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7/18/2011
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New MGMA Chief Brings Patient Safety, EHR Expertise

Medical Group Management Association recruits Wisconsin Medical Society's CEO and the founder of two data-exchange bodies as new leader.

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The Medical Group Management Association has selected a new chief with as strong a background in health IT as practically any other leader of a healthcare organization not specifically dedicated to IT promotion.

MGMA, an Englewood, Colo.-based organization comprised of group physician practice administrators and leaders, has named Dr. Susan L. Turney to succeed Dr. William F. Jessee as president and CEO. Jessee, himself a vocal advocate for IT adoption in healthcare, will retire after 12 years in charge. MGMA says its 22,500 members lead 13,600 healthcare organizations that provide more than 40% of the healthcare services delivered in the United States.

Turney, who has served as CEO of the Wisconsin Medical Society since 2004, helped establish and chair both the Wisconsin Health Information Organization (WHIO) and the Wisconsin Statewide Health Information Network (WISHIN). She will take the helm in October, said MGMA. She also served as the 2005-06 MGMA board chair, and was medical director for patient financial services of the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, prior to running the state medical society.

Marshfield Clinic was an early adopter of health IT. The large group practice developed its own electronic health record (EHR) system, which it now markets commercially as CattailsMD.

MGMA is not making Turney available for interviews, but the organization has been highlighting the CEO-designate's role as a health IT leader. "When people think of MGMA, they automatically think of data," said Alan Winkler, chairman of the board of the American College of Medical Practice Executives (ACMPE), MGMA's credentialing affiliate, citing the group's detailed research reports and surveys related to the costs of running a physician practice. "She's got the clinical background and the functional expertise to apply it," Winkler said in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.

"Dr. Turney brings a lot to the table," MGMA board chair Shena Scott said in an interview. "She will be able to share her expertise with our membership."

Scott noted that many physician practices are struggling with implementing EHRs and exchanging health data electronically with other entities, as they aim for federal subsidies for demonstrating Meaningful Use of EHRs. And, as a recent MGMA survey showed, group practices are lagging in the conversion to ANSI X12 version 5010 code sets for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) transactions.

MGMA noted that WISHIN is helping to foster patient-centered care and improve individual and population health with the aid of IT and data sharing. "A lot of the things they've done at WISHIN are ahead of the curve," Scott told InformationWeek Healthcare. "Obviously, health IT is going to be such a part of medical practice in the future."

Scott said Turney has spent a lot of time addressing patient safety issues for physicians in Wisconsin. "Couple that with health IT, I think that's going to be very important in the future," she said.

According to Scott, the MGMA was not necessarily looking for a physician to replace Jessee, a pediatrician, but found in Turney a new CEO who is trained in internal medicine and who has been involved with the organization. "She knows MGMA, she knows our members, so there isn't as much of a need for a formal transition," Scott said.

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