Healthcare information technology costs for group practices continue to rise, reaching an average annual cost of $32,500 per full-time physician in 2015, according to a comprehensive annual survey by the Medical Group Management Association.

The Englewood, Colo.-based professional association said IT costs have risen by more than 40 percent per physician since 2009. MGMA’s survey covers physician-owned multispecialty practices, and it assesses the amount they spend on information technology equipment, staff, maintenance and other related expenses.

The largest increase in technology costs occurred between 2010 and 2011, corresponding to implementation of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which incentivized physicians and others to use certified electronic health records, MGMA noted.

The trade group published the results in its 2016 MGMA Cost and Revenue Report, which it calls the largest and most representative cost survey and benchmarking tool.

Leading the way for IT spending is a large uptick in IT staff expenses for group practices, which have gone up nearly 47 percent per full-time physician since 2009. MGMA researchers say the staffing expense results may indicate that group practices have not achieved significant administrative efficiencies from IT.

“While technology plays a crucial role in helping healthcare organizations evolve to provide higher-quality, value-based care, this transition is becoming increasingly expensive,” said Halee Fischer-Wright, MGMA’s president and CEO. “We remain concerned that far too much of a practice’s IT investment is tied directly to complying with the ever-increasing number of federal requirements, rather than to providing better patient care. Unless we see significant changes in the final MIPS/APM rule, practice IT costs will continue to rise without a corresponding improvement in the care delivery process.”

Overall, total operating costs are growing throughout the healthcare industry, putting greater pressure on practices as they move toward providing value-based care. Physician-owned multispecialty practices reported that total operating costs increased by nearly 15 percent per full-time physician in 2015, according to the new MGMA data, outpacing the more than 10 percent increase in total revenue these practices enjoyed last year.

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