Just back from speaking at the wonderful Association of Otolaryngology Administrators (AOA) annual conference — what a valuable event. It’s such a great experience as a speaker to participate in such a well-attended, well-run event.

In both of my sessions, attendees  were so attentive, taking notes, asking great questions, and making great comments and sharing anecdotes about their own practices.  The attendees were helping each other as well as benefiting from content from all of us speakers.

I have no doubt all attendees will go home with dozens of ideas to improve their practices’ profitability. I was just one of dozens of qualified presenters — what a download of information for the attendees.  And they were clearly so motivated to soak up as much information as possible.  (For example, I tried to sneak into the talk before mine — which started at 7:30 AM! — on the Affordable Care Act.  Standing room only, despite the early hour.)

Physicians may sometimes doubt the value of sending a manager off to a conference like this.  The cost may be in the neighborhood of $2,000 when travel and downtime are figured in, so it’s not a trivial expense.  But just one coding tip that brings more revenue or marketing tip that brings more patients — or compliance tip that avoids an audit — would pay for that expense many times over.  And the network that attendees can form is absolutely priceless.  This is especially true when your specialty has a dedicated practice administrators association like the AOA — but, even at the larger/general practice management events like MGMA, medical office managers will meet like-minded professionals they can bounce ideas off of and gain advice from in the future.

In tight times, cutting out conference attendance may seem like an easy choice. However, you may be unknowingly hurting your practice’s chances to grow new revenues, stay ahead of regulatory issues, or nip costly problems in the bud.  It’s useful to be picky about attending events — make sure they’ll have a variety of relevant subject matter that is important to your practice.  But don’t cut out all conferences just because that seems like the simplest expense reduction.

You may think that, as a speaker, I’m biased.  Indeed, I do benefit from opportunities to speak at conferences — but, the information that speakers share is often worth far more than our fees!  And while we’re there, we answer all sorts of questions that come up — at no charge.  Conferences are an amazing opportunity to pick experts’ brains at a tiny fraction of the cost of a private consulting engagement.


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