The "Mile High" theme of the Medical Group Management Association's 72nd annual conference reflects both the Denver locale and the organization's lofty educational goals. But the theme could just as easily apply to MGMA's soaring membership.
This summer, the association recruited its 20,000th member, Jackie Jones, a clinical billing administrator at the University Physicians Medical Group in Oklahoma City. She will be presented with a plaque at the annual meeting, which runs Oct. 4 through 7.
As of July 31, the MGMA had 20,327 individual members, up 43% from five years earlier. Its member groups numbered 8,048, up 38% from 1995. The MGMA was founded in 1926.
The MGMA is enjoying phenomenal growth thanks to an influx of physicians into group practices. More than 210,000 physicians-about a third of U.S. physicians who are not government employees-practice in medical groups, according to a 1996 survey by the American Medical Association.
The demand for experienced medical group managers has never been greater. More than 85% of group doctors have administrators who are represented by the MGMA.
"As the healthcare environment becomes more complex as a result of the managed-care movement, there's definitely a growing need for professional development," says MGMA Communications Director Dennis Barnhardt.
One thing that hasn't changed is the MGMA's orientation toward small group practices. Its average practice size is seven physicians. More than two-thirds of its members work in groups of 10 or fewer doctors.
That contrasts with the Alexandria, Va.-based American Medical Group Association, which includes approximately 180 groups averaging more than 200 physicians apiece.
"Even though we in this business talk about integration and mergers and movements towards large multispecialty practices, statistically speaking, most physicians are still in small groups of 10 doctors or less," Barnhardt says.
This year's 72nd annual conference is expected to meet or exceed last year's record attendance of nearly 4,000. The Denver venue means attendees will get a chance to tour MGMA headquarters in nearby Englewood, Colo.
The MGMA caters to a broad spectrum of practice administrators reflecting a diversity of practice size, specialty, ownership and geography. Topics this year range from "Motivating and Incenting Staff" to "Should You Accept Pharmacy Risk?" to "Transforming Health System-Sponsored Physician Networks into High-Performing Medical Groups."
Benchmarking, strategic planning and compliance with federal Medicare regulations are expected to be hot topics.
The roster of speakers includes Lawrence Lewin, chairman and chief executive officer of the Fairfax, Va.-based Lewin Group; Deborah Prothrow-Stith, M.D., associate dean and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health; Des Cummings Jr., CEO of Celebration Health in Orlando, Fla., and cultural anthropologist and writer Jennifer James.
There also will be a special discussion on distribution of healthcare dollars featuring industry consultant Kenneth Abramowitz of Sanford Bernstein & Co. in New York and former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, an outspoken advocate of limiting extraordinary medical treatment.
James Orlikoff, president of Chicago-based Orlikoff & Associates, will moderate all general sessions throughout the conference.
Also during the conference, a search committee will be interviewing search firms to find a replacement for Thomas Adams, who resigned as MGMA executive vice president and CEO earlier this month. The association hopes to have a replacement by March 1999.