New Year Kicks-off with Purpose and Promise

By: Randy Rutta, CEO, National Health Council 

I am delighted and honored to enter another year to continue the amazing advocacy work, aid, and support that NHC membership continues to deliver to patients, their families, and caregivers. Here at the NHC, our mission is to position patients at the center of decisions affecting their health — from policymaking to substantive dialogues with leaders across the health ecosystem.  

The NHC is making significant strides in accomplishing ambitious objectives laid out in our three-year strategic plan. This compelling plan was developed with input from 1,200 NHC member board leaders, general members, and stakeholders. Together, we are optimizing patient health, prioritizing health equity, advancing patient engagement, and supporting patient organizations to achieve their goals.  

2023 was an exceptional year. In Congress and in many states, elected officials and others in positions of power began to take a critical look at the way our health care system operates. This paradigm shift resulted in resources being allocated to the benefit of patients and the overall population.  

Still, there is more work to be done. The NHC’s call for greater transparency and access to data is a baseline strategy for enabling the patient community to better understand and weigh-in on options for advancing patient health access and affordability while managing costs, promoting efficiencies and innovation, and avoiding unintended consequences that undermine patient health long-term.  

Despite the year’s considerable political headwinds, the NHC celebrated the FDA’s release of a final guidance for patient focused drug developments reflecting important NHC recommendations. In addition, PDUFA VII implementation is underway, with key NHC-supported patient engagement initiatives.  

What’s more? The patient community defeated Congressional attempts to cut Medicaid funding and supported our constituents in the unwinding of COVID-19-era increased enrollment. The NHC was able to help protect millions of vulnerable persons from falling from a “coverage cliff,” so to speak. With input from the NHC members and patient community, the Administration advanced transformative policies combatting discrimination against people with disabilities, supporting caregivers, and promoting health equity.  

Overall, 2023 was a year of immense engagement between the NHC and its members in policymaking. There were clear wins, some disappointments, and opportunities for improvement — all of which will inform our ongoing advocacy work. As a patient-centric convener and consensus-builder among a wide and growing array of patient groups, partners, and stakeholders – the NHC is a big tent that is getting strategically bigger to better serve patients. 

As CEO, my focus has been on assuring member value as measured by the momentum of the NHC’s mission, member organization satisfaction, member engagement, and member growth. It is with great privilege that I can report that — since assuming this role nearly three years ago — the NHC membership has expanded considerably.  

To say that we are evolving as the patient community itself is evolving is an understatement. We ended the year with 170 member organizations, up from 145 members in 2020. Most NHC members are patient organizations, one of three categories of membership under a newly simplified membership structure. Through and with our diverse membership, we are strategically engaging resources that touch the lives of patients consistent with our mission, values, and vision. 

NHC member engagement stepped-up significantly in response to member priorities, with attendance records set for all the NHC’s major conferences: the Health Leadership Conference, Science of Patient Engagement Symposium, Washington Representatives Retreat, and the Annual Membership Meeting and Luncheon. We added a second mid-year retreat for our member government relations teams and relaunched affinity groups in core areas of interest to membership, namely finance, diversity, equity, and inclusion, public policy, conference planning, and communications. We also offered webinars highlighting key expertise within membership, including the pharmacy community, medical device and technology sector, and health care payers. And we did not stop there — we instituted new areas of programming addressing synergies in federal/state policy work, international activities, and health equity. It warms my heart in a way I cannot appropriately express to share with you that our efforts were well received and supported. 

I am particularly enthusiastic about the Trusted Messengers project. For this project, the NHC facilitated the engagement of executives from 11 patient and partner organizations in a remarkably successful social media campaign that raises awareness among people who are at-risk of severe consequences from COVID-19 infection. The three-month campaign generated nearly eight million impressions, which led to more than 1.6 million video completions by viewers. While the response far exceeded our media outreach benchmarks, I want to spotlight that the campaign helped battle misinformation and will, hopefully, lead to a more informed health consumer. The NHC will continue to explore opportunities to broker member organization leaders as trusted messengers and comparable efforts to engage member organizations in projects that apply the NHC’s state-of-the-art resources, leverage evidence-based processes for patient experience mapping, patient-centered core impact sets, real world evidence, and value-based assessment.  

Furthermore, I am pleased to report that the NHC finished 2023 in a good place, financially, with multi-year trend lines demonstrating consistent growth and sustainability. We are steadfast in upgrading financial and business systems to support decision-making and growth. It took some time, but we finally settled into our NHC office in downtown Washington, DC. NHC members are welcome to use our conference rooms or camp-out in an office between appointments. We relish the opportunity to connect and craft strategies that advance our shared mission. 

Lastly, I cannot conclude without recognizing the NHC’s exemplary team of highly skilled and mission-driven colleagues who are dedicated to advancing our shared mission and the success of the NHC member organizations. I am committed to supporting my team and retaining and developing their performance both professionally and in service to our mission. 

Looking ahead to 2024, I am energized by the prospect of realizing the important goals that we set forth for the upcoming third — and final — year of our strategic plan. Despite real concerns about the political climate and upcoming elections, the NHC and its members have no choice but to engage fully on behalf of patients, their families, caregivers, and health ecosystem allies. The patient community is counting on us to do what we do best as advocates and experts: convene and create consensus to drive needed reforms.  

The American health care system is fragmented, siloed, competitive, often inconsistent, and sorely in need of realignment. Many patients have never been better served by state-of-the-art medicine, devices, or care. Everyday millions of patients fall through the cracks and struggle to access the treatments they need to live full, healthy lives. We must break through the noise. Because we know and are inspired by patients’ lived experiences, the NHC is ideally situated to transition rivalries to consensus strategies that increase patient-centric change across the health ecosystem. We are experts in translating this experience into recommendations for policymakers and other public and private decision-makers. It is essential that we remain proactive in helping them see patients in themselves, their families, and their constituencies.  

On the road ahead, we face a crowded field of competing interests, misinformation, and wave after wave of messaging across multiple platforms. If any group of organizations working together can bend the curve towards smarter, patient-centered, equitable, accessible, affordable, and innovative investment in health discovery, treatment, care, and outcomes — it is us.  

I thank our members for their partnership with the NHC. I look forward to another amazing year.