January 14, 2005

Jacobson outlines VUMC’s priorities for the future

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Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Harry Jacobson, M.D., talks about the year ahead for VUMC.
photo by Mary Donaldson

Jacobson outlines VUMC’s priorities for the future

For the past several years Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt. A vast array of new services, new programs and new facilities — all aimed at advancing VUMC's tri-part mission of patient care, research and education — have been established, implemented, constructed or are on track for completion in the near future.

Growth and expansion will continue, but as the Medical Center steams into 2005 the time has come to heighten the focus on the products of that growth — the patient services, research endeavors and educational programs that the people of VUMC create.

“Output. That's what I like to call it,” said Harry R. Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and the man charged with guiding VUMC today and charting its course for the future. “A lot of people get caught up measuring what I call input — a student's GPA or MCAT score; the number of patients a physician or practice program sees; the revenue a facility or clinic generates; or the amount of funding a research program attracts. These are all important, crucially important. But none tell you how any of these things are impacting the society and the world around us.

“What are the graduates of the Medical and Nursing schools doing to improve and enhance the quality and effectiveness of health care? What new drugs, procedures or technologies are being created from the research being done here? How are the new facilities or new clinical programs improving the health and lives of our patients?

“These things are output, and there will be a renewed focus on that this year and in coming years,” Jacobson said.

The major thrust for the past five to seven years has been in growing VUMC's physical infrastructure and programs to put the institution in position to move forward in clinical care, research and education. While that will continue, more emphasis will be placed on increasing — as well as tracking and measuring — the Medical Center's output.

“We've worked hard and done a wonderful job of putting the pieces in place,” Jacobson said. “Now, it's time to do something with it.”

Jacobson is quick to point out that this heightened emphasis is just that — emphasis. Enhancing patient care, improving education and creating new knowledge have always been the primary focus of every member of the Medical Center community, and while we have performed admirably, it's time now to turn it up a notch.

Two major developments will take place during 2005 that will significantly enhance VUMC's output.

The first is the continued rollout of new facilities and clinics, including the ongoing phase-in of new clinical space at the Doctors' Office Tower at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt; the completion and opening of the Bill Wilkerson Center, the Orthopaedics Institute and the Eskind Diabetes Clinic; and the construction of new Cardiology facilities on the fifth floor of Vanderbilt University Hospital.

“We'll be bringing along a large amount of phenomenal, state-of-the-art clinical facilities,” Jacobson said. “All of these new facilities are helping set the stage for growth in our clinical volume, which is essential for us to meet our aggressive growth targets.”

The second major event to look for in 2005 is the continuing rollout of the institution-wide improvement initiative known as elevate.

This multi-year program, which debuted in late 2004, is geared toward improving the experience of patients in VUMC's hospitals and clinics as well as improving the work-related satisfaction of staff and faculty. The two, Jacobson said, go hand-in-hand.

“We have had a great deal of success in growing services, and now it's time to add to that momentum by improving the overall satisfaction of our patients and our workforce. We provide important services to the patients who need us, which is reflected in our tag-line, 'Hearts and Minds.' I have no doubt that we're on track with the 'Minds' part — we know what we're doing, we're practicing good, evidence-based medicine and employing the latest technologies. It's the 'Hearts' part that we can do better, and elevate will help us do that.

Like water, satisfaction rolls downhill, and a key component of the elevate program is employee satisfaction.

“By making employees more involved, more appreciated, more professionally fulfilled and happier, it translates into having employees who will provide better service to patients and customers,” Jacobson said. “It's a truism that happy employees make happy customers — and in our case, patients — and that's what elevate is helping us to achieve.

The elevate program will touch every person who works at the Medical Center, and during the next year staff and faculty can count on not only hearing more about the initiative, but seeing its principles put into action, Jacobson said.

“Everyone who works here can look forward to a more serious commitment by leadership to providing them with the tools they need to be successful. And it will be more than physical tools such as equipment; it will be the intangible tools such as increased communication, feedback, clear direction and other things that demonstrate a serious interest in the work people are doing and that show how much that work is valued.”

The results of the multi-year elevate program will be clear and measureable and it's expected that both employee and patient satisfaction will rise significantly.

“For faculty and staff, this will help in our efforts to retain the best and the brightest and we'll see a decrease in turnover,” Jacobson said. “And we expect to get to a point where 90 percent or more of the patients we see say that they received excellent care here and they would recommend Vanderbilt to others.

“The goal is to make sure they are not just treated right, but treated well.”

In slightly more than a month, Jacobson will present his annual State of the Medical Center Address. At that time he will give faculty and staff a clear picture of VUMC's current condition and a more detailed look at specific goals for the year as they relate to the institution's missions of patient care, research and education. The State of the Medical Center address will take place on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 4 p.m. in Langford Auditorium.