CEO Update: 2023 Offers Opportunity for the Patient Community

By: Randall Rutta, Chief Executive Officer

This year presents a unique opportunity for the NHC, its members, and our patient constituencies to challenge the status quo that too often limits patient access to treatment and care.

There is a pent-up readiness across the health care ecosystem, and especially among patients and their advocates, for reforming a largely 20th Century health care system to access 21st Century innovation and opportunities. If we are to prevent, cure, and mitigate disease through previously unimaginable innovative therapies, devices, technologies, and services then we must truly put patients first in every aspect of health care.  

This is a time for meaningful change that assures patients access to the health interventions and care that they need to live full and productive lives.

As a society, certainly as a health sector, we are at an inflection point. Daily headlines make clear that the U.S. is spending more on health than any other nation, yet not realizing a commensurate benefit. In critical areas like maternal health and average life expectancy, we are losing ground. Concern is widespread that the current state of our health care ecosystem cannot be sustained, and certainly falls short for too many. Even while demonstrating amazing, cutting-edge innovation and possibility.

At the NHC, we are the change agents with the expertise and passion to create a system of patient-centric care that is fully and sustainably accessible, affordable, equitable, effective, and innovative – with patients engaged at every step.

The Health Leadership Conference in February laid the groundwork for this journey, the work at each of our member organizations is contributing to a movement for change through public policy, business practice, and a restructuring of health services, technology, and data systems, innovation, and the allocation of resources to optimize health.

And the NHC through and with its member organizations is ideally situated to elevate the conversation and reimagination of the health ecosystem to best meet patient health goals. We are seeding exactly this change. Internal and external stakeholders are looking to the NHC as uniquely qualified and situated to generate solution strategies to accomplish this goal. 

Emerging from the pandemic creates an opportunity to rethink and reorganize. Millions of people are vulnerable to losing access to coverage in Medicaid, as states unwind programs expanded during the Public Health Emergency. Millions more are enrolled in public and private plans that are under scrutiny and pressure to better respond to the needs of the current population, our population – those with chronic conditions and their family caregivers. The roadblocks are many, but not insurmountable.

Telehealth and flexibilities deployed during the pandemic that proved successful are being integrated into our system long-term. Other learnings must be considered.

Disparities and inequities among patient populations, laid bare by COVID-19, are top-of-mind, yet barely making headway. Building equity, restoring trust in science and health, tackling social determinants of health, and leveraging our collective roles as trusted messengers with patients and communities are key.

We know that health care has become increasingly data-dependent and the potential for patient-centric and generated data is just now emerging. The challenge lies in managing this vast ocean of data, employing AI effectively, and assuring that value-based approaches for organizing and funding treatment are not discriminatory and prioritize patient preference and outcomes over cost savings, cost-shifting, and undue complexities.

Break-through medicines approved by the FDA as safe and effective are encountering resistance at CMS on coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. Advocates for persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and other conditions with therapies in the pipeline, are rightfully alarmed and active in promoting approval and coverage of these medicines in support of their constituencies.

Access to affordable, equitable, and appropriate treatment and care across the continuum of health care is compromised by inconsistencies, competing incentives, business models, and system practices that undermine patient engagement and health.

As we enter year two of our Strategic Plan, the NHC is clearly focused on exactly the right mission and membership priorities by:

  • Optimizing Patient Health
  • Prioritizing Equity
  • Promoting Patient Engagement
  • Supporting Patient Group Success
  • Building NHC capacity and capabilities

These are the pillars of our current plan, and they are working.

I could not be more confident about our teams’ capabilities and performance. To a person, the dedication to our mission and work is top-notch. They are highly regarded by their peers, policy leaders, and our membership. 

So far this year, the NHC has held a highly rated Health Leadership Conference and Federal-State Policy Roundtable. And next week we’ll host our 2023 Science of Patient Engagement Symposium focusing on digital health and conduct an International Patient Forum later this month.

The NHC is more active than ever in high-level, consistent engagement with CMS on IRA implementation, with Congress on key access issues, and we have submitted a record number of comments on federal agency rulemaking in the past few months that are consequential to patients and our partners.

I conclude with an assurance of momentum, commitment to engagement and partnership, as we drive patient-centered priorities across the health ecosystem.