Initial thoughts on MGMA

Today I'm at the Medical Group Management Association in Philadelphia, and it's already proving to be quite an experience. The show includes some camp-imagine being guided to a keynote by a trio of Revolutionary War-era drummers-but also the usual high-intensity buzz that permeates a well-attended, well-established event. I definitely felt the excitement myself as I walked the Convention Center's giant hallways.

Today's keynoter offered a refreshing break from the nuts and bolts discussion of practice management issues. The speaker, James Canton, PhD, is a futurist who serves as chairman and CEO for San Francisco think tank the Institute for Global Futures. While I could see some audience members who weren't that engaged (I'm guessing those from smaller practices who aren't as inclined to think decades ahead) it's hard to argue that Dr. Canton had some interesting points to make about the future of healthcare, including:

The need for better gerontological care:
  It's often been noted that the cresting wave of boomers (born 1946 to 1964) is going to put a lot of stress on the healthcare system. Dr. Canton's point was that not only will we need better care, we'll need to offer higher-touch care for this population, which is, in plain language, loaded with bucks and ready to pay for treatments that keep them active and healthy.

The impact of climate change on health needs: While it may not show up immediately, providers should prepare for changes being wrought by global warming, including everything from injuries caused by natural disasters (think: California wildfires) to an asthmatic patient whose condition worsens due to rising pollen counts, Dr. Canton suggested.

The coming boom in personalized, preventive, disease-specific medicine:  Dr. Canton's far from the only one saying it, but it bears repeating. The time is coming when the marriage of biotechnology/genetics and clinical data will allow us to address causes of illness before patients get sick, give patients drugs tailored directly to their specific genetic profile and treat diseases far more successfully. "I expect to see cancer become a completely managed disease," he says.

The coming "war for talent": He also warned practice administrators that by 2015, there could be 10 million unfilled jobs in the U.S-and that they'd be fighting hard for employees on a global basis. He's telling the Global 1000 companies he advises to start fighting the coming "war for talent" now, before they're muscled out of the competition.

All told, people who came to the keynote expecting a buffet of wildly provocative concepts may have left disappointed. But there's little doubt that the changes Dr. Canton outlined are worth considering, not only for medical practices but for the healthcare industry as a whole. After all, it never hurts to be prepared. - Anne