LHC in D.C.: Modernizing the U.S. Healthcare System
Leadership Health Care leads delegation to Washington D.C.
Editor’s note: This is the first post from the Nashville Health Care Council’s 2022 Leadership Health Care Delegation to Washington, D.C. Look for more content in the coming days.
The call for clinical, regulatory and social change was loud and clear during the first day of sessions at this year’s Leadership Health Care Delegation in Washington D.C. On September 19, a group of nearly 50 healthcare leaders from Nashville gathered to hear expert perspectives on key health policy and political matters. This first day’s speakers focused on telehealth, digital health policy, health equity and the impact of the federal budget.
The day began with a tour of Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health, an interactive learning destination for the public, the healthcare industry and policymakers. The immersive exhibits explore the purpose of total, whole-person health and how to make it a reality. Delegates were joined by lead delegate Paul Keckley, managing editor of The Keckley Report, who helped frame the discussions and challenged delegates to think critically and ask challenging questions to help advance everyone’s thinking and actions regarding health system innovation.
After a healthy lunch, speakers shared their forecasts for telehealth and digital health policy, beginning with a panel discussion featuring the American Telemedicine Association. CEO Ann Mond Johnson and Policy Associate Alexis Apple explored whether and when the telehealth flexibilities implemented during the federal public health emergency will be extended and explained the importance of state policy work and the ATA’s top state legislative priorities
Apple is confident these regulations will remain in place but is uncertain if Congress will act this year or beginning of next. “Patients and providers have grown to rely on telehealth, and we need to act now to make virtual care permanent following the public health emergency and ensure certainty,” she said.
“Before the pandemic, people didn’t know what telehealth was and now they do. Everyone now understands the benefits of safe, effective and convenient care, when and where it’s needed. When you’ve used telehealth and had a good experience, why can’t you use it going forward? It doesn’t make sense,” Mond Johnson said. “Many telehealth regulations were put in place 14 years before the iPhone was introduced. There is such a disconnect between what technology can do and what regulation enables it to do. The pandemic closed that gap and we’re pushing forward with the aspiration that many waivers will become permanent.”
Delegates also heard from Maverick Health Policy Founder and Principal Julie Barnes, who outlined the decades-long bipartisan relationship with digital health policy. Beginning with its origin during President George W. Bush’s administration and concluding with President Joe Biden’s reinvigorated interest, Barnes summarized the interoperability journey and its obstacles, including information blocking.
“Modernization of the healthcare system is happening as we speak. It’s had a long runup, but almost anything you do in your daily life is being impacted by what I talked about – the relationships, information flow and rules that are changing,” she said. “The healthcare industry problem is how we make this functional for patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals and the people who pay for it…The changes that will make the American health system work properly won’t come for a while.”
In a subsequent discussion addressing health equity pre- and post-COVID-19, Mary’s Center President and CEO Dr. Tollie Elliot, Institute for Public Health Innovation CEO Michael Rhein and Kaiser Permanente Senior Program Manager Amy Gyau-Moyer discussed the outside-the-box internal coalitions and community partnerships that are driving diversity, inclusion and equity within their organizations. The speakers urged delegates to explore nontraditional partnerships and consider solutions beyond the walls of a healthcare setting. The panelists issued a strong call to action to first and foremost address racism and its impact on health.
“Racism is woven into the fabric of our country. We need to tackle it if we want to promote equity. We as providers know and have seen the impact of racism — it leads to poor outcomes. But the pandemic pulled off the band-aid and made it obvious what was happening,” Elliot said. “When they walk through the door, the people we care for might not be thinking about their diabetes or pregnancy, but their employment or food access. Why is that happening? Racism impacts the quality of people’s lives and overall health.”
The afternoon’s sessions closed with a panel on the federal budget’s impact on healthcare. Former Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council Eric Ueland warned of approaching “fiscal challenge time bombs” such as federal spending and taxes, interest costs, the national debt and deficits, and the collapse of social security. Medicare and social security, in particular, are experiencing unanticipated stress from inflation, changes in work and retirement habits, the plunge in the U.S. birthrate and the increase in overall life expectancy. Approaches to reducing these stressors — decreasing spending, introducing new care delivery models, reviewing eligibility parameters — could create new challenges for beneficiaries.
“At LHC and the Nashville Health Care Council, we want events like these and others throughout the year to be a catalyst for change and momentum in Nashville’s healthcare ecosystem and beyond,” said Leadership Health Care Director Molly Vice. “The first round of sessions has challenged us to think critically about our health system and what we can do to propel the industry forward. I look forward to seeing the ideas and initiatives born from this event.”