Category Archives: Health Care Quality

Revolutionizing Heart and Vascular Care

At UNC Health Care, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to serve our patients. One way we do that is through partnerships and collaboration. I am proud to say that, through our partnership with UNC REX Healthcare, we recently opened the doors of the new, state-of-the-art North Carolina Heart & Vascular Hospital on the Raleigh campus of UNC REX.

North Carolina has the 12th highest incidence of heart and vascular disease in the country. We lose about 18,000 people annually from heart disease. At the same time, the population continues to grow, increasing the demand for quality health care providers.

The 114-bed hospital is staffed by leading physicians in Wake County, and is now the hub for a premier heart and vascular program in the Southeast. Since we are an academic medical center, we also bring in medical students from the School of Medicine who are training in interventional cardiology and vascular surgery. This not only helps advance the teaching mission of the medical school, it also provides a closer connection to the research and advanced treatments provided by the Medical Center in Chapel Hill.

Since all of UNC REX’s heart and vascular services moved into this new facility, there are plans to improve and repurpose vacated space on its main campus to improve patient care. For example, part of this space will be converted into a behavioral health zone for patients being treated in the hospital’s emergency department – fulfilling a critical need in Wake County.

For more information on North Carolina Heart & Vascular, click here.

Improving Mental and Behavioral Health in Our State

UNC Health Care is committed to caring for all patients, including those with mental and behavioral health issues. As our population grows, the demand for beds and dedicated inpatient psychiatric care continues to rise.

In Wake County, more than 65,000 people suffer from a serious mental illness. Yet, from 2012 to 2015, we were one of just three states to decrease behavioral health spending each year. More than half of our counties are without a psychiatrist, and only 35 percent of our hospitals have a psychiatric unit.

Regular hospitals and health facilities often don’t have the time or resources necessary to help treat and provide services for those with mental health, behavioral and substance abuse problems.

At UNC Health Care, we are taking steps to address this growing need. At UNC REX, we have worked to improve our triage process in the emergency department to ensure that mental health patients get the care they need as quickly as possible. We also recently expanded UNC WakeBrook, a facility in Raleigh designed to care for those with mental health, behavioral and substance abuse problems.

At the federal level, we are pleased to see policymakers making mental and behavioral health a priority as well. Late last year, the 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law.

Among many other things, the Act strengthens laws mandating coverage parity for mental health care and provides funding to help increase the numbers of psychologists and psychiatrists.

The expansion of WakeBrook and the 21st Century Cures Act are steps in the right direction, but there are always opportunities to do more. We will continue working closely with public health officials and legislators to provide better care and better access to our state’s mental and behavioral health patients.

 

Today’s Research Is the Key to Tomorrow’s Treatments

At the UNC School of Medicine, our focus is on one thing: improving the health of patients across the state and the nation. We are nationally recognized for providing outstanding care and serving countless people across the state, day in and day out. We also earn national recognition for our research. In fact, this month alone, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded researchers at UNC SOM three grants totaling more than $179 million. These investments in research are also investments in people, because they lead to better care for patients.

For instance, Baby Connectome Project (BCP) will help scientists to better understand what is needed to support brain development in the critical first years of life. This $4 million grant awarded to UNC SOM and the University of Minnesota will enable researchers to track the circuitries of the brain and its development from birth through childhood to uncover factors contributing to healthy brain development.

The UNC SOM was also included in a $157 million grant to launch Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO). This initiative aims to investigate how exposure to environmental factors in a child’s early development, from conception through early childhood, can influence later health outcomes. This means understanding how air pollution, stress and other factors can affect the biological process, with the goal of ensuring that every baby will have the opportunity to lead a healthy life.

Finally, the UNC/Emory Center for Innovative Technology, or iTech, will allow researchers to develop ways to address barriers to HIV care. The $18 million in funding will help researchers to target 15 to 24-year-olds at risk of or currently living with HIV through mobile apps that are intended to increase HIV testing. This means developing electronic health interventions for those who test positive for the virus, ultimately leading them to care and antiretroviral therapy.

These are all some of our most challenging health care issues. Thanks to the support from NIH, our researchers are making headway in finding the underlying causes – and potentially finding cures – for these challenges.

For more information about the Baby Connectome Project, click here.

For more information about ECHO, click here.

For more information about iTech, click here.

UNC Health Care Again Ranks Among Best Hospitals in the Nation

At UNC Health Care, our vision is clear: to be the nation’s leading public academic health care system. We are committed to providing North Carolinians with the highest level of care. We are continually looking for new and innovative ways to improve the quality of care that we provide for patients across our state. And we are clearly making progress. I am pleased to say that the recently released U.S. News & World Report 2016-2017 Best Hospitals rankings confirm our commitment to quality and excellence.

UNC Hospitals was nationally ranked or recognized as high performing in 10 clinical categories listed in the U.S. News & World Report 2016-2017 Best Hospitals rankings. Four of our specialties were ranked highest in the state.

Across the state, our system performed well. UNC Hospitals, UNC REX Hospital and UNC High Point Regional Hospital ranked No. 2, No. 10 and No. 16, respectively, in the Best Hospitals rankings for North Carolina.

UNC Hospitals ranked higher in eight clinical categories compared with the 2015-2016 rankings, including Urology, Cancer, Diabetes and Endocrinology, Nephrology, as well as Gastroenterology and GI Surgery.

I will elaborate on just how extraordinary this recognition is. U.S. News & World Report rankings are among the most prestigious of their kind. This year’s rankings began with a pool of 4,667 hospitals representing virtually all U.S. nonfederal community facilities. Only 153 hospitals in the United States, across all 16 specialty categories, performed well enough to be nationally ranked in one or more specialties. The scores are established on the basis of issues like severity-adjusted mortality and patient volume as well as on the hospital’s reputation among specialist physicians.

As UNC Health Care continues expanding across the state, we have remained steadfast in our core beliefs and values. This unwavering commitment to strive for excellence is what enables us to provide the best possible care for the people of North Carolina. And these scores are a clear indication that we are making tremendous progress on the goals we have set.

For a full list of U.S. News & World Report 2016-2016 Best Hospitals rankings and UNC Hospitals recognition, click here.

The State Of Things: My View on Health Care in America

I recently was interviewed by Frank Stasio on WUNC’s “The State of Things.” We discussed the health care challenges our country faces, including gaps in mental health and preventive care, among others. I also discussed some of the myths about health care in our country and explained how UNC Health Care is working with others to provide high-quality affordable care and to train the next generation of physicians.

Listen to the full interview here.

State Snapshots from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently released its 2011 State Snapshots, which provide state-level performance overviews on treating cancer, diabetes, maternal and child disorders, heart disease and other diagnoses. According to the data, North Carolina performs well in areas like preventative care and acute care. Quality of hospital care also remains on track with national averages. In clinical areas, our state has improved respiratory disease and cancer care since baseline year data was collected. You can view North Carolina’s full state snapshot here.

I am proud of North Carolina’s performance in these categories and I commend the work of our state’s providers. However, there is still much to be done to improve the quality of and access to care across our state. For instance, we lag behind other states in diabetes and heart disease measures. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 30 percent of North Carolinians were considered obese in 2010 – making them more susceptible to diabetes and heart disease. As the needs of our state increase, the care we provide must change to meet the growing demand for services.

At UNC Health Care, we are working with other organizations and providers across the state to meet the growing demand for services and care. By improving access to quality public health services, training the next generation of physicians and conducting research, we hope to mitigate the challenges our state continues to face. The AHRQ snapshots provide a helpful benchmark for improvement as we move forward.