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MGMA Stat: Measuring the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

MGMA Stat - May 10, 2021

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Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, MGMA Stat has chronicled the crisis with real-time data. The following stories draw on responses from healthcare leaders on a range of topics — personal protective equipment (PPE), telehealth expansion and practice recovery — to reflect the true impact that COVID-19 has had on medical group practices.
Staffing, uncertainty top medical practices' list of challenges heading into 2022

A Sept. 21, 2021, MGMA Stat poll found that staffing was the biggest pandemic challenge for medical practices heading into 2022.

Many medical practice specialties appear immune to patient volume disruptions amid Delta variant spike

A Sept. 7, 2021, MGMA Stat poll asked medical practices how their patient volumes were affected by the Delta variant spike in the summer months. The results found a split between those whose patient volumes increased (42%) and those that stayed the same (43%), while only 15% reported patient volume decreases (15%). The poll had 751 applicable responses. Practices that saw patient volumes ebb reported an average decrease of 17% during the summer compared to spring 2021 levels. 
Full FDA approval of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine moves the needle on healthcare worker vaccine mandates

An Aug. 31, 2021, MGMA Stat poll found that almost half (46%) of medical practices will require COVID-19 vaccination for workers following the FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (now branded as Comirnaty), compared to 31% of practices that responded “no” and 23% that were unsure. The poll had 1,071 applicable responses.


Vaccine requirements for healthcare workers gain traction to defeat COVID-19 Delta's surge

An Aug. 3, 2021, MGMA Stat poll found that 18% of medical practices have a policy making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for workers, while 69% go as far as recommending immunization, and 13% have no policy. Several practice leaders who reported only recommending vaccinations said they planned on updating policies to require workers to be vaccinated once a vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA. [Update: The FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 23.]
Training in webside manner can go a long way in strengthening digital care connections


A July 20, 2021 MGMA Stat poll found that 15% of medical practices have clinicians trained in webside manner for virtual visits in the new era of expanded telehealth.

After a year of pandemic tumult, medical practices consider bonuses to attract top talent


A June 22 MGMA Stat poll found that 33% of medical practices have added or expanded bonuses to recruit staff this year, while 9% are considering it. The poll had 815 applicable responses. Among those who have added or expanded bonuses, MAs, RNs, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are the most frequently cited positions for new bonuses. Existing staff are increasingly offered bonuses for successful referrals of new hires. Many practice leaders phase in sign-on bonuses after a probationary period (e.g., 90 days or six months).


Nearly half of America's doctors are busier than ever as COVID-19 recovery continues


A June 1, 2021 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Are your doctors working more hours on average in 2021 versus 2020?” From 844 applicable responses, the majority (49%) said “yes,” another 26% responded “no,” and 25% noted the hours worked on average remained the “same” compared to last year.

MAs MIA? The COVID-19 pandemic made hiring medical assistants harder than ever


A May 4 MGMA Stat poll found 88% of healthcare leaders reported difficulty in recruiting MAs, while 12% did not. The poll had 1,043 applicable responses.

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

An April 27, 2021, MGMA Stat poll found that 23% of medical practices reported 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. Another 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. Another 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.

Fostering a sense of connection with your practice's remote workforce


An April 13, 2021 MGMA Stat poll found that more than two in five healthcare leaders report none of their workforce works remotely at least 50% of the time, and just 15% of respondents plan to increase their remote workforce in 2021.

Unexpected physician retirements attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic

A March 2, 2021 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “In the last year, has a physician retired unexpectedly from your organization?” Among the 28% who responded "yes," nearly half (45%) said it was related to the pandemic.

Patient satisfaction with telehealth grew during the pandemic — but are enough practices measuring?

