In its fifth year, the Healthcare Economics Summit gathered healthcare thought leaders, students and professionals to speak and discuss topics in the business of healthcare.

The topic this year was Direct Primary Care, which is healthcare delivered directly to patient-consumers without the use of insurance. It is often less expensive and better quality care, and is becoming increasingly popular in 2021 – as a way to empower patients and front-line providers as consumers. It is the first experiment in free market healthcare. The summit was split into two sessions. The morning session was led by the Next Generation Healthcare Leader student interns, who are also involved in a Direct Primary Care spinout company, Advocates for Healthcare. The afternoon session, organized by Dr. Daniel Sem, included a variety of panels and nationally recognized speakers that examined different perspectives of the topic of Direct Primary Care.

The morning started with a panel discussion led by Andy Hilling, a board member of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives. Three practitioners fielded questions on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their organizations and how they will use this experience moving into the future. Debra Standridge, who has worked in multiple senior executive positions in the healthcare industry, discussed her role as a consultant who oversees the transition from COVID response teams to a structure that will maintain core health care principles post-pandemic. Rosha Hamilton and Dr. Mushir Hassan rounded out the panel, with thoughts on how the pandemic affected them as leaders and their organizations.

A group of students from Next Generation Healthcare Leaders (NGHL) then discussed a software programdatabase they had put together for providing better access to direct primary care. With this tool, a user can ask their smart device to find direct primary care providers near them and find one that can serve them. To finish out the morning session, Thomas Shorter moderated a panel of NGHL Students from CUW, UW-Milwaukee, and Carroll College. They were asked a variety of questions focusing on how learning changed with the pandemic and how they had to adapt quickly to these changes. Students provided a perspective that professors and professionals may not have understood before.

Students discussed the struggles they and many other students faced through virtual learning. Not only did they miss the face-to-face contact with professors, but many also missed those connections with their peers as well. However, there were positives found in this situation as well. Katie Sanborn, a graduate from CUW, pointed out that connections could be made as we were all going through the same situation. In business and in education, a bridge was created over the gap in generations, older generations teaching the younger, while the younger taught them how to use technology they may not have understood before.

After a lunch break, the afternoon session began with a section on free market healthcare. Managing director of the Benjamin Rush Institute, Rebecca Kiessling, commented on the importance of a patient-doctor relationship and the need for doctors to practice medicine the way they want to. The goal of Benjamin Rush Institute is to educate medical students about free enterprise healthcare alternatives they may not hear about in school. Next, James Dunavant, executive director of the Free Market Medical Association (FMMA), spoke about his organization and their mission in the world of healthcare. This includes the pioneering work of Dr. Keith Smith, FMMA cofounder who runs the Oklahoma Surgery Center, which provides cash only access to surgeries at transparent prices – that are far below what is paid via insurance. To finish the discourse on free market healthcare, Kevin Nicholson, veteran and president of No Better Friend Corp, spoke about his organization and their goals when it comes to improving healthcare delivery and controlling cost.

The next section turned the focus to direct primary care from the innovation and startup perspective. David Goldhill, author of Catastrophic Care, spoke on the company he cofounded, Sesame. Sesame allows consumers to find physicians near them at affordable cash prices with no need for insurance. Cofounder of Remedy Now, Dr. Danish Siddiqui, spoke about his Milwaukee based company and how they are advancing direct primary care. They provide on-demand and holistic healthcare based off of what you need. Dr. Indrajit Choudhuri then spoke about his company, Medicardia, which works to aggregate a person’s medical data, focused on cardiac health, into one patient-provider user interface.

The day finished with a session on the policy and legislative side of direct primary care. With lectures from David Balat (Texas Public Policy Foundation) and Kendall Cotton (Frontier Institute, Montana), attendees were able to hear about legislative successes in other states. Then, former Rep. Curt Gielow moderated a legislative roundtable, with Representatives Joe Sanfelippo, Sara Rodriguez, and Dora Drake, as well as Dr. Wendy Molaska, President of the Wisconsin Medical Association and a recent convert to direct primary care. The panel discussed what legislation Wisconsin was considering, and what were the opportunities and challenges in getting legislation passed.

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