VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, August 23, 2019

The Top 5, Revisited

Good morning!

Before I begin, I wanted to pass along the sad news that Dr. Ruth Black, former director of the Department of Pastoral Services and UMMC’s chaplain for many years, passed away last night.  Ruth was a beloved member of our campus community and the driving force in raising funds for our beautiful chapel in University Hospital.  Our condolences go out to her family.

After another summer that seemed to pass all too quickly, it’s the time of year I like to revisit and, if need be, reset some of our strategic goals. 

VC_Aug_23_ClinicTrials.jpg2019 is the transition year for our five-year strategic plan, which runs from 2015 to 2020.  This is the year we will do a deep dive on our plans: assessing our organizational strengths and weaknesses; doing an environmental assessment of threats and opportunities; and in the context of those findings, developing our goals and supporting action steps for the 2021-25 planning cycle. 

This is an inclusive process that will involve leaders throughout the organization and draw input from every quarter.  Indeed, we want all of our employees to be familiar with our strategic plan, so you can find our strategic documents on the UMMC internet.

Even though we present our strategy in a single document, it’s really a snapshot in time.  To be truly effective, planning must be a continuous process, so our “plan” is constantly evolving to adapt to new and ever-changing circumstances.  Last year, we formally established a Strategic Planning Office under the direction of Terry Anderson to guide this activity. 

Our current plan has 10 goals and supporting action steps, and runs to about five pages in length.  That’s a lot to absorb, so in the interest of simplicity, I like to boil these down to our top five strategic priorities.  That’s not to say that other things are not important.  It’s probably more accurate to say that “everything is important.”  But the goals listed below are the most critical, encompassing all of our mission areas.  I want every UMMC employee - and certainly every UMMC leader - to be aware of these priorities.

1. Clinical quality improvement

If a certain car company hadn’t claimed it first, “Quality is Job 1” might well be our slogan.  After all, if we are not a high-performing, high-quality health care organization, all the rest of our goals wouldn’t mean very much, would they?  Since 2015, with the establishment of our quality program under Dr. Michael Henderson, chief medical officer, we have made much progress toward becoming a high-reliability organization.  We have established a structure, processes, accountabilities and oversight that all support sustained clinical quality.  And we have agreed-upon measures of the key drivers of quality: for example, hand hygiene (we improved compliance from 53 percent to 89 percent within three years) and hospital-acquired infections (we reduced these cases from 45 to 20 per month).  Clinical quality remains our top priority because we still have work to do.  We are still “chasing zero” harm to patients, but I am confident we are on the right path.  I can’t emphasize enough how much each and every one of us OWN this priority and how the progress we have made is a result of the efforts of every member of the faculty, staff, and student body.  No matter your role here at UMMC, your actions impact our quality.  Thank you for the good progress to date.

2. Strategic engagement with other health systems

In 2017 we worked so hard to gain support from the Mississippi Legislature for a law that allowed UMMC to be more businesslike in its dealings with other entities in the health care industry.  All that work came to fruition in the last few months with the establishment of a holding company and, through that company, a joint venture with Merit Health Madison.  This arrangement fulfills a need for both organizations.  Merit’s hospital in Madison County has available operating room and bed capacity; we are bursting at the seams.  During the last couple of months, our surgeons have performed cases at Merit and we are splitting the revenue.  This arrangement, which should grow in time, is a step in addressing our capacity issues and even allows us to backfill our ORs with more complex cases. 

In an industry where vertical and horizontal integration and consolidation are happening all around us, this ability to collaborate with other health care organizations is a vital tool in our belt.  There are many opportunities out there for mutually beneficial collaboration.  We will carefully evaluate each one of them and make the most of our newfound ability to collaborate.

3. Expansion of Children’s of Mississippi and key adult services

The Children’s of Mississippi expansion is hard to miss – just drive down Woodrow Wilson Avenue along the south edge of campus.  This time next summer we will be preparing to move in to the $180 million facility that is reshaping the campus skyline.  I can hardly wait!  The growth of pediatrics on our campus tells only half the story, though.  High-quality pediatric subspecialty care is a great need all over the state, and we have thoughtfully sought to grow our services where there is need.  We now have clinics in Tupelo, Grenada, Meridian, Hattiesburg and along the coast in Gulfport and Biloxi.  We are providing medical management of the neonatal intensive care unit that belongs to Gulfport Memorial Hospital.  We have several large federal grants in place to improve services to children with developmental delays.  And just last week, we relocated our Center for Advancement of Youth - serving children with developmental issues - to much larger quarters here in Jackson.

While we will continue to look for opportunities to expand our subspecialty pediatric services, we will also look to grow other services where there is unmet need and an opportunity to involve learners. Among the services that fit this profile are preventive medicine; psychiatry and behavioral health; women’s services; urology; transplant; GI; cardiology; ophthalmology; and oncology, among others.

4. Growth of strategic research programs and partnerships

Next week we will christen the $8 million, 22-bed inpatient Clinical Research and Trials Unit on the seventh floor of University Hospital.  This is just the latest example of our continued and growing collaboration with the Mayo Clinic on a range of research activities.  Although financed by state bond money, the clinical trials unit has been designed and staffed as a mirror image of comparable units at the Mayo Clinic so we can conduct conjoint clinical trials of novel therapies.  Our partnership with the Mayo Clinic is tremendously important, but there are other collaborative research efforts that are taking shape as well.  Earlier this month, we hosted the second meeting of a consortium focused on translational research in the Mississippi River Delta.  Tulane University in New Orleans, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis and UMMC share a common interest in addressing the disparate health status of populations in the Delta.  Commercialization of our faculty inventions is another growth area that holds much promise during the next few years.

5. Academic growth guided by workforce needs

Our traditional educational programs are mostly at their capacity, either through space limitations or because supply and demand are in balance.  We would like to have modest growth in our dental school and will be looking for ways to address the challenge of space to accommodate that.  There’s still a shortage of nurses in the state, but there are many programs besides ours that are attempting to meet this need.  Our immediate focus in nursing education has been on accelerated programs in which holders of bachelor’s degrees can return to nursing school and earn a B.S.N. in one year.  We are growing our accelerated nursing programs in Oxford and Jackson, and evaluating the opportunity to expand these offerings at a Gulf Coast location.  Population health is probably the most significant growth opportunity for us in the coming years.  Our programs in data science, population health science, preventive medicine and, soon, health economics are gradually expanding our focus from primarily a “sick care” system to one that promotes and removes barriers to healthy behaviors.  Another exciting growth area is our certificate programs in basic medical sciences for learners who want to gain competency in an area of study, but don’t necessarily want or need an advanced degree.

Advancing our strategic plan takes resources.  As we develop the next iteration, we will tightly align it with a multi-year financial plan and capital/facilities plan.  To that end, I am happy to announce Nelson Weichold has joined us as chief financial officer.  We are pleased to have him join our team.  I also want to give a shout out to Gail Scarboro-Hritz, interim chief revenue cycle officer, and Rhonda Duncan, interim director of care coordination and throughput.  These ladies are leading teams that are doing critically important work to improve our operations and ultimately our ability to care for patients and have an improved bottom line.

There is so much that is packed into these five priorities – and so many critical details that I don’t have the space to cover.  It’s exciting to contemplate our future and think of all the ways this great organization can and will become even greater, all in service to our quest to create A Healthier Mississippi.

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