Healthcare Issues Discussed at the Hampton Roads Chamber’s Healthcare Forum

Healthcare Issues Discussed at the Hampton Roads Chamber’s Healthcare Forum
Healthcare Issues Discussed at the Hampton Roads Chamber’s Healthcare Forum
Healthcare Issues Discussed at the Hampton Roads Chamber’s Healthcare Forum

"We have good quality healthcare in Virginia, and people come from all over the world to receive our healthcare," said Governor Ralph Northam during the 2019 Hampton Roads Chamber Healthcare Forum.


"We're going to talk about the business of healthcare, along with some issues, challenges, and concerns," said Bryan K. Stephens, President and CEO, Hampton Roads Chamber on October 29. 


Stephens delivered opening remarks and briefly went over statistics received from the Old Dominion University Dragas Center regarding the healthcare climate and economic impact in Hampton Roads. Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing industries in Hampton Roads. In the past ten years, healthcare employees in the region have grown by a 24.2 percent increase. Nearly 94,000 individuals work in the healthcare field, which accounts for 10 percent of the labor force in Hampton Roads. "Healthcare is big business, and it has a huge impact on our economy," said Stephens.


Dr. Fickenscher, Hampton Roads Opioid Working Group, spoke briefly on the opioid crisis. "Nearly 90 percent of today's heroin abusers got their start with prescription pain meds," said Fickenscher. He discussed the growth of opioid addiction in recent years, projecting 2019 to be a record year of increase in opioid addiction. "Those who use or abuse prescription pain meds are 40 times more likely to start using heroin and are many times more likely to start using other drugs of abuse." Comparatively, he said that in Hampton Roads, there is a decline in opioid-related deaths despite the increasing number of deaths across the nation. "I am hopeful that together, we can change the landscape of opioid use, abuse, and dependence to ensure a healthier, more prosperous, and productive future."  


Kurt Hook, CEO of Virginia Psychiatric Center, spoke on mental health and encouraged those in attendance to check in with their staff members and have conversations around mental health awareness. Hook addressed the audience directly, "according to statistics from the National Institutes of Health, 67 percent of us have experienced a behavioral health episode in the past year." Hook went on to say that a critical issue around mental health is the fact that not many discuss the problems they face. Hook said this is due to shame and fear of what is not understood, also known as a stigma. "There is a fear of judgment from others, ourselves, and fear of reprisal from our coworkers, employees, and even ourselves," Hook said. He stressed the need for attention around mental health issues, urging attendees to work together to create meaningful changes.


The panel discussion, moderated by Julian Walker, Vice President of Communications for Virginia Hospital Healthcare Association, focused on current opportunities and challenges facing the healthcare industry. "One challenge is cost and becoming more cost-effective for patients," said Reese Jackson, President and CEO, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare. Jackson also said Chesapeake Regional Healthcare searches for ways to make MRIs, outpatient procedures, and medications more affordable for consumers. 


Carolyn Carpenter, President of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, said, "Making sure consumers in healthcare have the information to be price-sensitive and have enough knowledge to make a proper decision regarding healthcare services." Carpenter also said social determinacies are also a significant driver of cost and availability of healthcare.


"Private hospitals in Virginia are covering the state's share of costs associated with Medicaid expansion, which is about $300 million a year," said Walker. He asked panelists how the financial burden of the Medicaid expansion will impact their hospitals. "We've seen a tremendously positive impact across our communities with the expansion of Medicaid enrollment starting in January," said Amy Carrier, President, Bon Secours Hampton Roads. She said it has allowed Bon Secours to provide healthcare access to previously uninsured patients.


"We've now been able to educate patients about resources that are available to them," said John DeGruttola, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Optima Health. DeGruttola acknowledged social determinants that have prevented people in lower-income areas from receiving healthcare services for many years, who are now able to obtain access.


Governor Ralph Northam, the first physician to be elected as Governor in Virginia, delivered his keynote address, which focused on the three pillars of the healthcare industry. "The first pillar is quality, the second is access, and the third and perhaps most challenging pillar, is cost, "said Northam. He discussed the costs associated with healthcare and suggested a re-insurance program to help lower the cost of premiums.


"Something I know is near and dear to your hearts as healthcare professionals are the Certificate of Need (CON)," Northam said. He told attendees that he hopes to create a more efficient and cost-effective CON for providers. Another important issue Northam discussed was on preventative care. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."


Northam encouraged hospitals and providers to have in-depth conversations with their patients about preventative care measures. Additionally, he mentioned the need for modified electronic medical records. "I think it would be much more efficient if we have universal access to electronic medical records," Northam said. He also noted the need for privacy protection associated with medical records but stressed the need for ease of communication between systems. Governor Northam thanked those in attendance and praised Virginia's economy and people. "They say it takes a village, and I'm just so happy that all of you have chosen to remain a part of that village," said Northam.


The Hampton Roads Chamber would like to thank the following sponsors: Chesapeake Regional Healthcare (Presenting Sponsor); Sentara Optima Health (Member Spotlight Sponsor); Bon Secours (Speaker Sponsor); Hilton Norfolk The Main (Host Sponsor); Columbia Care (Gold Sponsor); Bank of America (Silver Sponsor); and BDO (Bronze Sponsor).


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