Investing in physician practices may boost revenue, volume and productivity

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | May 25, 2021
Business Affairs
Investing in physician practices may help slowly raise revenue per physician, volume and productivity as part of the COVID-19 recovery effort
More investments in physician practices could help raise revenue per physician, volume and productivity in the post-COVID-19 world, according to Syntellis Performance Solutions.

A provider of enterprise performance management software and analytics solutions, the company recorded slow increases in these areas in its 2021 Healthcare Financial Trends Survey as a result of higher investment activity, based on information from over 125,000 physicians at 10,000 physician practices.

"We see volume increases in the ambulatory space growing at a faster pace than within the acute setting. Organizations that want to stay competitive may want to consider how to compete in these areas. There are competitive and pricing pressures and consumers are looking for lower-cost options for care. Having a strong ambulatory network could drive competitive advantage with consumers of care," Steve Wasson, executive vice president and general manager of data and intelligence solutions at Syntellis, told HCB News.

Using its Axiom Comparative Analytics solution, the company evaluated financial, payroll and labor utilization benchmarks. It found physician productivity per full-time equivalent (FTE) rose 3.6% at the end of March 2021 compared to the same quarter last year. It also saw a 2.8% rise in productivity per FTE across all specialty cohorts from Q4 2020 to Q1 2021. Net revenue per full-time physician increased as well by 1% in the same period and remains 9.4% higher in Q1 2021 than the same time last year.

Despite these positive outlooks, expenses rose 4.4% quarter-over-quarter from Q4 2020 to Q1 2021 and had a 4% increase YOY. Part of this was increases in physician compensation, which climbed 7.3% per FTE from Q4 2020 to Q1 2021. Q1 2021 compensation per FTE is also 1.1% higher than Q1 2020.

This rise in expenses has, however, led to an 8% increase in investments from Q4 2020, with health systems investing an average of $239,502 per physician as of Q1 2021. Investment per FTE for this quarter remains 1.9% less than Q1 2020 pre-pandemic levels, however.

Many entities are looking to tighten their belts when it comes to costs, making boards reluctant to invest in physician practices. Wasson says that while this hesitation might lead to some ups and downs for these measures, Wasson believes it is slightly more likely than not that these metrics will continue to slowly return to pre-pandemic levels.

"We also expect to see successful organizations increasing their efforts to gain back patient/customer loyalty," he said. "Over the last year, patients have been hesitant to enter the healthcare system. Now that things are starting to get back to normal, we expect healthcare systems to be launching marketing and CRM efforts to reengage with their populations and drive them back into the physician practices. Health systems and physician practices that take concerted steps to reengage with their patients and rebuild customer loyalty will recover faster."

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