Find out about clinic managers' associations and how they're empowering hundred of medical clinics across the country to provide high quality, cost effective care to their community.
In this episode of Cherry Live, Dr Jordan Vollrath sat down with Karen Majerly, the head of the Medical Group Management Association of Canada and the Ontario Medical Group Management Association to learn more about these two critically important organizations and how they're providing behind the scenes support for Canada's medical clinics.
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[Host]: Dr Jordan Vollrath
[Speaker]: Karen Majerly
Jordan: Alright, hello and welcome to CHERRY LIVE! I'm Dr. Jordan Volrath and for those of you tuning in for the first time, CHERRY LIVE! is brought to you by CHERRY Health, Canada's medical network where healthcare practitioners connect. If you haven't logged on to our site yet, we are the number one largest platform in Canada for physician jobs, featuring opportunities for more than 1,600 clinics, hospitals and virtual care clinics across the country. And if you're on the other side of the table, it is 100% free to post jobs. www.cherry.health is the link and you can sign up and find yourself a new physician or maybe even some locum coverage totally free, no cost, using our suite of tools. Now, Cherry Live, of course, is our podcast series where we connect with innovators, entrepreneurs and professionals of all sorts who are working to move Canada's healthcare system forward. Today we're joined by Karen Majorley from the Medical Group Management Association of Canada which is a nationwide association of medical clinic leaders and is also an organization we've worked with quite a bit over the years. Their mission to connect and support medical clinic practices very much aligns with ours at Cherry Health and so I'm delighted to have one of their executives here with us today. Now Karen Majerly is an association manager and communications specialist. She started her career with an association management company producing newsletters and journals for 10 different industry clients. She moved on to handling communications and media relations for Toronto's commuter rail and bus system before launching her own business in 2004. Today, Karen manages the Ontario Medical Group Management Association and the Medical Group Management Association of Canada, whose members are medical clinic managers and directors, and she continues to do writing and PR projects in sectors such as design, engineering, and community development. Thank you for joining us, Karen.
Karen: Thanks for having me. Hi there.
Jordan: So you are the association manager for two separate organizations, the MGMAC and the OMGMA. It's a bit of a mouthful there. What is the purpose of these two different organizations?
Karen:Yeah, the two organizations were both formed more than 50 years ago. And really the purpose, the strategic purpose behind the organizations, it remains the same. And that is to connect clinic managers and directors with each other, to be part of a community of peers that can provide support, both sort of on the tangible side and an intangible side.
Jordan: Okay, so kind of the collective hive mind of, you know, we're all individually facing the same communal problems. How can we kind of start actually grouping together and coordinating, tackle some of these from a bigger systems perspective? Awesome.
Karen:Exactly. Best practices would be at the top of the list.
Jordan Okay, sounds good. And then, so what is your role? What exactly does an association manager do?
Karen: I do a little bit of everything. It's just me in both cases. So I look after OMGMA, the Ontario Provincial Group, and MGMAC, the national group. And so everything from member relations, day-to-day administrative tasks, conference planning, working with sponsors and sponsorships, and board of directors, helping them with strategic planning, managing volunteers, all of it.
Jordan: So kind of the Jill of all trades then, when it comes to literally anything, you are the point solution.
Karen: I am, yes.n the clinic manager association world, you will see my name popping up frequently.
Jordan: Very cool. And how big are these two organizations?
Karen: MGMAC being the national group is made up of about 160 members and membership is individual. So those are individual clinic managers and directors. And the majority of the members in MGMAC are from Alberta and from Manitoba. And that's because in those two provinces, there is a provincial association that is connected to MGMAC. So when you join one of your provincial groups, Manitoba or Alberta, part of your fee goes towards the national group. The Ontario group is actually larger and I have about 230 members across Ontario.
Jordan: Okay, so pretty big sizeable organizations and a lot of collective wisdom in there.
Karen: There is, but still lots of room to grow as well. So lots of potential out there to reach more clinic managers and directors, particularly in the provinces where there isn't a provincial association, they would feel very connected to the national group.
Jordan: Do you guys have a goal? Is there like a number in mind in terms of growth and getting more clinics signed up, getting more clinic leaders on board?
Karen: The potential is so large in terms of the number of clinic managers who are out there. It's always tough for us to come up with a number. I mean, I think we talk about let's just grow incrementally every year. And the way that we do that is always word of mouth. It's always a manager telling a peer, I'm part of this association, you have to be part of it too.
Jordan: Well, hopefully we can kind of spread the word of the gospel of the MGMAC today and get some more people aware of just the fact that this organization is there and helping connect everyone.
