Before I launch into this week's column I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our country, remembering the people we lost, and the resolve our nation took from that dreadful day. We will never forget.
I hope everyone had a fun and restful Labor Day holiday weekend. This is the time of year when we traditionally think of transition to fall, football and some cooler weather. Boy, are we ready for some cooler weather.
For me it's also a time to bring a sharper focus to my Vice Chancellor To Do List. This list is not primarily about the work you do every day to teach, learn, discover or serve, which I so appreciate. It's about the big obstacles we have to overcome and the major aspirations we want to achieve to reach new heights as an organization. So, in that sense, I guess, this is your list, too.
Here we go.
Patient Capacity and Space. We've been busy caring for record numbers of patients, and that volume fueled strong financial performance last year. While activity has tapered off a bit lately, volume traditionally picks up in the fall. Simply put, we want to have the capacity to accept every patient who wants to come to us for care.
We are actively exploring long-term solutions for this challenge, including acquiring additional space for outpatient services in the community and building out inpatient space at UMMC. The space needs of our children's programs is part of the conversation.
In the meantime, we continue to work on improving patient flow and avoiding delays that keep patients in the hospital longer than necessary. Shaving just one-quarter of a day off our average length of stay opens an additional 20 beds for other patients.
Clinical Quality. We have been steadily climbing this hill for several years now and I feel we are poised to make major strides under the leadership of Dr. Michael Henderson, Dr. Phyllis Bishop and others. It's one thing to reach the quality targets established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; we're making steady progress in most of those areas. It's another thing to build a culture of quality where leadership, communication and performance are all aligned. With the groundwork that's been laid over the last few years, I think we are ready to reach a new plateau on our quality journey.
Epic Optimization. Funny thing about electronic health records...they can be frustrating in the moment, but when you look back at where we were just a year or two ago…well, we've come a long way, and nobody wants to go back. In comparison with other hospitals on implementation and utilization metrics, we're in the top 25 percent and headed to the top 5 percent of EHR users. While I'm proud of those achievements, I want to continue our efforts to make Epic simpler and easier to use, for both our staff and our patients, while ensuring that we are fully realizing the potential of this powerful tool for research and predictive health care.
Business Processes: We've made major strides during the past five years in transforming what were decentralized, largely paper-based business processes to a centralized electronic system with Lawson as the backbone. Similarly, we have become much better at managing our contracting activities during the last three years. A huge piece of this puzzle was the implementation in April of the Lawson contracts management software. As of the end of last month, our staff had entered 650 contracts into the system, including all of our IHL-level contracts. This system provides us with alerts when spending limits are reached or contracts are coming up for renewal - things we didn't have before. With our key software infrastructure in place, our major focus has shifted to user training and making refinements to our processes around capital planning, procurement and project management.
Mayo Clinic Relationship: The relationship with the Mayo Clinic is blossoming beyond our expectations with involvement from all three missions. We are now a part of the Mayo Cancer Network, and are in the process of integrating our UMMC biorepository and clinical trials processes with Mayo. Most exciting is the recent co-submission of a large NIH grant application that focuses on pharmacogenomics, personalized medicine and the role they play in managing the health of minority populations. We are developing a true team approach with Mayo, and we'll have to work hard to see that continue and grow.
Education Initiatives: On the one hand, our educational programs have never been stronger. On the other, we're in the midst of a revolution in interprofessional learning and technology-enabled instruction. Creating opportunities and finding resources to stay ahead of these curves is vital. We're also aiming to streamline and standardize faculty processes such as onboarding, promotion and tenure across all schools. And we want to tailor growth of our educational programs to workforce needs analysis.
Wellness Centers: During the next several weeks we will be giving three of the Courthouse fitness centers a makeover and rebranding them as University Wellness Centers. The really exciting opportunity we have is connecting the activities of these centers with our clinical programs. We will soon be recruiting a medical director for all of our wellness activities through the Department of Preventive Medicine and then begin the heavy lifting of medical integration.
There's more on our to do list, believe me, but I'll stop there. I hope you see something that you feel personally engaged with and that you'll join us in helping to get done. We need everybody involved, everybody working, everybody committed to A Healthier Mississippi. And a shorter to do list.