“Wow!” That’s how Jeff Brandes, President and CEO of Azara Healthcare, kicked off our 7th Annual User Conference. And that “wow!” seems somewhat of an understatement after 3 pre-conference workshops, 4 general sessions, 24 breakout sessions, and 1 rocking DRVS user celebration now in the books. Each year, DRVS users gather in Boston to share best practices, learn from each other, and meet the Azara team—and this year, they even got to break out their dancing shoes. If you were not able to attend the conference this year, couldn’t attend every session, or just want to relive some of the best moments, check out some of the week’s highlights below!
One core theme of this year's conference was identifying and addressing social drivers of health (SDOH). Safety-net practices have long known about the importance of “the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age” and how they affect a “wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks”. During the keynote session, Dr. Sandro Galea, Dean and Robert A. Knox Professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, spoke about using data to create health and narrow health gaps. He made an excellent analogy on addressing social drivers, comparing the healthcare system to a soccer team – an excellent goalie and an excellent provider will help win games and save lives respectively, but the majority of the game and the majority of people’s lives should be played up field, scoring goals and promoting health.
Similar conversations on addressing upstream drivers of health as occurred during Wednesday morning’s panel where LuAnn Kimker, Senior Vice President of Clinical Innovation, sat down with a panel of experts to discuss the impact of health equity on value-based care and beyond. LuAnn was joined by Dr. Kevin Ban, Chief Medical Officer at Walgreens, Dr. Warria Esmond, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at Settlement Health and Chief Clinical Officer at Alliance Chicago, Deanna Fulp, Senior Director Health Equity at Blue Cross Blue Shield, Massachusetts, and Adam Shyevitch, Chief Product Officer at About Fresh. These panelists brought expertise from an array of healthcare backgrounds and had an engaging conversation on the data and partnerships needed to identify and address health inequities. I was especially excited to hear about About Fresh, an organization working in the “Food is Medicine” framework, and how they get fresh food to the households that need it most.
Another key discussion point of the panel, and the conference overall, was value-based care and the different avenues we can take to achieve value-based success. At the sold-out pre-conference workshop, Driving Success in Value-Based Care, attendees had an opportunity to interact with experts in value-based care, Azara clients, as well as HCCN and clinically integrated network leaders to explore strategies on how to impact cost, quality, and access to care using the tools in DRVS to build and manage a clear path toward integrated value-based care. Breakout sessions such as Building Your Care Management Program One Step at a Time, A Collaboration of Care: Working within a Clinically Integrated Network, and Risky Business: The Journey to Value-Based Care also touched on the importance of enabling services like care management and care coordination in helping patients achieve their optimal outcomes and propel success in value-based care models. Value-based care may sometimes seem like a distant and unattainable goal, but from what I witnessed at the conference, Azara clients are well poised to find success in an ever-changing healthcare landscape.
A critical part of value-based success is data integration—getting the right data, to the right people, at the right time. This is a theme we heard across multiple sessions such as At a Crossroads: Merging Data Sets for Effective Population Health Management, Transitions of Care - Managing Your Investments, and Introducing Azara Cost and Utilization. In his Product Update general session, Greg Augustine, Azara’s Chief Product and Technology Officer (and recent Azara Idol winner!) highlighted some of the things that Azara is doing to make it easier for our users to access multiple sources of data, all in one place. From sending data via FHIR for UDS+ and messaging patients with Azara Patient Outreach, to ingesting Medicaid redetermination dates to identify patients about to lose coverage, Azara tools are able to get the right data at the right time. With community-based organization network integrations with partners like findhelp and UniteUs and along with the DRVS EHR plug-in, users are able to get the data to the right people to support patients at the point of care. It was exciting to get a glimpse of the data integration opportunities the future holds.
One of the top reasons to attend the Azara User Conference (besides getting to explore the beautiful city of Boston and meet the amazing Azara team), is to network with peers and learn new DRVS skills to take back to use in your everyday work. In fact, more than half of attendees indicated that “Learning new DRVS tips and tricks” was what they were most looking forward to at the conference. And they sure had that opportunity! In the sold-out full-day DRVS Hands-On Workshop, attendees got to practice their DRVS skills with their peers and a plethora of Azara coaches. During popular breakout sessions such as Validate – Navigate – Celebrate!, The Quality Director’s Tool Belt, From Babies to Boomers: DRVS Tools to Increase Well Visits, and From Skeptics to Believers: An FQHC’s Journey in PVP Implementation attendees had the opportunity to hear from their peers on how to integrate DRVS functionality to make an impact on a variety of different organizational goals. The ongoing education of DRVS users is something that I am passionate about, so it was great to have this opportunity to share the experiences of folks on the ground.
It wasn’t all learning and networking at the conference (no matter what you told your boss!); there were lots of opportunities for fun across the three days. After the pre-conference workshop on Monday, attendees got to mingle with each other and the Azara staff. I had multiple people from the workshops come up to ask me about the meaning of the star drawing icebreaker all three workshop did that morning. Tuesday night, attendees broke out their dancing shoes and gold accessories for the DRVS User Celebration. People had fun dancing to the live band, Soul City, taking pictures in the photo booth, and passing around the gold-sequin Azara jacket Greg had received earlier that day. To wrap up the conference, Jeff shared the incredible client-submitted videos for this year’s “Reality TV” themed video contest. It’s incredible how creative our clients can be!
The theme of this year’s conference was the Butterfly Effect – investigating the power that small, sometimes unnoticeable, change can have on larger systems. One incredible organization making an impact in patient care is our conference support, Upstream USA. Upstream works to expand opportunity by reducing unplanned pregnancy across the U.S., working in partnership with health centers to strengthen reproductive care and autonomy by increasing equitable access to the full range of contraceptive options. I was excited to see all of the interest Upstream had at their table and during their sessions.
To realize the Butterfly Effect, you have to take the first step. Too often we are stalled, waiting for the perfect conditions to implement new workflows, integrate new data sources, or imagine health equity. But while it may be cliché, we cannot let perfect be the enemy of good. Take that leap of faith using data to impact your patients and your communities. We look forward to hearing all of the ways our clients use Azara tools as we travel to national, regional, primary care association, or network conferences the rest of the year and seeing everyone back in Boston for the 8th Azara User Conference next Spring.
Save the date for next year's Azara 2024 Annual User Conference:
Westin Boston Seaport | April 30 - May 2, 2024