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2022 Year in Review: Reflections & Highlights of the Past 12 Months

As 2022 comes to a close, I want to take a moment to reflect on the past year.  As the height of the pandemic and devastation it has wreaked on our world have passed, my 2022 annual summary is able to revert to the form and tone of previous years where I can talk about the fantastic year we had at Azara, all of the cities and states our staff visited, and the variety of achievements by our customers, team and company.  However, I do want to acknowledge that COVID-19 and its aftermath have made a long-term impact on our world and that of our clients and their patients.  We know that there are still many folks out there struggling to make ends meet and keep their families healthy.  We see what you, those on the front lines, have faced and applaud your hard work, selfless sacrifice and the downright resilience you have shown to assure your patients, many of whom have no other options for healthcare, continue to be well cared for under these most difficult of circumstances.

We all entered 2022 with a lot of optimism and a close eye on how long the “COVID surge” of December 2021 would continue.  We had effective vaccines and treatments, but were uncertain if they would truly stem the tide.  At this point, I think we end 2022 in a much better place than where we began and I see life at Azara approaching “normal”, or at least what is the “new normal”.  I also see our clients moving back to offense—planning and preparing for the hard work required to catch up on missed screenings, immunizations and other preventative care services that were deferred due to the pandemic.

As with every year, 2022 was not without its challenges and unexpected ups and downs here at Azara.  Q1 was highlighted by two major milestones: 1) The completion our first full year of combined operations following the December 2020 purchase of the SPH Analytics Population Health business and the capital investment from Hughes and Company and 2) The addition to the executive team of Todd Schlesinger, Vice President of Sales.  I am happy to report that by January 2022, we were operating as a single company with a plan for all clients to be consolidated onto the Azara DRVS platform by 12/31/22, a goal of which we are right on track to hit.

Spring was filled with both trepidation and excitement as our team planned and prepared to host 350+ clients and partners, back in-person, for the 6th Annual Azara User Conference.  We watched anxiously the ebbs and flows of COVID cases, but in the end made the decision to proceed and on May 2nd things truly came back to life for us.  I joked with the audience in my opening remarks, “who would have thought they would be so excited to be jammed into a room of 400 strangers?”  But the energy and excitement was incredible, and we had three solid days of learning, networking and even a bit of fun.
 
Fall brought another sign of return to normalcy, as conference season moved back to in-person events.  It was refreshing as I traveled to Chicago for the NACHC Community Health Institute (CHI) and reconnected with so many clients, partners and friends.  As we tie up the year, collectively Azara staff attended 23 conferences between September and November, after what was also an unusually packed summer schedule.  As our teams traversed the country, we consistently observed a set of themes, concerns and initiatives across varied clients, geographies and domains that we touched: 1) An awareness and focus on Health Equity,  2) Movement toward more value-based care, 3) FHIR, 4) Staffing shortages, 5) Desire for more collaboration between Primary Care and Behavioral Health.  I am happy to report Azara has products, services and innovative initiatives to help our clients in each of these areas and we will continue to listen to your needs, ideas and desires so that we can be there to assist you for many years to come.

Being a perpetual optimist, I can only reflect and hope that 2022’s positive progress will prepare us all for the great things that lie ahead for 2023 and the opportunities and challenges that await us.
 
2022 Highlights

Annual User Conference:

In May, more than 400 Azara users and staff from across the nation joined us in Boston, in person, at our sixth Annual User Conference. It was refreshing and invigorating to see and interact with so many old friends while also making a number of new acquaintances.  I marveled at the energy and excitement that our clients and partners brought as they each extended and enhanced their own personal DRVS support networks.  Our team and our clients did a great job lining up excellent content and fostering high quality networking opportunities.  The agenda was packed full, and we were fortunate to have a large number of outstanding guest and customer presenters, highlighted by an excellent presentation from Amanda Skinner, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood Southern New England, who shared her journey and thoughts on what healthcare providers can do to promote health equity.  With health disparities highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic, Amanda used a quote by Arthur Ashe, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” to provide a framework to take action in addressing these inequalities with which our clients are so familiar.  I continue to be overwhelmed and humbled by the enthusiasm, passion and dedication of our customers and that could not have been more evident during these three days.  Our 2023 agenda is coming together as I write this and I hope you will join us April 24-26, here in Boston.  Registration will open in early February and more info can be found on the conference web page here.  If you are interested in presenting, the Call for Abstracts is open until December 30.

Company Milestones:

In June, Azara received certification from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) for 45 HEDIS® Measure Year (MY) 2022 Health Plan and Allowable Adjustments Measures.  

In October, Azara received its 3rd HITRUST compliance certificate, as this program is on a two-year cycle for full audits, with partial “interim” audits done in the alternating years.  HITRUST Certified verifies that Azara has set up and maintains the Common Security Framework (CSF) which combines nationally and internationally accepted standards including ISO, NIST, PCI and HIPAA to ensure a comprehensive set of baseline security controls.  While this continues to be a critical milestone for us, the responsible stewardship of your patient data is of utmost importance, and we will continue to invest in the people, processes, technology and programs necessary to keep your data safe.  

