To say this year has been different would be woefully understated. One way or another every single person has been impacted by COVID 19, and as a result, we’ve all had to adjust to a plethora of new situations and environments from just figuring out how to set up a home office, to learning how to perform consultations via telehealth, to conference calls complete with the background ambiance of children playing. As someone who thrives on doing business in-person, I really feel a difference when I “attend” conferences virtually. For what it’s worth, NAACOS did a great job taking what would have been NAACOS Spring 2020 in Baltimore, MD, and turning it into NAACOS Live, a three-week schedule of 18 webinars that ran from June 9th to June 25th. While we miss out on networking functions and mingling with industry colleagues, we were still able to learn and grow via this new medium.
As expected, Dr. Don Berwick, the former administrator for CMS, was an excellent Keynote speaker. In a presentation appropriately titled, “Emerging from COVID 19: The Health Care System on the Other Side of the Curve,” Dr. Berwick quickly set the tone that the Coronavirus Pandemic was going to be the topic du jour for all three weeks. How do we respond as an industry? What changes will become permanent? What will grow out of our failures? How do we grapple with uncertainty? These are all questions that many people attended NAACOS Live hoping to answer. After a lot of thoughtful pontification and a few use cases on new strategies, Dr. Berwick ensured that those who logged in at least walked away with something to think about.
One of those nuggets to ponder included considering health care not just as taking care of people physically but healing the nation culturally in that social and economic inequality has a massive impact on healthcare, and therefore what is really happening is that the pandemic is exposing other issues with regards to Social Determinants of Health. Dr. Berwick also pointed out that the healthcare industry is typically slow at adopting innovations, and now COVID 19 is forcing a rapid adoption of both new knowledge and technology for the first time in a long time. In the past, Dr. Berwick states it took about “17 years from bench to bedside,” and a lot of that comes from an inability to standardize best practices quickly. Other highlights from the opening session include:
- It is expected that we’ll learn how to finally use telehealth to make virtual visits more common for issues other than just COVID 19, and the in-office visit will eventually become an only-when-necessary scenario.
- The lack of elective procedures during COVID 19 should show us how much money we’re wasting on unnecessary medical care.
- There are three competing streams for healthcare reform which include Medicare for All, expanded public insurance as a mainstay, and incremental improvements with private insurance at the core (along with Medicare Advantage expansion).
Finally, from Dr. Berwick’s perspective, ACOs stand to be in a pivotal role because if they can reduce costs without rationing, and improve quality across all demographics, then for the first time the American healthcare system can really start to make fundamental changes. All of these thoughts are at the core of what population health is about, but we know from experience that it’s one thing to talk about something while it’s another to put it into action. We’ve seen some changes with regard to healthcare already this year, especially with telehealth, so hopefully, some of Dr. Berwick’s other ideas come to fruition.
My personal favorite presentation was presented by Travis Broome, Sandy Nesin, Edwin Miller, and Anna Taylor during week two titled, “Understanding Data Analytic Platforms and Services.” Sandy, who is the Vice President of Accountable Care Operations for St. Joseph’s Healthcare and the Chief Operating Officer for Community Care Partnership of Maine demonstrated how the Salient Solution assists CCPM with claims-level analyses in order to ensure continual performance improvement within the Medicare Shared Savings Program. Below are two snapshots of Salient mentions with the first being an introduction to how we help CCPM in risk, spend, quality, and utilization; while the second slide depicts the type of data that Sandy’s team uses to convey information to their providers with regards to overall ACO performance. With the work that Salient and CCPM collaborated on, they were able to double their Annual Wellness Visits in just five months!
If you’re a NAACOS member, you can download the slides in which we’re featured right here.
During week three the CMS Townhall really proved valuable with Atlantic Health MSO’s Executive Director Thomas Kloos stating that, “Data analytics makes a difference,” and that we’ve seen how valuable data is especially during the COVID 19 pandemic. While I would love to highlight every single presentation, for me to do so would change this from a blog to a full-blown newsletter. I do want to thank everyone who put the virtual conference together, and it looks like, per NAACOS’s announcement, that the Fall 2020 conference will also be hosted virtually.
I am hopeful that there will be even more lessons learned by then, and I certainly hope most of the pandemic is behind us at that stage. It appears as though the new normal will be virtual and I look forward to both attending and participating in many more conferences over the coming months.