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The medical practice evolves

Former MGMA board co-chair explains how medical groups have changed in recent years and what he expects in the near term

Operating costs, ICD-10, keeping pace with new technologies and surviving in a world of changing payment models — those are just some of the challenges of running a modern medical practice.

So it’s fitting that they are also among the topics slated for discussion at the Medical Group Management Association annual conference Oct. 25-29 in Las Vegas.

Leading up to the show, William Henderson, former MGMA board co-chair and current chair of the MGMA CEO search committee (the association is currently vetting candidates to succeed former CEO Susan Turney, MD, who departed last month), spoke with Healthcare Finance News about the key issues that are keeping association members busy, how medical groups have changed in recent years and what evolutions he expects in the near term. 

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Q: What are the steepest challenges right now for MGMA members?

A: MGMA represents more than 33,000 medical practice administrators and executives in practices of all sizes, types, structures and specialties. MGMA conducts the Medical Practice Today: What Members Have to Say research every year, which helps us understand what is top of mind for members. Research respondents indicated that they favored informal integration with other healthcare organizations over formal mergers. The research also revealed the challenges of running a medical practice. According to 542 respondents, the most applicable and intense challenges of running a group practice included preparing for the transition to ICD-10 diagnosis coding, dealing with rising operating costs and preparing for reimbursement models that place a greater share of financial risk on the practice.

[See also: Disruptive Innovators: Medical Home Run.]

Respondents also cited “engaging patients to improve outcomes” and “leveraging new technologies to enhance patient communications through portals, emails, websites and video conferencing” as highly applicable in running a medical practice. In sum, our members are facing increasing administrative costs, greater federal and state regulations that must be complied with, and reduced reimbursement while they provide innovative and more complex care to patients.

Q: How is today's small/midsize practice different than it was five years ago?

A: Certainly there is more of an emphasis on the business of care delivery. That is, how to bridge business and clinical functions to provide safe, efficient and effective care to better engage their patients. Strategically aligning these functions will help to ensure practice success.

Q: How will practices evolve from here?

A: I anticipate there will be even greater value placed on employing medical practice administrators and executives with expertise in the business of care delivery moving forward. The evolution of our industry will also place a greater value on collaboration between clinicians and practice executives  — as they are paramount for designing human, technology, information and patient-engagement systems that enhance care and improve outcomes. The physician-administrator relationship will become even more critical as healthcare moves toward a more integrated model of care in each community.