Karen: Yep. Most people don't know that we exist, and if they did, they would want to be part of it.
Jordan: Who are your members? Who joins the association?
Karen: Our members are all in leadership roles in group practices, medical clinics. I would say the majority are in a family practice kind of environment, although many of those are multidisciplinary, and they have allied health and or specialty physicians in the building or on staff with them. There are some that are pure specialty clinics. We have some who are looking after radiology, cardiology.otho clinics, and you just have to be in a management role within a group practice, so looking after the business affairs for the physicians.
Jordan: And is it physician specific or are there like dentistry clinics on there, chiropractic clinics, do you guys, is it, you know, kind of anyone is welcome or is it very focused on the medical practicesK
Kare: It is focused on the medical practices. So a group is a pretty loose definition. It's usually more than one, two or three. And we're also welcoming in the nurse practitioner-led clinics as well. Yeah.
Jordan: Okay, that makes total sense. I mean, they function basically like doctors across Canada, so that makes total sense. Okay, so let's break that down a little bit. So you're the head of these two different organizations. What are the benefits of membership in, why don't we start with the national one, the MGMAC?
Karen:I would say that the benefits of membership really are the same for both. And I don't need to really distinguish between the two. But I like to kind of put it in the two buckets. So there's the tangible benefits and kind of the intangible benefits. Let's start with the intangible. Because I think we have a lot to do with how people feel. And so there's that sense of belonging that everybody wants. You know, nobody wants to feel alone. And you know, it can be lonely at the top, so to speak. So when a manager has an issue, a challenge that they're facing, who do they turn to? And the best person to turn to is someone who knows exactly what your day is like, exactly what your role is like. You've got the staff, you've got the physicians, you've got the patients, it's unique. Ando that feeling of belonging and knowing that you're not alone, I think that's really important. I had a member say to me recently, she used to feel like she was failing in her job when she would come across a new challenge and she felt like I'm the only one who's experiencing this. It's all my fault. And after joining the association, she realized that this is a daily occurrence across the board. People are always coming up with, you knowhitting new roadblocks, having new challenges to face. And so she said it actually helped her mental health to understand that she was not the only one. And I think about the bigger picture on that and what that does for the confidence of that person in the role and how that spills over into everybody who's working around them. Just having that confidence in your leadership skills and knowing that helis nearby and that you're not the only one.
Jordan: The psychological aspect, 100%. It's the same in the physician world, right? Like if I'm on call in a rural emergency room, you're the only one there, but just knowing that there is somebody on backup call if things start to get, you know, you're just barely keeping your head above water and just like having that support to draw, and that goes a long way.
Karen: Right. Yeah, it's true across the association world. It's true in life. You need a bit of a support system when the times are tougher.
Jordan:And so you said there's two different kind of categories of the benefits there, like the tangible and the intangible. I wonder if you could unpack that a little.
Karen: Yeah, so under the heading of tangible benefits, I'm thinking about clinic operations, best practices, efficiency, you know, real skills and knowledge, and so a few things in that basket, education. So we're providing education that is specifically targeted to that role. And so for example, we would have an online event, a webinar, people could tune in and listen to an hour and a half of a lawyer speaking about employment law issues. The lawyer would be going through scenarios that are specific to a medical clinic that were submitted by members for example and they might leave behind some templates that you could use. So you know that has real bottom line kind of value. If I had to go and pay for that service that would cost me a chunk of change.And so that's included in my membership. I can tune in. I can learn a heck of a lot in 90 minutes because it's so targeted to what I do.
Jordan: Very cool. And so because everyone is so focused in that same niche, like it seems like it's the physician, medical group practices, often family doctors, you know, kind of that collective wisdom and that group learning is going to be very, very in touch with what everyone is looking for.
Karen: And that's part of the education piece as well. It's not just learning from professionals, like an HR consultant or somebody who specializes in IT and cybersecurity, those are good examples. But we also gather online and in person at our conference, we call them campfire sessions. And this is really pulling on the wisdom in the group that you've been hinting at. Sot's just an open discussion. You raise a question and somebody's got an answer. You know, members talk about just being stuck in their ways because they don't have time to think differently. They're just doing all the time, just running all the time. And so, exactly, you know, something might be on the side of your desk that you want to kind of think strategically about, but you're just not getting there.
Jordan There's always a fire to put out, right?
Karen:And when you gather with your peers, you're in the right mindset to think differently, to hear what they're saying, and maybe take some of that back to the clinic. Because now you've got an example of it's, you know, maybe I had that idea, and I didn't know if it would work. But now I hear that, yeah, it's working in Spruce Grove, you know.
