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The 2022 BCBSA National Summit was the first in-person national event since the pandemic. The energy was high as presenters, attendees, and exhibitors all experienced the power of face-to-face engagement. The week featured numerous sponsored events, hosted dinners in and out of the conference center, and a couple of late nights catching up in the large bar area of the hotel lobby.

For those who did not attend, here’s a recap of five themes that encompass the tenor of this memorable event in Orlando.

1. Mental health garners even more attention.

Let’s start with the end in mind. Thursday’s keynote session featured Simone Biles, a gold medal athlete and outspoken champion of mental health issues. Her compelling story and advocacy are an inspiration. In addition, numerous sessions were held on the topic of mental health. They addressed core issues such as obligations of mental health, the impact of COVID-19 on mental health, meeting unmet behavioral health needs, and reimagining behavioral healthcare delivery.

There were also numerous vendors with digital, offline, and hybrid behavioral health programs in the solutions center.

2. Health equity is on everyone’s radar.

Over the past couple of years, the discussion of health equity has matured. This year’s sessions focused on the role of BCBS system leadership in health equity, the systems and structures needed to advance health equity, how to close health equity gaps, and the role of technology in health equity. It’s clear that solving for health equity is still in a nascent state as health plans and vendors try to grapple with definitions, data acquisition, terminology, and codification. One thing is for sure—many organizations are working day and night to positively impact the lives of members and health equity is an issue.

3. Payer and provider collaboration is a continued topic of conversation.

The pandemic taught payers and providers the importance of alignment and collaboration. Sessions this year took up critical topics surrounding efforts to manage chronic disease, the importance of Value-Based Care (VBC), data sharing, and trust. There were sessions talking about successful payer/provider partnerships and plenty of discussion on digital solutions and advanced analytics to help drive this agenda.

As with most of these themes, data and technology were cornerstones for advancing the state of payer and provider collaboration.

4. Digitization is top of mind.

Digital health programs have been on the rise for years. The pandemic brought core services such as virtual care into the spotlight. In the post-pandemic world, members have not sustained their use of telehealth services. Sessions at the summit are looking at it as a broader strategy and they see virtual care as one very important piece of the puzzle. The broader digitization discussion looks at member and provider journeys and the inflection points that reside in the broader context of digital transformation. Core to advancing this agenda is being able to validate the value of these programs. Today there are hundreds of vendors providing programs—which of those live up to the hype and fit within this broader context remains in the realm of speculation.

5. The drive for expanding the Medicare Advantage line of business.

Medicare Advantage, how to expand the business, how to impact outcomes, and how to operate in the value-based paradigm, were all over the Summit. Issues like compliance and risk mitigation were of concern and discussed. At the same time, impactful studies on increasing engagement with face-to-face visits and partnering for success in Medicare Advantage gave attendees guidance on best practices when managing the Medicare Advantage line of business. Given the number of members transitioning into the Medicare Advantage world in the next 10 years, this is sure to remain a hot topic at future summit events.

This year’s BCBSA 2022 National Summit was a validation that not everything of importance can be done in a remote environment. It was a reminder of the human side of healthcare—a side that can be advanced by better technology, digital transformation, and virtual care settings.

The five themes discussed all have merit and the potential to help transform healthcare even further. This is only possible if we continually evaluate and measure the impact of the programs in these themes and continually look to optimize the member experience so they make the right choices for the best care.

Chris Bethell is the Vice President of Marketing. He is a software marketer and operations executive with a deep understanding of the healthcare industry across the payer and provider ecosystem. Agile manager with a broad range of strategic and operational experience within start-ups, midsize firms, and Fortune 500 organizations. Adept at building and enabling high-performance teams that drive. Chris lives outside of Seattle with his family. In his free time, he enjoys hunting and hiking through nature.