Research Provides New Data for Medical Practices to Navigate through COVID-19

October 6, 2020

Insights from MGMA’s data report tracks key performance indicators and best practices for optimizing patient access and sustaining financial viability through the pandemic.

As the healthcare industry continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, benchmarking operations through 2020 can provide a strong baseline for medical practices and their ability to survive in the coming months and along their road to recovery.

Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), in conjunction with its annual MGMA DataDive Practice Operations Report, released a report, “Benchmarking for Patient Access in a Post-COVID-19 World,” to provide guidance and insights for medical practice administrators and physician leaders as they progress back to pre-COVID-19 levels of appointment availability and volume, and to have valuable data benchmarks to aspire to in the new normal.

“Through this period of uncertainty and anxiety during a global pandemic, patients still need care," says Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, MMM, FAAP, FACMPE, president and CEO of MGMA. "A June 2020 survey found more than half of patients (57%) report having a medical condition requiring immediate attention. One of the keys to restoring patient visit volumes and avoiding deferred care is ensuring that these patients feel safe when returning to their medical practice office. Medical practices need to win patients’ trust and this benchmarking data will allow medical practices to make necessary adjustments that will allow them to remain competitive in this ever-evolving industry.”

“Benchmarking for Patient Access in a Post-COVID-19 World” includes fundamental metrics that dictate how medical practices can look at patient and staff experience. Considering the following report findings will help improve satisfaction rates and have positive impacts on practice revenue and patient outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Shifting Hours of Operation - A typical day for medical practices for the three years before COVID-19 involved nine hours per day during the week (Mon-Fri). Practices may now need to consider expanded hours of operations, both on weekdays and weekends, to ensure timely access to care and to stagger provider and staff into shifts to make social distancing easier to achieve.
  • Decreasing Patient Wait Times - Practices in various specialties saw increases in wait-area wait times in 2019 with primary care specialists waiting room times jumping from 10 minutes to 14 minutes. Many medical practices will consider shifting to new, digital check-in options in response to the pandemic and to make patients feel safe.
  • Leveraging Patient Portals - The top three reported uses of a patient portal are: prescription refills, communication with providers and medical staff, and accessing test results. Practices with robust portals should enable them for any integrations with mobile device applications so appointment requests and questions for providers don’t require in-person interactions.
  • Appointment Availability and Timeliness- Achieving timely clinic appointments helps drive growth and enhance the financial bottom line. In addition to practice closures and limited operating schedules, medical practice leaders face a big challenge in eliminating bottlenecks for bringing patients back for the care they need. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, new patient volumes have suffered in 2020. To improve access and performance, practices will consider measuring the delay patients experience in accessing providers through third-next-available appointment and the use of a patient wait list to fill next-available appointments.
  • Charge a No-show Fee? - Given the upheaval in scheduling and patients’ concerns with safety and personal finances, practices will reconsider whether to charge a no-show fee. Prior to COVID-19, less than 20% of single-specialty practices charged a no-show fee in 2019.

Data from the report is founded on 2019 data from more than 1,500 organizations through MGMA DataDive Practice Operations Report. More than 30,000 healthcare professionals currently use this data to analyze patient and medical practice trends. The MGMA DataDive Practice Operations Report explores a substantial amount of important medical practice topics, including industry-leading benchmarking data on patient satisfaction, staff burnout and turnover as well as ways to increase operational efficiency – all of which will help medical practices reopen and restore office visit volumes, both for in-person visits and for the expansion of telehealth services.