As one would expect, temperatures were soaring in July in Washington, DC during the 340B Coalition Summer Conference. Temperatures indoor reached a boiling point as well when HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced that “change is coming” in his remarks during opening day of the main conference. His talk brought no real surprises; it merely served to reaffirm that HHS is seeking change to both the 340B program and the current agency administering it–HRSA’s Office of Pharmacy Affairs (OPA).
This year’s conference drew more than 1,700 attendees and 64 exhibitors from various healthcare industries that support 340B hospitals. Sentry was proud to be a premier sponsor of the charity run/walk for Hope for Henry and a Pinnacle Leader exhibitor. We also hope you enjoyed our guides, who provided information to attendees throughout the conference.
Sunday: Pre-conference kickoff with Sentry
The conference had an abundance of opportunities for attendees to add value to their learning experience and check many to-do’s off their compliance list. For starters, the 340B University hosted an all-day event leading up to the conference. The 340B University programming drew 325 stakeholders from various areas of industry, all excited to learn about the 340B program requirements and to gather operational pearls of wisdom.
For those who had previously attended a 340B University session, Sentry offered an all-day training session on managing our Sentrex™ and Sentinel™ tools. 340B hospital staff were able to engage with members of Sentry’s training, audit and compliance, executive leadership and customer success/account management teams. The goal of the session was to help hospitals optimize their program, understand the tool functionality and learn how to apply 340B guidelines to their operations and take those tips back to their hospital. An added bonus to the session was the opportunity to learn from peers and come away with contact information to stay connected in the future.
Monday: Official pre-conference program
Before the conference began, attendees were able to select either a pre-conference workshop or, for 340B Health individual members, a career workshop. Pre-conference workshops are great both as a refresher for veteran industry professionals and for new staff to dip their toes in the water when learning about 340B. As always, networking opportunities and the chance to engage with fellow peers were the icing on the cake. Whether you need to know the basics or are looking for advanced training in audit and compliance, these workshops offer something for everyone. And the continuing education credits make it a perfect fit for pharmacy technicians and pharmacists.
The opening remarks of the conference set the tone for the programming that would be available for the rest of the event. Maureen Testoni, interim president and CEO of 340B Health, opened with the “state of 340B” and provided an overview of the current activities in Congress and other happenings under the current administration, which served as a preface to HHS Secretary Azar’s remarks.
As the 340B program celebrates 25 years, Azar made it clear that he anticipates change, saying that the drug purchasing model has evolved over 30 years and the burden on the American people is untenable. He noted that the Administration’s plan will “fundamentally disrupt this system.” He then discussed the need for transparency in the program.
Opening day ended with breakouts for each stakeholder group, followed by a reception. 340B Health announced the recipients of its Champions Recognition Program, honored for their engagement with 340B Health. Sentry is proud of our customers who were recognized and we encourage them to keep up the momentum.
Tuesday: HRSA remarks and operational best practices
Sentry kicked off day two with an executive briefing with 340B Health to share information on communications and policy updates. Simultaneously, Dawn DeAngelo, Sentry’s Chief Pharmacy Officer, met with covered entities to demo the eRx Eligibility Check solution. Dawn provided details on how this technology has sped up the time to implementation and has achieved benefits for hospitals in as little as 45 days, with greater confidence in compliance.
After that, the conference switched gears to a 340B legislative update where key Congressional staff provided insight on various activity on the hill and helped attendees understand the legislative process. Commander Krista Pedley, the director of the Office of Pharmacy Affairs, delivered remarks on the office’s oversight efforts and initiatives, which included a total of 981 audits conducted on hospitals as of July 9. She provided information on the latest Office of Pharmacy Affairs program update, published in July, and reminded hospitals of their upcoming annual recertification which kicks off August 15.
Chris Hatwig of Apexus then provided updates on Apexus’ services, shedding light on their pricing record of providing an average of 18% PVP savings to participants that enroll. Hatwig emphasized the spend on high-cost specialty drugs such as those for hepatitis C, which cost hospitals $1.2 billion to treat 27,000 patients in 340B-qualified sites in 2017 alone. Hatwig noted that DSH and FQHCs incurred the highest drug costs to treat hepatitis C patients.
The conference then broke out into separate sessions along various tracks, with workshops available for attendees interested in different components of operations and policy. My colleague Ivelisse Espendez and I provided a demo on Sentry’s audit and compliance tools, showcasing how Sentry customers compared to all entities audited since 2012; Sentry customers are much more engaged when it comes to the HRSA database, diversion and duplicate discounts findings and our customers are trending the right direction, with fewer such findings. Additionally, Quan Pho, vice president of pharmacy at Prime Healthcare, demonstrated Prime’s mock audit process. Medicare Part B payment cuts were also a topic of interest, drawing many questions on the appeals process.
Sentry also celebrated with a customer appreciation event that evening, introducing our recognition program for customers, which gives recognition in three categories: The Learner, The Advocate, and The Innovator. We were pleased to announce the recipients and celebrate their achievement with peers.
Wednesday: Sentry takes the lead
We were off to the charity races for the last day! Sentry was a proud premier sponsor of the charity run/walk for Hope for Henry. For every visitor to the booth, we donated an additional $5 above our premier sponsorship level and were able to make a generous donation to support Hope for Henry and the work they do for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, bringing them smiles with programs including visits from superheroes.
While the charity event took place, I participated in a panel presenting on using technology and data in 340B to create an integrated audit record and offering a checklist to support compliance.
Also on day three, HRSA staff provided an update on audits, while outside the conference, the House Energy and Conference Committee began the “Opportunities to Improve the 340B Drug Pricing Program” hearing, which was streamed live for conference attendees. The 340B Health lobby event kicked off that afternoon, with more than 200 members joining the event to meet with members of Congress to discuss the value and importance of the 340B program to their communities.
The conference provided Sentry an opportunity to connect with many covered entities and with our partners. The inherent value of face-to-face meetings cannot be understated. At Sentry, these meetings provide us the opportunity to listen to the challenges entities are facing and evaluate how we can provide solutions. Sentry will continue to listen to its customers and weather the storms together. We look forward to participating in the 340B Winter Conference in San Diego in January—we’ll see you there!