Believe it or not, the people who run medical group practices are like jet fighter pilots-at least in a few ways.
Like their flyboy brethren, these office-bound administrators are trained to deftly deal with stress in a job packed with pressure. Indeed, their survival-that's job survival, of course-depends on it.
While that dramatic comparison may seem like a bit of a stretch, it's one of the metaphorical messages that highlight this year's annual conference of the Medical Group Management Association, the Englewood, Colo.-based trade group whose 19,000 members help lead more than 237,000 physicians through the daily administrative dogfights typical of America's healthcare system
The opening session of the this year's four-day conference in San Francisco, which is expected to attract about 5,000 members and exhibitors, will feature the Afterburners, a cadre of former combat pilots who now lecture organizations like the MGMA on the "tools and techniques of flawless executive and peak performance." One of their favorite slogans: "Business is combat."
William Jessee, the MGMA's president and chief executive officer, who knows a little about corporate combat, believes that his members-ranging from mid-level office managers to physician executives-can learn a lot by listening to former fighter jocks apply concepts like team-building and leadership to healthcare.
Jessee draws some distinct comparisons between the two groups.
"They do presentations on how, in high-stress jobs with low margins for error, you can execute flawlessly," Jessee says of the Afterburners, who will deliver the keynote address on Oct. 4, the first full day of the conference. "That has a lot of implications for practice management, such as trying to achieve that kind of flawless execution in a high-stress, high-tension role with a low margin of error."
The conference will feature some 95 breakout sessions, about 260 exhibitors and an expanded "technology showcase" that includes some of that industry's best-known companies.
The conference, which begins Oct. 3 at the San Francisco Convention Center, is expected to draw a slightly larger crowd than last year's annual summit in Philadelphia.
In keeping with its backdrop in one of America's most scenic locales, the conference's theme is "Bridging Individual Performance and Organizational Effectiveness."
The keynote address at the closing session on Oct. 6 will be delivered by quality guru Donald Berwick, president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Boston.
In another nod to the City by the Bay and its famous tourist attractions, a session on risk management is titled "Avoiding Alcatraz: Legal Update."
"A lot of the sessions are going to cover issues relating to compliance," says Jessee, whose trade group posted net income of about $2 million on revenue of $23 million for fiscal 2004, ended June 30. "I jokingly say that a lot of the sessions focus on how to avoid going to jail."