SIU School of Medicine

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Vision of the Future
SIU HealthCare shares ideas for optimal patient care

As part of its strategic plan, SIU HealthCare is finalizing a “visioning” process, making a plan to better serve its patients. Their “Vision 2015” plan strives to make SIU School of Medicine/Healthcare “best in class” on four parameters: providing exceptional experiences for patients, families, employees, faculty, learners and partners; delivering exemplary clinical care and outcomes; instilling an environment of innovation for individual and community health; and asserting excellence in organizational performance.

aspects sat down with SIU HealthCare interim CEO John Bradley, M.D., Chief Operating Officer Kathryn Mahaffey, and Marketing Coordinator Ann Collins to review some of the additional details of their plan.

#1. PATIENTS FIRST

DR. BRADLEY: We are going to make patient needs our first priority. This means we are thinking about patients as partners in care. People need help thinking about their health over time instead of being left on their own in an incredibly complex and expensive health care system.

As people age, they wind up seeing a large number of different physicians for their health-care needs. Unless they have a generalist to pull it together, it’s hard to navigate, even for me, and I’m a generalist. We need to provide ongoing care for people, which means talking with them to figure out what is best for them.

To a significant degree, people’s health depends on their behavior and access to health care over time. You don’t improve people’s health by periodically doing miraculous interventions and then forgetting about them until they have the next disaster; you improve their health by giving them access to care on a continuous basis. People who have continuous access to comprehensive health care over time from generalist physicians are healthier and live longer. But we also have highly sophisticated techniques in the armamentarium that we can bring to bear.

MAHAFFEY: We are focused on improving access. First we want to offer timely appointments in our outpatient clinics. This is not as easy as you might think, especially where demand exceeds capacity. Coordination of care is a challenge in the current health-care system, but it’s an improvement we need to implement. For example, our Family & Community Medicine clinics are developing patient-centered medical homes. We also want to proactively manage people who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Last but not least, we want to continuously improve our communication systems.

DR. BRADLEY: If you can’t make contact with people, you can’t help them. Whether it’s through e-mail, Internet, phone, or in person, we need to look for ways we can come together and improve access to maintain contact with the people we serve.

COLLINS: The patient should be the focus of every decision we make. We need to strengthen our primary care forces and offer patients physicians who see the overall picture and coordinate and then provide highly specialized services to complement their care.

#2. PROVIDE MORE SUBSPECIALTIES

DR. BRADLEY: We need to provide the whole spectrum of care: provide access to coordinated, comprehensive longitudinal, primary care medicine as we are already doing with our regional family practice residency programs. But we also need to provide more subspecialty care, the high-technology intervention that complement coordination and continuous care. The AAMC estimates that by 2015 more than 33,000 specialists will be needed in areas such as cardiology, oncology, and emergency medicine. The shortage for all physicians will amount to nearly 63,000 physicians.

MAHAFFEY: We already are providing excellent sub-specialty care, including pediatric and surgical sub-specialties, as well as cancer care. It makes sense for us as a medical school practice to have highly specialized services not provided elsewhere. To make that work, we need a big regional referral area, and so we want to have even stronger relationships with our referring physicians.

DR. BRADLEY: We want to stay focused on what’s best for our patients and the population, which are not the same thing. Our real mission is to improve the health of individuals and the health of the population we serve, not just to provide them with medical services. Services rely on sales and marketing, which are useful tools. What’s best for populations we serve? This is the question we must ask.

#3. BETTER TEAMWORK

MAHAFFEY: Based on our surveys, employees want to see more teamwork across the departments. We can grow primary care areas or partner with groups and link with them to make health care meaningful and satisfying for patients. We can deliver value to our patients in coordinated, integrated ways backed up by an array of subspecialty care. We will exhibit integrity, accountability, respect, and compassion for our patients, their families, and each other as partners. Implementing these values through teamwork is the pathway to academic, clinical and operational excellence. We want to see them embedded in the culture of SIU. We want to provide exceptional experiences for patients, their families, and also for the faculty, and staff — the whole organization.

DR. BRADLEY: We will also advance new knowledge by looking at the needs of the region and investigating new ideas or new programs that can help address the lack of health providers in the region. Some towns may need more surgeons or other specialties. What programs or incentives can we offer to get the needed providers? We also want to empower the primary care physician to take the lead in caring for their patients. Another vision is to look at the obstacles physicians face in their clinics, such as being overloaded with paperwork. We want to get them back to the reason they became physicians in the first place: to care for people.

NEXT STEPS

MAHAFFEY: We will be working with departments and staff to represent values and set behavioral standards. We want everybody to help us create and implement the vision. We want to maximize our strengths, which include our positive relationships with the School of Medicine and Memorial Medical Center and St. John’s Hospital.

COLLINS: And communicate positive outcomes, of which there are many.

DR. BRADLEY: With today’s health care, we can do miraculous things. Working together, SIU Healthcare can be even more effective than we’ve already been in improving health for the people and the population of central and southern Illinois.