Quality Conference Day 1: Making Commitments to Reduce Burden and Improve Quality

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Photo of CMS Leadership Dennis Wagner, Jeneen Iwugo and Dr. Paul McGann.
CMS QIIG Leadership: Dennis Wagner, Jeneen Iwugo and Dr. Paul McGann

Burden reduction, aligning with meaningful measures and confronting the opioid epidemic were all significant themes for the first day of the 2018 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Quality Conference in Baltimore.

In her opening remarks at the plenary session on February 12, Jeneen Iwugo, deputy director of CMS’s Quality Improvement and Innovation Group (QIIG), highlighted the growth of the conference to nearly 2,600 attendees this year, including partners from across the health care spectrum. She also described how her family motivates her to pursue bold goals to create a better health care system.

I’m working to make sure that when we enter the health care system, we receive health care that is safe, that is the accurate health care that we actually need, and we want to walk away from that situation unharmed and feeling as though we’ve made the best decision for ourselves,” said Iwugo.

Next, Dr. Paul McGann, CMS chief medical officer for quality improvement, focused on one particular bold goal: achieving a 20 percent reduction in patient harm in hospitals. He also highlighted the work that needs to be done to reach bold goals, including making commitments. He urged attendees to make five to 10 commitments during the conference, to embrace change, seek out innovation, build new partnerships, and to think about data differently.

"We need doctors and nurses on the frontlines treating patients, not filling out forms and checking boxes." 

Dennis Wagner, director of the CMS QIIG, began his welcome address by encouraging attendees to focus on patients and be action-oriented.

Wagner shared the story of his 34-day hiking trip along the Camino de Santiago in Spain in 2017. During the 500-mile hike, Wagner learned to appreciate the journey as much as the destination. He encouraged conference attendees to see the 2018 CMS Quality Conference as part of a larger journey toward quality improvement.

"As we go forward in this work together, you will see from our team and from our group, a team that is seeking to generate joy, that is seeking to help each other in ways that are good. Ways that have respect and civility and celebration and cowbell ringing as part of it, because we want your journey and your destination to be great,” Wagner said.

Patients Over Paperwork

Wagner was followed by special guest speaker, CMS Administrator Seema Verma, who spoke about the administration’s priorities for 2018 and beyond, including improving the customer experience, supporting innovative approaches to quality, and empowering patients and doctors to make informed decisions about their health care.

Administrator Verma focused on initiatives like Patients Over Paperwork, which is part of an agency-wide mission to reduce physician burden. To facilitate this, CMS is in the process of developing journey maps to understand how all regulations impact health care delivery. This will ensure that when patients enter the health care system, they will know they are receiving quality care.

"We need doctors and nurses on the frontlines treating patients, not filling out forms and checking boxes," said Administrator Verma. 

She also highlighted some early successes in reducing burden. For hospitals, CMS has already achieved nearly 500,000 hours of burden reduction, resulting in $16 million in savings. For home health providers, CMS has recorded two million hours in burden reduction, resulting in $145 million in savings.

Administrator Verma closed by urging conference attendees to focus on putting patients first.

As we move forward with all of our initiatives, we really need to hear from the people on the front lines, people like yourselves” Administrator Verma said. We need the engagement of all of our partners here today. We need your ideas and input; we need the benefit of your expertise and experience. And we need to listen to you and to learn from you and to be challenged by you… Working together, I know we can always put the patient first.”

CMS Administrator Seema Verma 

Confronting the Opioid Epidemic

To close, attendees heard from Lieutenant Commander Fred Butler, Jr., CMS senior advisor for integration and quality and Kimberly Brandt, CMS principal deputy administrator for operations, about how the agency is working to combat the opioid epidemic.

Brandt discussed CMS’s work on a comprehensive, long-term roadmap to discover how the epidemic is specifically affecting Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and the actions that need to be taken. The roadmap will be comprised of three buckets: prevention activities, treatment and data. CMS is also working with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to find better ways to share information.

Toward these efforts, Brandt highlighted that more than 11,250 clinicians have already signed the Medication Management and Opioid (MMO) Campaign Pledge.

Attendees also heard several examples of local interventions to address the opioid epidemic, which are grounded in data and include commitments from a variety of health care stakeholders and patients. One initiative in West Virginia has achieved a 40 percent reduction in patients actively using opioids, and of the nearly 2,700 individuals who have participated, there have been no overdose deaths.

One initiative in West Virginia has achieved a 40 percent reduction in patients actively using opioids, and of the nearly 2,700 individuals who have participated, there have been no overdose deaths.

Watch the full day one plenary here.