National Alliance Annual Forum Identifies Priority Issues and Key Actions for Employers

On November 12, the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative team ventured to our nation’s capital to attend the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalition’s Annual Forum, “Leading the Future of Innovation, Health, and Value.” The forum brought together 427 representatives from employers, employer coalitions, and thought leaders in healthcare. Spread over three days, the forum featured numerous engaging speakers, panelists, innovators, and champions to highlight the employers’ role in improving health and healthcare quality for both their employees and their communities.

The first day of the forum focused on bringing together speakers from across the healthcare spectrum to share their insights on critical issues facing our nation. Afternoon workshops focused on topics of benefit design, obesity, the opioid crisis, and mental health, with conference attendees having their choice of attending two of the four workshops. A highlight of these workshops was the “Achieving Peak Performance: The Mental Health Difference.” This workshop focused helping organizations becoming more successful in implementing a value-based approach to mental health, using the National Alliance’s Mental Health Deep Dive Report as a guide. With only an hour and forty-five minutes allotted for the discussion, Mike Thompson, CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, entered the room to alert us that we had extended well past our session’s intended time. He exclaimed his pleasant surprise at having to interrupt a conversation about mental health among employers in a room that had become standing-room only. The enthusiasm for this topic among employers was evident, and it was clear that the KHC was not alone in prioritizing mental health among its organizational initiatives. The day was concluded with a panel of purchasers who are leading the way in improving healthcare value to share their innovative ideas, successes, and failures, including Walmart, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Miami Dade School District, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and Prudential.

Day two of the forum was kicked off with an engaging keynote from Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives and Chair of the Department for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, where he shared his insights on opportunities for healthcare transformation. He identified three pieces of advice for healthcare purchasers: (1) reaffirm the primary care relationship, (2) move to alternative payment models, and (3) choose quality metrics for quality reporting. A panel of journalists from leading healthcare news outlets followed Dr. Emanuel’s presentation, giving context to his advice with a discussion on the impact of midterm elections on healthcare reform efforts and innovations, and their  perspectives on the possibilities and perils that may be to come. Afternoon breakout sessions highlighted innovations in specialty drugs, bariatric surgery, stress, PBMs, organizational culture of health, onsite clinics, and biosimilars. During lunch, the National Alliance held a ceremony for their 2018 award recipients. The Kentuckiana Health Collaborative was honored to receive the 2018 Membership Leadership Award along with the Florida Health Care Coalition. Walmart received the 2018 Employer/Purchaser Excellence award.

The third and final day of the annual forum ended on a high note. A morning presentation from Dr. Christa-Marie Singleton on the CDC’s Total Worker Health initiative highlighted their six high-burden health conditions & six ways to spend smarter. Shifting back to mental health, Craig Kramer, Global Mental Health Ambassador at Johnson & Johnson, spoke of his own family’s experience with facing and overcoming a mental health challenge and how it motivated him to take action within his company. Marc Brackett, PhD, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence gave a professionally and personally enriching conversation on the concept of emotional intelligence and its impact on the workplace.

The Kentuckiana Health Collaborative’s work surrounding mental health, substance use, healthcare quality, and affordability align closely with the national priorities being set forth by the National Alliance and other employer coalitions. The Annual Forum provided the KHC team with excellent context and tools that will help us move our initiatives forward for the benefit of our local, state, and national communities. The KHC looks forward to sharing all that we have learned with our members and partners. Visit our Twitter page to view additional insights from the forum.

Kentuckiana Health Collaborative Nationally Recognized for Leadership Efforts

The Kentuckiana Health Collaborative (KHC) was recognized along with the Florida Health Care Coalition as the 2018 Membership Leadership Award winner at last week’s National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (National Alliance) annual forum. The coalitions were celebrated for efforts to improve quality and efficiency of the healthcare delivery system. Several members of the KHC attended the event in Washington, D.C. KHC Co-Directors, Dr. Teresa Couts and Randa Deaton, accepted the award and thanked the staff, members, and community for coming together to make these accomplishments possible. The National Alliance released a press release for the recognition.

The KHC was recognized for its work to improve healthcare measurement alignment, youth mental health, and opioid use disorder risk assessment.  The KHC and the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services joined forces on the Kentucky Core Healthcare Measures Set, a public-private effort to create a common primary care measures set in the Commonwealth of Kentucky to improve the quality and value of care, reduce provider reporting complexity and align Kentucky’s healthcare measurement. Additionally, the National Alliance recognized the KHC for its mental health work with the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services Department of Behavioral Health to assist primary health care providers in implementing screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) into their practices and its partnership with StAMINA (Student Alliance for Mental Health Innovation and Action) to improve youth mental health.

