UTMB’s Contributions to Transforming Health Care
The U.S. health care system is in need of significant change to address challenges associated with increasing costs, inequitable access and less than satisfactory outcomes. As an academic health sciences center, UTMB is working to help define and create an improved and more patient-centered system focused on optimizing the health of all Americans.
Our faculty, staff and students already have generated great success in creating new models of care that improve access, efficiency and value. With current and planned efforts related to our education, research and patient care missions, we are working diligently to help transform our current health care system into a more sustainable, successful model.
Of course, big change is never easy to accomplish, particularly for an extremely complex health care system at the national level. Singular efforts to impart broad change, such as The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, promote great debate and can provoke strong emotion. Indeed, after significant discussion and debate, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision this week regarding the constitutionality of all or key parts of this legislation. No matter the outcome of the Court’s decision, the discussion regarding health care reform is likely to continue through the upcoming national election cycle and beyond.
Closer to home, Texas is grappling with tremendous population growth, along with large increases in the number of Medicaid and unsponsored patients. Our state is facing major shortfalls in revenue streams that have traditionally helped provide health services to these groups of patients, and UTMB’s funding to support care for these groups has been diminished. Other health care providers in the greater Houston region and around the state are also struggling to find solutions to the problem of growing demand and shrinking financial support for providing care to vulnerable populations.
Not surprisingly, frustrations are growing as the gap between need and resources widens. Clearly, the breadth and scope of the problem are far beyond the ability of a single institution to address. However, UTMB is seeking to do all that it can to be part of the solution.
First and foremost, we are leveraging UTMB’s academic focus and programs to produce more well-trained and capable health professionals for our state well into the future. Secondly, we continue to do research designed to improve our abilities to prevent, diagnose and treat acute and chronic diseases. Thirdly, we are deploying our health care system resources in ways designed to create better models that can be used across our state to improve access to health care and generate better outcomes.
The Texas Legislature and the University of Texas System define our mission and approve our mission goals. But given the great need for health services in our state and for improvements in our nation’s health care system, I believe we can continue to expect criticism and dissatisfaction from special interests with regard to our efforts. A recent series of articles from one Houston Chronicle writer has detailed these sorts of concerns. We at UTMB will continue to listen to such concerns and respond as best as we can, but the university cannot be diverted from its core mission work—for that work holds the greatest promise for achieving long-term solutions.
To better report UTMB’s efforts aimed at improving access, quality and the overall function of our nation’s health care system, we have created a new web site, Transforming Health Care. The site outlines some of our many outreach programs that are putting new models of care into action—and showing good results. It also links to information about UTMB’s involvement with the 1115 Medicaid Waiver project, anchoring a region of 16 counties and facilitating collective efforts to improve access, lower costs and increase quality. And it provides the facts regarding charity care at UTMB.
Whatever shape health care transformation takes, UTMB remains committed to improving the health of people in our home communities, throughout Texas and beyond. I invite you to explore Transforming Health Care, and hope that the information will help shed additional light on UTMB’s work, provide insight and promote continuing discussion about how we all work together to improve our nation’s health care system.
Dr. David L. Callender