February 23, 2023

Collaboration, creativity necessary for “Stronger Together” cost initiative: Leadership Assembly highlights

February’s Leadership Assembly explored the next stage of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s ongoing journey.

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, talked about the creativity and collaboration of VUMC’s workforce during the Leadership Assembly.
Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, talked about the creativity and collaboration of VUMC’s workforce during the Leadership Assembly. (photo by Donn Jones)

The next stage of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s journey will call upon the creativity and collaboration of its workforce. Similar to peer hospitals and health systems across the U.S., the Medical Center is confronted with increased labor costs and other inflationary economic variables.

VUMC’s legacy of facing headwinds with open-minded resolve is a distinguishing trait that points toward a bright future, said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He underscored a key component is always the workforce’s relentless commitment to improving care while leveraging VUMC’s formidable capacity for innovation, including its world-renowned research and training assets.

The Medical Center’s longstanding ability to succeed under pressure is evidenced by its dynamic expansion across the region, even during the thick of the pandemic, and by VUMC attaining 81% of its institutional goals halfway through the fiscal year.

As VUMC continues to balance inpatient volume that hovers near capacity — without a COVID-19 surge — with the economic realities of inflation, a coordinated push toward efficiency and even more fiscal sustainability is vital.

The institution has launched an effort to reduce costs across all mission areas by 6% by June 30, and is committed to finding this savings without layoffs or furloughs and without reductions in compensation and benefits. In fact, to maintain market competitiveness, compensation at VUMC will continue to increase over the next few years. “We need sustainable solutions. There are no quick fixes. We need to get everyone’s creative juices flowing. Discovering new ways to do things is in our DNA. This is a time when we need to take extra steps to understand what our people already know about how we can all work more efficiently,” said Balser.

Here are the highlights from the February Leadership Assembly:

C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, spoke about the ‘Stronger Together’ campaign and the transition to MyWorkDay.
C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, spoke about the ‘Stronger Together’ campaign and the transition to MyWorkDay. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

‘Stronger Together’

The sprint to the end of the fiscal year will emphasize efficiency and budget reduction. Medical Center leaders will be seeking input from across the workforce on an array of ideas for how VUMC can eliminate waste and inefficiency while boosting quality and effectiveness.

“With the expertise and innovation capacity across the VUMC enterprise, we believe we can be a leader in addressing the cost challenges facing health care. Now is the time for creativity, new ideas and pilot projects,” said Balser.

The ‘Stronger Together’ campaign will scout the entire enterprise for inventive ideas to do what VUMC does best in a variety of settings. The Medical Center will be launching an initiative to crowdsource ideas and work toward execution.

“We need to rally the enterprise to join us in developing innovative ways to deliver care, conduct research and advance our training programs in more cost-effective ways. We want to inspire the Medical Center to turn its formidable innovation capacity toward improving the cost structure of our entire enterprise,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer. “This is adding on to an already strong platform of delivering high patient satisfaction and objective measures of quality and safety of care, remarkable demand for our services and exceptional academic performance.”

T-Minus five weeks to MyWorkDay

The April 1 go-live of MyWorkDay, a revolutionary new approach to VUMC’s business systems, is swiftly approaching.

The scope and scale of MyWorkday’s impact is breathtaking. It’s replacing a host of systems, 40 of which are about 40 years old, and will impact every single person who works at VUMC. The transition is already in progress, and updates will continue to be shared in email, through training sessions and by designated super users in each department.

“This is an important, necessary change for us at VUMC that will impact every person who works here. Literally hundreds of your colleagues have been working on this project for well over a year. Put simply, MyWorkDay will provide a modern and streamlined technology that will replace our patchwork of outdated systems,” said Pinson.

Bolstering the clinical workforce today and tomorrow

VUMC has doubled down on its national leadership role as a health care educator. The aim is to improve staff satisfaction and retention, and to find new ways to develop new career pathways into clinical care.

The “great resignation” is an unparalleled pressure that is changing how hospitals deliver care across the country, Balser said. VUMC’s commitment to making workforce wellbeing a bedrock strategy in the early days of the pandemic continues to be a guiding light to tackling the shortage. He commented that workforce retention is improving in many areas and remains an institutional priority to preserving culture and best practices while improving the bottom line. Workforce retention has improved to pre-pandemic levels.

At the same time, developing a more robust pipeline of nursing and allied health program graduates is an imperative for the future, and VUMC is actively investing in programs and collaborations as well as offering a variety of educational and career advancement opportunities to existing employees. The Allied Health Initiative is expanding to include new roles, such surgical techs, lab techs, sterile processing techs, patient care partners and others, Pinson said. Those offerings continue to expand, leaders said.

Yet these initiatives take time to create a noticeable impact, said Balser, adding that it is critical to invest in the future, while maintaining the current emphasis on recruitment and hiring. The “Join Us” recruitment media campaign is ongoing and includes a new website for those interested in a nursing career at VUMC.