Cardiac surgery and cardiology practices saw a 15.8% increase in operating costs in 2001, the latest measured year, according to a newly released survey by the Medical Group Management Association.
Officials at the Englewood, Colo.-based organization attribute the rise mainly to new technology, which not only raises spending on equipment expenses but also on salaries, as more employees with greater training are needed.
The survey, released Monday, shows that median total operating costs rose 15.8% in 2001, from $364,856 to $422,659, while support staff costs per full-time-equivalent (FTE) physician rose 14%, from $193,413 to $220,108.
The number of staff required per FTE physician also increased slightly, from 4.93 to 5.14, the report adds.
In addition, MGMA says costs for malpractice insurance premiums for these practices rose 12% per FTE physician in 2001. Though MGMA has not compiled data yet for 2002, it notes that med mal premium increases for 2002 are as high as 50%, on average.
"Cardiology practices increasingly perform more complicated tests and procedures," Frederic Simmons Jr., a member of the MGMA Survey Advisory Committee, says in an MGMA release. "In many cases, the sophisticated equipment required to perform these procedures can be very costly and moreover, the technical staff required to operate these labs command higher salaries to run the labs."
"It would be very difficult for us to trim more from our operating costs, especially as we now need to meet HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) standards and other requirements," says Simmons, who is administrator of Clearwater (Fla.) Cardiovascular and Interventional Consultants.
But he adds: "Many practices can gain efficiencies through adoption of EMR (electronic medical record) systems, which can be a significant cost initially but if done well, the practices could save on administrative costs in the long run."