SOCI’s 12th Symposium: We’re All in This Together

Given the times we live in, it would be easy for someone to read the first half of the title of Stewards of Change Institute’s 12th Annual National Symposium – “Taking Action During Disruptive Times: Advancing Progress on Innovation, Interoperability and Technology in HHS” – and think there’s a political judgement lurking behind the words. It would be easy, but it also would be mistaken.

Indeed, our point in choosing that title was not to point fingers, but to point out an unambiguous reality. That is, whatever your perspective on the uncertainties swirling around us, the need to improve human services and healthcare remains critically important. And while there’s plenty of disagreement about Obamacare and Trumpcare and whatever else Congress might be coming up with, some of us believe there’s a significant piece of the puzzle that nearly everyone could agree upon once they understand its transformational potential, and that’s in the second half of the event’s title.

Our 12th Annual National symposium takes place next Monday and Tuesday, June 19-20, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Our sincere thanks once again to JHU’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and its Dean, Michael Klag, for collaborating with us on this unique undertaking for the sixth consecutive year. Here’s the link to our website for more information, including an overview of next week’s agenda.

If you take a look, what you’ll see is that the common denominator among nearly all the presentations is an emphasis on addressing attainable, measurable solutions; that is, solutions that focus on innovation, interoperability and technology. I don’t mean searching for answers in a theoretical or aspirational sense, but actually building out and implementing concrete action plans.

The example at the core of the symposium is an initiative called the National Interoperability Collaborative (NIC), on which SOCI is collaborating with AcademyHealth, three states (California, Connecticut and Virginia) and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMMS). In short, we intend to shape NIC to be a comprehensive “network of networks,” offering governance, support and resources that draw from health, human services and other components of the Social Determinants of Health and Wellness, such as criminal justice, child welfare and education, among others.

It’s a concept that many thought leaders in the interoperability and information-sharing community – notably including SOCI – have been envisioning and working toward for over a decade. With huge gratitude to the Kresge Foundation for providing $1.2 million in seed funding to launch this ambitious project, we believe it’s an idea whose time is finally coming.


Check back for updates, videos, graphic capture and other social media postings from the symposium and as we launch the National Interoperability Collaborative over the coming weeks and months.  Follow the symposium proceedings on twitter via @stewardschange and #SOCI2017.


Another example of how the symposium will focus on bringing people together – to contribute to something that might actually happen – is the work SOCI is conducting with HIMSS. The first phase of it is a soon-to-be published report titled “Building Community-Based Solutions to Address Public Health Crises: A Guidance Document and Action Plan to Create the Technology-Enabled Health Emergency Linkages and Preparedness (HELP) Model.” Next week’s attendees in Baltimore will discuss the report’s recommendations, which are intended for the field generally and for the new Administration specifically; and they’ll provide input on how to make the HELP model as strong and useful as possible.

Other sessions of the symposium will also concentrate on the underlying goals of the symposium, and of all the Stewards’ efforts during the last dozen years: moving the field forward by identifying innovative and proven practices and laying out an actionable, realistic roadmap for making progress.

Just two more examples from our agenda. First, we’ll end Day 1 with a panel of experts from Europe and Canada, who will discuss what lessons we might learn from the interoperability experiences of other countries. (Forty-one U.S. states have fewer than 8 million people; i.e., they are about the same size as some of the most innovative EU and Nordic countries that have better health outcomes than the United States, with lower spending.) And then we’ll start Day 2 with a panel of senior officials from Washington who will talk about some of the Trump administration’s “new direction and goals for health and human services.”

We expect lively conversation with all of those panelists, as well as with the many other accomplished policymakers, practitioners, scholars and industry representatives who will be presenting and attending next week. Whatever differences may arise, we feel confident that nearly everyone will leave the symposium with a stronger understanding that there’s a lot we can realistically accomplish – and that we’ve got a far better chance of doing it if we work together.


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