B-TAC

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Highlights from 2019 CMS Quality Conference

I attended the first day, January 29, of this annual conference and found the sessions I went to helpful. Participation was strong, as 3,500 had registered for this free conference in downtown Baltimore and it looked like many actually attended despite the bad weather.  The agenda and other information is on the conference’s website.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Patient participation – Actual patients were featured throughout the conference presentations and were helpful in grounding us on the real issues patients and families face today in health care.
  • CMS Administrator Seema Verma’s plenary – She summarized the work and achievements of CMS and stressed the themes of empowering patients, focusing on results, and unleashing innovation via transparency and competition going forward.
  • Deputy Administrator of the Innovation Center (CMMI) Adam Boehler’s – He provided more perspective on the recently-announced changes to some of the CMMI models. He also talked about a soon-to-be announced call for private/public efforts to use technology and big data to “derive” quality metrics so that clinicians don’t need to input them, which would be wonderful if possible. He is also pushing for more transparency and engagement to make CMMI models more effective.
  • Fireside chat with Dr. Travis Rieder – This was terrific and began with his TED talk, which has been viewed 1.7 million times, about being abruptly tapered from opioids after a car accident. It was very powerful and he’s now doing work on the ethics of how we should address the opioid epidemic. His conclusion is that opioid treatment and policy needs to be nuanced, something C-TAC will reinforce in future regulatory comments.
  • Value-based/alternate payment efforts- This session featured a large panel of payers, provider organizations, and quality experts experienced with these efforts and their shared advice was that successful efforts require an interdisciplinary approach and physician/leadership engagement.
  • Opioids and Serious Illness- This was the only session sponsored by the CMS Palliative Care Affinity Group. Dr. Lynn McPherson, one of C-TAC’s past Summit speakers, did a good job of outlining the unfortunate and unintended consequences of recent opioid policies and her perspective was likely refreshing for those now reluctant to use these drugs.
  • Peer mentoring for kidney transplant patients- End-stage Renal Disease (ESRD) was one of the big conference topics and CMS is now actively promoting transplant and home dialysis with clinic-based dialysis only as a last resort. Not surprisingly, peer mentoring is helpful for people considering getting a kidney transplant.
  • Addressing social needs in CMMI models- This session talked about this issue for the Oncology Care, Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) and Accountable Health Community models. All involve screening for social risk factors and provide incentives for providers to link patients at need with community resources. Interestingly, the speakers for the Oncology and CPC+ models shared that the participating practices were surprised at the level of social needs and distress screening uncovered in their participants/patients. It’s good that the models therefore require such screening as it’s likely missed in most health care interactions and settings.
  • Care Transitions conference – A conference on this topic will be held on April 16th at the CMS main office outside of Baltimore. C-TAC will post more information on this when it becomes available.

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