NASHVILLE, Tenn.— More than 1,400 executives and senior leaders from hundreds of health plans, provider groups, integrated health systems and service providers across the country came together last week in Nashville to share strategies to address regulatory challenges, the latest trends and developments in the industry, member engagement strategies, and care outcomes.

The 13th annual RISE Nashville Summit was our biggest event yet, drawing representatives from 587 organizations across 46 states. Attendees came from various backgrounds, including risk adjustment, quality improvement, business development, data and analytics, operations, product management, marketing, and actuarial.  


RISE Nashvillee attendees at roundtables, general sessions

The three-day conference, which included a pre-conference day with five workshops, featured roundtable discussions with exhibitors and eight learning tracks with more than 40 sessions that addressed top issues facing health plans today, including risk revenue management, quality improvement, member engagement and care management, payer-provider collaboration, new technologies and advanced analytics, and policy updates. Speakers also tackled emerging issues, including opioid addiction and abuse, and cybersecurity.

Hot topic discussions

Conference Chair Nathan Goldstein, chief product officer, Signify Health moderated an audience-driven panel discussion on challenges within the industry, including proposed changes by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to RADV audits, as well as final changes to the Medicare Advantage HCC risk adjustment model, and the ongoing issue of inconsistent documentation in electronic health records and the need for improved provider and coding education.

Health Care Hot Topics Panel with the RISE Advisory Board

CMS deputy directors and representatives from the Office of Inspector General were also on hand to provide regulatory updates. Although those sessions were closed to press, attendees had the opportunity to ask regulatory officials about new policies, audits and other changes coming down the pike.

Traditional health care services only address 10 percent of health determinants and health plans need to work with providers and community partners to tackle the other factors, including social circumstances and behaviors.

Indeed, Goldstein said at the top of the conference that there is growing recognition within the industry that if we don’t address the issues surrounding social determinants of health that are outside the health care system, then it is too late by the time it arrives within the health care system.

Keynotes made us laugh, cry

Social determinants of health was also the underlying theme of Dr. John Medina’s keynote, who noted that one of the biggest culprits of a deteriorating memory and physical health is loneliness.

Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and author of the New York times bestseller, “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving at Work, Home and School,” kicked off the summit with an entertaining but poignant look at the aging brain, providing strategies to keep our brains sharp throughout our lifespans, and ultimately changing behaviors to reduce future health care costs.

Dr. John Medina during his keynote presentation

Fortunately, he said, there are actions we can take to stay mentally alert as we age, including the usual suspects like diet (plant-based diets are the best) and exercise (but not too much, brisk walks that add up to 150 minutes a week will do).  There are other ways to improve working or short-term memory, he said, like learning to play a new musical instrument as well as the music theory behind it, mastering a foreign language over the course of a year (a year of Mandarin is ideal for native English speakers), and read a book (paper, not digital) at least three-and-a-half hours a week.

But one of the best ways people over the age of 65 can mentally stay at the top of their game: Teach young children. Research shows that those who teach preschool-age children have a decreased incidence of depression, anxiety and stress, and they lower their mortality risk. It also benefits the children. Seniors are more patient than a 30-year-old teacher and preschoolers show an increase in problem-solving ability, language and emotional development, and have greater social skills than their peers who didn’t receive the intergenerational teaching experience.

Social interaction is also vital. Globally, Medina said, cognitive decline is 70 percent less in seniors who remain socially active, whether it’s through frequent contact with family, neighbors or friends. Indeed, memory studies conducted over a 12-year period found memory declines in lonely seniors at twice the rate of socially active seniors. Loneliness not only impacts cognitive function, he said, but also erodes their immune function, elevates stress hormone levels, and increases risk for heart disease. Indeed, the probability of death is 45 percent greater for lonely seniors, he said. “Loneliness really hurts this population. It makes them sicker and kills them, in fact,” Medina said. “Socialization cures that.”

Aron Ralston, an experienced hiker and climber and author of the New York Times bestseller, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” inspired on the second day of the conference with the life lessons he learned after he became trapped by an 800-pound boulder in a remote location for more than five days, ultimately freeing himself by severing his own arm with a pocketknife. It was difficult to listen to the retelling of his ordeal, but his message was not about what he lost. Instead it was about what he gained from the experience.

Keynote Aron Ralston with Conference Chair Ana Handshuh and RISE Nashville attendees.

 Everyone will encounter a boulder in their lives and with it a feeling of crisis, as if their world is turning upside down, he said. For Ralston, it was the knowledge of his certain death as his food and water supply dwindled and the fact that there was no one within miles to find and rescue him. As he stood in what he was sure to be his grave, Ralston said he experienced a revelation about what was most important in his life. It wasn’t about accomplishments, it was his relationships. “It’s not what you do, it’s about who you are and who you love,” he said.

And when you can’t confront those obstacles on your own, you turn to those relationships, Ralston said.

His survival is a miracle, and Ralston said he looks back at the experience not in horror, but in gratitude and he continues to thank the boulder for that lesson.

“When the boulder comes to you, do you push it away or do you open your arms and welcome it,” said Ralston, urging attendees to think about why that boulder has come into their lives and what they can do to turn those obstacles into blessings.


Editor’s note: Look for more coverage of RISE Nashville sessions in the upcoming weeks here.