The Medical Group Management Association has a flashy new logo and a restyled monthly magazine-two cosmetic changes it will preview next month at its 75th annual conference at the San Antonio Convention Center. On a more substantive level, a crowd of as many as 6,000 will attend this year's four-day meeting, set for Oct. 21-24, which will offer scores of workshops and other educational sessions highlighting the theme "reinventing healthcare through technology, leadership and caring." That theme, MGMA officials say, examines "the art of balancing high tech and high touch."
In early September, registration for the conference was running several hundred above the record levels set two years ago, when the annual meeting in San Diego drew more than 6,000 people. But no one knows how the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 will affect the final numbers.
"We're running 400 or 500 ahead of where we were this same time before our best-attended conference, in San Diego," says William Jessee, M.D., president and chief executive officer of the MGMA. "That all could change substantially. I think everyone is a little gun-shy. But we've taken a position that the way terrorists win is by totally disrupting everyone's life. Yes, you've got to be security-conscious, and, yes, you've got to be more careful. But if we allow ourselves not to get back to business as usual, they truly win."
The conference will explore new technologies that affect both practice administration and clinical expertise. At the same time, it will emphasize the importance of maintaining the "humanistic" side of customer service.
It will include five general sessions, 136 breakout sessions and five workshops relating to the theme of technology with a human touch. Noted writer Michael Kinsley, editor of Slate, an online magazine based in Seattle, will host a panel discussion on erasing the impediments to using technology as a way of improving patient care.
As it prepares for this year's milestone conference, the MGMA, based in Englewood, Colo., is fresh from a marketing makeover on two fronts.
One, the old logo was scrapped in a "brand rebuild," replaced by a new emblem that represents an intersection, or crossroads. Officials say four inward-pointing arrows indicate the perspective of members looking from all directions for professional interaction with the MGMA.
The organization also has replaced its monthly magazine and newsletter with a new, 10-times-per-year flagship publication called MGMA Connexion. The name was selected "because connecting is what the MGMA is all about," says Gary Kaplan, M.D., chairman of the association's board of directors. "Making connections is one way each of us can further our careers and leadership potential as well as enhance our abilities to mentor and advise each other in turbulent times," Kaplan wrote in "Coach's Corner," a column that appeared prominently in the September debut issue.
The MGMA changed its membership structure in August, eliminating the largely duplicative category of group-practice memberships in favor of simply identifying individual members. It now has about 18,000 individual members, about the same as last year, says spokeswoman Nichol Schauerhamer.