THIS OCTOBER, I had the honor of chairing the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM). This event commemorating IOM’s 40th anniversary was aptly titled, “Advancing Health through Innovation,” and the presentations reflected the nation’s focus on healthcare reform. Listening to these presentations, I was reminded of the many important ways we at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Health System are transforming care and helping achieve the goals of the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
A major goal of this seminal legislation is to improve the quality of healthcare. In this area, UCLA is recognized as a leader in pioneering innovations, and for good reason. Already, we are spearheading efforts to reduce hospital readmissions for individuals with heart problems with a telemedicine-enabled home heart-failure monitoring program. We’ve also developed a pediatric medical-home model to care for children with complex medical conditions.
As part of PPACA’s effort to expand the healthcare workforce, we’ve developed a groundbreaking program that prepares unlicensed medical-school graduates from Spanish-speaking countries, residing here legally and working in low-level healthcare jobs, to pass medical board exams that allow them to compete for residency-training positions in family medicine. In return, these bilingual, bicultural physicians commit to practice in underserved communities in California for at least two-to-three years.
One of the most challenging PPACA goals is to establish more effective financial models for delivering care. UCLA has been no less of a leader in shaping novel approaches to make care affordable. We have developed “bundling” payment structures for kidney-transplant surgery, and we are working on similar strategies for orthopaedic surgeries.
While UCLA is already widely recognized for the excellence and breadth of its programs, and for the extraordinary quality of the patient-centered care we provide, we know that continuous improvement in the quality of the healthcare we deliver requires ongoing and effective innovation.
What does innovation mean? To some, innovation means inventing new ways of diagnosing and treating disease or new ways to ensure a healthier population. To others, it means adopting the best of advanced medicine and implementing it broadly across all of the patients and communities we serve. UCLA excels at all these, and while we continue to discover new solutions for the future, we must also become even better at transforming the care we deliver.
That is why we created the UCLA Innovates HealthCare Initiative, which is designed to promote and nurture innovation that continually improves the quality of care delivered locally and globally. To lead this initiative, we have recruited one of the nation’s top healthcare experts to serve as our chief innovation officer. This initiative and leadership will enable us to focus UCLA’s ongoing innovation programs, and take advantage of new opportunities, including many presented by the new healthcare-reform law.
Leaving the IOM meeting, I spoke with two of our faculty, and we agreed that UCLA is indeed uniquely positioned to continue to play a leadership role in building the future of healthcare. As we exited, we shared a sense of great pride about our achievements and promise. I know that you – alumni, friends and supporters – are as proud as we are of the important work undertaken by the remarkably gifted faculty, staff and students of this distinguished institution.
A. Eugene Washington, M.D., M.Sc.
Vice Chancellor, UCLA Health Sciences
Dean, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Gerald S. Levey, M.D., Endowed Chair