Monday, June 3, 2013

Keeping up with Health Care Management Issues – Local Opportunities for Continuing Education and Professional Development

By:  Cathleen O. Erwin, Ph.D.

Anyone who works in the health care industry knows how dynamic and challenging the environment is for all who are involved – practitioners, administrators, support personnel and patients.  It’s difficult to stay abreast of new developments, not to mention navigate the policies affecting the delivery and management of health care.  And to top that, our healthcare organizations must continue to provide the very highest quality of patient care, capture and report quality metrics and do all of this with an ever-tightening bottom line.  It’s no wonder that many organizations have had to cut the budgeted funding for professional development and continuing education, particularly for those who are not in a direct patient care role. Ask anyone who manages a national professional association and they will probably confirm that attendance of nationwide continuing education programs has declined over the past decade.


Fortunately, we have many professional associations that are providing affordable education opportunities in locations that are fairly accessible to individuals living within the state of Alabama.  These organizations also typically welcome attendance by non-members – usually at only a slightly higher cost to the participant.  You typically will find that the meetings attract individuals from a variety of health care organizations and occupations, including medical professionals as well as administrators and managers.


Several national professional associations focused on health care administration have a presence within our state in the form of state and sometimes even local area chapters.  The types of programs offered include regularly scheduled (e.g., quarterly or monthly) luncheon meetings, statewide conferences, and networking events.  Usually most programs include an expert speaker or panel of speakers, although at least one organization has a few round-table discussion meetings that allow local members to discuss issues and best practices with one another.


Following is a list of four of the national organizations with a presence in the state that offer continuing education events throughout the year that are open to non-members:


·                  Alabama Healthcare Executives Forum – the state chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE):  You can also join them on LinkedIn. ACHE is the leading professional association of healthcare executives in the U.S. TheFORUM offers programs on topics that are of broad interest to those involved in management of healthcare organizations.  TheFORUM hosts lunch meetings on a regular basis in Birmingham (quarterly meetings), Mobile (2-3 per year), Huntsville (1-2 per year) and Montgomery (1-2 per year). Meeting announcements are sent via email and are posted on LinkedIn. 


·                  Alabama Chapter of Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA): HFMA is an association of individuals who are organized to improve the financial management of hospitals and allied patient care institutions. Alabama HFMA offers a variety of educational seminars through two 2½ day institutes each year.  In 2013, their institutes are scheduled for June and November – details can be viewed on their website.


·                  Alabama HIMSS – the state chapter of Healthcare Information Management Systems Society: HIMSS is a professional association organized to advance the best use of information and management systems for the betterment of health care.  Alabama HIMSS can also be found on Facebook and LinkedIn.  The organization hosts two statewide conferences – Fall and Spring.


·                  MGMA/Alabama – the state chapter of Medical Group Management Association: MGMA is a professional association for individuals involved in the management of medical group practices.  MGMA/Alabama offers two statewide conferences each year (Winter and Summer), in addition to numerous meetings held around the state by the fifteen local chapters affiliated with MGMA.  A complete list of the local chapters including links to websites and information about upcoming meetings is available on the MGMA/Alabama website.


As a disclaimer, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the professional associations in the state of Alabama focusing on health care management issues – these are the four national organizations that I have been associated with in some way over the course of the past fifteen years spent in and around the healthcare industry. Members working on a volunteer basis usually run the organizations, and they appreciate suggestions for topics and speakers for future meetings.  The organizations are also very welcoming of undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing a career in health care administration.


Dr. Cathleen Erwin is an assistant professor of health services administration at Auburn University and immediate past president of the Alabama Healthcare Executives Forum


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