Another professional medical organization is ready to commit to supporting technology development to benefit its members.

This time, it’s the Medical Group Management Association, which is committing to occupy space in the Catalyst Health-Tech Innovation medical incubator in Denver. The Catalyst project is expected to open in 2018.

MGMA, based in Englewood, Colo., sees the move as an essential step as the organization evolves to “act as a connector between large organizations and our members, and to be able to act as an agent for what the needs are at medical practices,” says Halee Fischer-Wright, MGMA’s president and CEO.

MGMA’s move also is aimed at encouraging technology developers, including those in the IT space, to craft products that fit the needs of group practices and the physicians in them, says Todd Evenson, the MGMA’s chief operating officer who has expertise in digital health technology.

The participation by MGMA in the Catalyst project demonstrates a growing trend of medical professional associations taking active roles in advancing technology, including IT. For example, the American Medical Association last month announced it was launching a healthcare innovation company called Health2047, which will conduct rapid exploration of innovative solutions, including some in information technology.

The AMA said the for-profit San Francisco idea lab aims to identify, design and market out-of-the box solutions to challenging healthcare problems. AMA invested $15 million in the startup and is currently identifying potential partners to collaborate with on promising ideas. In a related move, the AMA is also partnering with MATTER, an independent healthcare innovation accelerator in Chicago, located less than a mile from the AMA headquarters. The AMA has a studio in MATTER’s Chicago workspace that enables physicians to work one-on-one with entrepreneurs in developing promising digital technologies.

When the Catalyst project is completed in 2018, MGMA’s presence will be somewhat similar to AMA’s space at MATTER, the MGMA executives say. Current plans call for MGMA to have about 5,000 square feet of space in the incubator, which is located about 17 miles from its main offices in Englewood.

The Catalyst Health-Tech Innovation development encompasses a full city block in the River North neighborhood of Denver. The additional space will provide an environment for MGMA staff and leaders to collaborate with other industry leaders on developing efficient and cost-effective strategies for medical practices and improving care for patients.

Catalyst expects to bring together health systems, entrepreneurs, health finance companies and large high-tech organizations with the goal of developing innovative solutions to issues in the healthcare delivery system and creating sustainable change in the industry.

Much IT development in recent years has been focused on larger hospitals and integrated delivery systems, Evenson says. “A lot of it is designed for bigger organizations and then shrunk to practice size. With this move, we’ll be working directly with the innovators who will be able to develop technology for our constituency.”

Evenson believes the Catalyst project will enable MGMA to directly connect with a variety of digital technology startups, data centers and data warehouses, as well as innovators who are working in the fields of wearable digital technology, 3-D printers and app development.

Other IT partners who have made commitments to the new space include BurstIQ, a company that helps organizations make better use of health data, and CirrusMD, an organization that incorporates virtual health technology into electronic medical records. Catalyst officials say they expect other IT companies to commit to space over the next two years.

In the new models of reimbursement, physician practices will be the revenue centers. We need technology to make practices efficient and patient-friendly.

Physicians and their practices are drawing increasing attention in IT development, Fischer-Wright says, as reimbursement incentives shift to value-based care and away from fee-for-service approaches.

“In the past, the hospital has been the revenue center, but in these new reimbursement models, it’s a cost center,” she says. “In the new models, physician practices will be the revenue centers. We need technology to make practices efficient and patient-friendly.”

“Even though we have a disparate membership, there are a lot of ways to mitigate the risk of development by creating something that can be leveraged across the entire healthcare industry,” Evenson adds.

Fischer-Wright says current plans do not call for MGMA to have assigned staff in the new location. Rather, the organization expects that the space will serve as an environment for various MGMA staff members to collaborate with technology developers.

“At this moment in time, we see this as an innovation space; we want to move to newer and more innovative ways for our constituents to work,” she adds. “We see this as our own technological incubator for medical group practices. It’s essential for us to be part of this community.”

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