Recent Health Care Council Events Focus on New Answers to Old Problems
Three innovators — former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, MD — joined forces to discuss the future of healthcare delivery in Nashville. © 2012 Harry
The Nashville Health Care Council hosted a pair of events last month that sought innovative solutions to issues plaguing the nation’s health and healthcare industry.
On June 15, the Health Care Council hosted the Partnership for a Healthier America and Family Circle magazine 2012 Childhood Obesity Roundtable, one of a series of discussions being held across the country featuring local and national experts addressing the serious health and economic implications of obesity. Four days later, the Council and Washington, D.C.-based Bipartisan Policy Center joined forces to highlight technology innovation in healthcare delivery.
Childhood Obesity Roundtable
The Honorable William H. Frist, MD, honorary chair for Partnership for a Healthier America; Ben Leedle, president and CEO of Healthways; Lynya Floyd, health director for Family Circle magazine; Bill Paul, MD, MPH, director of health for Davidson County; and Shari Barkin, MD, MSHS, chief of the Division of General Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine met at Nashville’s downtown public library to discuss the impact childhood obesity has on families and businesses in Tennessee and across the country. Moderated by WSMV-TV anchor Demetria Kalodimos, the panelists also explored interventions to address several of the key factors contributing to the obesity epidemic.
“Childhood obesity has reached crisis-level over the past 30 years,” said Frist. “It is imperative that we work across all sectors to find real solutions to end this epidemic in our communities.” He added there is no quick fix. “The fact that there is no silver bullet means it takes all of us aligning our interest with that goal of reducing this relatively new phenomenon of obesity,” he said.
Since obesity wasn’t an issue 30-40 years ago, Frist said it’s important, as a society, to look at what has contributed to the current crisis and find a way to rewind and reverse it. He added that while genetics, socioeconomic factors and environment play a role in health and health outcomes, the biggest social determinant of health is behavior.
For Tennesseans, the crisis is very real. The state’s children are the sixth most obese in the nation. Clearly, a number of trends have contributed to the problem. Floyd pointed out, “In the last decade, Americans consumed nearly one-third of all their calories away from their homes.”
Paul added, “Our behavior is heavily shaped by what’s around us.” He said the food available at arm’s length, sidewalks, community schools and churches all play a part. “We have to bridge that healthcare interaction with a broader community movement that makes it easier to live healthier … that surrounds our kids with healthy choices so that wherever you look there is an opportunity to be healthy.” The challenge, he continued, is to change the “default” so that the environment is more supportive of healthy living.
Barkin noted a culture shift also has to happen within healthcare. “Our healthcare industry was really born to respond to disease, and now we’re asking the question, ‘How do we respond to health and promoting health?’” On the one hand, she noted, providers must respond to those who are obese and care for the comorbid conditions that come with the condition including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. However, Barkin continued, the industry must also look at ways to restructure the delivery of care to focus on prevention if our society is to change the trajectory of health going forward.
Leedle added individuals make between 10,000 and 20,000 decisions each day so finding ways to promote one “lever” over another when making choices could lead to healthier decisions. He added it’s important not to confuse ‘innovation’ with ‘invention.’ Leedle noted, “We underestimate the power of things that already exist.” Innovation, he added, is taking current resources and capabilities but applying them differently.
For example, he said, we have a lot of research about how to lose weight but very little about how to keep it off. Research by the National Institutes of Health found signs of success when a trusted source of authority helped keep people on track. Leedle said the study found physicians are not likely prepared, trained or resourced to be a patient’s coach, but they are trusted beyond most any other source. “When they drive engagement, it moves the level of receptivity up for people to accept more resources.” Similarly, Leedle said, tapping into the power of social media has huge potential to drive engagement.
On the plus side for Middle Tennessee, Nashville has been recognized nationally for adopting innovative ideas in the fight against obesity. Over the past three years, Mayor Karl Dean has helped unite public and private sectors to encourage citizens to adopt healthier lifestyles. Numerous initiatives including walking/running challenges, a citywide field day with the Tennessee Titans, a bike-sharing program, and the increase in urban farmers’ markets all were lauded as having the potential to change behaviors.
On June 19, the Nashville Health Care Council and Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) highlighted five Nashville-based organizations that have demonstrated innovation in healthcare delivery enabled by information technology. The daylong event kicked off with a welcome by former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders and BPC Health Project Co-chairs Tom Daschle and Bill Frist, MD.
“Policymakers and health industry stakeholders across the country and across the political spectrum understand the critical role that health IT plays in achieving better health, improved delivery of care and lower costs,” said Daschle. “While federal investment has been substantial, increased public-private collaboration and leadership is necessary to promote greater utilization of health IT.”
Frist added that Nashville needed to have a seat at the table to help shape the national conversation because of the wealth of experience found in the local healthcare industry.
“We’re not here by accident,” Daschle concurred, “We’re here because we know we’re going to be able to speak to a room full of innovators.” He added the city’s leadership and innovation … not to mention the collegial spirit … should be taken back to the nation’s capital.
“The Bipartisan Policy Center was founded because Washington was becoming too polarized, too politicized, and far too confrontational,” Daschle continued. While he said it would always be important to have “Rs” and “Ds” (Republicans and Democrats), it was more important to know if someone was a “C” or “D” (constructive or destructive) in terms of their approach to issues.
Healthways, MissionPoint Health Partners/Saint Thomas Health, PharmMD Solutions, Sumner Regional Medical Center and Vanderbilt University Medical Center were selected to participate in the forum’s Innovation Exchange to showcase the constructive ideas being employed locally to create successful, scalable innovations using healthcare technology to deliver high quality, cost efficient care.