As small or single-specialty groups continue to merge into larger multispecialty groups and clinics, there's been a steadily rising demand for trained, experienced practice administrators. Membership in the Medical Group Management Association, the major professional organization in the field, has jumped from fewer than 3,000 in 1980 to more than 15,000 administrators, managers, and doctors today, and it's been growing recently by about 12 percent a year. MGMA members represent 6,000 groups with 122,000 physicians.
Practice administrators must have a thorough knowledge of government regulations, managed care, employee benefits, infection-control procedures, and computerized record-keeping and billing systems. Many also hold graduate degrees in business or health-care administration.
To hone its members' skills, MGMA holds about 100 educational seminars throughout the year covering such topics as marketing, financial management, and group mergers. Some programs focus on specific office problems, like managed-care reimbursement and coding; others are tailored to the needs of various medical specialties. Attendance was 13,000 in 1993. About 2,000 MGMA members have completed a five-year advanced training program that qualifies them for fellowship in the American College of Medical Practice Executives.
For those with the right degrees and experience, the growing demand and limited supply have resulted in a seller's market. Recruiters who formerly handled only physicians now field many requests for practice administrators as well, and have taken to "headhunting. …