All Things Data


Azara Annual User Conference 2019 – Conference Recap

Jeff Brandes

Jeff Brandes
CEO & President
Azara Healthcare

Wow!!  What a week it was for the Azara team. Our 3rd Annual DRVS User Conference is in the books and what an amazing experience. We are humbled by the support and backing of our fiercely passionate users and we are proud of the assistance we provide in helping our Health Center clients make a difference in the care they deliver.

Tuesday, May 21st– Pre Conference Workshops

Tuesday began early, as I checked into the hotel and made my way to the conference center, just a short walk across the courtyard.  Along the way, I ran into Greg Augustine and as we approached the conference center together, we did a double take as the Azara User Conference banner came into view. We were wondering if that sign could really be for us.

We entered the Boston World Trade Center, met up with the Azara team and began the process of setting everything up at the direction of our fearless conference leader, Laura Polas. Signs went up, maps were in place and registration was readied.  By 8:30 AM, some of our guests began to arrive to survey the situation and find coffee.

At 10 AM, we kicked off two of our three, sold out, pre-conference workshops.  On the main stage, Emily Holzman from our Client Success team, supported by a dozen or more Azara staff, began 5+ hours of hands-on DRVS training “Making Your Data Work for You”, where among other things, participants learned to build scorecard, registries and dashboards as well as setup cohorts, and targets.  Emily presented the theory and then after each section, the participants were encouraged and guided to create the corresponding report to meet existing needs and within their individual production environments.  The Azara staff stood at the ready to assist.  While I think most of the participants were ready to call it a day when things tied up around 3:30 PM, I chuckled as I read the comments of one user who said they thought it should have run longer.

Right next door, we kicked off the half-day “Data-Driven Value-Based Care” Workshop.  LuAnn Kimker, RN from our Client Success Team got things rolling by setting the stage and defining Value-Based Contracting and Value-based Care.  Heidy Robertson-Cooper, Sr. Vice President of Healthcare Transformation at the Missouri Primary Care Association spoke about formation and operation of Missouri’s clinically integrated network, Missouri Health+, comprised of 21 FQHC’s and nearly 100,000 managed care lives.  She provided a real-world perspective on their successes and failures, as well as many of the challenges they continue to face.

Next, Phil Parker from our Azara’s Analytics team spent some time providing the audience hints on “Understanding Value-Based Contracts” and the various flavors in which they come. Phil also explained an MS Excel-based tool that was provided to all Workshop participants to help analyze value-based contracts and illustrate the impacts of various contract performance components.  Following Phil’s section, Greg Augustine spent some time reviewing how various DRVS dashboards can be used to analyze performance (utilization, cost, and quality), as it relates to value-based contracts.  The session concluded with Lisa Perry from Morningside Healthcare Strategies discussing how to bring payers to the table as true partners in the value-based arrangement.  Lisa was joined by Elizabeth Jean-Jacques, Director of Clinical Partnerships at Healthfirst and Philip Myones, Sr. Vice President & Chief Information Officer at Affinity Health Plan, both managed care plans within New York State.  I was present throughout the payer discussion and would summarize the discussion by saying that setting up payer relationships around data is difficult, requires hard work and persistence, but once in place can be extremely valuable for all parties.

Following a short lunch, a slightly different group assembled for a session on “Sustainable Care Management in a Community Health Setting”.  Heather Budd from our client success team kicked things off, reviewing the various definitions and roles within Care Management and providing tools to help our clients establish the business case to fund a Care Management program.  She discussed the different types of data and reporting necessary for effective Care Management then highlighted many of the DRVS functions and reports already available to help our clients manage their programs.  The session concluded with a glimpse of the new Azara Care Management (ACM) tool.

While a few of the participants took a short detour to attend the national PCA/HCCN meeting across the hall following the workshops, most of the participants adjourned to a networking reception to relax and get to know their fellow colleagues a bit better.

