The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched its 2015 CMS Quality Conference, formerly known as QualityNet, in Baltimore, Maryland on Dec. 1, 2015 by celebrating recent health care quality successes and urging attendees to build new partnerships that will deliver continued results in quality improvement.
The day one plenary kicked off with welcome messages and opening remarks by CMS executives Dennis Wagner, Victoria Wachino and Jean Moody-Williams.
Following their remarks, Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt took the stage to thank all stakeholders for their work in improving care for Medicare and Medicaid patients, as well as to share his vision for how to continue driving health care transformation.
“To move forward and continue to make progress requires more than just improvements in the fundamentals, but understanding and adjusting to a new level of fundamentals: serving a more mobile patient, a more diverse patient and through better use of information,” Slavitt told attendees.
Adapting to these new fundamentals will require more accountability, collaboration and leadership according to Slavitt. “CMS is prepared to be a partner in this change; We are committed to listening and learning what works and what doesn’t, and to being transparent, clear, and consistent in our priorities,” he added.
The Acting CMS Administrator also highlighted some newly published data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) showing a 17 percent improvement in hospital-acquired conditions between 2010-2014, equating to an estimated 2.1 million fewer cases of patient harm, an estimated 87,000 fewer patient deaths and an estimated $20 billion in health care savings.
“It is safer today for your or my loved one who enters a hospital than it was just four years ago – talk about transformational,” he concluded.
Following Slavitt’s remarks, CMS Acting Principal Deputy Administrator Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, briefed conference attendees about CMS’ plans to award $110 million in End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) funding for 18 ESRD Networks to seven entities. He also highlighted recent ESRD Network successes and national QIN-QIO recruitment successes, noting that the scope of their work is “incredibly large and impactful.”
“It is safer today for your or my loved one who enters a hospital than it was just four years ago – talk about transformational.”
Conway praised conference attendees for their contributions and encouraged them to do more. “I believe… that we’ve seen more improvement in our health system in the last five years than I’ve ever seen before. I also think if we don’t at least keep that pace of improvement and most likely accelerate that pace of improvement, our health system won’t achieve what it needs to for the American people,” said Conway.
Conway introduced Kate Goodrich, MD, MHS, as the new Director of CCSQ at CMS.
“We really are in an action or implementation phase of our work; we’re in the changing it and doing it phase,” said Goodrich.
Among other CCSQ initiatives, Goodrich highlighted the standing up of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) legislation, specifically CMS’ Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) for physicians and the transition to Alternative Payment Models. “This is the biggest change in clinician payment in many, many years,” she said.
Goodrich also cited CMS’ largest investment to date in technical assistance to frontline clinicians under the Transforming Clinical Practices Initiative (TCPI) and welcomed the Practice Transformation Networks (PTNs) and Support and Alignment Networks (SANs) in attendance for the first time at the CMS Quality Conference.
In her update about the CMS Quality Strategy, Goodrich mentioned CMS’ recent development of affinity groups – people from across the agency with a passion for a particular topic and a desire for cross-agency collaboration. Examples of affinity groups include person and family engagement, value-based purchasing, population health and several other groups that strive to build partnerships with like-minded individuals throughout HHS and beyond.
Goodrich wrapped up her remarks by encouraging conference participants to team across networks in ways that “might not seem natural” since everyone can stand to learn something from each other.
Sanjeev Arora, MD, FACP, FACG, Director and Founder, Project ECHO (Extension for Community Health Outcomes), closed the day one plenary with the introduction of his bold and successful health care strategy for extending access to specialty medical care to vulnerable populations in underserved areas. Arora’s methodology uses new technology and data to “move knowledge instead of patients”. His model has spread nationally and internationally, and his ultimate goal is to help improve the health of over one billion people by the year 2025.
“If one has to say what the main contribution ECHO makes to the world of health care quality, I would say it’s the mechanism to scale the wisdom of a multidisciplinary team,” said Arora.
View full coverage of the day one plenary of the 2015 CMS Quality Conference here.