Q&A: MGMA chief aims to boost reinvention

Susan Turney, MD

Susan Turney, MD, took the helm as president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association one year ago on Oct. 12, succeeding William Jessee, MD, who retired after 12 years.

Before MGMA, Turney served as CEO and executive vice president of the Wisconsin Medical Society since 2004.

Prior to 2004, along with her clinical practice, Turney also served as the medical director for patient financial services at Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin. She is founder of the Wisconsin Statewide Health Information Network (WISHIN) and co-founder of the Wisconsin Health Information Organization.

With one year under her belt at MGMA, and looking ahead to the 22,500-member association’s annual conference Oct. 21-24 in San Antonio, Texas, Turney talked with Healthcare IT News about the past year at MGMA and the IT and financial challenges medical groups across the country face as they work to achieve meaningful use, prepare for new payment models, convert to ICD-10 and transform their practices.

As you prepare for the annual conference, what is top of mind for you?
If you stay at the real high level, it’s all about changing the model and the payment of care. How do you accomplish that? Certainly the government has been helping to evolve different models through their demonstration projects. But the private sector has been in this as well. Practices talk about this and think about it every day. They want to make sure that they’re doing the right care, that it’s cost-effective. They have to think about ways to re-invent themselves to make sure they can do the same or more for less.

What will be at the top of your agenda for next year?
Listening very carefully and trying to figure out what our practices are doing and how we can best help them understand, prepare and implement, and actually address and digest all that information that’s out there. It’s a tough task, but I believe if we can help them, they will be able to achieve success.

How important is health information technology to your membership?
Our members take their technology needs very seriously. They know that they need technology both on the practice and on the administrative side as well as on the clinical side, and they have to marry the two to make sure they’re really getting the best value in order to give the best value in the way care is being delivered. Certainly more and more practices are adopting EHR technology. We have a diverse group of members, so they’re at every stage of implementation. What the practices want to do is make sure they’re doing this right for the patient. They want the information at the desktop, at their fingertips so that the practitioners can really manage the patient outcome at the time of service.

What about the business side of the practice?
The other side of it is how can you leverage technology to improve all the administrative hassles that practices are dealing with. How can we standardize operating rules? How can we make sure that we’re collecting and benchmarking similar information? How can we make sure the vendors we’re working with are really getting us what we need, and they’re certified and we’re certified to produce the data that will really help to reinvent the organization.

When you think about things like claims submission and patient eligibility, remittance information advice, all the things around the revenue cycle and the billing cycle, electronic funds transfer that are really, really important for the financial health of the organization, it is something that practices are investing a fair amount of time in and wanting to do it right – building it the right way so they can get what they need at the end of the day.

So, they’re operating on two parallel tracks, trying to make sure they have the software and the financial ability to invest in what they need to implement the most effective technology system that really supports both the business and the practice.

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