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For the 11th straight year, billed charges collected by multispecialty practices remained static or declined, a new study shows. Because of this trend, physician salaries stayed the same. To stretch dollars, groups are hiring medical assistants to do some of the duties previously performed by RNs, such as taking patients to exam rooms and recording vital signs.
"Good RNs are not cheap," says Cheryl C. Ange, administrator of the Cardiovascular Center in Newport News, VA. "They’re great at answering patient questions and performing telephone triage, so we are planning to continue utilizing them in that capacity," she adds. She observes that practices are hiring more nurse practitioners and physician assistants to do caregiving tasks previously left to physicians, such as patient education.
Other findings from the study, Cost Survey: 1998 Report Based on 1997 Data, show that to obtain managed care contracts, medical groups offer insurance companies increasing discounts. Here are a few financial highlights from the study period of 1996 through 1997:
1. Total net medical revenue for multispecialty groups increased 2.4%.
2. Total operating costs increased 2.5%.
3. Group practices collected 69.2% of gross charges.