The Alabama chapter of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, hosted its fall institute at The Wynfrey in November, with Brent Bishop and Roger Shultz serving as keynote speakers.
With a degree in economics and an MBA, Brent Bishop has been involved in a broad range of business ventures. For recreation, he climbs mountains, having reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1994 and in 2002. Roger Shultz is a former University of Alabama football player who, as a contestant on "The Biggest Loser," managed to shed 164 pounds.
The conference, which was approved for continuing education credits, included sessions on the current global financial crisis, keeping up with coding changes, and a forum on recent developments in recovering reimbursement from third parties for the treatment of traumatic injuries, as well as updates from Alabama Medicaid and Blue Cross. Janice Ridling, CHFP, MPA, Vice President of Revenue Management for Baptist Health System, and Pollyanna Brannan of Brannan Consulting discussed developing benchmarks using live collection data to provide goals for vendors.
The meeting was capped off at the Friday morning session, when Mark Randolph, a survivor of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, spoke to a rapt audience about the experience and what it has meant for him.
Jason Frey, CPA, the Director of Accounting for Children's Health System, was in charge of organizing the fall institute. He designed the agenda with all three tracks of HFMA members in mind. "Within HFMA," Frey said, "we have three different membership tracks. We have members from Patient Financial Services, a group that ranges from the Certified Patient Account Reps, who deal with patient claims, to the department managers. Then we have members working in compliance, which is mainly comprised of lawyers and internal auditors. Our third group is made up of CFOs, who are primarily CPAs by training."
Frey explained that the Alabama HFMA is focused on educating members in an effort to help them improve their professional skills. "We have two big meetings a year where we try to pack in a good bit of useful information" he said. "We have the fall institute going on now, and an annual institute that we hold in Sandestin, usually in mid to late June. Then, throughout the year, we have road shows where representatives from one of our three membership tracks set up teaching-type workshops across the state. For example, a group of Patient Financial Services members might schedule a meeting in Huntsville to discuss patient access. And recently, we teamed up with the Cumberland School of Law for a compliance meeting." All the workshops are posted on the group's website.
According to Frey, the Alabama HFMA chapter has about 500 members. There are 75 HFMA chapters across the nation. The national organization provides educational training, and is active in lobbying on healthcare financial issues. For example, the national HFMA worked with Congress when the legislators made changes to IRS form 990, the return that tax-exempt organizations must file. Recently, the national HFMA was involved with setting accounting standards for hospitals, focusing on how institutions should calculate charity care.
The HFMA is active on both the local and national levels. In today's complex financial environment, organizations like HFMA are an indispensable resource for healthcare financial professionals.