A newly minted policy group, which boasts a board of heavy hitters from the public and private sectors, says it wants to become a go-to player for data collection and analysis. Problem is, it's an already crowded field, say staff from at least two Washington-based healthcare organizations.
The Health Care Solutions Group, spun together from the entrepreneurial-minded Nashville Health Care Council and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is developing a concentrated healthcare agenda that -- once formed -- would be used to help forge healthcare policy and best practices on a national level, said David Osborn, the group's executive director.
An event launching the Nashville-based group was scheduled for Oct. 24 in Washington.
But getting any message heard above the din of a half-dozen or so other quality groups could prove challenging, says one association staffer, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. "There are so many different groups promoting so many different agendas that it could actually lead to the opposite," he said.
Pushing that agenda falls to the group's 12-member board, which includes Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.); Jack Bovender Jr., chairman and CEO at HCA; William McGuire, chairman and CEO of United Healthcare; Robert Galvin, director of global healthcare at General Electric Co.; and Nancy-Ann DeParle, former administrator of HCFA, now called the CMS.
What's more, the group has met with White House health policy advisers, the Council of Economic Advisers and industry associations such as the American Hospital Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and others, and plans to use those policy groups' recommendations to help shape its agenda.
The group also will rely on the comment of about 40 members from across the country, all bringing expertise in various healthcare disciplines. Its first meeting is slated for February. But to get to that point, the think tank is first willing to move deliberately slower and start smaller.
Osborn said that the goal is to pare down its message to two or three key issues, and then present those issues and solutions to those who can make an immediate impact, either through legislation or policy.
To that end, Osborn said that the key to its agenda moving forward is for it to become a clearinghouse for healthcare data -- something the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health already has a substantial toehold in.
The frustration with a lack of solid information has hurt the industry, Osborn said. "We have to go to multiple sources of information, which often conflict and is sometimes 4 or 5 years old," he said, "And we don't know if the information is based on good methodology."
Other groups have trod that road before and have found the going tough, said Craig Becker, president and CEO of the Tennessee Hospital Association, which is the Volunteer State's official center for hospital data collection.
"I can tell you that it's a big job," he said. "To take the data and read the tea leaves is very difficult." Still, Becker lauds the group's creation and says that he shares its goal of working toward better quality.
On paper, the group sets goals that focus on fundamental changes it says are needed throughout the healthcare industry.
And while everyone from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the National Quality Forum and the National Committee for Quality Assurance all share similar goals, Osborn says that the difference is that his new group intends to offer fully scalable solutions.
Too often, he said, healthcare policy is made in a vacuum and, once implemented, has unintended results. He offers HIPAA as one example, saying that in some cases, a patient's own family members have been stalled in efforts to get medical information.
"It is easy in the isolation of a state capital or Washington to work on things that on paper look great but in the real world don't always work as intended," Osborn said.
Though separate from the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health and the Nashville Health Care Council, he said that the group nevertheless would have access to both of those institutions' resources -- and data.
"Our mission is really a national one," Osborn said. "We're not doing it to change care in Vanderbilt, Nashville or Tennessee, though we want to involve stakeholders who are around us. But we're focused on systemic change in healthcare at the national level."
More than two-thirds of its fellows will also come from outside of state lines.
So far, it relies on funding of "several million dollars" from Vanderbilt and the council, but expects grant money and funding from private and public sources over the next several years.
Other board members named by the group include Jack Wennberg from Dartmouth Medical School; Ken Melkus, senior adviser at the private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe; Harry Jacobson, vice chancellor for health affairs at Vanderbilt University; Jane Henney, senior vice president and provost for health affairs at the University of Cincinnati; Mac Crawford, chairman and CEO at Caremark Rx; Janet Corrigan, president and CEO at the National Committee for Quality Health Care; and Tom Cigarran, chairman of American Healthways.
It's not unusual for healthcare associations to exist outside of a state's main hospital association, said Mary Yost, vice president of public affairs at the Ohio Hospital Association. For instance, the Buckeye State has the Ohio Children's Hospital Association, the Catholic Conference of Ohio and organizations that cover osteopathic physicians and hospitals.