Jordan: Very cool. How do you guys actually communicate? I've heard there's a Google group. I've never actually seen a Google group. I don't know what a Google group is. How does this actually work?
Karen: Yep, this is huge for us. I'm so proud of the Google Groups. And a version of it had started with the Ontario Group before I was around. It started with them in 2011. And they had an email list. And it was pretty rough. Everybody's email was showing. And it was not the best system. And I just turned that concept into a Google Group. And the beauty of a Google Group is it just lands in your inbox. So there's no online forum. You don't have to go log in and it's really easy for people to contribute. So in Ontario, it's active all day, every day. It's growing in the national group. It's a little bit younger in the national group. And I just looked at it this morning and people are talking about salaries for physician assistants. It's the best, easiest way for people to get help very quickly and most members will say to me that it is the number one benefit of membership. It's the illustration of community really. So you're posting questions, you're sharing resources, discussing issues, recommending vendors. It's all over the place. I use it myself to get insight from members. And even if somebody isn't participating all the time, I know that they're listening. And yes, and it's exactly the kind of stuff people say, you know, I had that on my mind and then someone posted it the next day. So even if you don't take a moment to post it, sometimes it just pops up and you can use it. So most members will say, you know, that easy access to my peers for me. Some people will say, I need a policy for X, and they've got three examples within minutes and they don't have to start over. So the spin-off benefit to the clinic there is that person doesn't have to spend time researching and writing, they've got something to work with, and it just speeds up the process.
Jordan: Yeah, you can tell they're sponging up knowledge passively kind of. And what is the actual turnaround time? How active is the Google group? Let's say I've got a question about my EMR. I'm thinking about switching, and I want to know if anyone else has tried a different one and what they thought. Or maybe they've switched directly from the same one to the new one. How long would it take to, or how long would reasonably I expect a response in to start getting some answers to my questions?
Karen: It's instant. It's, the discussion would go on all day. And in fact, I'm smiling because you have picked a topic that has come up pretty recently. Because people are always interested in what else is out there. Technology is a huge topic within the group. There are a lot of vendors out there with a lot of different systems. People wanna know, you know, how are you integrating this with that?nd the transition process. Members will say, I didn't quite know how to implement that piece of technology, but somebody else has done it before me.
Jordan: The trials and figuring it out, kind of trial and error through the group wisdom. Yeah, okay, awesome. And you mentioned the conference, like what did the actual events look like over the course of a year? How many events do you have in person? How many of these different like group learning sessions and things do you host?
Karen:Yeah, lessons learned, right? Yeah.So conferences typically once a year. We had a gap of course and we turned to online learning and we're back with in-person conferences. Typically the national one is in June and the Ontario one is coming up in September. And I talk about this a lot because we do a really good job of pulling together all the content and making sure that the learning sessions arereally targeted and important and that's all great but I find so many people say that the benefit is actually just having conversations over lunch or you know talking to people over a glass of wine that sort of thing so we like to give a lot of time for either some small group work at tables where you can get to meet a few new people or just some downtime you know to enjoy a meal together. So maybe you don't have an issue now, but you remember somebody talking about it and you can track that person down and call them up. Everybody is just so willing to share. It's a really great group.
Jordan: That's fantastic. Well, and so we actually attended, I think it was the Alberta Association for Clinic Managers. We went to their conference last fall and it was just as you're describing, it was just very friendly, inviting, even like being there kind of as a vendor and a speaker. You know, we got to participate in the team building activities. You know, I remember this one thing where you're like as a group trying to build a Lego statue and you know, you've got one person on one side of the room, like looking at the model and then coming back trying to instruct the rest of the group and it was really nice actually just like meeting people, you know, there's a bunch of familiar names there, but actually being able to put a face to some people and just engage and interact everyone was very curious.
KarenYeah, and it makes me think about our relationship with suppliers as well, or presenters. We really involve them in the conference, as you said. And they're the ones who are bringing products and services that can make your life easier. And when you go to the conference, you're in the right headspace to hear them out anake that back. It's really hard to get the attention of a clinic manager on a Monday morning I hear some people bring doughnuts. I don't know if that's still a thing anymore but This is the place That's what I hear they would with me.
Jordan:Donuts go a long way. That's how we schmooze the nurses back in medical school. You show up to the unit with Timbits and then suddenly you were like, okay, this is the useless medical student. But at least he brought Timbits.
