The Virginia Joint Commission on Health Care (JCHC) is one step closer to determining its 2022 study topics, which will help inform policymakers as they draft legislation in the upcoming session in January.
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Potential study issues the Commission discussed at this week’s executive committee meeting include long-term care, behavioral health workforce shortages, maternal health disparities, and provider health data sharing — many of which were carried over from 2021.
The goal of the meeting was to introduce any additional study topics and subsequently narrow down the list. Additional topics that were introduced include local health departments’ current infrastructure and the state’s COVID-19 mitigation measures.
Commission Chair Del. Patrick Hope (D – Arlington) first discussed conducting a long-term care study, which would focus on assessing the continuum of care that patients receive when moving between different facilities. Hope looped in Virginia’s core health entities: community service boards (CSB), Virginia Medicaid (DMAS), the Department of Behavioral Health and Disability Services (DBHDS), and private providers — and called for a more patient-centered approach to health care delivery.
“We’ve got to look at how we’re delivering care in the best interests of the person we’re serving … Going back to these concepts of equity, affordability, accessibility, and quality, I think we should keep those in mind in looking at something comprehensive like that.”
Delegate Robert Orrock (R – Caroline) was a proponent for studying health care information exchange between different providers. He said reducing duplicate procedures can translate into fewer unnecessary expenses.
“We’ve got this wonderful electronic health records system [but primary care providers] can’t share data. X-rays done at one facility — if a patient presents at another [facility], they have to be repeated, and it’s because of the proprietary nature of the software they’re using. We’ve got to find some means consistent with HIPAA whereby that silo can be broken down or at least put some gates in. What good is an electronic records exchange when whenever I present to a physician, I have to tell them my whole medical history?”
Hope also introduced a new potential study topic on end-of-life care, an area that other states have discussed but in which the Commonwealth is lacking.
Delegate Mark Sickles (D – Fairfax), also advocated for more maternal health services, calling the Commonwealth’s record in that field “shameful,” after maternal health experts outlined racial and economic disparities among pregnant people in the state last week.
Some study topics will be referred to specific legislative work groups. This includes behavioral health workforce shortages and individuals not found guilty by insanity, which will be referred to the behavioral health work group. Other topics, such as studying the long-term impacts of the COVID-19, were pushed back due to the ongoing nature of the pandemic.
JCHC staff will draft study resolutions for Commission members to review by Nov. 16, which they will subsequently vote on. Members will formally approve finalized study topics on Dec. 7, although JCHC Executive Director Jeff Lunardi noted the study resolutions may change as new health care issues become a higher priority during the session.
In the meantime, Hope encouraged members of the public to provide input on what health care issues they would like the Commission to prioritize.