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Meeting explores VUMC’s cultural renaissance

Sep. 11, 2014, 11:00 AM

During presentations that were filled with messages about Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s purpose, addressing the “why” rather than detailing facts and figures, Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, and C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and CEO of the Vanderbilt Health System, led the audience at Wednesday’s Fall Leadership Assembly through candid dialogue about VUMC’s way forward.

Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., speaks at Wednesday’s Clinical Enterprise Leadership Assembly. (photo by Joe Howell)

After a short video where patients and staff described in heartfelt terms what Vanderbilt means to them, a visibly moved Pinson said, “It’s why we are here. There is no higher calling than caring for the health and well-being of our patients.”

Earlier, Balser told a nearly-full-to-capacity crowd at Langford Auditorium that through considerable efforts to reduce cost, the Medical Center managed to end the prior fiscal year with a positive financial margin, and is on track as it begins a new fiscal year.

“We should be proud,” Balser said. Despite workforce reductions and other difficult actions forced by health care’s harsh new economic reality, recent surveys across 50 counties show that Vanderbilt continues to rank far above all other systems in the region in quality of care — both in objective measures and in the minds of patients.

“People believe in us, patients, the public,” he said. “It says something about the resilience, the capability, the flexibility, the grittiness of this organization.”

Now is the time to continue to build trust, and to engage everyone in the future, he said. “We’re going to spend time this year focusing not on new things, but on our core strategies – the basics.”

Toward that end, the Medical Center will discuss not just its strategic moves for achieving success across all of its missions, but will explore the “why” – “our true purpose, our gut-level inspiration, our shared values,” Balser said.

“There’s no question that this is a place that deeply cares about people,” he said. But he encouraged attendees to go deeper. “Consider that in everything we do — for every patient, for every research question, for every student – we demonstrate the level of concern we give to members of our own family.”

C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., discusses the renewed focus on Elevate at Wednesday’s meeting.

Balser also enunciated several “what’s,” characteristics that already distinguish Vanderbilt and by pushing these further, would help the Medical Center advance its future as it goes “back to basics” this year.

“Just one example,” Balser said, through broad implementation of evidence-based guidelines and other process improvements “in one year we had a 35 percent reduction in inpatient blood usage,” a major improvement in quality, while also saving the institution $1.7 million.

In his presentations, Pinson described recent progress and goals for next year in the areas of improving quality and service, including the 30 years of exemplary service provided by Vanderbilt LifeFlight, increasing retention and engagement of employees, and strengthening the Medical Center’s financial picture with an emphasis on innovation.

Pinson spent time detailing the efforts and progress thus far that has gone into the reengagement of Elevate, the Medical Center’s cultural touchstone. As efforts continue, employees throughout the organization will hear more about greater simplification and alignment of goals and improved communication through town hall meetings that will begin to be piloted at the end of September.

Pinson concluded, “Every single person here is important to the success of the entire enterprise.

“Every single one of us … impacts the experience of patients and of families, and of co-workers,” he said. “Never forget the impact that you have, with your words and your actions. That’s all the more reason to build bridges. The way forward for us includes strengthening communications and relationships with each other and working together for a stronger future.

“I would like to see us have a workforce that is feeling more satisfied, that enjoys coming to work each day and that feels they are making a difference. Together, we are going in the same direction, and we will be unstoppable.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “it goes back to purpose. It’s for our patients. It’s for us.”

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