Last week’s Aspen Ideas: Health festival reflected many of the changing dynamics in health and health care. Notably, a number of sessions across the four days examined how consumerism and technology are shaping the patient experience of care.

Enhancing the patient experience

An AHA-sponsored panel on “Health Care Without an Address” moderated by AHA Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Maryjane Wurth, looked at the ways hospitals and health systems are adapting to this new push beyond their traditional boundaries, and what this shift means for affordability, patient outcomes and the care experience. Efforts include utilizing technology, such as artificial intelligence, wearable devices and telemedicine; keeping better records and using data in the most effective way; bringing in new skillsets outside of traditional medicine; and building community partnerships that add value.

Wurth was joined by AHA Board Chairman Brian Gragnolati, president and CEO of Atlantic Health System in New Jersey; AHA board member John Haupert, president and CEO, Grady Health System (GA); and Saum Sutaria, M.D., COO, Tenet Healthcare. Each leader provided details of how their facility reaches underserved patients, and they stressed that different approaches work as long as they focus on the individual.

For example, Haupert described how his safety-net hospital created eight primary care medical homes — each led by a primary care physician and consisting of a pharmacist, nutritionist, behavioral health worker, care manager, social worker and patient navigator — that care for 2,000 patients at each location. “We have had to, over the years as a super safety-net provider, envision how we can reduce, and continue to reduce, the cost of care while at the same time improving health,” Haupert said.

Gragnolati spoke about experimental methods of reaching patients, including his own network’s distribution of sites of care, and the benefits of trying new approaches. “I’m seeing access improve,” Gragnolati said. “I’m seeing people actively work at lowering per capita spending in their communities and providing better health.”

You can listen to the full session on the AHA’s podcast channel, Advancing Health.

Other panels explored how digital technology is helping put patients in control through the sharing of data and how health care providers are redesigning systems using human-centered design principles.

Driving value

AHA board member Haupert also shared how patients are being negatively impacted by rising drug prices on a panel called “How Can Medicines be More Affordable?”

He discussed how the 340B drug savings program has helped Grady Health System, a safety-net provider in the Atlanta area, expand access to medications to its community. 

Several panelists noted that the high price for new drugs, such as new hepatitis C treatments, means the treatments are not accessible for many patients.

A panel of business and finance leaders explored ”The Business Case for Health” and how financial wellness is inextricably tied to overall wellness and mental health. Panelists noted that, like physical heath, financial health is essential, and people need the ability to withstand shocks to the system. They shared how they are working with their own employees and clients to improve their financial and health literacy.

Addressing the social determinants of health

The social determinants of health also were a hot topic at the festival. Numerous panels focused on the impact of the social determinants on overall health and how hospitals and health systems, insurers and community stakeholders are innovating to address them.

In a keynote conversation, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D., emphasized that “your zip code is more important than your genetic code when it comes to health outcomes.” He noted that, in Chicago, across seven subway stops, there is 25-year difference in life expectancy difference. And this is not uncommon in communities across America, he added.

“We have to understand health is much more than health care,” Adams said.

A separate panel looked at the influence of housing on health, including how urban planning can be used to improve access to transportation, lessen the concentration of poverty and improve access to care, especially for behavioral health. Panelists also discussed how health systems have taken on an anchor role, financing housing for vulnerable populations and workers across the spectrum.

An additional panel explored how health care providers and community stakeholders are working together to develop customized solutions to fit their communities’ unique needs.

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