Wednesday, May 22nd– Day 1

I kicked off the morning session by welcoming everyone to Boston.  Looking up at 300+ DRVS Users representing more than 100 Health Centers from 24 different states, plus another 50 Azara staff provided an unbelievable adrenaline rush for me.  I was anxious and excited to get things rolling.  I challenged our attendees to use their time here to learn from the Azara staff as well as their peers and build or enhance their own DRVS support network.  After a quick tour down memory lane, I provided some updated Azara statistics.

I emphasized that Azara success is a function of our clients’ success and proceeded to highlight some of the great results achieved by Azara clients in the last year.

I did a little review of the analytics marketplace and the key drivers of data reporting and then emphasized Azara’s commitments to its clients and partners.

  • Remain focused on serving health centers and safety-net providers
  • Meet the needs for entering risk and value-based payment arrangements
  • Ongoing investment in product, infrastructure and client success services
  • Listen to and incorporate your feedback
  • Build partnerships that enhance our capabilities to meet your needs
  • Be your partner for the long haul
  • Enable DRVS to make a difference in the care you deliver to your patients!

I then introduced our morning Keynote Speaker, Dave deBronkart, “ePatient Dave” who spent the next hour vacillating from funny to heart wrenching as he told the story of his journey from tech marketing executive to e-Patient Dave, patient advocate extraordinaire, and how the availability of data is critical in our ability to engage patients in their own health care.

Next, Greg Augustine once again provided a Product Update as he reviewed items added over the past year and previewed a few items on the docket for the next few months. In summary, too much functionality, too little time. Join us on June 4 for a webinar to repeat this presentation for all DRVS users. Register here! 

Following lunch, the participants headed into 2-hour long breakout sessions where a wide variety of topics were covered.  We were extremely pleased that more than 50% of this year’s 24 breakout sessions were client led or client participatory and look forward to continuing that trend, as we strongly believe the DRVS network is the greatest source of creative ideas for successfully putting DRVS data into practice.

We reconvened the whole group late in the day for a presentation by Dr. Ron Yee, the Chief Medical Officer of the National Association of Community Health Centers who used his time to provide us some good examples of both the power and importance of data in the health center world we live in.  Following Ron’s talk, we learned that it was a special day for Greg and I truly enjoyed witnessing 300+ people serenading him with Happy Birthday.

We then adjourned to the Seaport’s Lighthouse Ballroom on a glorious sunny afternoon for a great networking reception where everyone got to relax and enjoy a bit.

We woke Thursday to another beautiful sunny day in Boston and Heather Budd, with a little assistance from Greg, kicked things off by talking about Care Management and then demonstrating Azara’s new Care Management tool “Azara Care Management” or ACM for short.  Yes, I admit we are very creative in our naming conventions, but I like to think we put all that energy into the product design and development.

During the next session, I provided an overview of Health Information Exchange (HIE) and how DRVS is working with a variety of HIEs around the country.  We were fortunate to have Dr. Tim Pletcher, the Executive Director of the Michigan Health Information Network (MIHIN), talk to us about the work they have done in Michigan and how they are actively partnering with organizations like their Primary Care Associations.  Following Tim’s overview, Dr. Faiyaz Syed, the Chief Medical Officer of the Michigan Primary Care Association (MPCA) and a MiHIN Board Member and Rob Pazdan, the Director of Information Systems at the MPCA joined us for some discussion and Q&A with regard to the strategies to partner with your state HIE and how to promote win-win scenarios.

After two additional breakout sessions and some lunch, the whole group reconvened one last time, where I presented some special client awards and played the videos that had been submitted in our 2019 Video Contest. Check them out on our website here.

Both Fordland Clinic (our defending champion from Missouri) and the Alaska Primary Care Association received 1 full conference pass each for next year’s Azara User Conference, as well as a staff lunch catered by Azara.

As we came to the end, I acknowledged the five key people without whom the conference would have never come together.  Laura Polas, Emily Holzman, LuAnn Kimker, Colleen McIntyre and Heather Budd and then had everyone come up to the stage to close things out.

As I end this long recap of such a wonderful week, I would be remiss if I did not extend a special thanks to you, our clients for your support and participation.  Without you, none of this would be possible.

We hope those that attended left with more DRVS knowledge and understanding that they had at the start and everyone reading this is sufficiently excited to make sure they join us next year.

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