In mid-December we completed our 2nd Certification (1st Re-Certification) in the NCQA’s Data Aggregator Validation program—an exhaustive review of the Process, Systems and Data standards as well as the Output Data Integrity standards which Azara follows to provide clinical data to payers for use as standard supplemental data for HEDIS®

As we approach year end, I can see that through mid-December nearly 4,000,000 DRVS reports have been run in 2022 and we are very close to having 10,000 active DRVS users, a milestone we expect to reach sometime in January.  Looking inward, our team is now comprised of more than 150 professionals spread across 19 states.

Product Offerings:

Like other years, we went into 2022 with a roadmap and plan containing a large list of enhancements and new functionality.  Of course, COVID has shown us that the best laid plans are subject to change at any moment.  In addition to that long list of what we wanted to accomplish this year, the Azara Team spent significant time and effort updating measures, reports, and dashboards to assist our clients in administering and tracking the ever-changing COVID vaccination landscape.  

In February, building on Azara Care Management, we began the rollout of Azara Care Connect, our offering that combines task management and tracking for accountable Care Coordination with the detailed patient tracking information and documentation for Care Management.

As winter turned into spring, our product and engineering teams delivered a big push of new features and functionality ahead of our User Conference.  This included having the UDS 2022 Measures deployed in late April, at least two months earlier than previous years.  In addition, throughout the year we enhanced DRVS’s capabilities around Risk Adjustment Factors (RAF).

Summer brought the first deployments of Single Sign-On between DRVS and Active Directory and in September, we announced a strategic partnership and product integration with findhelp, America’s largest social care network.  With the launch of the integration, Azara Healthcare’s customers will be able to easily access findhelp’s referral and reporting tools directly from Azara DRVS and Azara Care Connect to better serve the patients in their care.
 
This year we also significantly increased the capabilities of DRVS.  With many of our clients now entering into value-based contracts, data exchange with payers remained a priority as we continued to enhance DRVS’s ability for tracking attribution, improving risk coding, as well as enabling better reconciliation of care gaps between clinical (EHR) and payer (Claims) data.  It is clear that our clients continue to steadily advance down this path, and we saw a meaningful increase in the number of clients with access to payer data (enrollment, care gaps and claims) from their managed care plans.  We activated relationships with two leading national Medicaid payers around data exchange and our team is in active conversations to establish similar partnerships with a number of other national and regional health plans.  Our team has been looking closely at the functionality and tools our clients will require in the months and years ahead and we also made significant investments in infrastructure and reporting related to tracking the costs associated with delivering value-based care.  We look forward to beginning to roll those out in early 2023.
 
In 2022, Azara continued to expand its role as the “data hub” in a variety of areas.  We successfully connected to additional Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) bringing the number to 17 HIEs from which we are now receiving hospital admit/discharge/transfer information for patients of our clients.  

Growth:

In 2022, Azara continued to increase both its client base and its revenue, strengthening our balance sheet and assuring we can continue to invest in ongoing innovations.  We added twenty new staff members, enhancing our capabilities and capacity in all areas of our business.  We more than doubled our clinical transformation team again and the client success/account management function we began to build in 2021 really came together this year, ensuring all our clients are getting the necessary attention they need to be successful with our products.  As we look ahead to 2023, we will continue to invest in the resources necessary to assure our products meet your needs and our staff have the time to give your projects adequate attention.

Extracurricular:

On August 6-7 2022, eight riders represented Azara Healthcare in the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC) 2022.  This year’s inaugural Azara team ride was notable due to scorching temperatures, exceeding fundraising milestones, and new custom Azara team jerseys.  The Azara BKRS trained throughout the summer, joining together on rides and even adjusting commutes to bike into the office.  
 
While each team member had their own reasons for riding, they were all brought together for this event by the tragic loss of our dear friend and colleague, Heather Budd, in November of 2021.  Collectively the Azara BKRS were able to raise over $35,000—100% of which will go directly to cancer research for the Dana Farber Cancer Center and the Jimmy Fund.  The PMC ride is the largest athletic fundraiser in the world, and Azara is honored to be a part of this impressive event.  Thank you to all who supported the team and donated and look for an even bigger Azara BKRS contingent in 2023.

While I feel 2022 was a great year on many fronts, I am even more energized for 2023. The breadth and depth of opportunities that we plan to address with our clients and partners next year is enormous.  We look forward to helping you solve new problems and introducing innovative solutions and functionality that can assist you in accomplishing your mission.  I expect the heightened awareness around health equity and behavioral health will continue to increase and believe Azara clients are well-positioned and have much of the information they need to act on these initiatives.  The pandemic has brought the issue of availability and access to high-quality data and information in healthcare settings to the forefront and I urge you to look at your data early and often and to find ways to integrate that information into your day-to-day decisions and delivery of care.  A high-performing care team can’t operate to the best of its abilities without useful and accurate data.
 
Lastly, on behalf of all of us at Azara, I want to thank you, our clients and partners, for your unwavering support through these past few years.  It is an honor to be able to serve you and your teams as you work tirelessly, in very challenging conditions, to assure that no patient—no matter the circumstances—goes without the healthcare services they need.  Hopefully, Azara’s assistance has in some way aided you in accomplishing your mission and goals this year.
 
We offer our best wishes for a Happy Holiday Season and a healthy, plentiful, and COVID free New Year.