How to Streamline Conference Room Capacity Management for Continuing Education with a Mobile Event App

MGMA Reveals How Switching to a New Check-In Process Helped the Association Maintain Accreditation, Manage Room Capacity, and Deliver Exceptional Education Programs to Attendees While Reducing Costs by 80%

Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) is a leading authority for executives, healthcare facilities, and job seekers in the healthcare industry. They are recognized for providing members with expert resources and solutions that include educational collateral and certifications, networking events, and access to benchmarking data and statistics.

MGMA’s annual conference attracts over 4,000 medical professionals each year. The conference offers continuing education credit for at least six certifications: ACMPE for practice administrators, AAPC for medical coders, ACHE for healthcare executives, CME for physicians, CNE for nurses, CPE for accountants, and CEU for general attendees.

What were the major challenges with managing continuing education at the annual conference?

Isabel Penraeth, former Senior Manager of Development Operations, says that offering this many credit types comes with some challenges.

1. Each credit type has its own accreditation standards

Maintaining accreditation for just one certification requires a lot of documentation and attention to detail. Multiply that by six and you’ve got a lot to keep track of.

“Each accrediting body has a different standard and it can be a real struggle to make sure we achieve each standard,” says Isabel.

2. With over 4,000 attendees, room capacity is difficult to manage

Isabel goes on to say: “Because we had no session registration ahead of time, we had no idea who was going to show up. We were essentially placing sessions into rooms, guess at a good setup, and then manage whatever happened as a result.”

It was a real possibility that MGMA would set a room for 100 people and have 300 attendees show up. They would then have to either disappoint a large group of attendees or make alternative arrangements on the fly. Often these arrangements were unsatisfactory.

3. Onsite overflow solutions don’t cut it

“Our attendees were very averse to overflow solutions where they’d stream into another room to watch a live feed – they did not like that at all,” says Isabel.

What MGMA really needed was something that would allow them to predict room capacity and monitor session attendance in real-time. Isabel wanted to find a solution that would prevent these issues before they started.

MGMA’s First Attempt at Using Registration and Check-In for Room Capacity Management

Isabel learned that using room check-in might be the perfect solution. She realized that MGMA could use it for:

Isabel worked with her team and a third-party vendor to implement session registration ahead of time. Staff members could then use an onsite scanner to confirm attendees were registered and let them in, or turn them away if they had not registered.

But this system had its own challenges:

  • The registration interface was difficult to use, which meant MGMA had to hire the vendor’s staff for onsite support.
  • The online registration option was slow, sometimes taking 15-30 minutes to complete session registrations.
  • The equipment was expensive, since MGMA had to rent the check-in scanners from the vendor.
  • The check-in process was cumbersome, because MGMA temp staff would scan attendees and if someone got a rejection but the session was still fairly open, MGMA staff would allow attendees in, which often worked but wasn’t foolproof.

In terms of resources allocated to this project, Isabel says, “For something that was just part of the bigger puzzle, it was more and more eating up the pie.”

How CadmiumCD’s eventScribe Mobile App Streamlined Room Capacity Management and the Check-In Process for MGMA

A break came when MGMA’s previous mobile app supplier decided to stop providing apps as part of their product line. Isabel and her team prepared an RFP and sent them off to six potential providers. MGMA decided to use CadmiumCD’s eventScribe Mobile App.

“Cadmium was the only one that, when I had a requirement, was honestly saying ‘yes we can do this’ or ‘we believe we can do it but it will take some exploration and development’.”

Isabel realized that doing room check-in through eventScribe would be more ideal for MGMA’s particular needs. Specifically, eventScribe would improve the process in these areas:

1. Attendees could show interest in a session at the touch of a button

In eventScribe, attendees can “favorite” a session by clicking a star icon next to it. It’s a simple and quick way for them to express interest in a session without going through a lengthy registration process.

When MGMA attendees favorited a session, they were also reserving space in that session. Since they had already created a profile for the app, it wasn’t necessary for them to fill out all their details again. All they had to do was click the star icon and they were good to go.

This also gave MGMA the data they needed to schedule sessions with the correct setup and capacity. They knew how many people reserved a space in each session and could prepare accordingly.

2. When a room hit full capacity, attendees were added to a waitlist

As the conference got closer, MGMA could also review session interest and make adjustments accordingly. If they had planned to schedule a session in a room with a capacity of one hundred, but an additional one hundred people favorited that session, they could make a few adjustments so that they could accomodate everyone on the waitlist.

Since eventScribe is tied to the Conference Harvester and Logistics Harvester for content and conference management, staff could easily switch the room over to a new one with just a few clicks.

“An effect of having all this pre-registration data is that MGMA has never had to close a room and only had one situation where they had a session so popular they had to find a backup room to get people in.”

3. Staff members clearly understood when rooms were at full capacity

eventScribe also made it easy for MGMA staff to understand room capacity onsite. When a staff member scanned an attendee who didn’t reserve space in the session, it would give them one of two pieces of information. Either it would say this attendee didn’t reserve space but the room isn’t full yet, or it would say that this attendee didn’t reserve space and there is no more space left in the session.

Isabel said that having this data made onsite staff members’ jobs much easier. “We didn’t have to go the extra step to let them in the room – the system would let staff know if it hits capacity and it would be clear to the attendee why they couldn’t go in and would have to find another session.”

What Impact Did the New Check-In Process Have On Staffing and Resources?

The new room check-in process through eventScribe did more than simplify room capacity management. There were also additional cost and time savings MGMA saw as a result of this new process.

MGMA saved time training staff

“The person who manages our scanning was delighted because we’ve never been able to train staff ahead of time,” says Isabel “We were able to set up the app and do training here at our offices before we went on site.”

Because the eventScribe App Check-In interface was easy for staff members to learn, they were also able to save crucial time onsite.

“Once we were onsite, MGMA staff had been pre-trained but the temp staff we hired had not, and (unusually for us) we didn’t have any temp staff struggle with the technology. It was pretty straight forward.”

MGMA saved money on equipment rentals and staff

MGMA was also able to forgo renting hefty and expensive scanning equipment from their AV company. Isabel and her team were able to find a more sustainable solution since the new check-in process was app-based.

“We purchased our own iPod minis with WiFi capabilities to run the app. It was a fairly inexpensive technological piece to add that we can leverage year after year.”

Isabel expects the iPods to last at least 3 years. MGMA has included the costs of these devices to a 3-year replacement budget plan.

They were also able to drop costs on support staff by two-thirds since they no longer need to hire personnel to register attendees onsite anymore.

Their total savings? Between purchasing their own devices and using eventScribe App’s Check-In features, they’re now paying one-fifth of what their previous solution cost.

What will MGMA do with the savings from implementing eventScribe?

Isabel says that this savings has allowed MGMA to expand their use of the CadmiumCD platform, putting their dollars toward more solutions to provide other efficiencies.

“There is a budget that’s set once per year, so the timing of that meant there were extra dollars that had been earmarked for our annual conference technological needs. As things became less complicated on our base needs (we needed an app, we had to have scanning) we were able to back up a step and see other areas where we could improve efficiencies. Since we liked working with Cadmium so much we asked them what else they could provide.”

Isabel anticipates the Expo Harvester will yield the greatest improvements to MGMA’s processes.

“Our sales staff was essentially flying blind to sell the booths and they had to use an antiquated system where they were using a PDF and hoping it was the most recent data, as well as having no way to manage sponsorships except through Excel spreadsheets. There were also difficulties to confirm that we received logos and proofs of insurance. It was all 100% manual. Our anticipation is that it will save us costs equivalent to two full-time staff members.”

How do you manage room capacity at your conference?

Do you identify with MGMA’s previous challenges or have you found another method to solve this problem? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.

If you’d like to learn how to use CadmiumCD’s eventScribe App Check-In to improve your room capacity management and help attendees track CEUs better, contact us for a one-on-one demo. We’ll walk you through the system and discuss how it will work with your conference and continuing education needs.