies and treatments added to the practice’s offerings
    • Improved marketing and automated patient outreach efforts
    • An overall increase in patient demand post-pandemic, including preventative medicine visits
    • Medicaid expansion in some states
    • Improvements to appointment templates and schedule optimization.

    Trends to watch

    Efforts to optimize provider calendars to boost productivity and revenue are especially crucial given increased patient demand and ongoing shortages of physicians, other providers and staff in the post-COVID-19 era.

    A similar MGMA Stat poll in May 2022 found a majority (55%) of medical groups had increased visit volumes through that point in 2022 compared to 2021, marking the beginning of the ongoing surge in patient demand following periods of pandemic lockdowns and significant spikes in COVID-19 cases.

    On the physician front, the Association of American Medical College’s latest report estimates a physician shortage of 13,500 to 86,000 by 2036. While this is a lower projection than the group’s 2021 analysis of up to a 120,000-doctor shortfall in 2034, it still represents a colossal threat for the industry and patients alike as access issues worsen without intervention or innovation.

    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 — by texting “STAT” to 33550 or visiting — and make your voice heard in our weekly polls. Polls will be sent to your phone via text message.

    Chris Harrop

    Written By

    Chris Harrop

    A veteran journalist, Chris Harrop serves as managing editor of MGMA Connection magazine, MGMA Insights newsletter, MGMA Stat and several other publications across MGMA. Email him.

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