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Fall 2008


The Value of MGMA AAA Membership

Shena J. Scott, MBA, FACMPE
Executive Director, Brevard Anesthesia Services, PA, Melbourne, FL and Immediate Past President, MGMA AAA

As a 17-year veteran of anesthesiology practice administration and past president of the Anesthesia Administration Assembly of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA AAA) I am often asked by physicians and those new to the field, “what is MGMA and what is the value of MGMA membership?”

To answer this question, I go back to 1991 when I was not only new to anesthesia but also new to medical group practice administration. With a background in business and finance and no medical group experience whatsoever, I was recruited to the forward thinking group where I still work because they saw on the horizon that medicine was about to become more of a business. The 18-physician group had an office manager with lots of anesthesia billing experience but no business background. Anticipating the office manager’s retirement within a few years, they wanted to hire someone with a business background, figuring that the “medical group management” part could easily be learned. And what a learning experience it has been, and continues to be, thanks largely to MGMA AAA.

Knowing nothing about medical group practice management, let alone anesthesiology practice management, I was fortunate to have stumbled across MGMA AAA very early on. With three months in my new job (where I was just beginning to understand what a CRNA was) under my belt, I headed off to their conference in Scottsdale, where I found one of the most welcoming groups of people I had ever met. I was immersed in anesthesia specific content and engulfed by a group of people willing to share their wisdom and experiences. I left that three day meeting with a spinning head, a handful of business cards and a whole new group of friends, whom I often called upon whenever I became stumped. From that day forward, I have missed only one MGMA AAA meeting. Today, these meetings have a different feel for me because I am now one of the “old timers.” Yet I continue to learn many new things every single year, not only from the meeting content but also from my colleagues, who are now my friends. And now I have an opportunity to “give back” to others who sit where I sat back in Scottsdale.

In 1991, the MGMA AAA conference was about the only time we could get together to network and share experiences. Individual phone calls in between helped “fill in the gaps.” In today’s world, however, in addition to the yearly meeting (which continues to be the glue that solidifies the network), MGMA AAA also offers anesthesiology specific Webcasts, an email forum (which is getting ready to morph into an enhanced social networking tool that will dramatically expand its possibilities), anesthesia specific surveys, a page devoted to anesthesiology on the MGMA Web site, periodic anesthesiology-specific e-newsletters, and collaboration with/ support to the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) in key legislative and other efforts.

In addition, MGMA also offers an annual conference which focuses more on general professional development and medical group practice management, a magazine called MGMA Connexion, a Government Affairs office that devotes its energies specifically to medical issues, a variety of surveys and other products and services which are available both for sale and through the library, and a certification body in the form of the American College of Medical Practice Executives (ACMPE). Many of these services are included in the basic membership price. Surveys are free if you participate. Surveys in which you do not participate, as well as other books and resources, are sold to members at a significantly reduced price. Also, Members receive discounted registrations to MGMA events.

I often tell people who are new to anesthesiology administration, physicians included, that the MGMA AAA email forum alone is worth the price of the membership. Aside from the MGMA AAA email forum, there are also many other email forums that members can participate in, such as financial management, information technology, human resources, payer contracting, etc. Back in 1991, the MGMA AAA email forum was not available, but today it is the lifeblood of ongoing networking. For a person new to anesthesiology administration, it is priceless. Yet, even as a 17-year veteran, there are many times when I encounter something that I have not seen before. I could spend a lot of precious time researching it myself, or I can just throw it out there on the email forum and get feedback from others who have already had the experience. The generosity of information sharing is just as prevalent on the email forum as it is during annual meetings. Many of the physician leaders of ASA, as well as nationally recognized anesthesiology attorneys and consultants, participate as members on the MGMA AAA email forum and provide relevant and helpful insight.

One of the things I have found over the years is that it is amazing how similar the issues are that we all face. Large practice, small practice, employed CRNAs, non-employed CRNAs, no CRNAs, outside billing company, in-house billing — many of the issues we face are the same. We all have to negotiate contracts with managed care companies and our hospitals; we all face recruiting and scheduling issues in a tight market; we all face budgetary pressures, coding and billing issues, the list could go on. Some of us have pain clinics, some are in academic practices, and of course there are regional issues as well. Some people ask for advice/feedback about specific vendors, others post “articles of interest” to the anesthesiology community. There is no question too technical or too basic for this group, and the wealth of information that is readily available, even to the most seasoned administrators and physicians, is endless.

The new social networking tool, MGMA Member Community, will only enhance these capabilities, as it will allow sub-groups to form by area of interest, region, group size, or just about any other common characteristic a member wants to identify. People will be able to start a “pain blog,” for example, or a “Florida blog,” or even a “pain Florida blog,” where they can post questions and items of interest specific to that topic. For those who are familiar with Facebook and My Space, this is the general idea of how it will function.

Another significant development over the last several years is the addition of anesthesiology specific survey information. For years, MGMA has published the Physician Compensation and Production Survey, which reports anesthesiology-specific and pain management specific compensation data, and is a critical reference for many anesthesiologists as they negotiate support for non-compensated services with their facilities. In recent years, MGMA AAA has worked with the survey department to put together the Cost Survey for Anesthesiology and Pain Management in collaboration with ASA. That survey breaks down data in a number of ways (e.g. by staffing model) that are specific to anesthesiology and provides valuable statistics that cannot be found elsewhere, like revenue or units per anesthetizing location. In 2006, a pain management section was added and the 2009 survey will feature a section specifically for academic anesthesiology practices. More on this will appear in a future article when the surveys are getting ready to come out, but remember, if you want to obtain a free copy, you can do so simply by being a member and participating.

Another way to add value to your membership is to become board certified (or have your medical practice administrator do so), and then a fellow, through ACMPE. MGMA offers a wealth of resources to support the Body of Knowledge for Medical Practice Management required to pass the exams. Studying this Body of Knowledge to take the exams provides an opportunity to expand knowledge that stays with you, and brings value to your professionalism and your practice as you apply it to your day-to-day responsibilities. Becoming a fellow involves in-depth research of a topic pertinent to the profession (you can choose an issue that your practice is facing, research it, write the paper, sharing your knowledge and becoming a fellow in the process). All of the fellowship papers are available as resources through the MGMA library. They span everything from human resource issues to financial management, risk management, business operations, and patient safety. This is another valuable tool available to members. Members of the college also receive quarterly summaries of new fellowship papers.

The website, www.mgma.com, is constantly updated and provides access to all of the organization’s offerings. It has easy links for contacting legislators on pertinent issues. Government Affairs research and MGMA position papers on legislative issues are featured, as is information about products and services, upcoming conferences and leadership development seminars, specialty specific information pages, a member search feature to locate other members in your state or specialty, and many other offerings.

A final way to enhance the value of your membership is to give back in the form of volunteering. After many years on the MGMA AAA Executive Committee, today I reflect on all that I have learned and all of the new friendships I have developed—with other members and volunteers, vendors (like ABC, who has generously sponsored our keynote speaker for the last several years) who support our meetings and other ventures as well as making available to us their expertise, ASA leaders and staff, MGMA leaders and staff—and all the ways that I have been able to expand my horizons simply from devoting my time to a cause that is important to me and my profession. Life, truly is about continuous learning and taking advantage of all the benefits that are available to you. For anesthesiologists and anesthesiology administrators looking to excel in their professions, MGMA AAA offers a wealth of opportunity and is an invaluable resource, however you choose to participate.