Karen: Yeah, you made yourself memorable, which is the goal. So the suppliers who participate in our conference, who do webinars for us, who sponsor activities, they're really important. And so we try to find the best ways for them to engage with our members, because they need each other. And it doesn't have to be salesy. There's a lot of expertise. And insight that can go back and forth. You know, we do focus groups where a sponsor has a chance to gain insight from members. Maybe they're thinking about going in a different direction or launching a new product. And at the conference, members will go home with money-saving ideas because they've spoken to those vendors and given them that time to learn more about them.
Jordan: And terms of vendors, if any of them are tuning in, watching this through LinkedIn, what kind of vendors are you looking to attract to the medical group management conferences?
Karen: The obvious one is medical supplies. And probably we have those covered, but there's always new companies and new specialty products and that sort of thing. We get insurance, options, technology for sure. And that's a place where we can always find new vendors because like Cherry Health, there's always something new. So the technology piece might be IT support, it might be a new product or service, it might be telephone systems and really I would say to anything that anybody who's on your supplier list at a medical clinic, you know, office supplies, they're there. So whatever you use but particularly anything that's new.
Jordan: And I can see the clinic managers and the clinic leaders as being a really effective route to actually getting that awareness of these new things out in the medical community. Like just as a physician, when we go to a CME conference, you're there kind of with the mindset to learn and you really don't get enough time to actually mingle and walk through the exhibit hall and you miss out on a lot of that richness and like the new upcoming tech and all the different products and solutions. And so it sounds like going through the medical group would be a really effective way for vendors. And then we've seen this ourselves through Cherry, just talking with the medical group. They're very receptive and open. Obviously your mandate is to move the clinic group forward and make things smoother and easier.
Karen: Yeah, it's the real decision making for clinic operational things. You know, it often will either, I guess, enter the clinic that way with a recommendation from the manager or the manager is making that decision depending on what that is. So, it's, we're smaller, more manageable,s you said, we do immerse suppliers in the conference so they have a chance to actually get to know some people and become memorable while building their Lego structures.
Jordan: It's a good time for everyone. So, okay, we chatted about the benefits of the membership. So, the membership is for the individual, for the clinic leader, for that person in that management role. How do the benefits of having your clinic associated with the medical group management, what are the benefits to the clinic? The operations, the physicians, the staff, the owners, the patients, what are those downstream effects?
Karen: Yep, and we've touched on a few of them already for sure. You know, there are real effects, impacts on the bottom line. If you can come back from a conference or a webinar and you're aware of a new supplier, maybe it's just because you're going out to get quotes on something because your insurance is coming up for its renewal date. There's that piece about leadership skills, professional development for the person in the role. For example, we do a lot of coaching kinds of webinars and training. Building the skills of the person in the role to go back and develop the team around them, to maybe handle situations that are a little bit trickier with even more skill and confidence.And, you know, the Google group and what members can access, everything is stored in there from, I think, 2012 in Ontario. So you go in there in the archives, forget what's happening today. You can search a job description. You can search a day when people were talking about salaries. What do you pay this person? You know, what does that person do? All of that stuff is available.or years and years and years. And so members have said, you know, my physician will say to me, go check with your group on this because they're starting to realize all of the information and knowledge that is available in that community.
Jordan: Whole historical repository of things that have been going on for years.
Karen: Yes, yeah, and it's a Google Group, so it's accessible by a really good search tool. And, you know, if I want to pull up, you know, the job description for a particular role, it's going to be there.
Jordan: And so where would you direct people to, I guess, you know, like in terms of the difference between the national and the provincial and even the city medical group management associations, where would you say would be like the best point to go for somebody to get plugged in? Where would you direct them?
Karen: And it can be a little bit complicated because it is different in different provinces. But I'm here to answer questions. So I would ask people to probably email me at the national group, which is Karen at MGMAC.org and ask me the questions and I can direct them from there. In Alberta, we do encourage people to join the Provincial Association. That's the Alberta Association of Clinic Managers.nd therefore automatically become connected to the national group. And I would say the same is true for Manitoba. In Ontario, you would have the choice of joining both. And in all other provinces, folks would join MGMAC, the national group, directly. So there's different ways to get involved. And I'm happy to sort that out for anybody who asks.
Jordan: Okay, perfect, so we'll send them your way. And so for anybody else listening to this, it could be the physician, it could be the clinic manager who's not associated, or sorry, the clinic manager who wants to talk to their non-member colleagues, what should that person say to them? What do you think would be the hook? What's the most important piece?
Karen: Yeah, please tell them we're here to help. You know, we just exist to make a clinic manager's life easier. That's the strategy. That's the goal. And you know, whatever that might look like, we know things that we can do already to help. We're doing a bunch of them. And you know, the opportunity for any member is to make suggestions and provide feedback.And we're always evolving. So there's always an opportunity to ask for and receive even more or different things.
