Health care leaders discuss opportunities and challenges at Portland Business Journal Health Care of the Future event

By Regence
August 25, 2022
Portland Business Journal Health Care of the Future 2022 event

Main image: Pictured left to right, Patti Smith and Angela Dowling at Health Care of the Future event

While the past couple of years have been challenging, they have also created opportunities for the health care system to work on innovations focused on meeting the needs of people and their families. At the Portland Business Journal’s recent Health Care of the Future forum, sponsored in part by Regence, local health care leaders gathered to share ideas on how to tackle current issues including health equity, the nursing shortage and the mental health crisis.

Innovations that make a meaningful difference in people’s lives

The event included Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon President Angela Dowling speaking with Hemex Health CEO Patti White about increasing health care access to communities across the globe to improve health equity. Hemex Health, an event award-winner for Innovation, has developed a portable machine that helps diagnose children with sickle cell disease. Sickle cell affects about 300,000 babies worldwide every year. The majority of those with sickle cell who live in low-income countries die before their fifth birthday. White explained that Hemex’s portable diagnostic machine has helped save thousands of children by allowing tests to be conducted in rural areas around the globe.

Strengthening the Portland-area health care workforce

While the event was called Health Care of the Future, current challenges facing the industry were also a point of emphasis. In the past two years, many nurses have left the profession. The Oregon Center for Nursing estimates it could take four to six years to overcome the current nursing shortage.

With multiple hospital systems, the Portland market is saturated, according to Kecia Kelly, chief nursing officer at Legacy Health, who spoke on a panel during the event. She noted that many times, hospital systems will hire nurses away from other local systems, a behavior she says needs to stop. Legacy is growing and strengthening its academic partnerships, increasing its residency program and even piloting a new coaching model to help retain and recruit new nurses.

Addressing mental health and burnout in the industry

The current mental health crisis was another topic of discussion at the event. Panelists shared ways employers can help employees recognize the signs of burnout. They also discussed how access to mental health care could expand to include, not only telehealth, but also more convenient in-person care closer to patients’ homes and neighborhoods.

Employee burnout is a major concern across all business sectors. Earlier this year, Regence hosted a panel discussion with Oregon business leaders to discuss employee burnout and how the pandemic changed their teams. The discussion included data from a recent survey conducted by Regence and the Portland Business Journal.

We’re here to help

At Regence, we think about and plan for the future of health care every day, which includes investing in digital solutions like telehealth to increase access to mental and behavioral health care services. We have added more than a thousand behavioral health care providers to our network to help alleviate wait times for finding an in-network mental health provider.

In addition, Regence offers access to a variety of virtual and in-person programs to prevent, identify and treat mental health and substance use disorders. Regence members who want to understand what is available through their health plan can sign in to their account on, or call us for help finding the right behavioral health resources.