Friday, January 12, 2018

New Year, Same Priorities

Good morning!

Today I want to touch on our Top 5 strategic priorities for the year ahead.

Before I do that, however, I want to publicly thank the many employees who worked so hard last week to deal with the effects of sub-freezing temperatures at the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center and other off-campus locations. This was a major disruption that subjected our people to great personal inconvenience, even physical hardship, and I appreciate their willingness to, as the expression goes, “keep calm and carry on.”  In particular, I was so impressed with the collective effort and will to maintain vital services for our patients and minimize their inconvenience.  I understand that water service is still not fully restored as of this morning, so a BIG thanks to all of you for managing through these challenges.

Our top strategic priorities this year should come as no surprise. They are essentially the same as last year and are likely to be the same next year - they are that fundamental and crucial to our continued success.

jan_12_2018.jpgIn order, they are:

• Clinical Quality Improvement
• Collaboration with Other Health Systems
• Expansion of Children’s Services
• Expanding the Mayo Clinic Partnership
• Strategic Academic Growth

Quality improvement continues to be Job 1. It is the most sweeping effort in scope, touches the most employees and involves changing behavior and “the way we’ve always done it” attitude at every level of the organization. Our success in achieving other goals to some extent hinges on this one goal.

We’ve made good progress during the last two-to-three years. We’ve implemented a comprehensive quality improvement model and our metrics are improving. This year, among other things, we will be seeking continued improvement in hand hygiene practice, reporting of harm events, identifying patients at higher risk for unplanned readmission, and improving the response rate in our patient satisfaction surveys. Very important, in the next few months, we will begin publishing summaries of our quality data on our public website.

Our collaboration with other health systems is all about the way health care is increasingly being delivered through networks of providers who jointly accept accountability for the health of patient populations instead of merely providing episodic care as stand-alone entities. Although these models are not as highly evolved here as in other markets, there are a number of examples in which we are affiliating with other hospitals to find areas where we can work together to our mutual benefit.

Our recently announced affiliation with Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian is one example of this trend, and there are others in the pipeline. Passage last year of the Health Care Collaboration Act by the Mississippi Legislature, which increases our flexibility to form these kinds of arrangements, is an important tool for us going forward. The HCCA also includes a provision to exempt clinical purchases from state procurement regulations, which has already resulted in substantial savings and efficiencies and is projected to help us save as much as $2.6 million this year.

Breaking ground on the Children’s of Mississippi expansion last month was a crucial milestone in achieving our third goal. Now we have a 30-month construction timeline to complete the project. In the meantime, we are working steadily toward our $100 million private fundraising goal and have just crested $60 million in pledges. Part of our legislative agenda this year will include asking state leaders for $8 million per year for three years, or a total of $24 million, in bond funding to support the project.

Extending our subspecialty pediatric care to every child in Mississippi requires us to reach beyond our campus and establish a presence in other parts of the state. That’s why we’ll continue to expand our footprint in outlying locations. The most recent example is the opening of practice locations in Gulfport and working with Gulfport Memorial Hospital to assume management of its neonatal intensive care unit.

Our collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, which had been in place for many years but reached a new level of magnitude with a formal, 20-year agreement signed in 2014, will continue to be a major focus in 2018. Most prominently, we are establishing confluent systems for biobanking and for clinical research, facilitating collaboration on a wide array of precision medicine studies and clinical trials. When we complete the buildout of the seventh floor of University Hospital as a clinical research unit later this year, we will co-brand it with the Mayo Clinic.

We are excited about our partnership with Mayo and will continue to work on the initiatives described above and a number of others. Further, we anticipate significant additional opportunities will continue to emerge, especially as we open our clinical trials unit and expand learning opportunities for our students.

Our academic programs have surged in enrollment during the last decade and we now have about 3,000 learners, including residents and fellows, plus 229 Pharm.D. students who are counted in the enrollment on the Oxford campus. We’ll continue to see growth in almost all programs as we seek to supply the state with health care providers and other professionals it needs.

A key driver of growth will be the John D. Bower School of Population Health, which will gradually expand from its current first-year enrollment of five students. Another driver will be the School of Medicine, which will increase by at least 10 students per entering class in the near term. Growth in the School of Nursing and the School of Dentistry, which have significant potential to expand based on state workforce needs, will be dependent in part on garnering additional resources, including classroom and clinical lab space.

We would also expect to see strategic growth in our residency programs, partly in response to the expanded medical school class size and also in relation to our collaborations with other health systems that have a desire to serve as training sites.

Whew! That review just barely scratches the surface of what’s ahead of us in 2018. Although these areas of focus represent our priorities, they by no means cover all the things that we will be working on and that, indeed, we must work on to continue to grow and prosper as an organization. Piloting the development of service lines in a number of clinical disciplines, for example, is an important objective, as is a renewed effort to enhance the functionality and user experience with our electronic health record. We will also continue to focus on the many issues that impact our state, such as the opioid crisis, infant prematurity and mortality, and obesity.

It’s another year and another exciting chapter in our story of leading the way to A Healthier Mississippi. Thank you for all you are doing to help us get there.


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