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Navigating the Waters: Top 5 Takeaways from Azara’s 2024 User Conference

As an organization, the highlight of our year is always the Azara User Conference—and this Spring’s event was no exception. We hosted over 500 healthcare leaders who traveled from more than 40 states to the Westin Boston Seaport for three days of discussion, dialogue and networking. The event focused on population health, value-based care and data-related topics built around the maritime theme: “Navigate—When you can’t control the wind, adjust your sails.” 

It was a joy to bring our community together around our shared passion for advancing a value-driven healthcare ecosystem. Over the three days, we had the pleasure of speaking with representatives from across our diverse user community—including physician practices, Primary Care Associations, Community Health Centers, Health Center Controlled Networks, and clinically integrated networks—and hearing their thoughts, takeaways, pains, and hopes for the future of data-driven, value-based healthcare. 

While the discussions were insightful enough to fill fifty blog posts, I recognize that might be a bit much. Below, I’ve condensed our favorite insights into five top takeaways every healthcare leader should review as we head into the second half of 2024:

Organizations are ready to elevate their value-based care (VBC) game.

New approaches to finding value in risk-based arrangements captivated our attendees, as some of our most popular sessions focused on value-based care. After relatively sluggish adoption over the last decade-plus, provider and plan leaders alike are preparing for a major risk-based acceleration. Research we commissioned this Spring revealed that 50% of health plan leaders are “aggressively” adding VBC contracts. 

In a session titled “The Essential Elements of Value-Based Care,” we learned that organizational buy-in and widespread staffing challenges plaguing the industry are two of the top challenges facing provider-organizations and hindering broader adoption. 

Still, despite headwinds complicating value-based care adoption, our community revealed ways they are working to overcome these challenges. Namely, through data-powered workflows. When resources are tight, providers are leveraging data to identify trends that help maximize existing resources and streamline clinical and operational workflows. These efficiencies are proving effective drivers of preventive care that is helping make good on the promise of VBC. 

Sharing best practices helps accelerate improvements in population health.

We’ve long championed the pioneering spirit of the Community Health Center, client organizations who are often the earliest adopters of population health strategies that maximize impact relative to resources. Larger provider groups and health networks that serve broader populations are taking note. 

Twenty out of twenty-four breakout sessions were led by our client presenters, who shared inside views of how they are leveraging social drivers of health (SDOH) and clinical data to enhance reporting, increase patient and provider engagement, manage costs, and much more. 

Presentation after presentation helped highlight real life use cases that illustrate how Azara’s population health solutions helped their teams identify, implement, track, and follow-up with the most vulnerable patient populations in need of care. For instance, the “Making Headway” presentation followed the storyline from identifying the subgroup most in need of intervention (hypertensive candidates going undetected), and how DRVS helped improve rates of identification of patients in need—allowing care teams to distribute monitors, follow their progress, and act early to avoid emergent or catastrophic episodes.

Health equity is a primary storyline.

The foundational nature of health equity was the focus of our stimulating panel discussion, where Azara's SVP of Clinical Innovation, LuAnn Kimker, RN MSN, hosted Bianca Mayes, Planned Parenthood’s National Director of Black Health Equity, Cheryl Clark MD SCD, the Executive Director and SVP of the Institute for Health Equity Research, Evaluation & Policy, Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, and Diane Ferran MD MPH, VP of Clinical Excellence and Innovation from the Community Health Care Association of New York State (CHCANYS). 

Quintuple AimThe dialogue painted a story of why health equity is no longer an ancillary conversation, but a critical component of any value-based care or quality improvement initiative. The presenters began by outlining differences between commonly confused terms: while health disparity defines a population-based difference in health outcomes, health inequity means differences in population health that are systemic, avoidable, and unjust. 

Also important to understand is that disparities alone do not address the chain of events that drive them. The group drove home that our goal is health equity, where a knowledge of personal barriers, circumstances, and conditions ensures everyone receives the care they need. 

To this point, healthcare’s aim has expanded to include health equity—reflecting the industry’s maturing recognition of its importance in driving improved outcomes at scale. The Quintuple Aim includes “Equity & Inclusion” as an indispensable element of healthcare’s highest order, along with “Population Health,” “Care Team Well-being,” “Patient Experience,” and “Reducing Cost.” 

Ultimately, our presenters asserted, technology can help get us there. “Techquity'' reflects a state where data-driven technology helps us value people and prioritize individual health. The essential starting point to any health equity journey begins with data. 

The healthcare landscape is becoming increasingly complex—but workflows can be simplified.

Even as our clients shared their success stories over the three days, our industry’s increasing complexity and fragmentation was not lost on anyone. While organizations know that harnessing data holds the promise of accelerating risk-based arrangements, 64% of our spring survey respondents acknowledged that the lack of integration between health plan and provider data systems is a roadblock. 

To help address these divides, I highlighted Azara’s philosophy of working together. During opening remarks, I shared how Azara wants to assure our clients that they do not need to make platform choices. We will support your value-based care efforts whether you go it alone or with a partner, and if you choose the partner route, Azara will facilitate the bi-direction exchange of data between VBC enablers and our clients using existing DRVS and Azara Care Connect (ACC) workflows. 

Interoperability, open data sharing, and bi-directional data sharing are built into our approach ensuring that our technology is never a hindrance to your population health based initiatives. I also introduced several additional, additive partnerships, including our recent partnership with Equality Health, which enables our clients to participate in Equality Health’s innovative value based programs using DRVS and ACC. 

Our team is always looking to break down barriers and identify additional opportunities for collaboration that support our client teams—and ultimately, their patients.

Behavioral health integration is the next frontier.

One landmark panel acknowledged the state of behavioral healthcare in America with an apt metaphor—choppy waters. Indeed, industry pundits predict that behavioral health data interoperability will be a leading priority for 2024, while acknowledging that today’s existing data exchange capabilities are insufficient among behavioral, mental, and physical healthcare providers.

Our presenters began by outlining the massive overlap between behavioral health and primary care, as individuals in need of mental health care tend to seek it first from their PCPs: 


Inaccessibility and lack of data sharing is a hindrance on both sides, limiting the ability of providers to have a holistic view of their patients and the treatment they need. Interoperability would be transformative in this arena, and would help pave direct care pathways, ensuring that individuals can find the care they need—when they need it most.

To this end, Azara is working to build bi-directional feeds and partnerships that improve collaboration and advance primary care and behavioral health integration. A new partnership with Netsmart helps facilitate data exchange between a number of community health centers and their partner community mental health centers, with the goal of improving care coordination, care delivery and health outcomes across the board. 

After three days of discussion, collaboration, and insightful presentations, our clients departed Boston with strategies to help “adjust their sails.” Armed with their colleagues’ best practices, population case histories, and use cases—and with Azara’s tutorials, upcoming product features, partnerships, and more—our clients left invigorated, equipped with new strategies to help navigate the choppy waters of population health. 

Want to learn more? Click here to access the full library of 2024 User Conference content in DRVS Help.  

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