The National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions is a nonprofit network of business coalitions, representing more than 12,000 purchasers and 45 million Americans, spending more than $300 billion annually on healthcare. The National Alliance is dedicated to driving innovation, health, and value along with its coalition members through the collective action of public and private purchasers. To learn more, visit nationalalliancehealth.org.

NAMI Louisville Works to Address Challenges of a Nation on the Brink of a Mental Health Crisis

(Note: this guest post was written by Nancy Brooks, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Louisville)

I joined NAMI Louisville as their new Executive Director this time last year. I have had a rich non-profit management history in education, the arts and community development, but working with NAMI Louisville, I am being given the opportunity to make a difference in an area that greatly needs support. NAMI Louisville is working tirelessly to meet the very real challenges of a nation on the brink of a mental health crisis.

Never before have so many people been in need of mental health resources. Never before has the co-occurrence of substance abuse and addiction alongside mental illness been so critical. Never before has our nation seen such sad statistics associated with suicide. And never before have our children needed more support in their mental health.

NAMI Louisville, the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has a mission to strengthen families and individuals affected by mental illness through education, support, and advocacy. We provide regular FREE educational classes and support groups for family, friends, and caregivers of those affected by mental health conditions, as well as support groups for individuals who are in recovery from their illness. We advocate at the local, state, and national levels to bring better funding and resources to those who need care. We are working to bring programming to those in our underserved West End and to our outlying counties, including those in Southern Indiana. We are rolling out new cutting edge programming for the workplace, for veterans, for those for whom English is a second language, and for the youth of our community, a group VERY much in need of our services.

Present statistics are bleak! One in five people will be affected by some form of mental health condition in any given year. Worse yet, suicide is now the second leading cause of death in children ages nine to 22. Mental Illness in youth is on the rise with substance abuse, self-harm and eating disorders rapidly increasing. These statistics alone are frightening, but often there is a 10-year delay in youth between the onset of their mental health condition and their finding a proper diagnosis. These children will be 50% more likely to drop out of high school, and 70% of our incarcerated youth have an underlying mental health condition.

NAMI is working to end the stigma associated with mental illness. We partner with healthcare providers, schools, businesses, government officials, community and church leaders, and more in an effort to bring awareness, resources, education, and support to the Kentuckiana community. More information on NAMI Louisville can be found on our website or by calling our office at (502) 588-2008. We are always in need of volunteers, community partners, and financial support.

Breast Cancer Risk Increases After Menopause, but There are Steps that can be Taken to Reduce Risk

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual international health campaign to increase awareness of the second leading cause of cancer death in women. A woman living in the United States has a 12% lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, which means that she has a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. But did you know that breast cancer risk increases with age, particularly after menopause?

There has been an increase in risk over the past four decades is due to longer life expectancy, as well as increases in breast cancer incidence due in part to changes in reproductive patterns, menopausal hormone use, the rising prevalence of obesity, and increased detection through screening. A woman’s risk of breast cancer increases as she gets older. In fact, the median age of diagnosis for women in the U.S. is 62 and rates of breast cancer are highest in women over age 70, according to AARP.

Menopause does not cause cancer. But your risk of developing cancer increases as you age. So women going through menopause have a greater chance of developing cancer because they’re older. Starting menopause after age 55 increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer, possibly due to exposure to more estrogen. While weakening immune systems may play a role in older women, the biggest culprit is estrogen, or rather, the cumulative amount of estrogen exposure a woman has had over the years. Estrogen stimulates breast tissue. About 80% of breast cancers in postmenopausal women are fueled by the hormone, according to the North American Menopause Society.

Your body continues to produce estrogen in later years, most of it coming from fat cells and adrenal glands. Which means that weight gain is a risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer since more fat cells mean more estrogen. AARP reports that studies show that women who are overweight or obese after menopause have a 20% to 60% higher breast cancer risk than those who are lean. Extra fat, particularly around the middle, is the body’s main source of estrogen in later years. This type of fat secretes proteins that increase inflammation throughout the body, which has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer recurrence, particularly in postmenopausal women. Using a hormone therapy to cope with menopause symptoms increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. The longer you use hormone therapy, the more your cancer risk appears to increase.

