« March 2016 Issue

Meet Ann Hwang – Director of the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation

As a physician and former policymaker, Dr. Ann Hwang holds a unique perspective as the director of Community Catalyst’s new Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation (the Center). We sat down with Ann to discuss her goals and current work in leading the Center to navigate the next wave of health reform, health system transformation.

What is your vision for the Center and its work?

The Center was established to do two things. First, we elevate the voices of consumers in health care system redesign—making sure that consumers are at the table for both policymaking and the governance of new models of health care. At the same time, we recognize that consumer health advocacy organizations need to have the capacity to participate effectively. So the second thing is to strengthen capacity by providing technical assistance and resources to our consumer advocacy partners. The overall goal is to continually reinforce that if decisions are being made about how health care is structured and provided, consumers should be at that table.

How does your experience as both a physician and policymaker influence your vision?

Being a physician and continuing to take care of patients makes me recognize that policymaking and medicine are both complicated and messy on the ground. For example, at a clinical level when you see a patient, the medical part is in some ways is the easy part. You can look at them and say, “You have diabetes, so you need to take a diabetes medication.” But what comes afterwards [overcoming barriers to make sure they can get the medication, store it, and take it] is the hard and complicated part that actually determines whether they’re going to be able to remain healthy or not. So I have an appreciation for knowing that things aren’t always so black and white. As a policymaker, you have to pay attention to the human factors or your policies may not be very meaningful. You have to be really grounded in what it takes to implement a policy and make it successful. So this is helpful in understanding what’s practical and feasible, and it’s a balance with what are our goals, values and our ideals are.

Which issues take priority for the Center?

We have developed our six policy priorities for the year. They’re fairly broad. They tackle issues around creating structures for meaningful consumer engagement. We also have other priorities that look at payment models to incentivize person-centered care, making sure that as care transitions into new methods of payment, consumers have enough protections so they’re not hurt by these changes. We want to better support population health and the health of communities. We’re committed to health equity and fostering a consumer-centered culture of care to create care models that meet the needs of the populations being served. For now, we’re focusing our work on three main populations – dual eligible populations (people on both Medicaid and Medicare), people with mental health diseases and substance use disorders, and kids with special needs.

How does the Center plan on tackling health equity as one of its broad policy priorities?

First, by making sure new models of payment and care delivery, like Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), are addressing health disparities. Part of that is creating awareness that health disparities exist by collecting and reporting data on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, age and a whole host of other factors. Then its addressing disparities as these organizations are being created and developed. The health care workforce needs to be culturally competent, diverse and representative of the population it serves. Second, under the Center we anticipate making additional grants to state consumer health advocacy partners. We are considering requiring a health equity focus as part of that grant program to ensure we support organizations that are led by or represent communities of color. That is really important to this effort and the policy priorities we’re working on.

What are some projects currently in the works for the Center?

We have two projects that are under development. We are examining consumer engagement strategies that are employed in different state Medicaid ACOs and whether they are correlating with the experience of advocates in that state. We are also looking at quality measurement and thinking about the ways in which consumers and consumer advocates can engage with the quality measurement universe. So, stay tuned!

For current updates on the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation, follow them at @CCEHI or subscribe to receive blog posts

Jessicah Pierre, Communications Associate  

O N   T H E   W I R E

Get the day’s top health care news delivered right to your inbox by subscribing to On Message Today. 

Follow the new Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation on Twitter at @CCEHI for health system transformation updates!

We partnered with our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Georgetown Center for Children and Families to create a video showing how closing the coverage gap is not only good for working families but is also beneficial to state budgets. Watch it here: “Medicaid Coverage Gap 101”

Congratulations to board member Kavita Patel, MD for receiving the 2016 Cancer Center Innovator Award at the Cancer Center Business Summit.

We’d like to welcome Nancy A. Whitelaw, the co-director/program consultant at Practice Change Fellows/Leaders, to the Community Catalyst board of directors and Eddy Morales, director of the Latino Engagement Fund at the Democratic Alliance, to the Community Catalyst Action Fund board of directors.

Ann Hwang, MD, director of the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation, spoke about setting up stronger primary care services in Kaiser Health News. In a Health Affairs blog post, Ann reflected on the Center’s mission and January launch event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Strategic Policy Director Michael Miller talks about the importance of public relations when encouraging Medicaid enrollment among consumers in The Times-Picayune.

Katherine Howitt, associate director of policy, was featured on the Healthcare Finances Management Association website after Louisiana passed legislation to close the coverage gap.

We’re excited to announce that Cindy Mann, formerly the top Medicaid official in the Obama Administration, has joined Community Catalyst and the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation as a strategic advisor. 

We also welcoming Bob Master, MD, founder and former chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Care Alliance, as a senior fellow at the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation.

Join us in welcoming new staff members: Ilene Weismehl, Database and CRM Manager; Kris Wiitala, Program Associate; Jennifer Lemmerman, associate director, External Affairs; Also, congratulations are in order for Tera Bianchi, who was promoted to Dental Access Program project director.

Stay up to date on developments in health care policy, Affordable Care Act implementation, and more. Sign up to receive Health Policy Hub blog posts in your inbox.

Support Our Work: