Delegating to non-physician providers is key for high-growth medical practices

By Emily Peters

A study from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) shows one surprising key factor in practice success: the addition of non-physician providers and support staff. The findings are part of the MGMA DataDive Cost and Revenue Survey of 2,900 practice organizations and 40 specialties, which found that practice operating costs were increasing but could be offset by increases in non-physician staff.

“Practices that were able to increase revenues owe that namely to increased non-physician providers, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants (PA), and support staff,” reported FierceHealthcare. “Practices with a higher nonphysician provider to physician ratio earn more in revenue after operating costs than practices with fewer non-physicians, regardless of specialty.”

To calculate this ratio for your own practice, compare the number of non-physician providers (NPP) to the number of full-time equivalent physicians. For example: if you have 10 NPPs and two doctors, your practice ratio is 0.50. MGMA found that practices with an NPP to physician ratio of 0.41 or more led to increased revenue and more profitability.

“Our annual Cost Survey continues to show the importance of NPPs and support staff in physician practices and hospitals, as well as other factors that impact practices’ bottom line,” said Dr. Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, MMM, FAAP, CMPE, president and chief executive officer at MGMA in an announcement. “Contrary to what some may believe, with increased staffing come much larger gains in revenue after operating cost, as well as productivity.”

Coincidentally, the MGMA report was published at the same time a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that spending money to save time reduces stress and improves personal happiness. Time-saving delegations such as ordering takeout food, calling a cab, or hiring a housekeeper were shown to tie to personal “greater life satisfaction.”

“People who spent money to buy themselves time, such as by outsourcing disliked tasks, reported greater overall life satisfaction,” Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School and lead author of the study told The New York Times.

Both at home and in practice, it appears that delegating work leads to good outcomes. With physician burnout, turnover, and shortages on the rise, medical practice leaders would be smart to start posting more “help wanted” signs to support their physician staff.