The Medical Group Management Association’s most recent MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Are you considering a professional development certification in 2020?” Nearly half (47%) answered “no”, 42% responded “yes”, while 11% said “unsure.”
The poll was conducted January 21, 2020, with 1,156 applicable responses.
For more than 60 years, the American College of Medical Practice Executives (ACMPE) has been elevating exceptional medical practice managers to the role of Certified Medical Practice Executive (CMPE) and Fellow (FACMPE). To better understand the value and ROI of becoming board certified, MGMA spoke with four healthcare professionals who found personal and organizational value in achieving ACMPE board certification. Here are their stories.
Am I ready for board certification?
Patrick Lim, CMPE, CPC, CEMC, revenue integrity manager, Stanford Health Care, San Francisco
One question that comes up for many healthcare professionals looking to advance their career is if they’re ready to take the next step. It’s a question Patrick Lim pondered for years before finally taking the plunge. Lim works as revenue integrity manager with Stanford Health Care and felt he needed to expand his expertise.
“I’ve taken coding [certifications] and all sorts of coding education, but I felt like the world is bigger than that,” he said. “I felt like I needed to explore and get out of my comfort zone. I don’t know the operational side, HR or operational governance, which was very exciting to learn. I guess when something sparks your interest, you kind of dive in and soak it up like a sponge.”
Lim said the process of earning ACMPE certification was also manageable, as he spent about six hours a week studying after hours with his director and several coworkers. In addition to quizzes and practice exams, Lim said the most valuable tool was an ACMPE study guide and workbook, which helped him better master the material.
Lim reiterated that ACMPE certification is probably most appropriate for healthcare professionals who have been in the industry for a few years but would like more tools to advance their careers.
“Five years ago, I just wasn’t in the state of mind nor did I have the experience or the knowledge of seeing that I could have a leadership role,” he said. “This has really put the pieces together for me and made me feel more comfortable and confident, to a point that I felt like I know what I’m talking about. MGMA really put it in perspective with the right terminology and explaining how things connect, as well.”
Expand your knowledge
Janiene Pitt, CMPE, associate director of population health services, Tandigm Health, Conshohocken, Pa.
Janiene Pitt said ACMPE board certification presented an opportunity to expand her knowledge in healthcare management, which mirrors her own career path.
Looking back, Pitt said the three- to six-month period she spent studying for the ACMPE exam was challenging, but she encounters real-life scenarios drawn directly from her credentialing process every day.
“The risk and compliance module is really critical to understand and get ahead of,” she said. “I was involved in committees, and I got to hear some stories from other practices about a surprise audit from OSHA. [It helps] just understanding what you need to know, because there is so much. Oftentimes, the physicians or the owners of the practice really have no clue, so that responsibility falls on the practice manager.”
Ultimately, Pitt said earning the CMPE credential has also encouraged her to go further in her career.
“I liked the fact that it had a path, so you could go from getting the certification then onto Fellowship,” she said. “During that path, you really got exposure into the nuts and bolts of running anything from a small practice to a multi-level healthcare system. The most enticing part was being recognized as someone who took an interest in practice management, someone who displayed an ability to understand concepts that would be important to running an optimal practice. That was important, especially in the role I have now.”
An opportunity to prove yourself
Jennifer Souders, FACMPE, CPC, operations manager, UCHealth Family Medicine, Parker, Colo.
As a longtime healthcare professional who worked her way up from the bottom, Jennifer Souders said she appreciates the rigor of ACMPE board certification for almost any medical manager.
“I actually only have two years of college. I never received a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, so I think I’m a little bit different than a lot of people,” she said. “That’s what made me look into [board certification]. I felt like I needed something to prove to myself that I knew what I was doing and to prove to my providers that I knew what I was doing.
"This was a great way for me to do that," Souders added. "My outlook is that our providers are board certified in their specialty, and we should be board certified as well.”
Souders said the work to become a CMPE is probably the best investment she’s made.
“I initially paid out of pocket for the ACMPE, but after a couple of years, it really gave me the confidence to say, ‘No, I do know what I’m talking about.’ I would tell them things I would do in such a case, proving to them that it actually worked and that it did benefit the practice,” she said. “Then they looked at it in a different light. They trusted me more and more with more and more things, and then they started paying for memberships and conferences. It really allowed me to stay on top, if not ahead, of trends. We were one of the first practices to do open-access scheduling. We were one of the first to implement an EMR. And that’s all because of MGMA giving me the tools to actually make those decisions and just be on top of my game.”
Strengthening your organization
Michael O’Connell, MHA, FACMPE, FACHE, senior vice president of operations, Stanford Health Care, San Francisco
In a healthcare management career that stretches back to the 1980s, Michael O’Connell has been intimately involved with both MGMA and ACMPE board certification and Fellowship, serving as a board member and senior advisor.
O’Connell said the CMPE certification and ACMPE Fellowship signify an individual’s commitment to the profession and are opportunities to continue to learn and grow in medical practice management.
Unlike fields in which someone simply obtains employment, O’Connell said: “This has become, for many individuals, a career, a profession, and for some, a ministry. [ACMPE] is also a personal invitation. In any organization, it’s not just about being a member where you can put that on your resume. It’s about how you are connected to that organization and how you are connected to people. Very rarely do people pursue professional certification without it being a personal invitation. It’s a journey of learning, a journey of discovery, and it ends up being something which becomes very personal for people.”
O’Connell also views ACMPE as an increasingly necessary tool in healthcare management.
“In our profession, all of our physicians are board certified, and we would not consider hiring a physician if they were not board certified,” he said. “And while [that is not yet the case] for you to work in a medical practice, that’s what we’re moving toward — and that people recognize this is the gold standard, an important component in your professional development.”
“For some people, it’s very easy to pursue board certification, and for others it’s hard. So many of us are in the sandwich generation, where we take care of our parents and we take care of our kids, and who takes care of us? The ROI of this credential is very much of an ROI in ourselves. This is an investment in your career. Anecdotally, those individuals that are board certified or have Fellowship are in positions with tremendous responsibility, usually senior leadership roles, which ultimately results in someone being paid more. So, it’s really, in my mind, an investment in oneself.”
Would you like to join our polling panel to voice your opinion on important practice management topics? MGMA Stat is a national poll that addresses practice management issues, the impact of new legislation and related topics. Participation is open to all healthcare leaders. Results of other polls and information on how to participate in MGMA Stat are available at: mgma.com/stat