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World Mental Health Day, Interoperability Advances, Rural Health Care Opportunities and More | #CHC18 Day 4

Published on 10/10/2018

World Mental Health Day coincided with day four of #CHC18, giving us all a chance to reflect on how we can enhance mental health education, awareness and advocacy against stigma. Wednesday also kicked off with the final keynote that delved into the topics of the opioid crisis and the intersection of artificial intelligence and genome intelligence. With an array of power sessions, special interest group meetings and panels throughout the day, conference attendees had plenty of opportunities to learn, network and contribute to the push toward smarter care. Here are some highlights:

In a special edition episode of The Cerner Podcast, we bring insights from the 2018 Cerner Health Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, where more than 12,000 attendees from across the country and the globe have come together to learn and network. Sit at the table with us as we have conversations with health care leaders, Cerner clients and industry influencers. We’ll be covering health IT trends and focusing on this year’s CHC theme of “Smarter Care.”

In Wednesday's episode, we heard from Mark Winden, director and solution executive for Cerner’s cardiovascular solutions; Meg Marshall, senior director for public policy and government strategist at Cerner; and Dr. Dermot O’Riordan, surgeon and chief clinical information officer from West Suffolk NHS.


Recognizing addiction and combating the opioid crisis

Mark Mishek, President and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, spoke about the health crisis that is presented by the opioid epidemic. He detailed some of the causes of and responses to the crisis and discussed some potential solutions. 

"Stigma and shame are unfortunately alive and well," he said. "Addiction, along with all other mental illnesses, really thrive in the shadows of darkness and silence." 

Addiction is a chronic disease, Mishek added, but a treatable and even preventable one. 

"Addiction is a brain disease. It is not secondary to another psychiatric illness, a moral or ethical problem or a personality disorder. It is not a choice."

Over 23 million people in the U.S. are addicted to alcohol or drugs, Mishek continued, which includes prescription drugs, heroin and fentanyl. In 2017, there were more than 72,000 drug-related deaths in the U.S. – half of those were tied to opioids. One of the most worrisome causes of this epidemic is the overprescribing of opioids for chronic pain: There are over 300 million opioid prescriptions distributed annually in the U.S. (and 80 percent of all prescription opioids consumed worldwide occur in the U.S.). 

“Look at the gaps we need to address: There’s the treatment gap,” Mishek said. “Only 1 out of 10 people who have an addiction disorder are getting the treatment they need. That’s 10 percent of 23 million affected who receive targeted treatment – compare that to 87 percent for diabetes.” 

The other big gap, Mishek said, is the payment gap; self-pay is prevalent as insurance coverage for addiction treatment is limited, and people frequently lack the resources to get the help they need.

Mishek detailed several solutions to the opioid crisis, including providing better access to treatment for all populations, educating prescribers, instating a nationwide prescription drug monitoring program and instituting comprehensive prevention efforts. He closed with a call to action for attendees.

“Expand access at your hospital,” he encouraged. “I'm not talking about opening a treatment center. How well is your referral to treatment process working in your emergency department and clinics?”

“Engage your medical staff,” he continued. “We have seen over and over again that when our medical staff grabs hold of something and says, ‘We will be a force for change,’ it happens. Finally, use your EHR [electronic health record] tools. Use your Cerner tools for appropriate surveillance to look at patterns.” 

Learn more about Cerner’s commitment to ending the opioid epidemic.


Artificial intelligence, genomic intelligence and the future of health care

In a fascinating keynote presentation, Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, oncologist, cancer researcher and Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer, discussed the concept of artificial intelligence (AI) and its relationship to “genomic intelligence.” 
“It's that intersection when we use machines to understand our genomes,” he explained. “Other machines are helping us understand our own biology. Once another machine—that we've invented—begins to intervene on our capacity to understand our own instructional code, amazing things will happen.”  
Mukherjee broke down how deep learning algorithms allow computers and machines to imitate human learning and understanding. Soon, algorithms will be able to detect a metastatic versus a benign melanoma more accurately and quickly than a dermatologist; ultrasounds and AI will be used for cancer detection and tracking. 

He also distinguished between the idea of reading the human genome – understanding the health or disease propensities of an individual based on their genetic coding – and writing it. 

“[Writing is] the final frontier,” he said. “Genetic manipulation is the capacity to alter genes intentionally.... We have to work through this together to figure out how to shape advancements in health care, sustain our humility around wisdom and control the technology at our fingertips.”


Revolutionizing the interoperability landscape

There is a consistent message throughout the conference about the immense opportunity for the health care industry to move forward in the pursuit of interoperability. One session looked at how Cerner is working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense to provide seamless care for veterans through a single EHR. John Windom, executive director of the VA’s office of Electronic Health Record Modernization, emphasized the importance of improving care delivery for service members, veterans and their families. 

“The power of analytics that HealtheIntent brings to bare — I think both we at the VA and DoD can't wait to get our data in that platform,” he said. “It will create a more proactive approach to treating our veterans and service members. All of us want our records to flow more seamlessly...we need to reduce the friction. We need to build the network of networks. We have tremendous opportunities ahead of us." 

A panel on the CommonWell Health Alliance and Carequality collaboration revealed more interoperability progress. The two organizations have partnered to increase the exchange of health data nationwide. The roll-out is currently limited, but more than 100,000 documents have already been exchanged through the connection. 

"The collaboration between CommonWell and Carequality is poised to reshape the interoperability landscape,” said David McCallie, Cerner’s senior vice president of medical informatics. 

Cerner’s Senior Vice President of Interoperability, John Gresham, and Cerner’s Senior Vice President of Population Health, Ryan Hamilton, lead a discussion about the current state of interoperability and where it is heading in the future. Gresham reinforced Cerner’s commitment to supporting an open, collaborative, patient-centric environment. Hamilton said that health care leaders should look to other industries for ideas on how to engage consumers better, how to know more about them and how to create a more personalized care experience. 

“For any consumer who wants to own their data and control it—we’re going to do that,” Hamilton promised.

The shift toward provider-sponsored health plans

The rise of provider-sponsored health plans (PSHPs) inspired a panel headed by medical leaders from Springfield, Missouri-based CoxHealth. The speakers touched on the keys to successful collaborative payer partnerships; and the value that health systems can gain from managing risk and moving into the financial sector of health care. 

A new approach to rural health care

With about 60 million people living in rural areas across the U.S., the downsizing and closing of rural hospitals is a major issue facing health care today. Dr. William Pavia, executive director of the Center for Health Systems Innovation at Oklahoma State University, explored these challenges and possible strategies for improvement. He stated that medical experts must offer incentives to attract more new graduates into rural primary care. He also noted that leaders can unlock clinical capacity by adding technology and increasing efficiency among existing rural healthcare providers. 

"There's a dearth of primary care providers across America, but it's a lot more acute in rural America," Pavia said.


Cerner Health Conference (CHC) is Cerner’s annual, industry-leading health care event, taking place this year from Oct. 7-11 at the Kansas City Convention Center. To learn more or to register for the conference and sign up for education sessions, visit the CHC website

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