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Consumer Directed Health Care Conference and Expo and the National Health, Wellness and Prevention Congress

May 10, 2006
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Spring 2006 Consumer Directed Health Care Conference and Expo (CDHCC) and the National Health, Wellness and Prevention Congress (NHWPC)
May 8-10, 2006, at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco

Conference Info: For more information about the CDHCC, go For more about the NHWPC, go to

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Morning keynote, Day 3: Today’s keynote wasn’t really a traditional keynote speech, but instead a six-person panel discussion on "Turbocharging Consumerism" in consumer-driven health care. The panel--made up of doctors (including Dr. John Nelson, immediate past president of the AMA), health administrators, consultants and health care analysts--came up with a laundry list of "must have" factors for a strong consumer-driven health care system.

They include:

  • Better information and expert advice for consumers.
  • Better record-keeping and a streamlining of health care administration.
  • A system of integrated databases that combines lots of information into the communication infrastructure.
  • Transparency on costs and quality (for example, giving consumers specific information on the best and most cost-effective place to have a heart value replaced).
  • Multiple channels of personalized messaging and information that speaks directly to consumers and their specific needs.
  • Messaging to consumers to help them manage costs.
  • In the end, health care that meets people’s needs--the best care at the best value for the dollars they are spending.

The session I wish I could have gotten to: I don’t know why this was scheduled for 4 p.m. on Day 3 of a three-day conference, but the final keynote was titled "Getting to Nirvana in Customer-centric Health Care: How Do We Get There?" The description in the event guide said to "come and listen to leaders at the forefront … of the transformation in the health care model for a detailed, no-holds-barred ‘inside baseball’ discussion of who needs to do what to get there." Great-sounding session, but with so many attendees leaving earlier Wednesday, I doubt many people got to hear any of it.

Advice for conference organizers--less is more: If I ran this conference, the one thing I would do is limit panel discussions to no more than three panelists. Too many of the sessions had four, five or even six experts trying to discuss a topic in 70 minutes or so. That’s just not enough time for so many panelists, and in many cases, presentations and questions from the audience had to be cut very short to accommodate everyone. Fewer people on the panels would surely make for a more fruitful and meaningful discussion where everyone’s expertise really gets to be heard.

If you missed this conference: There is a companion conference planned for December 11-13 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Called "Consumer Health World," the conference will include all the elements of the one in San Francisco, and more, organizers say.


Date: Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Morning keynote, Day 2: If you think that the current U.S. government health care system is a mess, then this conference is for you. Speaker after speaker, and panel after panel, hammered home the point that government involvement in health care leads to higher costs, less coverage, more bureaucracy and a dearth of innovation.
Dr. Regina Herzlinger, the Nancy R. McPherson professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School, whom Money magazine labeled the "godmother of consumer-driven health care," talked about the increasing role consumers will play (and need to play) in health care. "With any consumer-driven product," she said, "when consumers do the buying, the price goes down and the quality goes up. ... When people know what their costs are, they change their behavior in very intelligent ways."
And here is a red-meat quote from Herzlinger (for everyone who has ever had a reasonable new procedure denied by some unseen health plan bureaucrat): "We need to get rid of the third-party micromanaging of the system. It kills innovation and the ability to find ways to do it better."

Jumping into the consumer-driven plan pool: At a panel discussion on "Providing a Total Integrated Consumer-driven Health Plan," Michael Kraupp of St. George, Utah-based SkyWest Airlines (one of the few profitable U.S. air carriers, he noted) said the company has 15,000 employees and started offering a high-deductible consumer-driven plan two years ago. The airline now has some 850 employees in the plan. It took a little pushing to get people to change plans, however. Kraupp said that SkyWest initially offered to put $250 into a health savings account for each employee who changed plans, but had to up it to $500 to get people to make the move. The benefit? The company has had no cost increases for its high-deductible health plan in two years.

Quote of the day: From Sally Pipes, president and CEO of "free-market think tank" the Pacific Research Institute, on Canada's single-payer health care system: "Canada has the best health care that the 1970s can provide."

More on Canada’s health care system: Pipes also said that between 1993 and 2005, the wait to see a specialist in Canada after being referred by a primary care physician went from 9.3 weeks to 17.7 weeks. Some 3.2 million Canadians, she said, are on a waiting list for a primary care doctor--a wait that can take up to five years.
Buzzwords of the conference: "Aligned incentives," which means making sure that the receiver and the provider of health services are both working toward the same goal.


Date: Monday, May 8, 2006

Day 1: Spring is the season for conferences. In fact, there are so many workforce-oriented conferences in April and May that it is difficult attending all of them without some overlap. So it was with the WorldatWork meeting this week in Anaheim, California, (Sunday through Wednesday) and the Consumer Directed Health Care Conference meeting in San Francisco. Attending both means missing a little of each, and sometimes that means missing something good.

In the case of the CDHCC, that meant missing Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and the morning keynote speaker on Day 1. These days, Gingrich is involved with the Center for Health Transformation, an organization he founded that is "a collaboration of public- and private-sector leaders dedicated to the creation of a 21st-century intelligent health system that saves lives and saves money," according to the CHT Web site. You can check out the organization yourself at

Although I missed Gingrich’s speech, there is an article on his Web site that mirrors the theme of the San Francisco conference. In it, he argues that transforming payment models for investments in technology may be the push that physicians and hospitals need to help build a better, less-expensive health care system. "We must fundamentally reform the way physicians and other providers are paid for their services, particularly to incentivize the adoption of health information technology," Gingrich and co-author David Merritt write. "With as many as 98,000 Americans still dying as a result of medical errors every year, ridding the system of paper-based records and quickly adopting health information technology will save lives and at the same time save money." He goes on to point out that a 2005 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that only 31 percent of hospital emergency departments and 17 percent of doctors’ offices have electronic health records to support patient care.

--John Hollon

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