The COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain physician practices nationwide, as the use of telemedicine accelerated in response to many patients’ reluctance to visit physician offices for routine, non-urgent care.
Following the easement of some social distancing policies and limits on non-urgent care in the third quarter of 2020, physician practices began to see increased volumes and, as a result, some financial improvement. However, data from more than 125,000 physicians show that most physician practices’ key performance indicators (KPIs) from 2020 remained below 2019 levels.
Here are the top five financial and operational KPIs from January through December 2020 for physician practices across the U.S.:
#1 — Volume, productivity drop below 2019 levels
Patient reluctance to visit physician offices pushed 2020 volumes lower year-over-year (YOY), dragging Physician work Relative Value Units (wRVUs) per Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) down 6.5% YOY.
#2 — Revenues down YOY, but show signs of improvement
Despite rises in productivity and volumes in the second half of the year, Net Revenue per Physician FTE for the year remained 4.5% below 2019 levels.
#3 — Additional investment needed to make up for lost revenue
To offset insufficient practice revenue, health systems invested an average of $194,632 per physician. This continues a steady rise in the median Investment per Physician FTE, which increased 3.3% compared to 2019.
#4 — Expenses decrease, yet continue to outpace revenue
Due to decreased volumes and productivity and a 1.3% YOY drop in Physician Compensation, Total Direct Expense per Physician FTE fell 4.8% YOY. However, expenses continue to outpace revenue.
#5 — Additional support staff needed to meet patient demand
Support Staff FTEs per wRVUs increased 8.5% YOY, indicating the need for additional clinical and front office support staff as the use of telemedicine accelerated while COVID-19 continued to spread, including among healthcare workers.
Spotlight on Psychiatry
Despite indications from the CDC that the U.S. may be turning a corner on the pandemic, the financial impacts continue to create a volatile operating environment for most physicians and specialties. However, Psychiatry paints a different picture. Perhaps due to the ability to better harness telemedicine and the wide-reaching toll of the pandemic on people’s mental health, Psychiatry was the only specialty that didn’t suffer a productivity loss in 2020. Here are the 2020 KPIs for Psychiatry:
- Physician wRVUs per FTE increased 3% compared to 2019’s pre-pandemic levels
- Investment per Physician FTE decreased 9% YOY
- Support Staff FTEs increased 35% YOY, representing the largest increase across specialties
Recovery Efforts Require Robust Data
The data illustrates the significant financial losses that the pandemic has caused for physician practices. Moving forward, physician practices and the health systems that operate them need reliable data to track KPIs in real time and effectively guide recovery efforts. Syntellis’ Axiom™ Comparative Analytics solution enables healthcare leaders to leverage data to monitor performance across the physician enterprise and identify opportunities for improvement to support informed decision-making.
Comparative Analytics offers access to real-time data drawn from more than 125,000 physicians, including more than 6,000 practice measures, 174 specialties, and 240 sub-specialties. Healthcare finance leaders can break out the data by individual physician, non-provider staff, job code, pay type, and account levels. The data can be customized into specific peer groups — by specialty performance, regional comparisons, urban versus rural, etc. — for unparalleled comparisons to drive operational decisions and performance improvement initiatives.