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ACMA 2018: Everything is Bigger in Texas

by Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA on May 3, 2018

Texas PoolBig case management problems call for bigger disruptive technologies to solve them.

There were so many things about ACMA 2018 (the annual conference of the American Case Management Association held April 24-27 in Houston, Texas) that surprised me. This isn’t my first conference rodeo, I may add. I couldn’t begin to count the number I’ve attended over my 30-year career. Still, there was something really special about this one.

Maybe it was the setting. Houston, Texas in late April is lovely. The weather, the vibrant area surrounding the George R. Brown Convention Center and the friendly people made what could have been a long week of conferencing truly enjoyable. Having the Astros and Rockets within walking distance was a bonus for my sports-minded colleagues. Personally, I enjoyed a few minutes sitting by the pool (which was shaped like the state of Texas, no less). The city truly seems to have something for everyone.

It was the perfect setting for 2,000 case management professionals to converge to talk about the daily challenges they face when transitioning patients. The sessions I attended and case managers I met didn’t shy away from the reality we all know –  efficiently and safely coordinating care for patients is really time-consuming and difficult. At the same time, every one of those that I spoke with was also passionate and up to the challenge of improving processes to benefit both the patients and the organizations they serve.

I heard a resounding message during this year’s conference: No matter the patient – a homeless man receiving medical care via a backpack-wearing physician roaming the streets of Pittsburgh; a veteran who has proudly served and deserves quality care and access to that care; or a family of six with full health benefits – simply negotiating and navigating the post-acute continuum is equally challenging. The difficulties that come with moving patients along the continuum does not discriminate and it’s a big problem. Never before have organizations had more at risk financially or have patients themselves been more responsible for making care decisions that impact outcomes.

Keynote speaker Dr. Daniel Kraft shared his passionate vision of the technology advances that will shape healthcare and case management in the future. I fully agree with his assertions that case management will find its greatest relief from the existing laborious, manual processes when it is able to fully embrace rapidly-developing technology solutions. Automated systems to eliminate the manual tasks surrounding patient discharge are already available and not only greatly reduce clerical burden but also return measurable financial benefits for the organizations that are truly pioneering the future of case management.

One thing I wasn’t surprised to hear: ACMA reported that 80% of conference attendees say they still manage patient transitions via fax machine. It’s clear that in spite of the promise of disruptive technology, we still have a way to go before the big problem that places stress on today’s case managers is solved.

What were some of your “take-aways” from this year’s ACMA conference? I’d love to share more of my thoughts about how technology can solve some of today’s biggest care coordination challenges. Let’s connect.


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Meet the Author

Thalken brings more than 30 years of experience in health-care leadership to our company. Prior to joining the company, she served as Enterprise Vice President for Care Logistics in Atlanta, Ga. She has held executive leadership positions at hospitals in Nebraska and Iowa, including the position of System Quality Executive for Alegent Health. Thalken has presented on the topics of improving quality, patient flow and throughput at various industry conferences and webinars. Thalken holds an MBA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, American Organization of Nurse Executives and American Case Management Association.

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