Jordan: And what is the cost to actually join and be a member?
Karen: In Ontario, it's $200 for the year plus HST. So that's for OMGMA. If you join direct to the national group, it's $100 plus tax depending on your province. And if you join through the Manitoba or the Alberta Provincial Group, it's about $150, give or take a few dollars, and $50 of that goes to the national group. So again, a little bit complicated.
Jordan:It sounds like a bargain to have a happier clinic manager and a more efficient workflow.
Karen: I think it's the best deal in town. You know, membership fees have pretty much remained the same. We certainly thank suppliers and sponsors for support. But you can make that back, so to speak, you know, so quickly with one template that you didn't have to start from scratch or one, you know, online campfire that you tune into and you just get an idea, you know, something you've been stuck oor just validation for what you're doing. You can really just see the value so easily.
Jordan: Probably the best $200 you'll spend that year.
Karen: I think so. I'm biased, but I think so. Yeah, yeah.
Jordan: Okay, awesome. So you know you've got a lot of experience working in the association sector. You've been doing this for many years now. What do you like about it?
KarenThe association world is friendly. I think if I had to pick a word, it would be connection. I like making connections. I like connecting people. I see the value of connection. I'm a member of my own professional association, the Association for Associations, of course. And yeah, I will tune into one small gathering of people like me who manage associations on their ownfor example, and I've got three things in 30 minutes that I just didn't think of before because it's just me here. And I can relate to the role of the clinic manager. There might be only you, just trying to do it all. And that's what I love about associations. These are your people. If you take one thing from today, find your people.Find your support system. Everybody needs that.
JordanIt goes such a long way. Well, and so how can other clinic leaders get involved in association activities? So you can attend the conferences. You can check out the events, participate in the group. What else is there?
KarenYeah, so you've covered, I would say, the engagement part where a member can just get involved and take advantage of everything that's offered. So respond to somebody's question when they ask. Come to the conference to learn. And then there's the volunteer side. So you could serve on the board of directors, but also kind of ad hoc volunteer opportunities.I may have an opportunity for two or three members to join me on a call and talk to somebody like you Jordan who is developing a new piece of technology, maybe you're at a startup stage and you just want insight. So there's lots of ways for members to get involved even if it's not in that sort of traditional committee way. They're my advisors. I don't do this every day.I'm in my office managing an association. I'm not in the clinic. So I rely on them all the time to, I always say I'm not really a clinic manager. I've just been working with them for so long. I feel like one. But I rely on them to give me the goods. You know, what's actually happening out there right now? What do you need?
JordanSo a little bit of that pay it forward mentality, kind of like try and give as much as you take in terms of that communal knowledge and building that community.
Karen:Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, be you know be part of it and there are people as I say they just listen and they renew every year And I'm just as happy with those folks too because I'm obviously you know, we're helping them And that's fine, but probably to get the most out of the experience as with anything, you know kind of throw yourself in a little bit deeper and Even if that's just to provide some feedback
JordanAnd so any final thoughts, any last things you want to mention or shout outs or anything you want to throw in that we didn't cover.
KarenYeah, I'm certainly interested in hearing from those folks who maybe didn't know about us before and are interested in learning more. For physicians who are listening, I hope that you've heard a lot of examples of ways that we can help. And yeah, I'm just ready to answer questions. Want to direct people to our website, so mgmac.org for the national group and omgma.ca for the Ontario group. And Ontario has a conference coming up, so I should probably put a little plug in for that too. And that's September 20th to the 22nd in Ontario. So we do a pretty packed learning program and lots of topics of interest. We also have fun on the topics of interest. We're talking about developing your staff. We're doing employment law. We're doing group activities in sort of a team building that you can learn and take back to your group. We have representatives from Ontario Health and Ontario MD talking to the group. And we have a half day that is devoted to providing care and services for the LGBTQ plus community. And the transgender community in particular, we've got a panel discussion on that. Combating ageism, services for indigenous patients. It's a great agenda for sure.
Jordan: That sounds very fully packed. That's awesome.
Karen: Yep, and then we have of course exhibit time and fun in the evenings.
Jordan: Perfect. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Karen, for the insights and the wisdom. It's fantastic to learn a little bit more about the MGMAC and the different subsidiaries and just how people can get their clinic plugged in and connected with that bigger community. Stop facing these challenges alone. Have that support and draw on that network. So thank you so much.
KarenThank you for having me. It was great to talk to you. Great conversation.