Update on the Alaska Healthcare Transformation Project

Sandra Heffern is the project coordinator for the Alaska Healthcare Transformation Project. She provided the following project update in an emailed statement:



I hope this finds you all healthy, safe and managing this time of pandemic as best you can.  On behalf of the Project Management Committee I wanted to provide an update on the AK Healthcare Transformation Project.  We have spent the last 2 1/2 years working together as a cross sector collaboration of payers, providers, policymakers, and patient advocates to transform Alaska’s healthcare system.  During this time, we have gathered information through the work of our contractor NORC and through a multitude of discussions with the Project Management Committee, convening groups, strategy development teams, and work groups.  There are approximately 175 people/organizations that have been engaged at varying levels in the project since inception.  The last convening meeting held in July, 2019 resulted in consensus on moving forward with developing implementation plans focused on cost and quality data, leadership governance of the project going forward, and a core set of quality measures across payers as we move our healthcare system towards a value-based structure.  The work groups met throughout the fall with their discussions resulting in draft bill language that would establish the AK Healthcare Transformation Corporation which would be responsible for standing up an all-payer claims database (APCD) and develop policy recommendations based on the aggregated healthcare data.  HB229 and SB201 were introduced by Rep Spohnholz and Senator von Imhof, respectively in the most recent legislative session.  Unfortunately, we found out very quickly that there was opposition to the concepts in the bill language, some by entities that had participated in the drafting process.  The bills were put on hold both from the strong headwinds as well as the emergent crisis created by COVID 19.

The Project Management Committee met recently and determined the direction and concepts generated through the life of the Project continue to be the vision for a transformed Alaska healthcare system; however, the complexity of the system and the influence of both industry leaders and the general healthcare consumer requires a more thorough educational platform to ensure alignment and understanding of direction.  In essence, we will be approaching the proposed bill language in two parts, the APCD development and the policy setting entity.  A strategy moving forward has been developed which includes disentangling the APCD from the policy setting entity (i.e., the AK Healthcare Transformation Corporation).  We heard during the abbreviated legislative efforts that several questions remained about the APCD including the overall cost, how it would be funded, and detailed parameters around the management of the data overall.

Our initial focus will be on working with a communications contractor to develop a two-prong communication strategy focused on increasing healthcare consumer awareness of the value of an APCD and on healthcare industry members of the mechanics of how an APCD would work in Alaska.  Additionally, we will also continue our efforts towards alignment of quality metrics to ensure we are gathering both cost and quality data.  Further, we will discuss possible alternative structures for an entity designed to influence policy based on collected healthcare data.  The current COVID-19 crisis only affirms the need to move toward health coverage for all with common basic benefits, to reduce the increasing cost of healthcare, and to align payors in ways to deliver more value to all Alaskans.  Our vision for Alaska’s healthcare system to improve Alaskans’ health while also enhancing patient and health professionals experience of care, and lowering the per capita healthcare cost growth rate is even more critical as we face the era of post-COVID healthcare.

Please feel free to reach out if you have questions, comments or concerns.