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Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow...

Spring brings many things: winter’s end, the first crop of summer blockbusters, and the American Academy of Home Care Medicine’s annual conference. This year it took place in Orlando and, going in, we knew it was going to be a transformative event. This was the first year that the conference was held under the newly-minted name that acknowledged the importance of Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants to home-based primary care medicine. It was also the first conference under the eye of Dr. Thomas Cornwell, the newly-elected President of the AAHCM.

Stephen Tramontana (left) and Nick Weeks (right) of CHS with Doctor of the Year award recipient, Dr. Thomas Lally, at the 2014 AAHCM conference.

Stephen Tramontana (left) and Nick Weeks (right) of CHS with Doctor of the Year award recipient, Dr. Thomas Lally, at the 2014 AAHCM conference.

While CHS will be providing a more detailed analysis on our web site for those who could not make the conference, I wanted to take a moment to discuss some of the macro elements of the meeting. Regarding the event itself, it’s clear that the Academy leadership has been listening to the membership. Whereas the last two conferences have been a bit insular, this year’s conference had a good diversity of speakers and topics. And while there was still a bit of “preaching to the choir”, we saw less of that - instead, it was replaced with more data and more education about the industry and where it’s going.

And that’s exactly what was needed. Last year, the Dallas conference conveyed the notion that for house call practices to survive, they would have to grow in size. Whether that be integrating into a health system or expanding into new markets, the hint was clear: size matters going forward. This year, a lot of the conversation (and a lot of the questions) revolved around how to integrate into major health systems, Medicare Advantage plans, etc. One enlightening presentation displayed how practices could better translate their service lines into terms most health systems and insurers would understand. A good reminder that, although house calls are growing in notoriety and acceptance, we have a lot of work ahead of us in educating the larger health care community on the value of care in the home.

It also became clear that practices would have to expand their care teams to include social workers, an addition that everyone agrees would help this fragile population, even as we’re still trying to figure out how to pay for that FTE. It won’t work under a fee-for-service model, but perhaps under a bundled payment model. Oh yeah ... and if you’re constructing your business plan without considering bundled payments or high-risk pools, it could be tough going forward.

We expect home-based primary care to evolve. I tend to feel that this side of health care is uniquely innovative, which is what makes being a part of it so exciting. If you are not a member of the AAHCM, I strongly recommend becoming one. I would also strongly recommend attending these conferences. There is no equivalent to the experience and exposure of your peers, and you’re going to want access to all they have to offer as we transform this industry together over the next five to ten years.

As I mentioned above, keep an eye on our web site this week, as we’ll be posting more detailed coverage of the conference and exploring the topics a little more in-depth.