After my hysterectomy, I was prescribed Ogen estrogen replacement therapy for several years.  It is mostly used as hormone replacement in menopausal women and helps treat hot flashes and prevent osteoporosis. Because of a family history of breast cancer, my physician took me off the medicine as a preventive action. Women with a family history of breast cancer, especially in a first-degree relative (parent, child, or sibling) are at increased risk for the disease. My sister is a 23-year breast cancer survivor. I am now on Evista, which is indicated for the reduction in risk of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women at high risk of invasive breast cancer. As a practice, I try to watch my weight, exercise, and I get a three dimensional mammogram each year.

The good news is there are steps you can take to lower your risk of breast cancer, and your physician can help you come up with a plan. Even small lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Risk factors that you can control are weight, diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, smoking, exposure to estrogen, stress, and anxiety.

Louisville Clinical Town Hall Focuses on What Region can do to Optimize Wellness

It can be easy for those of us to work in healthcare – regardless of what setting we work in – to get caught up in the day-to-day demands of our jobs and fail to take a step back and re-energize and refocus from time to time. For the fourth year, the Louisville Health Advisory Board, led by Humana, took a day to do just that. On October 16, the fourth annual Louisville Clinical Town Hall allowed healthcare professionals to spend a day talking about a few of the biggest issues impacting the health of the community.

Although the word “clinical” is in its title, the Louisville Clinical Town Hall is a bit of a misnomer. It is more than just a day-long discussion about the state of healthcare delivery in our community. It’s about exploring the ways that Louisville can optimize the wellness of its citizens and their social determinants of health to increase quality of life indicators such as energy, strength of relationships, enjoying hobbies, and of course, avoiding illness. In breakout sessions, participants explored related topics, including:

  • Building a Healthy Community
  • How Policy Shapes Health
  • Healthy Days and Social Determinants of Health
  • Question, Persuade, Refer Suicide Prevention Training

In addition to giving participants a space to explore big picture ideas and strategies to optimize wellness, LHAB also brought in speakers.

Shelley Hearne, president of CityHealth, which assesses the country’s 40 largest cities in health policies, applauded Louisville for achieving a bronze medal in its health policy efforts and shared ways that Louisville could improve and join other silver- or gold-rated cities in the next few years. CityHealth reports on nine policies: affordable housing, alcohol sales control, complete streets, earned sick leave, food safety, healthy food procurement, high-quality universal Pre-K, smoke free indoor air, and tobacco. CityHealth’s wide range of wellness indicators reinforced the theme of the day of community wellness being more than just the absence of disease, but optimizing quality of life and place.

Louisville in 2018 earned an overall bronze medal for the first time, indicating they earned four or more medals of any kind (gold, silver, or bronze) in any of those nine policies. Louisville medaled in food safety, healthy food procurement, high-quality universal Pre-K, and smoke free indoor air. CityHealth will update its ratings again next year, and there was much discussion in the policy breakout group about where Louisville can focus efforts to earn a silver or gold medal overall. Most of the discussion focused on tackling the complete streets policy.

To end the day, afternoon keynote speaker Monty Robertson from Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina shared how his coalition of more than 50 leaders from organizations across the state have tackled health issues that are important for the wellness of South Carolina’s residents. Listening to his presentation reminded me heavily of the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative, which has a similar mission of coordinating the efforts of healthcare stakeholders to better the health and healthcare delivery of the community. Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina, like the KHC and like the theme of the Louisville Clinical Town Hall, recognized the need for the integration of mental and physical health in the delivery of health care, as well as expanding the definition of health to mean more than just lack of disease. The Louisville Health Advisory Board has shined a light on our need to re-frame what health means in our community.

National Affordability Summit Sets the Stage for Local Healthcare Affordability Event

KHC representatives at the NRHI National Affordability Summit pledge to “do my part by collaborating with others to improve health, reduce price, and eliminate waste.”

“I’ll do my part by collaborating with others to improve health, reduce price, and eliminate waste” was the pledge that purchasers, payers, providers, patients, and policymakers across the country committed to at our nation’s capital at the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement’s (NRHI) National Affordability Summit earlier this month. Several KHC members attended the summit, including Teresa Couts, UAW/Ford and KHC; Don Lovasz, KentuckyOne Health Partners; Amanda Elder, LG&E; Emily Beauregard, Kentucky Voices for Health; Stephanie Clouser, KHC; and myself.

