July 14, 2016

Initiative set to sharpen VUMC’s strategic focus

With the transition of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) into a new financial and legal entity now complete, Medical Center leaders view this period as an opportunity to sharpen the organization’s strategic focus.

With the transition of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) into a new financial and legal entity now complete, Medical Center leaders view this period as an opportunity to sharpen the organization’s strategic focus.

In the coming months people working and training in broad areas throughout Vanderbilt and the community will be engaged to help develop a unifying strategy framework.

“The time is right for us to take a fresh look at our strategy. With the VU/VUMC reorganization completed, we have the opportunity to strengthen and more tightly couple all three of our missions — clinical care, education and research,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., President and CEO of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “Through strategy planning, we will chart our path forward while energizing our people and better connecting the broad and diverse VUMC community.”

The strategic framework design process is being led by Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., Executive Vice President for Research and director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, and Reed Omary, M.D., M.S., chair of the Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, with the support of William Stead, M.D., Chief Strategy Officer for VUMC.

“We are using collaborative design thinking to identify the direction we want to head and guides to measure progress,” said Omary. “Our objective is to generate ideas that in turn will dramatically change the playing field for the organization. These are system-level goals that will provide direction and help VUMC continue to differentiate itself from other academic medical centers and health systems. This process and its outcome should be our compass and not our map.”

Following Omary’s analogy, VUMC pursued a strategic plan in 2001 largely focused on research goals, and one of the major directions specified was personalized medicine. The general direction was established without articulating a large set of projects. Rather, initiatives emerged which are now well known, such as BioVU and PREDICT, that developed in an organic way over time. So while the 2001 academic strategic plan created the compass, a full array of projects that resulted was not initially specified.

“We are adopting the following guides for the strategy framework: it will capitalize on our distinctive academic strengths; it will work seamlessly with Vanderbilt University’s Academic Strategic Plan, which articulates health care solutions as one of four central themes; and it will have a framework that is bi-directional, adaptive and allows for us to experiment on our way to success. We also want to be able to measure progress and improve on the speed of execution for the implementation of ideas that are generated,” said Pietenpol.

Opportunities abound to incorporate academic capabilities into the Medical Center’s many initiatives.

“VUMC’s traditionally strong basic science departments and centers are now a part of the School of Medicine that is supported by Vanderbilt University,” said Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., dean of Basic Sciences for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “The construction of this strategy framework will provide an opportunity to identify programs and mechanisms to maintain and expand the close collaborative relationships that exist across the School of Medicine. Discoveries about etiology, prevention, detection and treatment of disease are essential to the future of health care. Vanderbilt is uniquely positioned to enable the discovery and translation of new knowledge from the basic sciences to clinics.”

To leverage its academic strengths to improve health, the VUMC strategy will consider three scales of focus: the molecule, the individual and entire populations.

“Whether you think of these three scales as dimensions, or along the lines of biology, these are areas across the enterprise where we have a great deal of expertise,” said Pietenpol. “We have the ability to leverage tremendous strengths that we have in learning, discovery, innovation and patient care. Our major differentiator as an institution is the ability to generate knowledge and to rapidly translate this knowledge to patients and community, as we continue to contribute nationally across these scales.”

When considering the population scale, at VUMC and throughout the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network the Medical Center will increasingly manage populations under value-based care reimbursement.

“So when thinking about a strategy framework, VUMC should always think about creating value,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer. “How do we create value for our patients? How do we create value to the market? If we don’t incorporate what people want, they will choose to go somewhere else. There are generations coming along behind us that see access to health care very differently. They are much more interested in accessing health care through mobile devices and online. We also have to consider ease of access when thinking about our future as well as continuous professional development, and we have to embrace population health,” he said.

Epic Leap provides an immediate opportunity to incorporate VUMC’s strategy into its clinical operations.

“As we think about how to structure workflow across the clinical enterprise, we are thinking about what works for our clinical teams, the patient experience and learning-based practice. We need to reflect our strategy in the design of our Epic install, and not after the install of Epic. As an example, the people at Epic are excited that we might incorporate the capabilities of RedCap into our install because they think this is something they may be able to offer elsewhere,” said Pinson. “This is an example of the real opportunity we have to embed the essence of learning and discovery into our IT as we implement the new system.”

The strategic framework process is driven by 10 work groups encompassing the following areas:

• Design
• Diversity and Inclusion
• Efficacy, Effectiveness and Reliability
• Engagement
• Entrepreneurship
• Fundamental Discovery
• Learning
• Patient Care and Experience
• Translation
• Technology

“We hope to complete an initial draft over the summer. Speed is more important than perfection,” said Stead. “We will assess our progress and update the strategy framework each year.”

The work groups are charged with defining the scope of its work, identifying ways to receive input and establishing regular work sessions. Work groups welcome input from the Vanderbilt community. To provide input, go here.

“A strategic framework, where our academic capabilities are generative, will create the vision for who we can become. It is incumbent upon us to work together to execute on the vision of a new strategic framework and create the Medical Center of the future,” Omary said.

“The process is really about seeking input and then using that input to synthesize major general directions for future investments of time and energy. It’s helpful to consider everything as a prototype, as we will not achieve perfection the first time. A constant process of iterating on ideas and themes will help refine them, ultimately expanding their potential impact.”