It’s hard to believe that the summer is winding to a close. In Texas, that means saying a welcomed goodbye to scorching days and steamy nights. This year, it also means getting excited about hosting the 14th annual Collaborative Family Healthcare Association (CFHA) conference. As the co-chairs of this year’s conference, Katherine Sanchez, Eduardo Sanchez and I have spent the last 12 months planning for what is sure to be a dynamic program on the future of integrated health care.

While I could write volumes about our engaging plenary speakers, rich breakout sessions and innovative pre-conference offerings, I am most looking forward to the increased participation of consumers and e-patients at this year’s conference. Consumer and patient engagement is central to this year’s conference theme, with more than 10 breakout sessions on related topics over the course of two days. In a pre-conference session titled A Catalyst for Integration: The Central Role of Consumer/Patient Engagement in a Recovery-Oriented System of Care, Bill Gilstrap, Anna Jackson and Wendy Latham will explore how activated consumers/patients are essential to quality integrated health care services. And in a plenary on Saturday, nationally-recognized consumers, e-patients and allies can bridge the gap between providers and consumers of integrated health services.

For the first time, CFHA will be presenting an Award of Distinction to a Consumer, Patient or Family Advocate. This award recognizes “an individual, team or consumer run organization which embraces and promotes the core value that the participation of the patient, family, consumer and community are instrumental to the healthcare process and critical to positive health outcomes.” I can’t wait to see who will be honored!

The Hogg Foundation is supporting scholarships for Texas consumers to attend the conference and join in the dialogue. We’ve already awarded more than 15 scholarships, to include travel costs, registration fees, food and lodging. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to have your voice included in the discussion about integrated care!

While you’re at the conference, don’t forget to stop by the Hogg Foundation Wellness Room. Staffed by consumers and e-patients, this quiet space away from the hubbub of the larger conference will provide an opportunity to engage in conversations about the important role that consumers can and should play in our health care delivery systems.

If you haven’t registered yet, you’re in luck! CFHA has extended Early Bird Registration through September 15. Register today to take part in this energetic national conference that prioritizes consumer voice and participation.