The University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School Center for Health Management & Policy presented its 12th annual The Business of Health Care event on February 24. The conference was held online and live at Donna E. Shalala Student Center, University of Miami, Coral Gables Campus. Florida Blue was again a presenting sponsor and major donor. This year’s theme was “Managing Through Uncertainty.”

The first afternoon panel focused on “A Potential Roadmap” and featured two former Health and Human Services Secretaries and a former Mexican Minister of Health. Moderated by Karoline Mortensen, Associate Dean, Business Programs, Professor, Health Management and Policy, the panelists were:

• The Honorable Alex M. Azar II, 24th U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
• Julio Frenk, MD, President of the University of Miami, Former Minister of Health of Mexico
• The Honorable Donna E. Shalala, 18th U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Former President of the University of Miami

Left to right: Dr. Mortensen, Mr. Azar, Dr. Frenk and Dr. Shalala

Left to right: Dr. Mortensen, Mr. Azar, Dr. Frenk and Dr. Shalala

Notably, Mr. Azar served under President Trump while Dr. Shalala served under President Clinton. Thus, both sides of the political aisle were included.

After an introduction by Joe Natoli, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Baptist Health South Florida, the moderator and panelists got started. Dr. Mortensen queried the panelists on the path forward as the health sector faces a potentially jarring expiration of the Public Health Emergency combined with workforce issues including shortages, gaps in education and training, burnout and retention.

Dr. Frenk asserted that the “defining characteristic of a pandemic is uncertainty.” The uncertainty lingers post-crisis but historically we’ve seen long lasting changes implemented in the aftermath of a public health crisis. Healthcare and higher education are among the sectors that suffered the most severe disruptions during covid, in Dr. Frenk’s view. With rapid innovation comes the requirement that educational institutions re-imagine themselves. Meanwhile, a dynamic labor market demands that workers are also re-inventing themselves.

Mr. Azar pointed out that markets should be self-correcting, and the labor market is no different from any other market. The fact that self-correction is not occurring – i.e., labor shortages persist – is evidence of the presence of artificial constraints. One example might be the scope of practice limitations placed on nurse practitioners. Another example of this dysfunction, according to Mr. Azar, is “our ossified fee-for-service payment system.” Needless regulations are roadblocks that impede labor market efficiency.

Dr. Shalala stated that, “What my friend Alex calls markets, I call politics.” She noted that some loosening of the regulatory environment occurred during the pandemic and the result, by and large, was better health outcomes. She also pointed out that scope of practice is a state-by-state issue since the states regulate professional licensure. “It’s not a red state, blue state issue,” according to Dr. Shalala. That said, it needs to be addressed at the state level. Scope of practice particularly affects nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and PAs. Regarding meaningful changes that can be done at the federal level, Dr. Shalala observed that bold ideas offered initially are frequently watered down in the appropriations process, by powerful interest groups. Thus, there is bi-partisan resistance to change; the obstructions are political, but not necessarily partisan.

The panel went on to discuss several more topics including vaccine hesitancy, the trend toward increasing consolidation and integration in the health industry as well as efforts in Washington D.C. to make the Medicare program sustainable.

The final panel of the day was entitled “Innovation and the Role of Technology.” The introduction was delivered by Sal Lo, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Jorie Healthcare Partners while the Moderator was Norma Sue Kenyon, Vice Provost for Innovation, Chief Innovation Officer, Leonard Miller School of Medicine, UHealth. The panelists included:

• Conor P. Delaney, MD, Chief Executive Officer and President, Cleveland Clinic Florida Region
• Patrick Hale, Executive Vice President, and Chief Information Officer, VITAS Healthcare
• Juan Felipe Ramirez, MD, Vice President Sales Execution & Data Driven Organization, LATAM, Boston Scientific
• Grant Veazey, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Ensemble Health Partners
• Jay G. Wohlgemuth, MD, Senior Vice President, R&D, Medical and Chief Medical Officer, Quest Diagnostics

Left to right: Dr. Kenyon, Dr. Delaney, Mr. Hale, Dr. Ramirez, Mr. Veazey and Dr. Wohlgemuth

Dr. Kenyon began by positing that technology must augment health care, not impede it. She also speculated that technology still needs to prove it can save dollars in the health sector.

Mr. Hale noted that EHR, the technology innovation of the early 2000s, has been a big disappointment. “Clinicians did not go to school to learn how to be data entry clerks.”

Meanwhile, most panelists agreed that AI has enormous potential for the health sector. “It’s absolutely critical that healthcare get involved,” according to Dr. Delaney.

And of course, there is a potential dark side to innovation and technology that policy makers and health professional must be wary of. Privacy concerns, cybersecurity and “Big Brother” are all potential pitfalls. Dr. Ramirez wondered aloud how far we are willing to go as a society to reward healthy behaviors and punish unhealthy ones, by adjusting insurance premiums.

Mr. Veazey asserted that a patient centric focus in health care is key to maximizing the benefits of innovation and technology while mitigating some of the potential negatives.

Subsequently, Dr. Wohlgemuth noted that ultimately, “The only person that’s going to advocate for your health is you.”

This panel touched a lot on consumer-driven health care and the role of AI, clearly timely topics. Furthermore, innovation and technology are almost universally believed critical to solving the financial sustainability issues plaguing the health care industry. This diverse and knowledgeable panel delivered a lively and hopeful discussion of the radical transformation of healthcare that will reveal itself in the not-too-distant future.

The latest iteration of The Business of Health Care event provided attendees yet another program of notable speakers and expert commentary. “Managing Through Uncertainty,” the theme of this year’s event, encapsulates the foremost task of health care professionals in 2023 and beyond. Fraught with challenges, the way forward surely will lead us to a new normal. The question remains: Will it be a better normal?

To view a recording of these panel discussions, click here.

To view the FHIcommunications story covering The Business of Health Care morning panel, click here:

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