Dr. Stuart Altman kicked off the event; he is an economist with five decades of experience working on federal, state, private, and academic health policy. His humorous keynote kept folks engaged despite the bleak prediction of family premiums rising to 100% of the US median household income by 2033 if trends continue on this trajectory. The current average family health insurance premium is approaching $20,000 per year. He gave examples of how America can change this trend by collectively eliminating the 33% waste that is estimated in medical spending. He encouraged consumers to become more engaged and employers to better control their healthcare spending. He used Massachusetts as an example of how states should track healthcare spending as total spending to include Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial payments, not just their Medicaid spending. Since 2012, Massachusetts went from one of the highest healthcare spending states to among the lowest.

Mylia Christensen of HealthInsight, also the NRHI affordability chair, presented the amazing work that is happening across the country to reduce healthcare spending by improving health, reducing price, and eliminating waste. The KHC and KY Medicaid’s Kentucky Core Healthcare Measures set was one of the projects featured by regional healthcare improvement collaboratives as a way of eliminating administrative waste. The KHC team was proud for our work to have been featured among the dozen or so strategies featured across the nation to address healthcare affordability.

At lunch, I had an enjoyable conversation with a very, soft-spoken woman with kind eyes and a quick smile. I liked her immediately. It was to my surprise when she joined the stage that afternoon as the self-described “tough negotiator grandma” who reduced Montana’s employer healthcare spending and returned big funds to the state’s budget. Marilyn Bartlett was tough indeed, and she had just proven what employers and states can do to reduce healthcare spending through referenced-based pricing and drug pricing transparency. She was my favorite speaker of the day, and I hope one day we can have her come to Kentucky to speak about her work.

One of the main takeaways from the event was that communities should not blame any healthcare sector for the current healthcare spending issues but should rather come together to solve the issues collectively. That’s what the KHC has planned for its affordability summit on Tuesday, December 4. Any stakeholder is invited to attend, and the group will identify at least two to three solutions that we can implement around healthcare affordability at this event. We invite you to join us and be part of the solution.

SBIRT: Why Should I Care?

(Note: this guest post was written by Mallori De-Salle, Outreach Coordinator and Lead SBIRT Trainer, Indiana Prevention Resource Center)

I hate thinking about what I’m not doing ‘right’ when it comes to my health. I eat pizza. I’m not overweight, so it must not be a problem. I add salt to my food (without tasting it). I don’t have high blood pressure, so it must not a problem. I drink coffee in the morning, mid-day, and sometimes in the evening. I still sleep, so it must not a problem. This is my logic when deciding if I have to make a change. If it isn’t a problem, I don’t think about the health behavior at all. So, why should I care about how much alcohol I drink, if it’s not a problem?

Does this sound familiar? It’s not a problem, so why even think about it? Is the lack of highly problematic symptoms of an illness the only way to measure the existence or severity of a health problem? Or could we as an “illness focused” culture be missing an opportunity to focus on wellness instead of lack of illness?

For decades, our healthcare system has operated under the belief that “health” is defined through the absence of symptoms. In other words, concerns aren’t addressed or even considered a problem until the symptoms can be diagnosed. But, is it possible that problems exist on a wider spectrum? Is it possible that you or I could improve our health by reducing our risks even before problems are visible? Think about using a seat belt. Most of us wear seat belts automatically. It’s a habit (thank you public health) that we no longer think about. We wear seat belts, but not because it makes us better drivers or because we plan to crash. We wear seat belts as prevention because it lowers our risk IF we experience a situation where harm is possible. Not wearing a seat belt increases your “risk” for harm, even in minor vehicle incidents and most importantly, in severe circumstances. Wearing a seat belt doesn’t remove the risk of crashing; it reduces the risk of harm WHEN a crash occurs. Seat belts lower risk for a problem that doesn’t even exist yet.

Seat belts are fairly concrete (actually they are fabric, but you understand). However, other health behaviors, such as alcohol or substance use, can be more abstract. What if we look at alcohol or substance use as a health behavior that can either increase or decrease our risk for experiencing harm, much like our current views on seat belts? Public health is back again with a new preventive practice to do just that!

