MGMA 2009: Are practices giving up already?

Yes, I know that many practices are facing some of the worst financial pressures they've ever faced--and realistically they fear that things could get worse. Between their financial fears, and the hunger of hospitals to buy out practices, it must look pretty tempting to throw in the towel. That's probably why sessions on practice/hospital negotiations and partnerships held at this year's MGMA conference had such strong attendance; people were forced to sit in the hallway.

On the other hand, at least a few speakers at the conference had credible advice as to how practices could improve the way they evaluate patients, extend service offerings, increase hours of business and more to build profit without having to change much else about their business. Those weren't the super-popular sessions, sad to say. One could argue that if practices sell out in desperation, they probably haven't given experts like the ones speaking here a chance to help them re-stabilize.

Now, there's clearly no one way practices should react to financial pressures from within and hospitals pursuing them from without. For some practices, selling out may be a perfect solution to addressing their particular market issues. Not every practice wants to change their business model somewhat, which may be necessary for many that want to thrive.

But it does seem like a shame if practices come to an event like this simply to reinforce their existing decision to troll for buyout deals.  Unless you think the entire independent practice model is dead, the advice being dished out by speakers at this year's event is worth considering. It does take some flexibility to consider once-unknown options like extended Saturday hours, retail clinics, medical spas and other left turns from the practice of traditional medicine--but you have no right to call yourself an entrepreneur if you're not market driven.

Hey, if you don't want to change your practice at all, you're ultimately going to get out maneuvered by those who do. By all means, sell your practice if non-traditional services and new marketing techniques give you the vapors. But if you want to stay independent, it's time to evolve or die. - Anne