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Vanderbilt Health Affairs Chancellor addresses healthcare environment at chamber luncheon

Dr. C. Wright Pinson, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and CEO of Vanderbilt Health Systems spoke about Developments in the Healthcare Environment to members of the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce at their monthly meeting Tuesday.

The current expenditure trend in healthcare costs is not sustainable, Pinson told the group after going over several sobering healthcare statistics.

“With the federal debt total about $16.7 trillion, we have a serious challenge,” he said.

The public portion of the nation’s debt is the highest since World War II when the nation was fighting wars on two fronts. Healthcare is facing a growing and aging population. Cost increases are at unsustainable rates and employer costs are going up as much as 10 percent in just one year with many employers paying as much as $8,000 per employee for healthcare.

“We should be concerned,” Pinson said.

About 50 percent of healthcare business is government funded and between 8 and 9 percent of research is government funded. Sequestration means Medicare and Medicaid cuts – about 2 percent per year until 2020 – are on the way.

National and personal debt is causing healthcare providers across the country to face imperative changes in the way healthcare is provided.

“It doesn’t matter how much you want to help – we’ve got no more money,” Pinson said. “We are living the problem, but I am not going to tell you the end is near.”

In recent years, Vanderbilt Health System saw the writing on the wall and decided to face problems head on. Officials evaluated options and chose to do something other than kick the dirt, wring their hands and whine.

To meet the needs of the citizenry in the Middle Tennessee area, Vanderbilt Health System created a new road map that included doing some things differently and other things better.

Efficiency and cost reduction are both paramount in the plan, however both require a larger size to get an efficient cost and delivery structure in place.

“We’ve got a lot at Vanderbilt Medical Center, but people don’t like to go to Nashville,” Pinson said. “We can amplify our costs and efficiency if we reach out to communities. To cut costs, we believe hospitals should work together to improve quality and cost effectiveness and develop innovative new, better ways to deliver healthcare.”

In the future, services will have to move in preparation for Value-Based Purchasing in Medicare and to focus on keeping people well, Pinson said.

“We’ve been busy choosing partners with missions aligned with ours and developing an integrated network,” he said. “We don’t think we need to own hospitals. We can work together with community hospitals without changing ownership. We bring strength in brand and research, physicians and education programs and we are happy to share.”

In the past year Vanderbilt announced strategic agreements with Williamson Medical Center, Maury Regional and 16 other non-profit, privately owned, unaffiliated hospital partners to provide higher quality healthcare throughout the region. The new partnerships will result in the streamlining of full-time employee counts, a review of administrative functions, the sharing of resources, prevent duplication of services and functions, and decrease expenses.

Already Diagnostic Management Teams are managing and personalizing diagnostic treatments to reduce the number of tests a patient undergoes. DMT’s evaluate work-ups based on the individual patient evidence and then provide integrated interpretive reports to the physician, which reduces the time physicians take to evaluate test results.

This new protocol has reduced the number of tests done by 25 percent, the length of hospital stay and use of resources by about 45 percent.

Vanderbilt Health Systems recently received an $18.8 million three-year grant to implement new disease management programs including blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Williamson County will receive about $2 million of that money to implement the management programs.

Genomic testing is also a part of personalize medicine and Vanderbilt Medical Center has the largest DNA research lab in the country. Chemo patients can be tested for their response to specific chemotherapy so personalized cocktails and dosages may be prescribed.

“The future of medicine is this personalized medicine,” Pinson said. “We can figure out diseases before you get them and help people not get them.”

Vanderbilt has 3,600 employees in the Williamson County Healthcare system and is investing between $80 million and $110 million in a new building on the corner of Carothers Parkway and McEwen Drive to provide orthopedic, neuro-surgical, pain management, imaging services and more.

At the new 18,000 square foot Vanderbilt Center for Neuro-Science Drug Discovery at the Cool Springs Life Center, “tens of millions of dollars” worth of research will be performed. Research on new drugs for brain disorders, depression, Parkinsons, Alzheimer’s and other neuropsychological treatments will be ongoing at the new center. 

 “We are pleased to be working hand-in-hand with Williamson Medical Center,” Pinson said. “All this would not be possible without their affiliation 16-months ago. While the economic environment is tough, I think we have some plans and we are committed to providing high quality healthcare and lowering costs in Middle Tennessee.”



Posted on: 1/16/2013


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