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CBA and Bouvé faculty brief legislators on health policy

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Dean Terry Fulmer led a panel of faculty experts at a State House briefing on proposed legislation to cut health care costs. Photo by Kristie Gillooly


In 2006, Mass­a­chu­setts enacted a health-​​care man­date that inspired Pres­i­dent Obama’s fed­eral Patient Pro­tec­tion and Afford­able Care Act. Now, the state leg­is­la­ture is poised to lead the nation once more by working on reforms that rein in the growth of health costs while main­taining quality.

Top North­eastern fac­ulty briefed key law­makers and aides on research and ini­tia­tives related to this push on Thursday at the Mass­a­chu­setts State House.

“We want to work with all of you to make sure we are training the next gen­er­a­tion of health-​​care workers and leaders,” Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, told law­makers. “North­eastern is very inter­ested in playing a real role as you move for­ward with this impor­tant legislation.”

Fulmer noted Northeastern’s lead­er­ship in training the next gen­er­a­tion of nurses, phar­ma­cists and physi­cian assis­tants who “prac­tice at the top of their license,” meaning many can work in critical-​​care roles now often ful­filled solely by physi­cians, whose work car­ries high pre­miums. New leg­is­la­tion, like the bills under con­sid­er­a­tion in Mass­a­chu­setts, could empower these health pro­fes­sionals to take on more primary-​​care roles, working across dis­ci­plines to make care more effi­cient and accessible.

The approaching retire­ment of a large number of Baby Boomers makes now a per­fect time to address rising health-​​care costs, noted Fulmer, a nation­ally renowned geri­atrics expert.

“If there was a time to think ahead and antic­i­pate the age wave and increasing dis­ability pop­u­la­tion, it is right now,” Fulmer said.

Fulmer led the North­eastern panel that included Gary Young, director of the Center for Health Policy and Health­care Research; Jack Reynolds, dean of the School of Phar­macy; Judy Barr, director of the National Edu­ca­tion and Research Center for Out­comes Assess­ment in Health­care; and Steve Alves, assis­tant dean of grad­uate pro­grams in the Col­lege of Nursing.

Young, also a professor of strategic management and healthcare systems at College of Business Administration, contributes research related to pay-​​for-​​performance — the idea that health-​​care providers receive more com­pen­sa­tion for pos­i­tive out­comes — which has shown that the method has little impact, but said it could be a better option if paired with a sig­nif­i­cant buildup of clin­ical infra­struc­ture that makes elec­tronic med­ical records and other data more acces­sible. Pay-​​for-​​performance is cur­rently part of the draft Mass­a­chu­setts bills, which embrace a global pay­ment system that create sev­eral new rev­enue streams for the health-​​care industry.

Rep. Steve Walsh (D-​​Lynn), the House chairman of the Joint Com­mittee of Health Care Financing, said both the House and Senate are com­mitted to passing bills that con­trol cost and pre­pare the next gen­er­a­tion of health-​​care workers.

He thanked North­eastern for informing the leg­isla­tive process. “We are thrilled about what hap­pens at North­eastern,” Walsh said. “They get it. They get what needs to happen and why we need to be part­nering like this.”

The fac­ulty panel dis­cussed a wide range of topics, including new methods of paying for med­ical treat­ment, the impor­tance of building an infra­struc­ture that allows health care providers to share records and col­lab­o­rate and ways to empower more health care pro­fes­sionals, such as high-​​skill nurses and pharmacists.

Barr also rec­om­mended that the pro­posed pro­gram to for­give the loans of physi­cians and nurses who prac­tice in rural and under­served set­tings be expanded to include phar­ma­cists who want to work in com­mu­nity health cen­ters, where North­eastern phar­macy stu­dents worked more than 30,000 hours in the last year.

The end of the hour-​​long briefing con­cluded with ques­tions from leg­is­la­tors and staff mem­bers. Fulmer noted that dia­logues between acad­emia and policy-​​makers were impor­tant because each side has the ability to inform and guide the other.

“At North­eastern we want you to expect a lot from us and ask us the hard ques­tions,” she said. “We believe our team’s inter­dis­ci­pli­nary approach to health sci­ences can help guide you in this impor­tant process.”