Problem: Hospitals in the Greater St. Louis Chapter were beginning to turn to in-house education programs and it was starting to have a negative impact on the chapter's education hours.

Solution: The chapter decided to offer to programs tailored to suit the hospitals' needs.

Strategy: The GSL chapter put together a task force to figure out how they could help hospitals-even if it meant offering training for the entry level all the way up through the C-suite. "We asked a couple of the CFOs and PFS directors to tell us what they needed to be able to educate their staff," says Tracy Packingham, 2011-12 chapter president.

The Urban Road Show

The task force decided that webinars would be a cost-effective way to start, but they wanted live, interactive webinars that would give participants an opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer session at the end.

Initially, the three major systems in the area were reluctant to do combined trainings. GSL didn't want to leave that in the equation when they were deciding whether they would like to participate, so they kept the program within each system so staff didn't have to leave.

The webinar format eliminated the need for the speaker to travel between facilities, so the plan was to get a speaker for the day, then figure how many sessions they could they get in. GSL started with a webinar on time-management that would be beneficial for any level.

To make it easier for each facility, they used either a GSL board member or a chapter member who worked at the facility to set up the room and collect the sign in sheet at the end. Each webinar was an hour, so it was a total time commitment of only an hour and a half. To be able to get in a quick plug for the chapter, they started five minutes before the webcast began. They told them who GSL was, what the chapter was trying to accomplish and what the attendees could get out of HFMA.

The chapter set up the conference rooms, the hospital paid for the connections. Each facility only had one connection, but with 50 people in the room, it was cost effective.

This first step gave the chapter a foot in the door. "We made sure that the webinars were live-not recorded. We broadcast the program twice, all in the same day. Both sessions received exactly the same information, and had time for a question and answer session at the end. Some of our larger facilities actually had 100 attend," says Packingham.

Kicking It Up a Notch

"Last year, we took it to a new level decided to offer a live speaker on site," says Packingham. "We had a speaker come in and do a breakfast session from 7 to 9:30; we followed up with a lunch session at another hospital, and an afternoon session at another."

The meeting notices went to the entire membership; anyone who wanted to attend could come to any of the hospitals. "What we found out," says Packingham, "is that we did have people from other facilities come because it was more about convenience and time. There are hospitals that might be in the system where the meeting was hosted, but the hospital was closer to another system's host facility. It worked out very well and we did notice that the participants did intermingle."

The cost for the live program was a little bit more because the chapter included breakfast or lunch or snacks in the afternoon. It went over well. Packingham says they've gotten more participation from the hospitals in the last year because they were able to tell them, "We are here to help you, you just need to let us know what you need."

Casting a Wider Net

The webinars are not just education for staff; GSL is also educating CFOs and managers about the chapter's directive to provide education for HFMA members. "A lot of times the managers and CFOs are members, but they don't fully use their membership," says Packingham. "We need to tap into that group as well. We're telling them this is what we're here for, this is how our chapter is scored and these are the goals that are set for us."

"I think it's enlightening for some of our members," says Packingham, "they just don't know that much about the chapter because they deal with national programs so much that they everything from that perspective. We don't want to take away what they're getting from national programs, but we need to ask ourselves: what else can we do to support them at the chapter level."

How Suite It Is

GSL built on their new relationship with the CFOs to get more of them involved at the chapter level. "We've done this in the past and it's been successful for a few years, but then it goes by the wayside," says Packingham. GSL put together a financial advisory board and asked CFOs from St. Louis who are chapter members to sit on an advisory board and tell them the topics that would get CFOs to come to an all-day conference.

"We had our first meeting last year with our CFO advisory board and put together a program for finance people on ethics, tax, and other topics that we don't often see on the revenue side," says Packingham. "It went over OK, but the timing was bad."

This year GSL will repeat the program, but instead of using the advisory board's expertise to only select the topics, they are going to try to give them ownership and see if it won't drive a little bit more need.

Keeping a Constant Presence

Consistency is a great way to build education expectations for members. The chapter holds a spring conference in May-a two-and-a-half day meeting with the Show-Me chapter. They hold a multi-chapter meeting in the fall with Heart of America, Show-Me, and Greater St. Louis. They host a legislative day every year in January or February, and they have a full-day CFO meeting. The chapter also does a combined one-day conference with MHEG, IEMA and HIMSS in the fall.

This year the chapter is on schedule to do two webinars a month. Each of Region 8's nine chapters offers one webinar from August through April or May. In addition, GSL and the Southern Illinois Chapter have partnered with the First Illinois Chapter to offer First Illinois' monthly sponsor webinars to their members. First Illinois sets up the webinars using its chapter sponsors and GSL sends out the evaluations.

"If we didn't have the webinars, says Packingham, "we'd be in a world of hurt. We have a hard time getting people out of their offices. Everybody's time is becoming more valuable,"

With a good mix of webinars and on-site programs, the chapter offers plenty entry points for members-and the chapter-to get their education hours.