How Academic Institutions Must Lead the Transformation of Health Care

11
Nov

Change AheadLet’s be hard headed about this: How we pay for health care is changing. Our ideas about keeping people healthy are growing. How we create a structure for care demands to be transformed. That means those of us who teach, those of us who discover, those of us who practice those ideas – we have to lead.

Every year, we fuss about various national surveys that rank our funding, our numbers and our subjective reputation. Sometimes those rankings help focus on those doing a great job, but mostly they miss this whole question: What about the future?

Here’s the survey I never see: How are colleges of the health sciences preparing for transformation? That should be the core ranking for any school of medicine, nursing, public and population health, pharmacy, health professions, physical therapy, and even biomedicine. Where are those numbers?

I believe anyone involved in teaching the next generation of health practitioners should be measured by how well they are anticipating the future. Here’s the great fun: As those of us in education anticipate the future, we will also create it.

This means our nation’s academic health centers must lead transformation, including my own, Thomas Jefferson University and our TJUH System.

Take the high tech revolution as an example. Turns out it takes students with emotional intelligence to use smart technology. Why? That’s the beautiful paradox: As skill-based tasks are done by computers, it actually takes empathy to work with patients and colleagues to allow that technology to transform our teams and our care.

This is just a start of my list of ways academic health centers can reframe our futures:

  • We have to think in terms of populations for care. Regardless of the national funding issues, we must build value-based population health for our community, city and state.
  • We need new concepts of research and how it applies to our patients’ entire lives. As federal, especially NIH, funding for research has failed to grow, we need to build our own strategies for an entrepreneurial approach to promoting, providing infrastructure for, and incenting new inventions and alternative sources of grant funding.
  • We all need to ensure the greatest return on our students’ tuition dollars. This will require different levels of faculty development, different ways of presenting material and new ideas about how students are coached by our faculty members.
  • We should embrace the paradox that high tech needs EQ. Self reflection, empathy, communication, teamwork — are the cornerstones of the technology revolution.
  •  All academic institutions will need to build the capacity for flexibility. We have to become much more action-oriented organizations.

None of this is beyond us or our sister institutions. We all cherish our missions of providing care, leading discovery, and teaching the next generations. We deeply embrace our roles in our communities. We will continue all of those missions even as we lead the transformation in how.

Most importantly, we need to remember that envisioning and creating the future is exciting. Embrace change. Embrace different. Think transformation.