It’s a good bet that most practice administrators and many doctors in Alabama are somewhat familiar with the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), but a large number of health care professionals are still not fully aware of all the advantages the MGMA provides members and it is safe to say that very few people know that Alabama has one of the top MGMA chapters in the nation.
MGMA Alabama was in action just last month when it held its annual winter conference at the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham. 265 practice administrators from around the state attended the conference and 63 companies exhibited in the booths that were stationed around the main conference ballroom.
The conference theme – Healthcare is a Gamble…How to Beat the Odds – was on display throughout the ballroom with vendor booths sporting a Vegas motif, including everything from faux blackjack tables to spinning gaming wheels.
Practice administrators gained valuable information, first with breakout sessions for specific specialties followed by three days of meetings on a wide range of topics relevant to medical practice management. Meeting speakers included Jim Stroud, CPA of Warren Averett; Donna Gilliland of MOSTraining; Elizabeth Woodcock, MBA; Jerry Callahan, CPA and Margaret Cook, MBA of Kassouf & Co.; Howard Bogard of Burr & Forman; Robert Tennant, MA, MGMA Government Affairs Department, Washington D.C.; Jeff Hargett of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center; David Crawford, BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama; along with many other speakers.
Administrators gain significant knowledge in these meetings. “The amount of information that a medical administrator picks up at these conferences is invaluable,” said Chris Cornett, Administrator of Lee OB-GYN and President of MGMA Alabama. “I’ve been attending these twice a year since 2001 and I learn something new every time. This year, with the Affordable Care Act, we are in more need of a resource like MGMA than ever before.”
Sherry Johnston, administrator for Montgomery Vascular Surgery, agreed. “With the heavy challenges of healthcare carried on our shoulders, being part of MGMA Alabama has always been beneficial in lightening the load with its endless resource of speakers.”
In addition to the information provided in meetings, Johnston learns a lot from networking. “In attending the conferences the past seven years, I’ve developed great relationships with other practice managers who face the same hurdles,” she said. “Considering the changes to come, I now value more than ever the deep networking involved with MGMA through vendors, speakers, and what I consider friends.”
Providing these resources to administrators has helped MGMA Alabama grow from 300 members in 1994, when Lisa Beard became Executive Director, to over 800 today. Over that time, things have changed quite a bit.
Tommy Waddell, of Blue Ridge X-Ray, remembers his first MGMA Alabama meeting in the early 1980s. “It was held at The Club on Red Mountain,” Waddell said. “It didn’t have booths for vendors. It was a luncheon-type meeting with speakers.
Then we moved to the Wynfrey, which I thought was a great idea because we could show our products and services by having a booth. The Wynfrey meetings are some of the most productive I’ve ever been involved in. The layout made it easy to not only greet present customers, but to get to know the other vendors as well.”
From these beginnings, MGMA Alabama grew to one of the largest state chapters in the nation. And, according to several health care professionals, it is the best-run.
“After attending state MGMA conferences in other states, there is no comparison to the organization and enthusiasm of the Alabama group,” Mike Jones of Clinicanywhere said. “This is largely attributable to Lisa Beard and the constant drive she has to improve the conference experience for attendees and vendors.”
Tommy Waddell agrees. “MGMA Alabama is one of over 25 shows I do each year in the southeast. I have to say, MGMA Alabama is by far the best run, most productive, and the most desired by businesses bar none. If every convention followed the MGMA Alabama template, their shows would only be limited by conference center space because the demand to attend would be overwhelming.”
By: Steve Spencer