AHA Today recently caught up with Priya Bathija to discuss the first year of the initiative, what resources and learnings are planned for 2019 and how its work plays into the AHA’s advocacy agenda. Read the interview and listen to the podcast

AHA Today: The AHA launched The Value Initiative last December. What was the impetus for launching the initiative and what have been the main focus areas since the announcement?

Priya: It came from our member hospitals and health systems. 

We know that affordability is one of the most important obstacles for people in getting access to quality health care. As an association, we recognized that many of the conversations around health care transformation and reform stem from the idea that we need to have a health care system that is first and foremost affordable and sustainable. 

In 2017, the AHA Board of Trustees started the conversation around affordability because they knew that hospitals and health systems could not wait for other stakeholders to lead the charge. At AHA, we want to be the leaders in promoting affordable, equitable access to health care. The AHA Board created a new committee comprised of hospital and health system leaders to guide our work in this area. The Committee on Health Strategy and Innovation was asked to challenge standard assumptions related to health care costs and value, to ask the hard questions, to explore the complexity of this issue, and to identify the role that hospitals can play in improving health care affordability. 

In addition, the AHA Board and the Committee gathered input and insights from leaders throughout the field at AHA’s regional policy board, council and member meetings. Extensive dialogue took place around key issues related to and affecting affordability.

Overwhelmingly, our hospital and health system members agreed that we have to take a leadership role in providing solutions. We have to collaborate with other stakeholders and convene discussions. We have to collect data on the topic, and track our progress. We have to advocate for policies that support affordability. And, the AHA must provide support to our members so that they may enact change. 

In response to this feedback, we launched The Value Initiative to provide leadership to the health care field on these issues. The Value Initiative draws resources and support from across the entire AHA, and it’s our opportunity to: 

  • Frame the issue of affordability for our members and educate the public. 
  • Provide education, tools and resources to hospitals and so they can learn, share and act.
  • Build a platform on which AHA will drive a national dialogue with stakeholders outside the hospital field about affordability.  
  • And gather the data, stories and hospital experiences necessary to develop and support federal policy solutions.

AHA Today: What types of resources are available to hospital and health system leaders? 

Priya: We have and will continue to produce a variety of resources through The Value Initiative. For example, we have developed our Members in Action series where we highlight the work hospitals and health systems are doing to implement a variety of value-based strategies. Our hope is that by sharing these stories, other hospitals and health systems can replicate and scale these programs across the country. 

We also are releasing issue briefs that provide an overview of the key issues related to affordability. These issue briefs frame the complexity of the issue and highlight strategies hospitals and health systems may use to address affordability. 

We have developed easy-to-use presentations that allow hospitals to start talking about this issue with their employees, trustees and the community. These presentations include an overview of the work hospitals and health systems are doing to address affordability. It also explains why it is important to consider the full story when looking at value – that full story includes not only the cost of care, but also patient experience and outcomes. 

We also are focused on data. We are evaluating the appropriate metrics that will allow us to track hospital and health systems’ progress on affordability and implementation of value-based strategies. This includes a mix of longer-term, market-wide measures and then shorter-term measures that are more actionable for hospitals and health systems. As we do that, we also have developed an affordability data book that includes customizable slides that cover data on national health spending and affordability from the perspective of consumers, employers, payers, hospitals and community partners. This data book can supplement the conversations hospitals are having with their employees, trustees and community stakeholders.  

The last important resource I will mention is our Voices on Value series. As the hospital field tackles affordability, it also is important to look to those outside the hospital – and sometimes outside health care – for guidance and inspiration. In this series, we have experts share their diverse viewpoints on cost, quality and value.

AHA Today: You’ve hosted some forums across the country for hospital and health system leaders to attend in person. Why is it valuable for hospital and health system leaders to attend these forums? 

Priya: These events bring together expert thought leaders and health care leaders from across the country. Through guided case studies and panel discussions, they share the various strategies their organizations are using to make health care more accessible and affordable for their patients and communities. This discussion is important and offers an opportunity for hospital and health care leaders to learn from each other – what is working, what did not, and what might work in their communities – as they continue to redefine the “H” and transform care delivery. It also offers leaders the chance to think about affordability more completely. 

We will continue these events in 2019 and expand our dialogue to include how hospitals and health systems can work with other stakeholders – including payers and community partners – to promote affordability and value. We also will dive into opportunities for innovation through new and novel partnerships. 

AHA Today: Looking ahead to 2019, what do you see as the top priorities for the Value Initiative? 

Priya: Going into 2019, we have three priorities. 

The first is to continue doing the work that we started in 2018. We will continue to be a forum for knowledge exchange that provides AHA members with tools, resources and education that allow them to address affordability and implement value-based strategies. Among other things, hospital and health system leaders will have access to more Members in Action items, data resources, and tools that they can use to expand the conversation on this important issue. We also will add opportunities for hospitals and health systems to collaborate, share best practices and learn from each other. 

Second, we will provide tools to hospital and health system leaders that will allow them to build a culture of value within their organizations. Culture is a hard thing to change, but in order to truly move the needle on reducing cost, improving quality and enhancing the patient experience, each member of a hospital or health systems’ team needs to be on board and understand their connection to value. We have a lot of hospitals that have done this successfully, and we are excited to spotlight those efforts. 

Third, as the national voice for hospitals and health systems, the AHA will continue to serve as an agent of change to foster and facilitate ongoing conversation across all sectors of the health care field that impact affordability. We will continue to convene multi-stakeholder conversations to ensure that representatives from other sectors in health care – payers, employers, consumers and policymakers – are working together to reduce health care costs, enhance value, and help individuals reach their highest potential for health. 

AHA Today: How does the work of The Value Initiative relate to the AHA’s advocacy work? 

Priya: The Value Initiative allows the AHA to be a better advocate for our members. Right now, the AHA is working with Congress and the administration in a variety of ways to make health care more affordable. For example, the AHA advocates to protect and expand coverage for all; promote high-value care; advance health system transformation; enhance quality and patient safety; and promote regulatory relief. 

By dedicating resources to The Value Initiative, the AHA is better positioned to gather the data, stories and hospital experiences needed to advocate for these types of federal policy solutions. And, when paired together, both The Value Initiative and our advocacy efforts work to ensure a policy environment that supports hospital and health system leaders as they advance affordable health care and promote value within their communities.
 

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