Last, but certainly not least, the APG Colloquium. Another conference that’s typically in-person, but was virtual for the first time. I was really excited to go to the in-person APG Annual Conference, which is different from the colloquium, in San Diego. It’s nice to get to travel to places you don’t visit often. Unfortunately, the annual conference was canceled in the spring, and the 2020 Colloquium took place in the same place that every conference took place this year. If you guessed “in my house,” you are correct.
America’s Physician Groups has had this conference running since 2014, and they’re the leading national association of physician groups. When it comes to value-based care, these guys are more “boots on the ground” than even some ACOs. The colloquium is usually more policy-based, and as expected Direct Contracting was a big topic of conversation. Also, the question of “Where is healthcare headed” seemed to pop up a lot. In fact, the keynote speaker was Congresswoman Donna Shalala, and her seminar was titled “The State of Healthcare in America.”
This was something I really wanted to see for multiple reasons. First, Donna was actually my colleague, Amy Kotch’s professor in college when she was at the University of Miami. Second, my father actually hosted Donna at our house in Parkland, FL when she was campaigning for then-Governor Bill Clinton. My father’s radiology group, North Broward Radiologists, PA, had donated to Clinton’s campaign, so she came to speak to everyone. I said hello to her, but I was 13 years old, so I highly doubt she remembers me. Finally, and most importantly, she’s been involved in healthcare, specifically health policy, that I was probably most intrigued by her seminar more than anyone else.
Congresswoman Shalala discussed how we really need an integrated health system for the entire country, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how fragmented our health system really is. Shalala pontificated that part of it is a mentality in how you bring about patient care. Because of this, she’s proud that the University of Miami, where she was President from 2001-2015, now requires their medical students to also get an MPH, alongside their MD, so that public health is top of mind when they get out into the field.
Congresswoman Shalala also mentioned how, mostly thanks to financial incentives, our healthcare system has been slimmed down to run more efficiently and to focus on outcomes. However, that meant that the health system had no built-in redundancies to handle something like a once-in-a-generation pandemic. She believes that agility matters, and we need to start incentivizing healthcare organizations and providers to provide care in a way that really matters given today’s challenges.
Another panel I enjoyed was Andy Slavitt, Marc McClellan, and Frederick Isasi’s “Mid-Pandemic: Should We Be Doubling Down on Value?” The general consensus was that it seems everyone is trying to, “get back to normal,” which means a lot of healthcare organizations are jumping right back into fee-for-service without really leaning into value-based care. All of the panelists agreed that alternative payment models work, but it’s just too easy for most organizations, which are businesses first, to go back to what doesn’t work for the country. At the same time, there’s also a huge divide in how people relate to each other, and we can’t have a healthcare system that reflects that polarization. Value-based care works, but we need to get our focus in the right direction before we start actually changing anything. It may take some time. APG’s President and CEO, Don Crane, moderated most of the presentations, and as expected, had a lot of great questions for all of the speakers.
APG really has a different group of attendees, but some of the speakers are familiar if you’re used to attending a lot of population health conferences. Part of that is the world of population health isn’t very big. That being said, I enjoyed all of the conversations, and it really seems like everyone wants to head in the right direction. Let’s hope in 2021 we can actually start to do that.