MGMA session speakers provide blueprints for current industry concerns

A mere week out from the MGMA-ACMPE annual festivities, session speakers are sharpening their talking points and speculating about colleague interests. And with so much of healthcare snug between new regulations and an economic hard place, the general consensus is that this year’s MGMA conference won’t be lacking either pointed dialogue or genuine intrigue. 

[See also: MGMA agenda offers wide-ranging coverage of compliance issues]

For Richard Harb, Jr, JD — regional practice administrator at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville, Tenn., who is co-chairing the Oct. 22 session “Primary Care Practice Hot Topics” with Cinderella Tollefsen, FACMPE, CPC, practice manager at Hillside Family Medicine in Anchorage, Alaska — the aspect of his forum that he anticipates will arouse the most discussion trickles down from the familiar financial umbrella.

“The one topic that’s probably on everyone’s mind is the financial end of it,” Harb said. “Part of that is what’s going to happen with the Medicare cut; that affects just about everyone that is going to be there. It’s something we go through every single year. It’s like a rollercoaster — you worry, worry, worry, and then they pass the extension so you have a little room to breathe, and then all of a sudden it’s worry, worry, worry again.“

But the chatter won’t end there, Harb noted; it never has (not in his 8-9 years of attending such conferences), and it’s not quite that simple.

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“That coupled with everything that’s going on in the healthcare world, none of it is getting less complex from the physician practice side,” he said. “There’s more paperwork, there’s more stuff we have to send to governmental agencies, there are more regulations we have to follow, and there’s a cost to that.  And we all understand no one’s clambering to pay physicians more for what they do, so it’s a constant battle. As administrators we face the question of how do we make ends meet and provide the highest quality care we can with what seem to be limited and dwindling funds, but more burdens put on.”

Harb further specified that accountable care organizations (ACOs) and hospital acquisitions will most likely see a prominence in this year’s discussion.

“Accountable care organizations — that’s kind of a hot topic right now,” he said. “Who’s participating in them? How’s it going? Are you seeing any money coming back? Who’s already owned by a hospital/healthcare system and who’s not? Three or four years ago, hardly anyone was. Last year at the meeting, in this session, they asked for a show of hands — it literally looked like half the people in the room were already owned by a hospital and I bet that number’s higher now. And what kind of tensions does that create, because all of a sudden you’ve worked in a physician office for years and years and the doctor was your boss and now all of a sudden there’s a hospital administrator with their fingers in the pile.”  

Craig Nesta, JD, MBA, MS, FACMPE, healthcare consultant and adjunct clinical assistant professor at Boston University School of Public Health — one of the 58 new ACMPE Fellows being inducted at this year’s conference and a seasoned conference veteran — sang a similar tune about cost-measure concerns for practice managers whilst simultaneously speaking to the even greater value of education.

“Once you overcome the space, money and time issues — the top three challenges — folks are totally won over once the intern arrives,” Nesta said about practices powering through initial costs to reap the longtime benefit of student internships.

Nesta, through his Oct. 23 session ”Create a Competitive Advantage for your Practice: Provide Student Internships,” hopes to fulfill a professional obligation by aiding practice managers in the process of indoctrinating the next generation of healthcare workers via internship programs. 

“My experience with internships probably goes back about 15 years and over the years I’ve personally precepted several students and, quite frankly, I feel it is my professional responsibility to participate in their training and actually help train the next generation of healthcare leaders,” Nesta said. “I think it’s important as professionals to participate in that learning. It’s important to note also that internships are often a requirement of various healthcare programs whether they are certificate programs, undergraduate programs, graduate programs. Several of these different types of healthcare programs rely on the professional community to actually partner with the local institutions to provide these valuable experiences.“

He added: “Furthermore, given the healthcare debate in the current system, it’s my belief that it’s of even greater importance to provide these experiential learning opportunities to students because it provides them with the experience to augment their didactic education.”

While costs and finances have always been a big concern for practice managers, Kristin Baird — an RN, BSN, MHA, and president/ CEO of Baird Group — will lead a session focusing more on demeanor, rather than strict denominations.

“Practice managers need to know that service excellence isn’t just a nice thing to do. It’s becoming essential for top reimbursement. But excellence won’t happen by chance. It must happen by design and that relates to specific leadership tactics.”

“There is a huge focus on customer service and the patient experience now that pay-for-performance is linked to patient satisfaction scores, “ Baird continued. “CGCAHPS are on the horizon and will place clinicians and groups under the same patient satisfaction obligations as hospitals are experiencing with HCAHPS scores.”

She hopes her session on Oct. 22 — “Beyond Smile Lessons: Developing Customer Service Skills that Wow your Patients” — will help practice managers embrace and facilitate an environment driven by service.

“Beyond Smile Lessons focuses on key actions that practice leaders can take to create an accountable, service-driven culture,” Baird concluded.

Overall, each presenter/host shared one common aspiration — that practice managers know they are not alone in their struggles.

“Other people are facing this too, other people have survived it, but also some of these other people are resources — I think that’s one of the things that MGMA offers,” Harb said.

Find more session summaries and schedules here. [See also: MGMA survey finds smaller practices ahead in administrator compensation rates]

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