Becoming the Best Academic Medical Center
May 6, 2013 12:00 AM
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” This quote reflects my desire and motivation to make University of Utah Health Care the best academic medical center in the nation: “To affect the quality of the day.” That is why we, who are in academic medicine, do what we do. To learn, to discover, to heal. With our knowledge, research and training we can affect the quality of many days for many people. Because the landscape for health care is changing rapidly, we, and everyone else in the country, are operating under greater financial constraints than ever in all three of our core missions—clinical care, research and education. As a result, we must cut a new path and leave a clear trail behind.
Our organization is uniquely positioned to cut this new path and establish a new model for health care in the nation. The University of Utah and our Health Sciences campus were built upon, and continue to function with, a culture of collaboration. We are one of only a handful of integrated academic medical centers in the country—meaning the hospital and medical school have a common “owner” and the head of the hospital and dean of the medical school report to the same individual. Of these institutions, we are the only public academic medical center in the country that fully integrates clinical delivery, research and scholarship, with the resulting ability to transform health care via synergy between these two component parts. As a result, we move knowledge from the bench to the bedside faster and assure better care.
In this culture of collaboration, we have diverse experiences and nourish diverse perspectives. This mixture, when allowed to flourish, creates new ways of thinking and world-class research and innovation. Our environment also helps. Our resident Nobel Laureate, Mario Capecchi came here in 1973 seeking both science and wide-open spaces in which to brainstorm. He says, “[Utah’s environment] humbles you, grounds you and I think that makes you a better scientist.” Working on a stage, with the backdrop that we have, allows the kind of clear-headed thinking required for the challenging tasks before us in research, academia, and health care delivery.
Is our goal of becoming the best academic medical center in the nation, truly attainable? How will we know when we get there? The answer is, “yes.” And, “when we look down the hill we just climbed, and see the nation following our path.” If we look to our recent history, we are cutting the right trail. For the past 3 years we have been ranked among the top 10 academic medical centers in the country. We have been ranked by US News & World Report as one of the best performing health systems, for more than 20 years. Our patient satisfaction scores are among the highest in the nation at the 90th percentile overall. Our hospital margins, at 5%, are strong. Our programs like, Algorithms for Innovation, the Utah Genome Project, the Program for Air Quality, Health and Society and the Institute for Health Care Transformation, enhance our national reputation as thought-leaders, research pioneers, environmental innovators and health care reformers.
At the end of the day, what becoming the best academic medical center really means is this: For patients and payers, the best outcomes at the lowest costs and greatest patient satisfaction. For faculty and staff, the most productive and satisfying work environment and highly competitive compensation and benefits. And for trainees, the opportunity to participate in a fully engaged and respectful work environment that prepares them for a changing world. With values of excellence, teamwork, innovation, and efficiency informed by LEAN business practices, we are well on our way.
We are all in this together. We each assure our success in history playing our roles and collaborating from the locale of our greatest individual strengths.