5 Takeaways From the AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference

Population health, healthcare value, innovations in healthcare, cost of care-these were just some of the topics discussed at the meeting.

Population health, healthcare value, innovations in healthcare, cost of care—these were just some of the topics at hand at the 2016 National Health Policy Conference hosted by AcademyHealth in Washington, DC.

If you missed attending the meeting, here’s a glimpse of what health policy experts had to say about the current trends in healthcare:

1. Drug prices, of course.

Rising drug prices, the effect on the healthcare system, consumer push-back, and possible solutions were hotly debated during a panel at the conference.

Introducing the topic, moderator Tricia Neuman, PhD, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, cited the example of Sovaldi, the treatment developed by Gilead for hepatitis C. “Sovaldi had an unanticipated impact on Medicare Part D spending rather than the projected Medicaid spending,” she said. “Agreed that the drug has long-term benefits, but we have a short-term issue at hand.” Dr Neuman was joined on the panel by Dana Goldman, PhD; Steve D. Pearson, MD, MSc, FRCP; and Lynn Quincy.

2. Dr Patrick Conway shares HHS’ efforts on transition to value-based care.

Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, deputy administrator for innovation and quality and chief medical officer at CMS, spoke of how CMS is working to maintain pace with payment reform.

“I think the shift to alternative payment models, where providers are accountable for quality and total cost of care, has moved more in the last 3 years than we’ve ever seen before,” said Dr Conway. He explained that among other things, investing to support providers and communities during the transition is important to be able to sustain the rapid movement in the field. He also expressed his faith in value-based insurance design to provide high-value services for enrollees in the Medicare Advantage plans.

3. Regional communities need changes to adapt to payment reform.

According to Elizabeth Mitchell, president and CEO of the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement, organizations need the structures in place, the leadership on board, and relationships with the community, to transition to merit-based incentive payments.

Ms Mitchell stressed that there is a range in readiness among physicians to accept and manage risk; organizations leaders need to take the initiative to push the reform, she said, “Showing that leadership and saying, ‘we are going to do this.’”

4. Virtual healthcare and telemedicine have a treacherous path to broader adoption.

Margo Edmunds, PhD, vice president, Evidence Generation and Translation, AcademyHealth, was joined by Tobias Barker, MD; R. Adams Dudley, MD, MBA; and Hank Fanberg, to discuss current developments in the field and where we are lagging.

Mr Fanberg, who directs technology adaptation at a big safety net hospital, recommended that the adoption of telehealth by healthcare networks should be preceded by answering a few questions:

  • What would be the associated cost?
  • Do we have the infrastructure in place for technology?
  • Does patient satisfaction play a role in the decision?
  • Should provider satisfaction be a consideration?
  • What are the best opportunities for adoption?

Dr Dudley provided a policy perspective on the issue, addressing some of the challenges that telemedicine programs face, the most important being variations in the quality of telemedicine and its implications for healthcare policy and medical education.

5. Opportunities in health IT.

Julia Adler-Milstein, PhD, believes that technology plays an important role as a supporting factor in healthcare delivery, as it enables patients to access their data and become more involved in their healthcare.

She explained that while the sky is the limit for opportunities in digital health and health IT for healthcare delivery, application will vary depending on what the patient’s expectations and needs are. “Some patients maybe want a more paternalistic ‘Doc, tell me what to do,’ and there are going to be other patients that want to be at the center of that decision making and use online decision tools,” Dr Adler-Milstein said.