The Center for Total Health hosts third-annual Better Together Health

From left to right: Jayne O’Donnell (Moderator), Laura Seeff, MD, Alan Balch, PhD, John Bulger, DO, Michael Kanter, MD

 

On May 24, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health hosted All Systems Go! Closing the Gaps in Cancer Care, the third-annual Better Together Health event, led by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Council for Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP). The event highlighted patient stories, representing how coverage and accountable healthcare systems can improve survival and reduce morbidity for people living with complex conditions like cancer.

Laura Fegraus, Executive Director of CAPP led opening remarks with an overview of the state of cancer care in America. She presented research on what physicians and patients value, with evidence-based medicine, doctor-patient relationships, and care coordination topping each list. “Patients aren’t getting what they need,” she says, stressing the importance of coordinated care. “We are not there yet, and that’s why we’re here today.”

Robert Pearl, MD, Chair of CAPP (@RobertPearlMD), provided contextual framework for the event’s discussion of gaps in American health care, citing his recently published book, Mistreated: Why We Think We’re Getting Good Health Care—and Why We’re Usually Wrong. “If we cannot lower the cost increase [in health care] and do it through better quality, coordination, technology and leadership, the system will get disrupted. This is the time to change.”

Danielle Carnival, PhD, Deputy Director of the Biden Foundation’s Cancer Initiative provided a sense of hope, urgency, and change in the approach to cancer care by encouraging partnerships. Discussing racial and socioeconomic disparities, she stated: “Culturally appropriate cancer outreach efforts are needed to reach people where they are.” Dr. Carnival alluded to Cancer Moonshot in the goals of The Biden Foundation’s Cancer Initiative, which she says will “break down silos that stand as barriers for patients.”

After viewing two patient stories: Hunter’s of Geisinger Health System and Daria’s of Kaiser Permanente, Jayne O’Donnell of USA Today moderated a panel discussion featuring Alan Balch, PhD, CEO of the Patient Advocate Foundation, John Bulger, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Population Health, Geisinger Health System, Michael Kanter, MD, Medical Director of Quality and Clinical Analysis, Southern California Permanente Medical Group, and Laura Seeff, MD, Director of the Office of Health Systems Collaboration, CDC.

Dr. Kanter said the detection of residual cancer in Daria’s case and so many others is “the obligation of every [PMG] physician to look at the whole patient.” In the case of barriers for change in the current health care system, he said, “There’s issues of will and physician leadership.” Dr. Bulger agreed that “physicians need to coordinate care, rather than work against each other.”

Addressing a lack of data use, Dr. Balch called on physicians to harness data. “Data creates evidence to drive action, linking science to prevention,” Dr. Seeff said. Referring to the researchable data on preventable cancer deaths, Richard Wender, MD, Chief Cancer Control Officer, ACS, stated an increase in survival rates requires “a need to invest in a disproportionate way what is proven to work.”

Dr. Seeff reminded that in “cancer survivorship, it’s key to remember the human element.” There are several factors blocking patients’ access to cancer, outside of treatment, such as logistics, transportation, and food security, among others, Dr. Balch warned.

Office of the National Coordinator Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Technology Reform John Fleming, MD, gave a keynote address on policy. His suggestion that “Every American should have a single, unified electronic head record available in the cloud,” from anywhere, at all times, for all involved physicians to access was met with approval from event audience.

While the outlook on American healthcare is uncertain, the panel and speakers are hopeful. They agreed with Dr. Kanter that for now, “Nothing is more important than the issue of health care access and coverage.” For more information on Better Together Health, click here.

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