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How many patients do your physicians need to see?

How many patients does each physician in your practice need to see to keep your practice profitable? If you’re like most practice executives and physicians, you don’t know the answer to this important question.

Speaking at a session at the 2014 Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Conference, Lucien Roberts, MHA, FACMPE, and Rebecca Fox, MD, recommended using these five numbers to determine how many patients your physicians need to see:

  • Physician charges 
  • Number of patients
  • Average collection rate
  • Physician cost (factor in malpractice insurance, salary, benefits and overhead)
  • Days that the physician worked

You should determine these numbers for a specific time period (such as 12 or 18 months).

“It’s basically figuring out what is the average charge per patient per doctor," Dr. Fox explains. "What is our collection rate and what is our daily cost to have their presence, and does their revenue offset their cost?”

The patient panel size is the number of unique patients seen by a provider at least once in the past 18 months. Panel size will vary based on the practice, but the demand for appointments should be equal to the availability of appointments (supply). In 2011, primary care practices reported an average patient panel size of 2,184, according to a 2012 report from MGMA.

Here’s the equation to calculate patient panel size in a primary care setting:

Panel size (# of patients/provider) = (provider visits per day X provider days per year) / number of visits per patient per year

For example, if a physician sees 18 patients per day, working 240 days per year, and patients visit your practice twice per year, that physician’s panel would be 2,160 patients. An easier way to determine your providers’ patient panels is to count the number of patients who saw a particular provider for his most recent wellness visit.

Give your physicians a list of the patients on their panel. If the patient panels are really unequal, consider asking some patients for permission to re-assign them to another physician. Follow up with your physicians every few months to get their feedback about their panel size and workload. You want to be sure the quality of patient care and patient satisfaction don’t suffer because physicians are seeing too many patients.  

MediGain can generate reports to determine the average charge per patient per doctor, as well as your collection rate. Contact MediGain today to generate reports to help you determine how many patients your physicians need to see to be profitable without sacrificing patient satisfaction.