What Happens at CMSA 2019 Affects All of Healthcare

by Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA on Jun 17, 2019

Ensocare CMSA BoothYou all know the old adage: what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

But here’s a secret I’ll let you in on: That sentiment definitely does not hold true for CMSA. Not by a long shot.

I had the pleasure of attending the 2019 Case Management Society of America’s annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Just as in years past, I came away excited about the future of healthcare and the possibilities that await case managers and the field as a whole in the coming years. What happens at CMSA doesn’t stay there. In fact, it affects the whole world. The things we learn from each other during networking events, from speakers at the forefront of their fields sharing their hard-won insights, and innumerable vendors highlighting the exciting software innovations on the cusp of revolutionizing patient care, make this one of the most valuable conferences I attend each year.

CMSA’s rich experience will affect patients throughout the country and the world in positive, meaningful ways. This is a conference that really brings together those passionate about driving positive health outcomes. I get excited when I think about how the notes people furiously jot down (or, more accurately, type out on their laptops) will lead to valid strategic plans at an organizational level. It’s wonderful because, in a way, I can actually visualize how these ideas will be turned into actions on the frontlines of healthcare, like tree branches reaching outward.

Connecting Us All

Case managers have a unique role within the current healthcare system, with its focus on readmission prevention and ongoing patient management. Thanks to digital technology, we all have a chance to make a real difference in our patients’ lives long after they’ve left the hospital, and case managers are no different.

The demos I had the good fortune of witnessing at CMSA, and the results being shown on stages throughout the area, speak to the exciting developments happening daily in our interconnected world.

The social determinants of health, long considered elusive by hospitals and case managers, are finally within our power to affect in a real, tangible way. Armed with technology created by some of the leading app developers of our time, case managers can monitor patients’ progress and intervene as necessary if it looks like a given need isn’t being met. These interventions can happen electronically, via phone call or even through an in-person visit, but they’re made possible thanks to the flow of data that previously existed outside our sphere of influence.

And it’s not just the social determinants that are affected by contemporary technology. Mobile platforms and various Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings provide modern case managers with an assortment of tools meant to address the various challenges they might encounter during the course of navigating patient care.

Having trouble placing patients in an appropriate facility? There’s an app for that. Losing contact with patients at regular intervals along their recovery journey? There’s an app for that. Need to coordinate information between patients’ family members or their general physician? You guessed it: there’s an app for that.

In this way, case managers are taking on more responsibility than perhaps they’ve ever had in the past. And considering how capable I know these healthcare professionals to be, that’s a very good thing.

The empowerment of case managers has been one of the great unsung stories of healthcare in recent years. For all the talk of the difficulties with interoperability or the slow toward Electronic Health Records, there’s been too little talk about how the tools now at our disposal have quietly revolutionized what case managers and so many others on the frontlines of healthcare are able to achieve while working with patients every single day.

Mary Kay CMSAThe Future is Looking Bright

CMSA serves as a reminder of all the positive developments happening in our field. And one particular moment reinforced this better than anything else.

In the opening days of the conference, I had an opportunity to sit in on an assortment of Veterans Administration/DoD-related panels and lectures, and the discussions I had with attendees speak to the achievements that are just within reach. There are certainly challenges left to surmount, and no one was sugarcoating some of the obstacles that remain in providing the best care possible for patients, particularly our nation’s veterans. But in meeting and speaking with VA case managers and other professionals within these seminars, it became clear just how many bright, daring minds there are who are always prepared and ready to tackle these challenges on behalf of our nation’s brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for all of us.

That’s what has me truly excited about the future of case management and healthcare as a whole. Technology and strategy are certainly worthy of praise, but it’s ultimately the people that make CMSA’s Annual Conference such a worthwhile adventure. These are the people who will bring bold ideas to the attention of industry leaders. The people who will take home what they learn and use it to make a difference in a patient’s life. The people who will return in years to come as industry leaders themselves, ready to change the world for the incoming generation of healthcare professionals.

Another CMSA Annual Conference is in the books. But what happened there definitely won’t stay there; if the excitement from attendees is any indication, what happened in Vegas is about to change the world.

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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.