A Feb. 16, 2021 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Does your practice measure telehealth patient satisfaction?” While only 43% said "yes," a majority of those who do reported that patient satisfaction with telehealth either improved (61%) or had no change (33%) in the last year.

he future of telehealth likely to change in 2021

A Feb. 9, 2021 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders how they expect their organization's telehealth utilization to change in 2021. Respondents were split between expecting an increase (31%), a decrease (35%) and no change (34%). Among those who expect utilization to increase, respondents cited patient demand and the convenience of telehealth. Those who expect it to decrease in 2021 cited coverage concerns (e.g., they anticipate payers will discontinue current reimbursement levels). 

Updating patient payments amid economic turmoil


A Feb. 2, 2021 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Has your organization changed its policies for patient payment plans in the last year?” More than one in four (27%) said “yes," with 73 the majority responding "no."


COVID-19 vaccine policy: Is your medical practice ready?
A December 15, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Do you have a policy for staff COVID-19 vaccinations?” The majority of the 900 respondents (47%) said “no," while 32% said “in-progress." The remaining 21% responded “yes.”
 
The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on healthcare practice ownership

A November 17, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Has your practice’s ownership status changed in the last year?” The majority of the 956 respondents (88%) said “no,” while 12% said “yes.”
  • Among healthcare leaders who didn’t have an ownership change this year, 8% said they are considering a change next year, compared to 92% who said they are not.
  • Among the practices for which ownership status changed: 
    • The majority (51%) cited new owner/partner(s).
    • 27% said they sold to a hospital or system.
    • 7% merged with another practice.
    • 4% sold to a private equity firm.
    • 11% responded “other,” which included answers such as bankruptcy or going independent after being in a hospital system.
 
Party in a pandemic? How to boost medical practice staff morale for the holidays
An October 27, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “How will you promote staff morale during the holidays?”
  • The majority of the 618 respondents (46%) said “bonuses.”
  • 19% responded “non-monetary gifts.”
  • 11% said “a party.”
  • 14% said a combination of two or more.
  • 9% responded “other.”
In addition, another 266 respondents said they were “unsure,” underscoring the predicament facing countless office leaders in healthcare this holiday season.
Don’t sweat the small charges: Effective card on file collections amid COVID-19

A September 29, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Does your practice keep patient credit card information on file?” The majority (32%) of the 987 respondents answered “yes,” while 68% said “no.”

Among practices with credit card on file (CCoF) policies, respondents noted that their practice collects the following upfront:
  • Combination (copay, deductible/coinsurance, etc.) (69%)
  • Copay (20%)
  • Nothing (6%)
  • Major procedure estimate (3%)
  • Deductible/coinsurance (1%).
 
“Where’s my vaccine?” Shipment delays disrupt plans for flu vaccine clinics

A September 25, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Is your practice experiencing delays in getting flu vaccines this year?” The majority (66%) of the 706 respondents answered “no,” while 34% said “yes.” Among practice leaders reporting delays, 48% attributed it to availability; another 47% cited problems with shipping, while 5% said “other.”
Reassessing space needs for your medical practice post-COVID-19
A September 1, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Does your practice plan to reduce its physical space in the next 6 months?” The majority (88%) of the 1,011 respondents answered “no,” while 12% said “yes.”
 
The KPIs that matter most in medical practices’ COVID-19 recovery
An August 18, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Is your practice changing its KPIs/metrics amid COVID-19?” The majority (67%) of the 472 respondents said “no,” while 33% said “yes.”
 
The rising price of keeping your practice safe: Managing PPE cost increases

An August 11, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders about how the total cost of obtaining personal protective equipment (PPE) has changed this year. The majority (98%) of the 855 respondents said “increased,” while only 1% said “stayed the same,” and 1% stated “decreased.”
 
Updating check-in policies amid COVID-19 means a fresh take on patient experience

An August 4, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders about the most common check-in method for in-person visits this year. The majority (71%) of the 722 respondents responded “front desk,” while 17% said “phone,” 7% stated “online/portal,” and 5% answered “kiosk.”
 
Fear remains a factor: Safety cited as top reason for patients deferring care amid the COVID-19 pandemic
A July 21, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders what were their patients’ top reason for deferring care amid COVID-19. The majority (87%) of the 697 respondents cited “safety,” 9% responded “job/insurance loss” and 4% reported “other.”

