Health care focus: Annual forum addresses reform, patient safety

Ken Leonczyk, Jr., senior director and international spokesperson for the Advisory Board Company, speaks Friday evening at the Holiday Inn at the annual Upper Peninsula Health Care Solution Trustee forum about healthcare reform.

MARQUETTE — Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, spoke at a health care forum in Marquette this weekend about the national spotlight on health care reform this year, how it affects state hospitals and the future of health care in Michigan.

He said it’s important for industry leaders to speak with a unified voice on behalf of the patients they serve, meaning they need to identify good public policy that ensures access to quality care.

The talk was part of a decades-long tradition of bringing together Upper Peninsula health care leaders to learn about important topics in the field.

The focus was two-pronged, covering the national health care debate, as well as best practices in the industry for quality and efficiency, Peters said.

The MHA is an advocacy group for all hospitals in Michigan, involved in lobbying at the state and federal level, as well as guiding initiatives and working with hospitals to improve patient safety.

About 100 hospital leaders and trustees attended the UPHCS forum this weekend, pictured here, which began Friday afternoon and wrapped up Saturday at the Holiday Inn in Marquette.(Journal photos by Mary Wardell)

Peters spoke Friday night about the future of health care in Michigan, one of three speakers at the event that also included a legislative forum with local representatives Friday night.

About 100 administrators and trustees of hospitals around the Upper Peninsula attended the two-day conference, which Peters said is unique in the state.

“It’s all about shared learning,” Peters said. “We’re trying to learn from each other the best practices in terms of efficiency, patient safety and quality, and certainly understanding the public policy and political realities that we confront both at the state level in Lansing and the federal level in Washington, D.C.”

In addition to Peters, Ken Leonczyk Jr., senior director and international spokesperson for the Advisory Board Company, spoke Friday evening about health care reform and Coleen Smith, of the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare, spoke Saturday about high reliability organizations.

Carly Harrington, corporate communications manager for the Upper Peninsula Health Plan who helped organize the forum, said the 2017 Trustee Forum speakers were some of the best they have ever had in the over 30-year history of this event.

“Anyone in attendance was able to have some great takeaways from the varied experience and insight shared by each speaker,” Harrington said. “The presentation by Colleen Smith on Saturday was particularly educational because it incorporated information from two U.P. hospitals, War Memorial and Baraga County Memorial Hospital. Both of those hospitals spoke on their incorporation of High Reliability Initiatives in their hospital to improve patient safety.”

Peters talked about the recent failed effort to pass the American Health Care Act, a repeal and replace strategy of the Affordable Care Act by the new administration and congressional leadership in D.C.

“Now, as the house heads into a two-week recess, there’s no indication that a compromise solution is likely any time in the near future,” Peters said. “Although we are quite confident that we will see a revised bill at some point in this legislative session — most likely before the end of this calendar year.”

The MHA opposed the AHCA, due to the negative impact it would have on health care access in Michigan, which was able to expand Medicaid to 600,000 previously uninsured Michiganders under the Affordable Care Act, he explained.

“We understand that the (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, is far from perfect,” Peters said. “There are things that clearly have not played out as well as anticipated, but having said that, we believe that on the whole, the (ACA) has been a critically important element of expanded coverage for Michiganders.”

While the version of the AHCA that was being considered would have jeopardized important gains made in Michigan, the MHA reserves judgement for future versions of the bill, he said.

“We truly believe in the following premise: health care for all, paid for by all,” Peters said.

The MHA believes everyone should have coverage, whether through government programs or private employee-sponsored insurance, and that everyone should have “skin in the game,” he said, adding that doesn’t necessarily mean financially.

“If you are a Medicaid recipient, a Medicare recipient, even a private employee, you have a responsibility as an individual to do the right thing in terms of healthy behaviors, in terms of getting into a primary caregiver as appropriate and identify problems before they become extremely expensive,” Peters said. “And on the financial side, to the extent you have the ability to share in the cost of your insurance coverage or the cost of your health care, we believe that should be part of the mix as well.”

To reduce health care costs, the MHA is focused driving down infection and readmission rates, reducing medication error, patient falls and other patient safety issues, Peters said. They are also cognizant of the rapidly growing cost of prescription drugs and getting their arms around the opioid epidemic and the inappropriate use of painkillers.

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is