Friday, October 10, 2014

Annual Practice Management Conferences - MGMA in October

medical practice conventionsIf your practice is like most practices these days, you're probably looking for ways - any ways - to trim a few bucks from your overhead burden. Sending an administrator or physician leader to the MGMA conference in Las Vegas for a few days may look like an easy target for budget cuts. You may be tempted to skip the late October conference this year.  Don't do it.

You might respond, "But you don't understand! Our profit margin actually fell this past year. Regardless of some jury-rigged numbers from the Fed that point to economic recovery, we're still struggling with flat (or declining) revenues and ever-increasing expenses. We can't afford to send the manager off to a mini-vacation in Vegas." Don't do it.

Let us offer a brief disclaimer: We at Greenbranch Publishing neither work for MGMA nor are we compensated for promoting the association or its products, services, or educational events. Nevertheless, we remain an enthusiastic promoter of the Association for a number of reasons. We continue to be impressed with the sheer amount of information packed into the half-week event. We know that administrators return to the practice with at least a half-dozen practical ideas to use to improve financial reporting and resource management. This year, we continue to have a number of our authors on the speaking schedule: Owen Dahl, Susan Gay, Jeff Gorke, Frank Cohen, Jamie Verkamp, Max Reiboldt. We also see many practice manager friends who visit our booth to see what's new.

MGMA, of course, isn't the only association offering top-notch education and productive networking. Several specialty-specific societies cater to administrators working in various disciplines (AAOE for orthopedics managers and AOA for ENT administrators and NERVES for neurosurgery executives come quickly to mind.). Other organizations exist to serve the needs of more sophisticated large groups (AMGA) or smaller practices (PAHCOM). Others focus on administrative disciplines (HIMSS, HFMA).

We also encourage participation at state and local organization meetings. These bring opportunities to discuss regional issues, state regulations, major payers, and the local Medicaid program. The smaller size is conducive to making new friends who often prove helpful when working through problems back at the practice. As a bonus, state meetings provide a good venue for managers to develop their own presentation and training skills.

Physicians who own their practices often look at the costs associated with sending their top administrator to a three-day conference and figure they've discovered "low-hanging fruit" - an easy way to save a few thousand dollars this year. You may salve your conscience with good intentions: "We'll just cut it this year - perhaps next year will be better." Don't do it.

Successful medical practices - those best-run practices - recognize that there's a potentially substantial return on investing in their top managers' development and training. The resources available at a major conference can increase your administrator's effectiveness as he or she leads your practice.

Quantifying your return on that investment is almost impossible to calculate. How much additional revenue will the practice realize if your administrator brings back one idea that improves over-the-counter collections by 1% or 2%? How many thousands of dollars will you save by buying the best electronic health records system for your practice after your manager was able to compare multiple systems in detail at the conference exhibit hall?

During a sluggish economy or a revenue slump, business owners sometimes use faulty logic in their strategic decisions. For example, it's tempting to cut back on marketing and advertising when business is poor: "We'll expand our marketing once business picks up again. We'll be able to afford it then." In reality, you can't afford not to invest in marketing if you need more customers!

Similarly, you can't afford not to connect your top manager with the latest information and proven best practices available at educational conferences.

Hopefully we will see you and your staff members in Vegas. And stop by the Greenbranch Publishing Booth to say hello.