Editor's Corner: At MGMA, 2016 is the year of MACRA

Joanne Finnegan
Joanne Finnegan

I’ll give you one guess what the hottest topic is going to be at the Medical Group Management Association conference this year.

If you said the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, you are right. It was perfect timing for the MGMA 2016 annual conference that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released the final rule for implementation of MACRA just before the association’s big event.

The association couldn’t have planned it better. “Holy cow. I think the government conspired with MGMA when they came out with all the MACRA information just two weeks before our conference,” said Mickey Smith, MGMA’s board chair, during a recent webinar for first-time attendees.

In response, MGMA’s government affairs experts put together several sessions to help attendees understand MACRA. Instead of talking about what MACRA might look like based on a proposed rule from CMS, they will be able to talk about the specifics in the final rule.

Of course that’s not the only hot topic that is sure to generate interest among attendees as the MGMA celebrates its 90th anniversary. Other focus areas include working within the value-based world, maximizing the benefits of third-party relationships, leadership, the changing patient relationship and the independence to integrated spectrum.


Release of the final rule prompted the MGMA to add a special track, dubbed the “Under the MACRAscope” series, to address the highly-anticipated rules to implement physician payment reforms for 2017 and beyond. Sessions will prepare practices for the two new Medicare value-based payment tracks--the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and alternative payment models (APMs). Sessions include:

  • MIPS quality, cost and practice improvement activities on Monday, October 31 at 2:30 p.m.
  • MIPS and EHRs on Tuesday, November 1 at 8:30 a.m..
  • Group practice perspectives on APMs on Tuesday, November 1 at 2:45 p.m.
  • The general session on the MGMA’s view from Washington on Wednesday, November 2 at 8 a.m..

Value-based care

Sessions will explore the differences between the fee-for-service payment system and the new value-based practice environment. Discussion will focus on the forces driving practices to consider new contracting methods, the operational and cultural issues that practices need to address, new models and partnerships for care delivery and methods to identify and measure data accurately.

One example is a presentation on Monday, Oct. 31 at 7 a.m. by Jennifer Zreloff, M.D., medical director at Emory University Hospital Healthcare Network in Atlanta, describing the process of transitioning to a patient-centered medical home.

Third-party relationships

Medical practices contract with a variety of third-parties ranging from companies that provide informational technology support to legal firms and billing companies.

The MGMA will hold numerous sessions to focus on harnessing relationships with vendors and other industry partners to provide optimal care in an efficient practice. Participants will discover best practices to optimize third-party relationships, including information technology partners, billing and management companies, security partners as well as other healthcare providers and organizations.

Changing patient relationships

Physicians are working to put the patient at the center of their practices, which can drive positive outcomes. At a time when doctors worry that increasing administrative tasks are taking away from the doctor-patient relationship, sessions will focus on opportunities for patient engagement, access, satisfaction, wellness and personal care.

Sessions will also suggest staffing solutions centered on patient engagement and techniques designed to improve patient experience and outcomes.

The independence to integrated spectrum

More physician practices are being bought by hospitals and healthcare systems. But on the other hand, many independent practitioners are committed to staying that way. MGMA sessions will examine the options on the spectrum from independence to full integration and all the variations in between.

Sessions will discuss the forces driving change and the benefits and challenges of each model. Participants will gain insights from other organizations’ experiences.

You may have head the expression, "May you live in interesting times." It’s purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. For better or worse, these are interesting times for physician practices and the MGMA will focus on many of your biggest challenges.--Joanne (@PracticeMgt)