In June, Sentry headed to San Francisco for America’s Essential Hospitals VITAL2018. The saying held true: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco!” While the temperatures may have been low, the energy at the conference was high.
Day one: Networking and setting the tone
Day one kicked off with a special 340B interest group discussion, with a packed agenda that included reviewing actions taking place in Congress and regulatory agencies, a legal update on the Medicare Part B lawsuit and a communications update introducing a new website http://protect340b.org/, that mirrors America’s Essential Hospitals’ (AEH) previous site for Medicaid, www.protectMedicaid.org. The opening general session and town hall meeting emphasized a new partnership with group purchasing organization, Premier, with a focus on the underserved. Attendees were encouraged to participate in the membership community on the AEH website, federalaction.net.
The town hall provided perspectives from four hospitals: RWJBarnabas Health, UMass Memorial Medical Center, Grady Health and University of Texas Medical Branch Health, as they discussed the continuous healthcare environment shift. Next was the opening keynote speaker address on the topic of stress—stress that both patients and healthcare workers experience and the impact it has on the ability to function. The talk centered on the difference between good and bad stress that can motivate or paralyze, and stress that leads to fight or flight. Certainly, we can all relate to a little stress in healthcare.
Day two: Education, critical conversations and recognition
The focus for essential hospitals this year was on managing the opioid crisis, 1115 waivers, quality improvement, managing innovation and equity. Presentations demonstrated real-world examples of patient care program design and successes. Day two also saw the presentation of the Gage Awards, always a favorite, which recognizes AEH hospital members that have made improvements within their communities. Greenville Health System and Boston Medical Center were recognized as the winners for population health and quality, respectively. Honorable mentions were awarded to Memorial Healthcare System and Denver Health.
The 340B discussion this year focused on happenings at the state level and California in particular. Sarah Hesketh, vice president of external affairs at the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems (CAPH), provided an update on the California budget language, noting that CAPH advocated removing the “mandatory carve out,” which would have forced hospitals to buy drugs at WAC, thereby eliminating hospitals’ discounted purchases on 340B. CAPH demonstrated the added cost to the state and the burden on hospitals that this plan would have, and the carve out was not implemented. While this is a win for 2018, the association clearly is in for more advocacy in this area for 2019.
Closing: Best care and equity
The conference ended with several critical conversations and the opportunity to network with health-system leadership. Discussions included best care initiatives at UTMB that have put them on the radar for outstanding quality. William H. McRaven, chancellor at the University of Texas System, known for his address to the graduates of the University of Texas, set the tone for a ”bold and sweeping path forward,” which the leadership and staff embraced.
San Francisco Health Network addressed equity, from the appropriate infrastructure to the types of interventions required for improvement, discussing how they utilize both nursing and pharmacy staff to support programs that focus on hypertension in specific patient populations. Examples included innovations from a ”food pharmacy” to providing a blood pressure monitoring kit, which enabled improved patient results.
The closing town hall focused on resolving the opioid crisis together, and MetroHealth, along with Christiana Care Health System and Navicent Health, spoke about their tremendous success in supporting their community through naloxone access and increasing education.
The final takeaway was an update on the legislative and regulatory activity and vigilance needed by essential hospitals as we face a changing healthcare landscape. Sentry Data Systems will continue to provide 340B insights and cost accounting guidance as hospitals face the challenges ahead.