Start With Why: Association of Reproductive Managers (ARM) Meeting Recap 2017

By Griffin Jones

We didn't plan it this way...really. Yet still, there was a theme.

The Association for Reproductive Managers (ARM) is the practice managers' professional group within the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). As a group, we meet in person twice per year: at ASRM in the fall, and at the ARM Annual Meeting in the spring. We just wrapped up our 2017 meeting on April 28 at the Hotel Chicago (guess which city).

We do have cool graphic art parodies though...

We do have cool graphic art parodies though...

Unlike the ASRM Scientific Congress and Expo, ARM doesn't reach for a semi-relevant motif to title its meeting. There's no "Holding on to Sturdy Practice Management Systems in the Windy City" across the cover page of the ARM program. Yet, in 2017, there was a common theme; I noticed it within the first two talks and it continued for the duration of the meeting.

Start With Why

There is no shortage of tasks to be completed in an REI practice. Managing the system of operations that bring them all together can be daunting. Our speakers helped hone our focus, by prioritizing what needs to be done with the reason(s) why.

  1. What to do with all those frozen embryos?
    Do race, religion, and age predict if patients will abandon their cryopreserved embryos? Apparently not, shows data from Embryo Donation International (EDI). Dr. Craig Sweet, MD, shares data that teaches us not to assume why people abandon their stored embryos, with factors including the number of embryos one has in storage and the number of children one has at home. "People don't donate to your embryo donation program because they don't want to see their child at the mall, and they don't want their children marrying their children," Sweet says of reasons why many patients prefer a geographically broad embryo donation program.
  2. The Role of an ART Attorney
    I say it so frequently, it could be my catchphrase. "I'm not an attorney. Talk to an attorney." Heather Ross, JD, is. Ross explains the variances of reproductive health law the clearly demonstrate why we would want to consult someone who specializes at this intersection of ethics, law, and medicine.
  3. What Our Patients Expect When They're Not Expecting
    "Satisfaction equals performance minus expectation", says Lisa Duran, CEO of patient experience consulting firm, Reconceived. Duran and Barbara Collura, CEO of RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, break down patient expectations from across the United States via hundreds of respondents from a custom RESOLVE survey. "Be prepared," Collura says. "The #1 expectation for physician communication is to read the patient's chart before they arrive." Our patients' expectations, not our own assumptions, should determine our operational processes. "We can't keep thinking that high ceilings, and margaritas and yoga equal exceptional customer service" Duran adds.
  4. How to Use Your Staff to Attract and Retain Patients
    Sara Mooney, Director of Administration at Seattle Reproductive Medicine (SRM), traced practice values back to the most fundamental principle of patient services. "Patients are the center of our work.  Our role is to support patients in pursuing their dreams". I had the privilege of co-presenting with Mooney, courtesy of professional networking through ARM. Together, we we demonstrated how, in the Digital Age, disengaged staff are a liability to the practice, while engaged staff can be the most powerful source of word-of-mouth referrals. "There is no separating your practice's marketing image from the culture inside the practice," was my $.02.
  5. The Embryology Lab and Beyond: Risk Management, Mitigation, and Staff
    Benjamin R. Emery of the University of Utah explained how the lab director and their staff come into play in mitigating risk for the practice.
  6. Patient Services Flow: The Financial Counselor/Front Desk Partnership
    Angela McCall and Beth Hume of SRM threw a dangerous axiom to the wind, "because this is the way we've always done it." McCall and Hume talked about barriers to collaboration between front desk staff and financial counselors while implementing new processes at the practice. "We had to get staff buy-in, and really explain why we believed that this was ultimately for the best. And it was."

Why I came back after last year's meeting

Starting with why makes it easy to justify being a member of ARM, attending its meetings, and wanting to see the group grow. Current ARM chairman, Brad Senstra, cordially invited other practice owners and administrators to attend ARM programming in the future. I would take him up on it. The content of the presentations are reason enough to the annual meeting (obviously, I was a speaker). Moreover, the relationships you  build with dozens of other people who have faced similar challenges to those in your practice are invaluable. Being able to make a few phone calls to your trusted friends over the course of the year is the reason why being a member of ARM is so important.