~ Submitted by Alison O’Connell
Having made Bedford our new home just over a year ago, I am looking to serve on the Board of Health with a fresh, unbiased perspective, informed by clinical data and best practices.
With a desire to become a contributing member to my new home town, and provide leadership by example to our young son, I look forward to the opportunity to drive policy changes, initiatives, and communications that support strong health outcomes in our community.
Professionally, my experience in public-sector healthcare compliance, strategy, and consulting will be applicable in ensuring the BOH operates smoothly, objectively, and informed by data.
Currently, as Director of Corporate Compliance for a health insurer here in Massachusetts, my role is focused on analyzing firm-wide operations to identify inefficiencies in our practices, and ensure behavior and protocols truly drive the outcomes we’ve committed to. In this role, I’m known for challenging and changing, historical practices that were well-intentioned, but fail to drive results. Compliance is less about full avoidance of risk at all cost, and more about a logical, informed balance of risk, impactful efforts, and the willingness to continuously iterate on tactics and approaches based on data. I see the role of Compliance and that of a Board of Health member as similar scopes of responsibility.
Previously, during my years as a consultant, my clients were State entities across the country, including MassHealth, who were looking for support in developing and evaluating the quality of their healthcare programs, and financial impacts. During my years in corporate strategy for a behavioral health managed care entity, I made data-driven insights to highlight the importance of behavioral & social determinants of health in support of the State’s newly created Accountable Care Organizations serving our Medicaid population. Healthcare data analytics, strategy, consulting, and compliance is who I am, and what I do. And it’s what I’d like to do here in Bedford.
Speaking specifically about COVID, we now have access to 2 years of data, which largely imply similar spikes and valleys throughout the year, in terms of transmission. What is critically different this year, from last year are the share of those in our community who are vaccinated, and, mercifully, the generally strong recoveries/lower hospitalizations associated with transmission.
This year, let’s ask ourselves: How do we want to think about transmission rates, with 2 years of reasonably consistent data? How do we want to look at the tool kit of protection we now have, inclusive of vaccination, testing, and masks? How do we want to balance the likely reality of COVID’s permeance vs. a continued goal to eradicate? And lastly, in our community, how do we want to reconcile individual civil liberty, the greater good, and that of the data before us.
Our collective goal must be remaining nimble with our evolving protocols to create a healthy balance between safety, and reasonable, informed flexibility, voiced by the people.
Put simply, my career has been in launching and managing complex public sector healthcare programs, creating data-driven insights, and breaking the complex into attainable solutions. I look forward to serving on the Board of Health as a professionally experienced and collaborative member who will serve as a voice of, and for, the community.