Will this year's HFMA conference bring hope?

Believe it or not, the economy may be staggering to its feet at long last. In fact, according to a new Associated Press article, more than 90 percent of economists predict that the recession will end this year.

The question is, will it happen soon enough to help the financial types scheduled to show up at the Healthcare Financial Management Association's big annual conference next month? Or is the healthcare industry still in for more carnage caused by the worst economy since World War II? If so, let's hope there's inspiration in the air at the show.

At the HFMA event, which takes place in Seattle from June 14 to June 17 this year, people usually take a very hands-on approach. There's lots of excellent workshops on topics like how to pay doctors appropriately or how to comply with the latest legal boondoggle. The sessions are packed--even last year, in Las Vegas, when heaven knows there were enough distractions!--and questions from the audience are usually on point and thoughtful.

At any industry trade show, there's talk about how to manage, including during bad times, but seldom does anyone confront the reality of bad times squarely. And when you're talking about CFOs, accounting supervisors and revenue cycle managers, that's a bad thing. Their role demands that they provide clarity, after all. The thing is, even a hard-bitten by-the-numbers person can get depressed and discouraged.

This year at HFMA ANI, I'd argue that what these attendees need is a big shot of courage and optimism. Usually, I'm turned off by rah-rah "we can do it" boosterism, but for battered financial managers it might be just the ticket. Maybe we're not talking about a single event (parties or panels on this theme can go sour easily), but an attitude that should permeate the event.

HFMA, I'm not suggesting that you need to turn your upcoming show into a big encounter therapy group. But please, bear in mind that the people you're serving have faced some of the worst times of their career. Treat 'em nice, OK? - Anne