HHS Secretary Alex Azar addresses AHA Annual Meeting

May 10, 2018

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting in Washington, DC, laid out the department’s four areas of emphasis for creating a value-based healthcare delivery system and urged hospital and health system leaders to help accelerate progress.

“I believe we’re in an exciting moment for healthcare—a time when we all agree that change has to come to this industry faster than it ever has before,” said Azar, speaking at a special forum.

Citing improvements hospitals have made in innovating new treatments, improving outcomes, lowering costs, and moving care outside of their four walls and into the community, Azar noted that, although the transformation to a value-based system is underway, the pace needs to quicken.

Azar laid out four areas of emphasis for the department: Maximizing the promise of health information technology; improving both quality and price transparency; innovating new models of care; and reducing regulatory burden.

On health IT, Azar related a story of his own recent hospitalization when stressing the need for interoperability of health information.

Azar also emphasized that patients must have access to more than just their own health data. “For individuals to drive value, they must have access to data on price and quality,” he said, citing a recent HHS proposal to require hospitals to post online a list of standard charges in a machine-readable format as one way the department is playing a role in driving broader change. He noted that the rule also contained a request for information on the types of pricing information consumers would find most useful.

“I believe you ought to have the right to know what a procedure is going to cost, and what it’s going to cost you, out of pocket—before you get it,” he said. “We want your input on the best way to make this a reality, and we will applaud those who make this vision a reality on their own.”

On driving new models of care, Azar said that HHS is going to “think big and bold,” using the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to transform not just Medicare and Medicaid but the healthcare system as a whole.

Azar also highlighted steps HHS has recently taken to reduce regulatory burden, such as its new “Meaningful Measures” program, saying a larger regulatory reform package is in the works.

Azar placed special emphasis on the need to pay close attention to healthcare in rural areas, citing the rural health strategy released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Finally, Azar discussed taking action to bring down the high prices of prescription drugs, saying President Trump “believes it is a top priority to build a system that puts American patients first.” The president is expected to make an announcement May 11 on steps the administration will take to address the issue. Azar said HHS’ blueprint on drug pricing will build on proposals included in the president’s recent budget request and noted that the president “wants to go much, much further.”

AHA has the full article