Catch me at HFMA ANI 2008

Folks, I'm excited to say that next week I'll be attending the Healthcare Financial Management Association's HFMA ANI 2008 convention. This is the annual event for the healthcare financial management crowd, and it looks like it's going to be a blowout, with 400 vendors alone showing up. The show is taking place in Las Vegas, whose neon pageantry should come as something of a contrast to the sober discussions taking place inside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Don't get me wrong, it's not as though the healthcare finance world is all gloom and doom. As those who read our sister publication FierceHealthFinance already know, many providers continue to make substantial revenues and profits, though it's true many have lost ground over the past several months. True, health plans have taken something of a beating, but as we all know, they'll find a way to get it back in short order. (When's the last time you heard about the bankruptcy of a national health plan?) And while medical groups may have to shift strategies to cope with Medicare cuts and private contracting hassles, they have the power of the referral in hand and will usually find a way to stay afloat.

That being said, the finance side of the house does face some particularly big challenges over the next year or two.

Among the hottest topics at HFMA ANI is the question of whether hospital providers can cope with the demands of collecting from the self-pay patient. As we all know, between high-deductible plans and the burden of the uninsured, this is a very serious issue.  This year will feature dozens of vendors who offer to help with this task, and plenty of food for thought at the conference sessions. Count on some stories passing along what I learn.

Another hot topic is regulatory action. Hospitals, in particular, need to gear up to document their charitable activities on the new Form 990 Schedule H, something that could be a hassle, to say the least. I intend to grab a front seat in this week's session on how hospitals can cope with the Schedule H, and share what I find out. For non-profits, after all, this is mission-critical information.

Of course, there's a lot more going on at the show, touching on physician relationships, managed care contracting, collections and more--and I'll pass along everything I can.  But I believe the topics above are among the most important for you to think about this year, so expect some extra coverage there.

In the meantime, if you're planning to be in Vegas, I'd love to say hello. If I'm wandering by you in the hall, feel free to give me a shout. (And if you find me putting quarters in a slot machine, you should definitely drag me away...) - Anne

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