SBIRT, or Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment, is a public health approach which changes how we view alcohol use. Instead of simply looking for indications of diagnosable problems, it examines all levels of use and how use impacts all levels of wellness. This suggests that wellness can be enhanced by understanding that health is not simply the absence of illness. SBIRT asks all patients (even the little neighbor lady down the street) annually about their alcohol or substance use. Doing so helps increase the chances that a person considers how their level of use is influencing their quality of health. SBIRT is not a diagnostic process, but instead a conversation that helps support intrinsic motivation for behaviors that support wellness and not just the avoidance of illness (in this case, addiction). SBIRT, like all other new movements, viewpoints and culture shifts (remember how people hated seat belts at first?) takes time to feel comfortable. Once it is in place, everyone starts to think, “Why haven’t we been doing this?” So, buckle up! SBIRT is taking the driver’s seat and letting us know that improving our health, wellness, and happiness is why we should care.

For more information on SBIRT or to download KHC’s toolkit for primary care providers, click here

QPR Reflections: Suicide Prevention Training Hits Home

A couple of weeks ago, the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative held its September Community Health Forum. The topic was youth mental health, and the date coincided with National Suicide Prevention Week. After the Forum, the KHC hosted a Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training as part of a goal to set a record for people trained in one week. Similar to CPR, QPR is a 90-minute training course designed to support an emergency response to someone in crisis. It was designed to equip individuals with the tools they need when someone in their life is facing a suicide crisis.

I was in that position last year, trying to convince the person I loved most in the world not to take their own life. It’s an experience I don’t wish on my worst enemy. I’m at a year of therapy and counting, and although I am a much stronger person for the experience, I wish I had never been through it.

In the end, my loved one didn’t take their life, and they got the talk therapy and medication needed to push through. Multiple people have credited me with that outcome. I’m not sure if I agree with that, but I do admit that my involvement might have had a positive impact and recognize now the power that even one individual can have in moments of crisis.

Hence the need for trainings like QPR. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and it’s estimated that for every death by suicide, there are 25 more attempts. It happens more commonly than we’d like to believe. During National Suicide Prevention Week, more than 2,200 people in Louisville were trained in suicide prevention in 50 locations across the city.

I’ll admit that I was slightly disappointed by the QPR training. I guess I thought that it would reveal one magic thing that I could have said or done differently, to make the situation turn out more smoothly than it did in my case. I was disappointed to find that there is no magic bullet to be had. People are complex. These situations are complex. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to suicide prevention. It all comes down to being persistent, really listening to what someone else is telling you either with their words or actions, and not being afraid to have the tough conversations.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to suicide prevention. It all comes down to being persistent, really listening to what someone else is telling you either with their words or actions, and not being afraid to have the tough conversations.

I don’t think I was prepared for the traumatic memories that QPR would bring up. Much of the 90-minute session was devoted to recognizing the signs and behaviors of distressed loved ones. I can say that from my personal experience, what was taught in QPR related to this was almost word-for-word what I experienced. I had to leave the room more than once in tears. But I always returned, determined to see it through. Then came the disappointing part of the training. The part where I discovered that there is no perfect phrase that can talk someone off the proverbial ledge. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have an impact on the situation. We can all create safe spaces for our loved ones to talk to us when they are struggling, and we can together get through the tough times.

I had nightmares that evening about those past traumas. But then, a funny thing happened. The nightmares that I’d been accustomed to having for the last year stopped. Situations and places that used to trigger me no longer did. And I realized that it was a direct result of the QPR training. I had long ago forgiven myself for what I had seen as failings when I was faced with the crisis, but it turns out that I didn’t need to be forgiven at all. By participating in the training, I realized that I did probably more in that situation than I should have been able to. It wasn’t blind luck that prevented my loved one from taking their life. And that was the closure that I didn’t know that I needed.

It sounds like a cliché to say that you never think it will happen to you until it does. But that’s exactly how it is. And I would recommend that anyone learn how to have that conversation and develop that vocabulary, through QPR or a similar program. Because you never know when you might need those skills.

Round Table Reflections – Understanding Employer Needs, Goals, and Challenges for Opioid Use Disorder

Last week, the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative (KHC) convened a group of employers and experts at the LG&E/KU Cane Run Power Plant to discuss the needs, goals, and challenges facing employers as they address opioid use disorder (OUD) in their workforces. The event was conceptualized as a focus group to guide the development of the KHC’s newest project as part of the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE). With an expected release date of April 2019, the KHC is developing a toolkit for employers in implementing best practices for supporting prevention, treatment, and recovery from OUD in the workplace.

