• The National Quality Forum (NQF) hosted its 2019 Annual Conference, “Answering the Call: Results that Matter in Quality and Value,” in Washington, DC. The conference convened hundreds of leaders & experts in health, policy, and quality to discuss the current state of national quality, determine priorities for improvement, and identify future opportunities to achieve health equity.

    As the single most comprehensive program in the industry, this year’s conference featured a number of panel discussions, keynote presentations, and networking opportunities for attendees and partners alike to learn from each other and ways to adapt to the changing healthcare landscape and quality measurement with a specific focus on improving patient outcomes. Special thanks to our sponsors who helped provide an impactful three-day program.

    Evolving Measurement - A Learning Symposium

    New to this year was a pre-conference learning symposium with a focus on evolving quality measurement. After opening remarks by NQF President and CEO, Shantanu Agrawal, a number of topics ranging from priority setting to patient-centered measurement were discussed during the four expert panels throughout the afternoon. Cristie Upshaw Travis of the Memphis Business Group on Health led the first discussion of the day on healthcare performance with Akin Demehin of the American Hospital Association, Linda Schwimmer of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, and Madison Jung, NQF Project Manager of Quality Measurement who shared more about the development of a standardized measurement scoring system to assist organizations in easily determining health priorities for their patients.

    Experts including David Shahian of the Massachusetts General Hospital, Aparna Higgins of Ananya Health Innovations, and Ashlie Wilbon of NQF Quality Measurement spoke with Sr. Director of Quality Measurement at NQF Karen Johnson about the future of measurement science. Questions including ‘How do we test measurement, and test them to scale?” were answered throughout the poignant conversation.

    Rounding out the afternoon were discussions on the importance of patient-centered measurement and what’s next when managing the measurement burden that exists within healthcare systems.

    Moderator and NQF Board Member Adam Thompson discussed the aspects of healthcare that are both valuable and meaningful to patients. Alongside Thompson were Tracy Spinks, NQF Sr. Director of Quality Innovation, Rachel Brodie of the Pacific Business Group on Health, and Phillip Alberty of the Association of American Medical Colleges who explored these aspects and identified that genuine engagement, knowledge facilitation, and early involvement are among them.

    The symposium’s final expert panel built on this conversation and examined the significance of obtaining the right, accurate data, at the most opportune time to truly improve care and address what matters most to all stakeholders – patient care. This was led by Marybeth Farquhar of URAC, and featured Michelle Schreiber of CMS, Danielle Lloyd of America’s Insurance Plans, and NQF Sr. Director of Quality Measurement, Erin O’Rouke.

    Promoting Health Equity and Overcoming Disparities

    The first day of the conference, opened by James Chase, Chair of the NQF Board of Directors, focused on ensuring health equity and overcoming disparities. Since the organization’s founding, NQF has uniquely championed the importance of patients and caregiver voices to improve healthcare quality since our founding. President and CEO Shantanu Agrawal shared more on this charge, the current state of NQF, and the organization’s strengthened mission focused on driving measurable health improvements.

    Rana Awdish, Director of the Pulmonary Hypertension program at Henry Ford Hospital and author of In Shock, reinforced the theme of the day with a keynote address that shared her personal journey as a critical care physician who also experienced the shock of finding herself as a patient in a fatal circumstance while receiving maternal care. “Medicine had given me my life back, but I also saw what medicine didn’t allow. Medicine doesn’t always allow for true individuality in our patients,” Awdish shared in her address.

    Additional remarks were provided by Katherine Goodrich, Director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Chief Medical Officer at CMS, Garth Graham, President of the Aetna Foundation, and A. Marc Harrison, President, and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare.

    A call to action for healthcare equity for veterans was issued in a panel led by Nancy Wilson, Sr. Advisor at the AHRQ with powerful testaments from experts including Carolyn Clancy of the Veterans Health Administration, Theresa Cullen of the Global Health Informatics at Regenstreif Institute, and veteran John Branstetter of InControl Logistics. “We’re looking at what we can do today, and what we can do for the veteran experience in the future,” stated Branstetter during the conversation.

    Following this were discussions on the challenges of pricing in quality, equity, and value as well as breakout sessions examining social and gun violence, the role of data in achieving health equity, and regional approaches to eliminating disparities. Some of the experts featured throughout the day were JP Sharp of BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, Joseph Sakran of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Lisa Patton of IBM Watson Health, and Niall Brennan of the Health Care Cost Institute.

    The first day of the annual conference included the awarding of the John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality recognition and ended with a networking opportunity for NQF members to connect over dinner around topics of shared interest.

    Adapting to the Changing Quality Landscape

    The final day of the annual conference began with the awarding the recipients of the National Quality Forum Congressional Quality Leadership Award. U.S Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27) and U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (KS) accepted the recognition for their work as champions of quality improvement on both a local and national level. “I’m thrilled to be with folks who put patients ahead of politics and make decisions based on the data put in front of them,” said Chu.

    The day continued with an all-woman panel discussing innovations that are disrupting healthcare featuring Leah Sparks of Wildflower Health, Allison Martin of UDoTest, and Marcy Carter of Cityblock Health moderating by Martha Gaines of the Center for Patient Partnerships. Following this was a conversation on new approaches to measurement, featuring a lively exploration of measurement priorities and the importance of addiction treatment with Jeffrey Rideout of IHA, Gary Mendell of Shatterproof, Michael Chernew of Harvard Medical School, and Aisha Pittman of Premier.

    Featured remarks throughout the day were given by John O’Brien, Sr. Advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Rebekah Gee, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, who shared more on a new pharmaceutical partnership and subscription model to provide novel treatment for Hepatitis C. The model allows the state to set up pay a subscription fee to a drug company. The state would then get unlimited access to the drug, similar to how consumers pay a monthly fee to stream unlimited television shows and movies. This alternative payment arrangement that has become known as the “Netflix model.”

    A presidential luncheon panel took a look at the past, present, and future state of quality with founding NQF president Kenneth W. Kizer and former NQF President and CEOs Janet Corrigan and Christine Cassel. The conversation was led by the current NQF president, Shantanu Agrawal.

    Conference breakout sessions provided attendees to dive deeper on specific national priorities for improving healthcare quality: advancing measurement in serious illness; engaging patients, families, and caregivers; and improving behavioral health outcomes through telemedicine. It was during this session that Kim Ibarra, Sr. Director of NQF Quality Innovation and Andy Shin of the American Hospital Association announced the release of ‘Redesigning Care: A How-to Guide for Hospitals and Health Systems Seeking to Implement, Strengthen, and Sustain Telebehavioral Health’ alongside Karen Amstutz of Magellan Health whose personal experiences brought compelling context.

    Concluding the conference was the inspirational Commander of Space Shuttle Endeavour’s Final Mission in the United States Navy, Captain Mark Kelly. Kelly left the attendees with keys to success in achieving health equity. Among them were to implement practice and coaching across teams, promote effective and timely communication, learn from things that go wrong, and work to drive risk out of established processes.

    Throughout the conference, NQF also recognized the winning authors of the Next Generation Innovator Abstract program. Among them were Mujahed Khan of The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, Matthew Pickering of Pharmacy Quality Alliance, Joshua Clark of the Carilion Clinic, and the American Board of Family Medicine. More on them can be viewed here (PDF).

    We invite you to join us as we work to improve outcomes for all at the 2020 NQF Annual Conference on March 23 - 25, 2020. For any questions or to learn how you can support next year’s conference, please contact us at AnnualConference@qualityforum.org.