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From MGMA 10/27/14

October 28, 2014 News No Comments

My second day at MGMA was a whirlwind of walking the exhibit hall, chatting with attendees, dipping into a few sessions, and party hopping the evening away. (How else to live up to the Digital Diva title?) I opted out of the 7:45 am keynote from professional development guru John C. Maxwell in favor of getting a solid seven hours of sleep. It was a worthwhile swap, given several lackluster comments I heard from attendees about his presentation. One CEO of a California-based physicians’ association thought that “it looked like church,” estimating that between 3,000 and 5,000 MGMA members sat through it. His guess wasn’t far off, given that MGMA has officially pegged attendance at this year’s conference at 4,700 – the same as last year according to the organization, though several overheard hallway conversations lead me to believe it’s slightly smaller than in years past.


Ladies from Reno Orthopaedic Clinic (NV) opted out of the keynote, too. The idea of getting up early after a night out in Vegas was poor planning in their opinion. Despite the late night out I’m sure many attendees had, the exhibit hall was in full swing by 9:30 am as I started my trek though 15 aisles of vendors. My first stop was the eClinicalWorks booth, where I had the chance to catch up with TJ Lynas. He told me that, as opposed to past MGMA conferences, he had not yet run into any physicians looking to implement their first EHR. Most are on their second or third, which his sales team no doubt enjoys since educated consumers  requires less hand holding.


I also had the opportunity to chat with Kelley Carnwath at the Qualis Health booth. The regional extension center last week celebrated achieving its goal of helping nearly 2,400 eligible physicians in Idaho and Washington successfully attest for Meaningful Use. The nonprofit is at the show promoting its practice transformation services.


I was not surprised to see several booths playing off the current Ebola media frenzy. Mediplay had somewhat dated news up on its in-house education and marketing demo screen, while Ebsco Health had Ebola keyed into its DynaMed clinical decision support tool. Both grabbed my attention, so I assume they must have also pulled in more relevant passers by.

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Speaking of pulling in passers by, the Televox booth grabbed my attention with its Breast Cancer Awareness Month theme. While I appreciated the opportunity to leave a personal note of encouragement on their ribbon board, I was reminded of several articles pointing out the over-commercialization of breast cancer awareness campaigns, which are often nothing more than thinly veiled attempts to cash in on a serious healthcare issue.


I ran into Roger Panduro from Alere at the CureMD booth. Roger told me that Alere opted not to exhibit this year, and instead sent him to walk the show floor in search of prospective partners. I also bumped into two orthopaedic practice administrators as they were making their way to demos at athenahealth. The happy hour at the CompuGroup Medical booth seemed to have briefly sidetracked them, so with a wave and a toast to my health they were gone.


While I didn’t imbibe at the CGM booth, I did take the opportunity to meet CEO Werner Rodorff, who has been in the position just three months.


Athenahealth came up again in my conversation with Douglas Anderson, a professor of health services management and leadership at George Washington University. His trip to MGMA included meeting with the company to discuss providing EHR demos to his students, who otherwise would have no experience with healthcare IT until they graduated into the trenches. Given the company’s increased focus on disruptive innovation, it seems like a good fit. I wonder if more EHR vendors will consider giving med students access to their technology. Who wouldn’t want to start influencing a group of potential physician champions before they even begin their careers?


I gave my feet a break during lunch and attended the MGMA press briefing. (A good thing I did, too, since I heard the complimentary lunch for attendees in the exhibit hall ran out before everyone was served.) Several MGMA reps discussed future plans including adding new session formats and more immersive elements to the conference, and increasing the membership of larger medical groups. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event in Nashville. While I’ve never been there as a conference-goer, I’ll take it over Las Vegas as a vacation destination any day.


A quick swing back through the exhibit hall after lunch gave me a chance to chat with Amy Hamilton of Patient Prompt. The company was recently acquired by Stericycle Communication Solutions, so MGMA is the first opportunity many staffers from both companies have had to meet each other. Patient Prompt is also using the show as an opportunity to launch new branding.



As I headed upstairs to the education sessions, I was happy to see the e-MDs team had their HIStalk sign front and center. Once upstairs, I had to stop Keith Chew of Integrated Medical Partners for a picture. Not only did he have a plethora of brightly colored conference ribbons hanging from his lanyard, but wore a fun, Halloween-themed tie for an extra dash of color, too. Who says men’s apparel has to be boring? Keith had just come from presenting a session on how to “Survive and Thrive as an Independent Medical Practice,” a session that attracted nearly 200 attendees. Most sessions seemed to be filled to capacity, some with overflow rooms two-thirds filled. The great session attendance speaks to the point Douglas Anderson made about learning being more valuable than buying and selling at MGMA. No doubt speakers and topics also played a part.


I ducked out of the conference to put in a few hours’ worth of work before heading to the Patient Prompt-sponsored #mgma14 tweetup, and then happily ran into several dedicated HIStalk Practice readers making their way to the NextGen party, including Charles Furr Jr., practice administrator at Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center (NC). CAAC recently converted from paper to NextGen, which makes me wonder how many other practices are in that very same boat. Probably more than the folks at eClinicalworks realize.


The NextGen party started off slow (granted, I got there practically when the doors opened), but things livened up as the night wore on. I ended up having my caricature drawn and chatting with a director of IT for a chain of urgent care clinics based in Florida. We discussed the plight of primary care thanks to urgent care clinics like his and big-box retailers like Walmart. He seemed to think PCPs should accept the fact that “medicine has become a commodity,” and patients don’t want to wait for care.

I was happy not to have waited long for a cab ride back to the hotel, where I promptly took the shoes off my aching feet and began planning for my third day at MGMA. Stay tuned for my final report from the show tomorrow.


Mr. H, Lorre, Jennifer, Dr. Jayne, Dr. Gregg, Lt. Dan, Dr. Travis

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