AHA15: Burwell, Bradley among big names who highlight trends and challenges at annual conference

Many of the biggest names in healthcare attended this week's American Hospital Association (AHA) annual meeting to talk about the accomplishments, political concerns and strategies to overcome challenges facing the industry now and in the years ahead.

Hospital executives heard from Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who said their voices and opinions do matter and urged them to advocate for states to expand Medicaid. She said the government has responded to their comments on Meaningful Use by shortening the reporting period to 90 days and is still considering their feedback on the "two-midnight rule."

Former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) took part in a discussion of Washington's political gridlock that has stalled many initiatives with the exception of the recent bipartisan effort to repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate formula.

AHA President and CEO Richard J Umbdenstock, who is retiring from his role at the end of the year, reflected on his last nine years of overseeing the hospital trade association, thanking attendees for always speaking up for their patients and communities. Their stories, he said, influence legislators and federal agencies and help lawmakers understand how their policies will affect the "real people who count on you for care."

Umbdenstock also announced his AHA successor, Rick Pollack, who currently serves as executive vice president. Pollack said he will work with providers as they redefine the "H" in hospital, "which will always stand for healing and hope and is critical to the health of all Americans" even as the healthcare landscape and delivery options change.

Healthcare leaders received advice from Joseph Swedish, president and CEO of Anthem Inc. and Michael Leavitt, former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services about how to handle the uncertainty over the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling in King v. Burwell. The takeaway: Plan now for all possible scenarios.

Tom Frieden, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, talked about the efforts this year to combat Ebola but also warned hospital executives of the dangers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threaten to undermine modern medicine and what is routine in healthcare. He stressed the need for their commitment to participate in an aggressive intervention program to protect these miracle drugs.

Hospital executives also heard from their colleagues, including Nancy H. Agee, president and CEO of Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Virginia, Thomas M. Priselac, president and CEO of Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and Richard Gilfillan, M.D., CEO and president of Trinity Health in Livonia, Michigan, who talked about efforts to respond to a consumer-driven market, including partnerships, medical homes, urgent care centers and technology.

Nancy Gagliano, M.D., senior vice president of CVS Caremark and chief medical officer for CVS MinuteClinic, talked about the rise of retail health clinics in the country but urged leaders to think of them as an expansion of primary care that can cut unnecessary emergency room visits instead of a threat to the traditional care model.

And finally, Kevin Vaziri, president of Dignity Health Woodland Memorial Hospital, discussed the cost savings and benefits of its teleICU, which provides intensivist coverage 24/7. --Ilene (@FierceHealth)

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