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News from DC and UVM Community Rounds

September 11, 2017

Dear Friends,

All of us at VAHHS have been busy preparing for our big annual meeting—this week in Jay Peak!  The program is packed with content and we expect record attendance for our time together. The meeting is a great opportunity to connect with colleagues and friends, learn what’s happening around the state, and hear the latest on health policy from Washington, DC. I was in DC last week along with Tom Huebner and Claudio Fort, who lead Rutland Regional Medical Center and North Country Hospital.

We were part of an American Hospital Association meeting that brought together regional policy leadership groups from across the country. In various forums we discussed issues including affordability, infrastructure and next steps for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Our friends around the country are grappling with the same challenges we are – opioid epidemic, mental health crisis, cost containment, regulatory oversight. Hearing from them is helpful and insightful.

Our hospital group was proud and excited to join the VNAs of Vermont—led by VAHHS veteran Jill Olson—in a visit to our congressional delegation on Capitol Hill. We had a productive conversation with staff for Rep. Peter Welch as well as Sens. Leahy and Sanders. In addition to several specific issues we discussed, both VAHHS and the VNAs thanked our state leadership for protecting the ACA. We also advocated  for fair and reasonable payment policy for both hospitals and home health providers who together are a vital part of creating a value-based health care system.

When I returned from DC, I was fortunate to participate in “Community Rounds” at UVM Medical Center. The two-day program orients members of the community to the work of the hospital and the medical school. On the first day, I shadowed an ophthalmologist. Within minutes of my arrival, I was watching this highly specialized physician prep a needle to inject directly into his patient’s eye. As the brief procedure unfolded, so did I, complete with sweaty palms, palpitations and dizziness. Needless to say, the next day, they put me with a pediatric ENT whose exams of kids’ ears were considerably tamer.

But both experiences were, well, eye opening.  I was surprised to find an ophthalmologist talking to his patients about their diets, but he was because macular degeneration caused by diabetes was affecting their vision and necessitating frequent (and expensive) injections. This speaks powerfully to the need for patient outreach and participation. Succeeding in a new payment model necessitates providers working together with patients to prevent and manage their chronic conditions. And I was fascinated to observe the workflow in a busy medical practice that was also home to new physicians learning their specialties.

Community Rounds then took us through the UVM medical school, including its high-tech surgical simulation lab. We had conversations with lab researchers and technicians, and with medical students and nurse leaders. It was hopeful and exciting to meet so many hyper-smart scientists and devoted medical professionals—PhD researchers, ICU nurses, primary care physicians, department leaders, and technical experts among others.

There is similarly great work going on around our state—we will showcase and discuss it at the annual meeting this week. See you there!