Aside from very finicky WiFi at the hotel, my first day at my second MGMA conference was smooth sailing. The trip to Nashville has been so much more pleasant than my trek to Las Vegas for last year’s event. The three-and-a-half hour car ride through Tennessee mountains and valleys under sunny skies put me in a great mood by the time I arrived at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center. The soothing sounds of waterfalls, beautiful blown-glass sculptures, shopping, and helpful MGMA volunteers also kept my spirits up. The MGMA15 app also seemed to keep attendee morale high, given the complimentary tweets it garnered.
After grabbing my press badge, I headed to the opening keynote, where I ran into Jamie Simonds and Pamela Kershes, both office managers for independent Capital Area Pediatrics (VA). They are new MGMA members, eager to explore all that the conference has to offer. It didn’t take us long to get talking about ICD-10, which both women assured me went smoothly at the six-practice organization, a GE Centricity shop – a sentiment I heard throughout my first few hours at the conference. I later spied the two checking out RCM solutions at the RemitData booth.
A Dixieland jazz band greeted attendees as we filed into the keynote ballroom. The space has nothing on the likes of HIMSS. It felt downright small by comparison, which made the antics of the band members all the more enjoyable as we waited for the presentation to commence.
After the typical organizational pleasantries – presentation of the Board of Directors, thank yous to all involved, etc., MGMA President and CEO Halee Fischer-Wright, MD took the stage and got straight to business: Physicians are really good at complaining, she noted, but not so great at channeling their frustrations into change. She even engaged in a little pillow talk, divulging the documentation complaints of her physician husband, who now believes MD stands for “Miserable Doctor.”
Her presentation can be boiled down to four words: “Stop Whining. Start Leading.” She called for a revolution in practice management, telling physicians the time has come to embrace their inner MBA rather than continue to stick their heads in the sands of financial ignorance and mismanagement. She had nothing kind to say about Meaningful Use or EHRs, a sentiment cheered by attendees, who also applauded her frankness on the subject of incentive programs that ultimately get in the way of patient care.
Fischer-Wright also made sure to emphasize the need to level the playing field between payers and practices, telling the crowd that, “It’s time we get as good at fighting for our dollars as insurance companies have gotten at fighting for theirs.” I could have sworn she mentioned United Healthcare in this context, which is fairly ironic given that they’re exhibiting this year.
After a fairly underwhelming keynote from Jeremy Gutsche, author and founder of TrendHunter.com, I headed to the opening reception in the exhibit hall, an area that wasn’t hard to cover given that it seemed significantly smaller than last year’s layout. There also seemed to be a general downsizing on the part of all exhibitors – no two-story booths, adjacent closet-like conference rooms or in-booth presentation areas. The largest real estate seemed to be taken up by Athenahealth, which was well warranted given the amount of foot traffic they had in just the first two hours.
I couldn’t resist snapping this pic of the Healthicity booth, which also seemed to be consistently busy. The company is new to me: The T-shirt shaped flyer included with my press credentials tells me it focuses on auditing, compliance, and analytics solutions.
I’m typically a sucker for a good caricature, but Experian’s chairs were all taken by attendees either sitting for portraits or demos.
Optum’s pink punching bags pulled me in. They plan on donating up to $2,500 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation provided they get enough signatures on the bags. Like many others, it didn’t take me long to come up with the names of people in my life that have been affected by breast cancer.
A quick note-taking break gave me the opportunity to chat with Michelle DePew and Carol Hamerski from the Kemper CPA Group, who also didn’t have any practice-shattering news to share about ICD-10. DePew told me she got the most physician calls two days before October 1. Their clients work with a variety of EHRs and PM solutions including EClinicalWorks and Epic.
AdvancedMD’s new booth and branding caught my eye. They have not hesitated to move forward with forging their own identity after splitting from ADP.
Companies willing to do good and give back also tend to reel me in, and Dispensary of Hope was no exception. The charitable medication distributor connects surplus medications from providers, distributors, and manufacturers to a network of safety net clinics serving the poor and uninsured.
Speaking of no exceptions, whack-a-mole always seems to draw a crowd. (There was a line four deep at the ScribeAmerica booth.) I still don’t understand the fascination. I may have to circle back tomorrow to see what they are giving away.
The UnitedHealthcare booth was hopping, perhaps because of Fischer-Wright’s keynote mention. She also mentioned that collaboration will be key to physicians taking back their “power,” and United has definitely become adept at forging new partnerships.
Miniature golf is also one of those show-floor activities that never seems to disappoint. The Avery Partners team seemed to be having a good time.
My second-to-last last photo op came at the end of the opening reception, courtesy of the friendly ladies of Tennessee MGMA. Emily McClure, practice manager of two facilities within the Knoxville, TN-based University Pulmonary and Critical Care network, told me that MGMA offers her the perfect opportunity to shop around – not necessarily for a specific technology or solution, but for industry developments she needs to stay on top of.
I couldn’t leave the exhibit hall without snapping some fashionable footwear, and what’s a trip to Nashville without cowboy boots? The folks at Pulse Systems didn’t hesitate to put their best feet forward, after which I headed to the hotel for dinner and the day’s recap. Until tomorrow …