VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, January 8, 2016

A Fitter UMMC in 2016

Good morning and Happy New Year!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and got a chance to renew and recharge.  

Before I begin I wanted to put in a plug for the grand rounds presentation at noon today.  Dr. John Noseworthy, president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic, will be sharing his vision of the future of medicine in R-153.  

The Mayo Clinic is an increasingly important strategic affiliate of UMMC.  As the leader of one of the world's great medical centers, Dr. Noseworthy is an innovative thinker and I expect a compelling talk that I hope you will attend if your schedule permits.   

It's almost inevitable that when we usher in a new calendar year we think of resolutions.  Among the most common are losing weight, exercising more, and leading a healthier overall lifestyle.  

These resolutions are most successful when we change the underlying habits that support nonproductive behaviors and approach our daily lives in a new way.  This is a uniquely human challenge and it requires discipline and commitment to sustain lasting change.  

As we enter this new year for UMMC, I think it's time that we set a resolution as an organization to begin a “fitness” regimen of our own.  

What do I mean by that?

I mean that we should constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to do things more efficiently and at less cost.  Sometimes that means we need to do things differently, and sometimes it means we need to stop doing things we've always done because the benefit may no longer justify the cost.  

It also means that we are poised to take advantage of new technologies to enhance productivity and guide our decisions about how to achieve savings or gain additional revenue.

In some cases, we're already doing these activities in a deliberate manner.  In less than a year, for example, our Value Analysis program has saved UMMC an estimated $9 million annually by approaching our procurement activities in a much more strategic and data-driven manner.  Similarly, tools associated with our electronic health record system promise to improve utilization of some of our high-volume clinical support services, among many other benefits.

I have asked our Executive Cabinet to look for additional ways to systematically identify and remove unnecessary expense from our cost structure.  Keep in mind, I'm not talking about major layoffs or across-the-board budget cuts.  Such reductions do not make our organization fitter.  What I'm looking for are interventions that make us stronger, that increase our capacity for growth in the areas that are the most strategically vital to us. 

Some of you may have concerns that we will sacrifice quality for gains in efficiency.  I don't see these two goals as being inconsistent.  On the contrary, efficiency can be the ally of quality because both require clarity of thought about what we are doing and how that relates to our objectives.  

The one other element that must be present is discipline - we all know that.  Just as we can't overserve ourselves in the buffet line, as an organization we can't have everything we'd like to have, whether that's a new position or the latest piece of medical gadgetry.  These decisions must be guided by factors such as affordability and relevance to our strategic priorities.   

We should set about the task of becoming a fitter organization for its own sake, so that we continue to be good stewards of the resources available to us.  But we should also view a fitter UMMC as an insurance policy against the uncertainties of a turbulent environment.  Our primary funding sources - from patients and insurers, from government sponsors of research, and from the state - are under constant pressure, and the trend is that they will remain relatively flat over the long run.  To grow and thrive, our first response is to become more efficient in the way we use those resources.      

And while our organizational initiatives aimed at efficiency are crucial, they are only part of the answer. I expect every one of you knows of at least one way we can decrease waste and be more efficient.  I challenge you to not assume this is someone else's responsibility, and I welcome your ideas in response to this column.

In this new year of 2016, every day is an opportunity to foster a leaner, fitter UMMC, on our way to A Healthier Mississippi.

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