Attendants of the focus group were carefully chosen. It was important that the discussion represented multiple perspectives dependent on the size, industry, and status of OUD initiatives of employers. Experts were brought in to provide technical expertise and give additional insight.  The conversation was broken up into five domains: key metrics for evaluation, prevention, benefit design, treatment, and recovery. For each domain, our conversation was shaped by identifying goals, challenges, pertinent information for the toolkit, and any knowledge of best practices.

The focus group revealed many outstanding themes. First and foremost, there was a resounding amount of enthusiasm and recognition from employers in their role to address OUD not only in their employees, but in their communities. This was especially true when discussing prevention efforts. Another prominent point was the importance of building a culture of wellbeing and trust within the workplace. By doing so, prevention, treatment, and recovery among employees could be supported. A component of this culture would be innovation, particularly around mitigating the many barriers than often arise for employees in accessing treatment and maintaining recovery. Insurance coverage that is friendly towards virtual treatment options, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), defined treatment guidelines, and affordable deductibles was repeatedly addressed. Employers also recognized the importance of data and insurance benefit design in tackling this issue. Addressing OUD in the workplace will be a individualized process, as many barriers exist in implementing these changes and these barriers vary based on each employer’s demographics and capabilities. Despite this, the willingness of employers to engage in such a vibrant and transparent conversation left many of the group’s participants filled with hope and excitement for their organization’s future.

In conjunction with evidence-based research, information collected from this discussion will guide the development of the KHC’s employer toolkit. The KHC will continue to convene employers during our monthly Worksite Addiction Meetings. If you are an employer who is interested in joining this group or would like to share your perspective, please contact me at nmiddaugh@khcollaborative.org.

KHC Joins Coalitions Across the Country to Address Healthcare Affordability

Kentucky, like the rest of the United States, has a problem. Healthcare costs continue to rise. However, paying more for healthcare does not mean we get better healthcare services, and it does not mean we are healthier as a result. We pay too much for care and it is causing financial, emotional, and clinical harm to individuals, businesses, and communities.

The current situation is unsustainable; harder choices are coming. There are proven approaches to make headway, but we have to work together to achieve success. We can’t blame the current state of affordability on any individual group of people. We all created the situation. It will take all of us working together to solve it.

Healthcare costs continue to rise. However, paying more for healthcare does not mean we get better healthcare services, and it does not mean we are healthier as a result.

The KHC has long been a trusted partner in reporting healthcare quality performance data. But you can’t address quality without also looking at value. Solving one issue in isolation does not achieve the healthcare affordability goal. Healthier populations use fewer healthcare resources. Healthier populations create more productive communities. Unnecessary services are causing clinical, emotional, and financial harm. Administrative waste is a financial burden on patients and providers while also burning out providers.

To begin the conversation locally around healthcare affordability, the KHC has joined the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI) and other regional coalitions across the country to bring healthcare affordability to the forefront of healthcare transformation efforts. The movement is focused on health, price, and waste — the three drivers of affordable healthcare. In joining this effort, NRHI and its coalitions like KHC will leverage their collective strengths on efforts to improve affordability while preserving and improving quality. In addition, partnering with other national entities committed to solving the healthcare affordability problem will strengthen the effectiveness and reach of these efforts.

The campaign, called Affordable Care Together, is an approach that puts communities at the center of the solution; the movement is led by neutral, non-profit conveners who build on existing, multi-stakeholder efforts to improve health, reduce price, eliminate waste, and collectively create greater awareness and solutions.

As part of Affordable Care Together, myself and KHC leaders Teresa Couts, Randa Deaton, Emily Beauregard, Don Lovasz, and Amanda Elder will join leaders from every segment of the U.S. healthcare system at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. for a day-long summit next week, addressing our country’s healthcare affordability crisis. We will bring back the lessons and ideas that we learn and put them to use, hosting a Community Health Forum in December called “The Path to Affordable Healthcare.” The half-day event will bring together key healthcare stakeholders and like-minded local change agents, who will help develop a community action plan to address healthcare affordability in our community.

Look in coming weeks for more content on healthcare affordability, including reflections from the summit in Washington, D.C. There are ways we can work together to change the system and make it sustainable for current and future generations. By working together, we can make a difference.

 Learn more about Affordable Care Together