The most common “other” responses were:
  • Bans on elective surgery amid the pandemic (31%)
  • Unwillingness to comply with safety requirements (25%)
  • Visitor restrictions in the clinic (19%)
 
Managing payer mix challenges during the COVID-19 crisis
A July 14, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Has your practice's payer mix changed amid COVID-19?” The majority (74%) of the 589 respondents answered “no,” while 26% said “yes.”
 
New patient appointments an ongoing struggle amid COVID-19
A July 7, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders how their organizations’ new patient volumes were affected amid the COVID-19 crisis. More than half (55%) of the 839 respondents reported new patient volume decreased, while 25% noted it stayed the same, and 20% said new patient volume increased. 
Most COVID-19-related staff compensation cuts were limited, temporary
A June 30, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “Has your organization reduced staff compensation amid COVID-19?” The majority (67%) of the 1,105 respondents answered “no,” while “33% answered “yes.”
 
COVID-19: Pandemic prompted compensation drops for practice executives, managers

A June 26, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “Has your compensation dropped amid COVID-19?” The majority (61%) of the 906 respondents answered “yes,” while 39% responded “no.”
 
Long-term COVID-19 recovery for medical practices: Handling phased reopening and ramping up telehealth
A June 23, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “Does your practice have a long-term recovery plan for COVID-19?” The majority (52%) of the 675 respondents answered “yes,” while 48% responded “no.” For those who answered “yes,” the most frequent response was “phased/staged reentry plan,” followed by “continuing to ramp up telehealth.”

Rising above: Telehealth cited as top initiative for helping medical practices through COVID-19

A June 16, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “What practice initiative has helped your organization the most amid COVID-19?” Not surprisingly, a majority (60%) of 308 respondents cited the addition and expansion of telehealth services as a major initiative that helped throughout months of stay-at-home orders that saw a significant decline in patient volumes and revenue. This 
 
COVID-19 continues to dramatically impact patient volumes
A June 9, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “Has your organization recovered any of its patient volume since COVID-19 began?” Of 1,212 respondents, the majority (87%) answered “yes,” while 13% responded “no.” Of the respondents who answered “yes,” 49% reported seeing more than 75% of their pre-COVID-19 patient volume.

Payer rules, patient ease of use top telehealth challenges for medical practices

A June 2, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “What is your greatest operational challenge in providing telehealth services moving forward?” Of 515 respondents, a majority (39%) cited payer rules/reimbursement; 23% noted patients’ technological knowledge and access limitations; 15% reported technological issues (e.g., connectivity and support); 11% pointed to buy-in (by patients, providers and/or staff); and 10% noted workflow and scheduling as their greatest challenge. “Other” accounted for 4% of responses.
 
Masks remain a top challenge in medical practices’ quest to secure PPE, supplies

A May 26, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “Is your practice still struggling to obtain adequate personal protective equipment?” Of the 1,060 respondents, the majority (57%) answered “yes,” while 43% responded “no.” Practice leaders who answered “yes” were asked, “Which PPE is most difficult to acquire for your practice?” Masks (76%) were the most-frequent response, followed by:
  • Gowns (27%)
  • Disinfectants (16%)
  • Gloves (7%)
  • Face shields (5%)
  • All (2%)
  • Other (1%).
 
COVID-19 took significant toll on medical practices’ ancillary services

A May 21, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “By what percentage did your ancillary service volume decrease since COVID-19?” Of 483 respondents, 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%.
 
COVID-19’s impact on provider compensation

A May 19, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “Has your organization’s provider compensation been impacted amid COVID-19?” Of 1,032 respondents, the majority (62%) answered “yes, for all,” 20% responded “yes, for some,” and 19% indicated “no.” Respondents who answered “yes” were then asked to elaborate. Some of the most frequent answers included:
  • Reducing hours/salaries: In many physician-owned practices, many respondents noted that doctors took voluntary reductions in hours and salary.
  • Cutting bonuses: Many respondents reported eliminating performance bonuses.
  • Trimming CME: Some respondents’ organizations reduced funding for continuing medical education.

