AMGA Survey: Clinics Struggling with Chronic Staffing Shortages, Costs

May 30, 2023
Staffing shortages and staffing costs continue to dog the administrators of medical clinics nationwide, a survey by AMGA finds

Staffing shortages and staffing costs continue to dog the administrators of medical clinics nationwide, according to the just-published results of a nationwide survey conducted by the Alexandria, Va.-based AMGA (American Medical Group Association).

A press release published on May 30 began thus: “In AMGA’s new 2023 Clinic Staffing Survey, medical groups and health systems reported a median of 10-percent increase in staffing costs from 2022 to 2023 and that they continue to struggle with staffing levels. The survey revealed that medical groups are addressing clinic staffing shortages in a number of ways, namely through incentives, process improvement, and care model/staffing structure changes.”

“Overall, clinic staffing appears to be stabilizing after the past few years, but a few clinical support roles, such as RN/LPN/MA, remain in a downward trajectory,” said AMGA Consulting Director Elizabeth Siemsen,” in a statement contained in the press release.

 The press release noted that “The comprehensive survey addresses both qualitative and quantitative aspects of clinic staffing, and reflects responses from medical groups, representing more than 6,100 clinics. The survey contains staffing benchmarks for typical clinic staff roles with data presented per physician, per provider, per 10,000 wRVU, and per 5,000 visits. It also contains APC per physician ratios. Responses indicate medical groups are looking at incentives to support recruitment and retention, with 88.2 percent of respondents offering referral bonuses, 77.6% offering sign-on bonuses, and 55.7 percent making benefits package changes. All percentages are increases from 2022.”

The senior leaders of clinics are doing what they can to change processes in order to become hyper-efficient, particularly through the leveraging of technology. “Medical groups are also looking at process changes, many with a technology focus,” the press release noted. “Most respondents are working on automation at the front end of the visit process; 90.9 percent reported using an online patient portal, and 65.8% reported using self-check-in/kiosks for office visits.”

Non-technological strategies are also being employed. “As they seek solutions to staffing shortages, respondents were also employing strategies beyond technological solutions,” the press release noted. “They shared they are making changes to the care model or staffing to deliver care with a different complement of staff. Data indicate that there was an increase in the number of medical groups making a change in clinical staff team structure, indicating they are taking a hard look at clinic roles and how to optimize them.  Results reveal some indication that the tactics have had an impact.  Medical groups shared that while staffing has gotten better at the start of 2023, challenges in staffing levels remain. Only 25% of respondents indicated clinical staffing was at 90% or better than optimal staffing, with only 39.5% indicating that administrative staffing was at that same level.”

The survey found that “Clinic staffing was up marginally overall, suggesting a stabilization from the past few years, with many metrics returning to pre-pandemic levels. The overall staffing trend is impacted by fluctuations in both provider levels and clinic staffing throughout the pandemic. The uptick in the data related to the 2023 median total clinic staff per provider may be attributed to an increase in other patient care roles.” Specifically, on a key measure—median total clinic staff per provider—staffing appears to have stabilized, with that figure at 2.13 in 2020, down to 1.83 in 2021, up to 2.03 in 2022, and 2.12 now in 2023.

“Medical groups are in unchartered waters, trying to navigate the unprecedented impact of staffing challenges that emerged from the pandemic and are ongoing,” said AMGA consulting chief operating officer Rose Wagner, R.N., M.H.S., in a statement. “AMGA’s new Clinic Staffing Survey provides a clearer and more complete picture of the market and current trends affecting the industry.”