Healthcare Reform Poses Challenges for Academic Medical Centers

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , March 22, 2012

Organizational Alignments
The highly decentralized governance structure of AMCs makes it difficult to respond to current and future challenges in the healthcare environment, the report suggests. AMC leaders responded less favorably to initiatives that required significant cultural changes to their governance structure.

Only 11% of leaders were considering consolidating departments to streamline operations, for example. However, 74% were willing to embark on the less-impactful cultural change of integrating IT systems.

The report suggests five strategies to help academic medical centers strategically rework the way they operate:

1. Build the brand by holding faculty accountable for cost and quality. Well-entrenched faculty and organizational structures make it difficult to address costs and quality. AMCs must place an equal focus on reforming organizational structure and improving quality outcomes.

2. Become part of the larger healthcare community network. AMCs have tended to be independent organizations, but healthcare reform encourages partnering with high-quality, low-cost providers such as community hospitals. Some 59% of consumers surveyed said they were likely to seek medical treatment at a community hospital affiliated with an AMC.

3. Leverage technology to extend reach and effectiveness. Some 69% of AMC leaders said they are likely to adopt extended services such as online collaborative classrooms, simulation technology, and telemedicine.

4. Become an information hub. Some 65% of AMC leaders said their institutions will collaborate with other research institutes or medical centers to share electronic health records and to share data to enhance scientific discovery.

5. Align the research pipeline with clinical and business strategies. AMCs are redirecting their research dollars.  Around 62% of AMC leaders indicated that coordinating translational research will be a high priority over the next five years.

It won't be an easy transition. Harkness notes that while academic medical centers haven't really needed to change over the years, the delivery of healthcare is more complex now and "the opportunity is there to leverage their platform to change."


Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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