San Antonio, Texas is home to the Riverwalk, the Alamo, the largest medical center for the Department of Defense, and—as any true Texan will tell you—the best Tex-Mex on earth. And in July, it was also home to the Texas Healthcare Trustees Healthcare Governance Conference (Texas Healthcare Trustees is a family company of the Texas Hospital Association, or THA). This healthcare governance conference is the largest of its kind and is a rare treat, as not every state has a mechanism to educate board members and trustees.
Sentry Data Systems joined hospital board trustees and executive leadership for the two-day program focused on state and federal legislation, finance, quality and innovation in a changing healthcare space. Attendees were able to spend valuable time together recharging and learning to build responsible finance strategies.
Sentry Data Systems is also a contributor to the Texas Healthcare Trustees education program, through a two-part online 340B webinar series titled, “340B: Building a Stable Foundation.” The first session is titled “340B—Understanding the Basics,” and the second is “Strategic 340B Insights for Hospital Leaders,” both led by Sentry’s Head of Industry Relations, Lisa Scholz, and both approved for CE credit for trustees.
As we continue to engage with trustees at meetings like this, we learn where hospitals’ attention is focused and how we can continue to convey the importance of good 340B stewardship to decision-makers.
Start your engines
The first day of the conference was a good opportunity for new board members in Texas hospitals—or those wanting a refresher—to get an overview of financial basics for hospitals and larger health systems, along with the challenges board members may face in their roles. Trustees were taught how to serve as policymakers in the governance process without playing a management role. Hospital boards are often faced with public information requests, frequently needing to analyze hospital finance statements and interpret patient safety and quality reports. To help rise to these challenges, THA provided the opportunity for board members to become Certified Healthcare Trustees.
The opening session, led by motivational speaker Ben Nemtin, focused on “five steps to making the impossible possible.” Nemtin shared the story of his adventures to strike items off his “bucket list” as told through his MTV series, “The Buried Life,” and encouraged conference attendees to answer the question, “What do you want to do before you die?” The moral of Nemtin’s story is that in order for leaders to help others, they need help and take care of themselves. He helped attendees dig deep to find work/life “harmony” and learn how to draw energy from home, trips, activities and the things in life that bring you joy. Nemtin had attendees follow five steps: 1) Write what you want to accomplish; 2) Share it with others; 3) Persist to get it done; 4) Go for Moon Shots; and 5) Give back to others along the way. As he reminded the audience, anything is possible; you only regret what you didn’t do in the end.
Next, the Texas legislative session provided insights into federal and state overlap on issues including surprise billing, property tax funding, Medicaid and recovering from hurricane damages. A large focus at the conference on rural hospital closures demonstrated the local reliance on hospitals, schools and churches for stability. When hospitals close, the local economy is also impacted, in addition to the more obvious inability to seek healthcare services. We learned during this session that there have been 23 hospital closures in Texas between 2010 and August 2019.
Attendees were then able to choose their conference experience “buffet style,” selecting from many educational options on topics including physician engagement, revenue versus expenses, cyber incidents, compensation plans, accountable care organizations, and board member development. Day one ended with a presentation from Navy SEAL Alden Mills, who encouraged attendees to “Be Bold—Be Unstoppable,” followed by a silent auction and reception.
The home stretch
All good things must come to an end; the second and final day of this event was a time to reflect on the knowledge acquired and how it can be applied back at your home hospital.
The last day provided insights into population health, with a visit from Somava Stout, MD, from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, who shared the successes of the 100 Million Healthier Lives campaign, an effort in collaboration that aims to see 100 million people across the globe living healthier lives by 2020. Stout focused on health equity in her presentation and shared a moving journey of population health in an Alaska Native community, which was the beginning of the Family Wellness Warriors Initiative, a movement to end local domestic and sexual violence. As we learned from Stout’s presentation, population health takes a deeper data dive into local community needs and focuses on developing wellness programs and policies based on social determinants.
Finally, the closing program of the day focused on industry disruptors—more specifically, how tech companies will shape and change healthcare. Researcher, author, and public speaker Ron Galloway discussed why big box retailers and tech giants such as Walmart, CVS, Google, Apple, and Amazon are entering the healthcare space, and whether such companies will compete with or augment the services offered by hospitals and health systems.
Galloway also discussed AI, which he says might be better framed as “acquiring information” or “ambient intelligence.” Either way, he says, it’s clear that the treasure trove of health data hospitals have available will provide value and lead to patient care improvements. The question is—which partners should we trust? Galloway believes that Google and Apple are partners that will augment current services, while many of the large retailers will be competition. Amazon, he says, could still go either way.
There’s no doubt that, if we work together, technology and hospitals can truly make breakthroughs and change the system for the better. At Sentry, we see ourselves as one of those augmenting tech partners who will help shape the future of healthcare with hospitals—in ways neither entity could ever have done alone.