Bringing practice staff back from furlough safely: Adding the right protocols and education

A May 12, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked medical practice leaders, “Have you implemented a plan to return furloughed staff post-COVID-19?” Of 1,058 respondents, the majority (52%) responded “yes,” while 10% indicated “no.” Additionally, 38% of practices reported no staff had been furloughed. 
 
As patients slowly return for in-person visits, volumes and revenue remain a major focus for medical practices

A May 8, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked medical practice leaders, “Have you reopened your practice to patients in person?” Of 1,122 respondents, the majority (89%) responded “yes,” while 11% indicated “no.”
 
Safety, unpredictable volumes and fear pose challenges for reopening medical practices amid COVID-19

A May 5, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked medical practice leaders, "What is your biggest challenge in reopening your practice as stay-at-home orders start to lift?" Of the 602 respondents, top responses included:
  • Developing safety protocols in the office and ensuring appropriate supplies
  • Unpredictable patient volumes
  • Managing patient and staff fears of exposure

Overcoming the top billing and coding challenges for telehealth and telephone visits during COVID-19

An April 28, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked medical practice leaders, "What is your biggest coding/billing challenge for telehealth and telephone visits amid COVID-19?" Of the 419 respondents, top responses included:
  • Inconsistent payer rules: Respondents reported the variance among payers on which codes will be paid results in administrative burden in trying to account for evolving billing requirements, especially with place of service (POS) codes and modifiers.
  • Pay parity and accuracy: Other respondents noted issues with accurate payments for billed services, as well as parity for approved services.
  • Documentation: As many providers are new to providing telehealth services after a rapid expansion following regulatory waiver implementation, learning and consistently applying new rules for accurately documenting those services was a frequent challenge cited by respondents.

Addressing provider and staff mental health amid COVID-19

An April 21, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “Have you addressed your providers' and staff's mental health amid COVID-19?” Of 1,018 respondents, the majority (53%) answered “yes,” while 47% responded “no.” For those who responded “yes,” some of the more frequent courses of action included mental health counseling/services (43%), check-ins/transparency (32%) and wellness program/room (9%).
 
Medical practices turn to small business loans, provider relief funds in wake of COVID-19

An April 14, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked medical practice leaders, “Have you applied for a loan under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program?” Of 923 respondents, the majority (76%) responded “yes,” while 24% indicated “no.” 
 
Staying afloat as patient volumes and revenues decline during COVID-19

An April 7, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked medical practice leaders, “Has your organization seen a drop in patient volume amid COVID-19?” Of 1,635 respondents, the majority (97%) responded “yes,” while 3% indicated “no.” Additionally, 71% of practices that reported a drop in patient volume noted that the decrease was by 50% or more.
 
Medical practices innovate care delivery, increase telehealth access amid COVID-19

A March 31, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked medical practice leaders, “Has your practice expanded telehealth access amid COVID-19?” Of 1,553 respondents, the majority (97%) responded “yes,” while 3% indicated “no.”
 
Coding guidance for new ICD-10-CM and lab testing codes for COVID-19

A March 25, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders: “Will you use the new ICD-10-CM and lab testing codes for COVID-19?” Of 530 respondents, the majority (64%) answered “yes,” while 36% responded “no.”
 
The right tools for the job: Securing personal protective equipment and supplies to treat COVID-19

A March 19, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked medical practice leaders, “Is your practice facing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE)?” Of 1,131 respondents, the majority (89%) responded “yes” while 11% indicated “no.” 
 
Handling staff shortages in your medical practice amid COVID-19

A March 17, 2020 MGMA Stat poll asked medical practice leaders if they have experienced staff shortages amid the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19. Of 1,220 respondents, the majority (60%) responded “no” while 40% indicated “yes.”
 
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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.
 
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