Health Care is Changing, but our Values Remain the Same
Oct 19, 2015 8:00 AM
With all that’s changing in health care, I take comfort in the constancy of our skilled, compassionate health professionals and their enduring commitment to doing what is best for patients.
Make no mistake. There’s plenty of work to be done to make health care better and more affordable. Physicians, nurses, medical assistants, therapists and care coordinators are painfully aware of this. They know what’s broken and how to fix it, given the right tools, support—and time.
The reality is that all too often, reimagining health care takes a back seat to the immediacy, or busy-ness, of health care. It’s a challenge we face daily at the University of Utah, in spite—indeed, partly because—of efforts to create “value” for our patients by providing better care and service.
Using a data tool to delve into the costs for different procedures and services, and borrowing “lean” manufacturing principles from the auto industry, more than 2,500 of our front-line health workers have brainstormed hundreds of quality improvement projects that have markedly improved care and spared patients millions in unnecessary spending. The results speak for themselves. University of Utah Health Care ranks among the nation’s top 10 academic medical centers now six years running. What’s more, we are bending the cost curve. While costs at academic medical centers nationally have increased an average of 2.9 percent annually over the past few years, ours have declined by 0.5 percent a year.
Consumers are taking note, and demand for our care has surged along with pressure to build on our success. Which brings us to our present challenge: Getting our cost data and lean tools into the hands of our entire workforce, all 16,000 employees. At the current rate of training, I’m told this will take 64 years and $64 million. “We’re using a decidedly un-lean approach to getting lean,” our Chief Medical Quality Officer Robert Pendleton, M.D. likes to say.
So, Pendleton and a team under Chrissy Daniels, our Director of Strategic Initiatives, began asking: What do we, as an institution of professional educators, know about how adults learn? Is there a more efficient, student-centric way to move toward more efficient, patient-centered care?
With a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, they set about creating a free, open-access training platform, and Value University was born. Since its debut a year ago, physicians and hospital administrators from 10 states have undergone training at ValueU, and are in the process of completing 10 unique improvement projects at their various institutions.
The training is delivered on-demand and online where learners encounter short case studies explaining real-life dilemmas faced by providers and the steps they took to solve them. The idea is to make that experiential knowledge available for free, at any time to any health professional. Learners get to choose the case studies and tools that are most relevant to them. The only requirement for participating is having a problem to solve.
Adults learn experientially, by doing and seeking new knowledge that’s applicable in the moment. They’re busy and need to know what they need to know when they need to know it. This means taking advantage of those fleeting times when someone has a burning question that needs to be answered now. It also means packaging education into digestible bits. The latest iteration of ValueU offers a 60 minute module of self-directed continuing education available for one hour of credit.
In addition, because we all learn differently, and we all have a little something to teach and learn from each other, ValueU is also designed to be collaborative. Value experts, such as Harvard Professor Tom Lee, M.D. Chief Medical Officer at Press Ganey, have vetted the training content, as do all the participants. Providers enter as students and leave as teachers, encouraged to contribute their own case studies and reflections and insights into what worked, based on their application of the value principles and their personal experiences. It’s like a never-ending learning cycle of improvement, and a new form of peer review—peer-to-peer sharing of best practices.
ValueU isn’t a library of ideas, it’s an improvement station and problem-solving framework. Providers are solving problems every day in health care. It’s their values we see reflected in value-based care. They are the ones bringing it to life. And our philosophy is that by sharing the collective wisdom of many organizations, teams and individuals, we will all improve faster.
So, to every clinician at the University of Utah and beyond, let this be your invitation to enroll in ValueU. Join the conversation and help us lead the health care revolution.
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