Professional headshot of Dr. Swati Gaur

Three Key Takeaways from CMS Quality Conference

A physician leader’s perspective to attending the conference

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) 2024 Quality Conference was held April 8-10 in Baltimore. It was a great opportunity for me to hear directly from CMS leaders on their priorities and goals that shape a more inclusive, accessible, and innovative future for health care. As a clinical leader attending for the very first time, I felt inspired by what I heard and want to share my insights with my colleagues.

Dr. Swati Gaur on the 2024 CMS Quality Conference:

We heard from CMS leadership on the National Quality Strategy, built around eight goals of equity, engagement, safety, resiliency, outcomes, alignment, interoperability, and scientific advancement. While all eight are interconnected and essential, there were three that resonated with me. 

1. Prioritizing the Well-Being of Clinicians

The session on workforce resilience and wellbeing shed light on the topic that hits close to home for many of us clinicians. Dr Vivek Murthy issued an advisory in 2022 on the magnitude and consequences of health care worker burnout and issued a call to action. In this session at the 2024 Quality Conference, researchers presented evidence of burnout on clinicians and impacts on quality, safety, and cost of patient care emphasizing the urgent need for intervention.  The presenters acknowledged the complex and multifactorial drivers, including the role of inefficiency of administrative work built into electronic health record (EHR) charting. Evidence-based strategies and models that organizations can implement now to foster clinician well-being were discussed. The presenters cautioned against solely focusing on individual clinician interventions to address burnout, which they argued puts further burden on the clinician. Instead, they stressed the importance of systemic changes such as cultivating wellness-centered leadership, conducting workplace assessments, enhancing workplace efficiency, and promoting deep work while eliminating unnecessary tasks i.e. deimplementing EHR inefficiencies. They also discussed innovative models of stable 1:1 pairing of medical assistant and physician team in primary care setting that showed improved satisfaction and patient outcomes. These examples emphasized stable relationships within health care organizations that cultivate a culture of connection and support.  

2. The Goal to Zero Harm and Patient-Safety

I was excited to hear about CMS commitment to patient safety. To Err is Human was published in 1999 and it brought to focus that safety issues are pervasive and often result in patient injury. In the 20 plus years since, while we have been able to make gains, opportunities still exist in providing safer health care. As I attended multiple sessions in the conference, the focus on the goal of zero preventable harm was evident. Some key actions in this effort were expanding transparency of data to increase accountability, driving improvements through alignment of meaningful incentives and oversight, protecting the health care workforce, improving electronic health record (EHR) security and security of personal data. The session on responsible, safe, and secure use of artificial intelligence (AI) covered how AI could support the overarching and progressive vision of safety.  

 The presenter quoted Lombardi, ‘Perfection is not attainable, but if we choose perfection, we can catch excellence.’ While the goal to zero preventable harm is a lofty one, CMS’ commitment to achieving the highest safety for our patients is exciting to me. 

3. Ensuring Health Equity

Health equity was another key focus of the conference, with CMS highlighting the need to address disparities in health care across the entire health care system and ensure that all patients receive equitable care. This commitment to bridging the gaps in health care access and outcomes is a critical step towards building a fairer and more just healthcare system. As a physician leader, I heard the importance of collecting and stratifying quality measurement data to identify disparities in careThis can be followed by creating a Disparities Impact Statement with clear steps to lead to improved care delivery. Having the entire team focused on quality through equity ensures that no one is left behind. The national action plan, Quality in Motion, makes equity salient in the four foundational areas of culture, leadership, governance; patient and family engagement; learning systems and workforce safety. 

Attending the CMS Quality Conference was a valuable experience that shed light on the key priorities and goals set forth by CMS for the future of health care. Almost all sessions had patients’ voices central to themMy biggest takeaway was what matters most to me as a physician leader also matters most to CMS. This was an incredible opportunity to meet the leaders behind different initiatives and to witness firsthand the deep insights, coordination, and passion to achieve what our collective goal is- provide the safest and best care to our patients through supporting a safe and resilient workforce. I plan to attend this every year. CMS Quality Conference is a hybrid event, which allows access to anyone who wants to attend. I hope to see you at the 2025 Quality Conference.

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