Affiliation with CHI Health Ahead of the Curve

Typically, it takes a good 15 or 20 years for a university and its academic health system partner to be “humming along,” goal stewards Robert Dunlay, MD’81, dean of the School of Medicine, and Thomas Svolos, MD, associate dean for strategy and accreditation, told faculty and staff Tuesday. Those gathered in Skutt Student Center Room 105 were attending the Academic Health System Excellence Strategic Planning Forum.

Creighton’s partnership with CHI Health is ahead of the curve, according to Dunlay and Svolos.

“We’re in a much better place. We will be humming along sooner,” Svolos said.

Dunlay said he recently spoke with colleagues at another institution who said it had taken their organizations at least 15 years to smoothly operate together. “We are ahead of that pace,” he said.

Noting that “this is one of the strategic plan goals that is externally dependent” and thus more inherently complex than other University strategic planning goals, Dunlay and Svolos offered the following updates at the forum:

  • Creighton University and CHI Health have collaboratively engaged ECG Consultants, which has been working with both organizations to develop optimal alignment for the academic health system. ECG has assisted with Creighton’s Phoenix affiliations and is “a smart group,” Dunlay said. ECG is looking at key components of the academic health system affiliation such as academic support, strategic planning, the role of department chairs and governance of institutes. The ECG consultant team will be coming to Omaha in early May to give  recommendations to Creighton and CHI Health leadership on how to make the strategic partnership most beneficial to both parties.
  • The new Chief Operating Office from CommonSpirit Health, which was created earlier this year by the national alignment of Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health, will also be meeting with Creighton leaders in May to learn about the unique value Creighton brings to the organization as a Jesuit, Catholic institution. Creighton is the only Jesuit, Catholic academic partner for CommonSpirit.  Given that CommonSpirit is the largest Catholic health care organization in the United States and, with fully implemented plans for 1,000 medical students and over 500 residents and fellows, Creighton will be the largest Catholic medical education and training program in the United States, there are opportunities for close alignment between the University and CommonSpirit.
  • The process for finding a vice president for medical operations of the planned Cardiovascular Institute is “moving along about as quickly as we could hope,” Dunlay said.
    He added that the search is focused on finding someone who can bring “national stature” to the institute. Several candidates have been interviewed, Dunlay said, and he is hopeful that a decision will be made soon. The Cardiovascular Institute will be located at the Bergan Mercy campus of CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center.
  • A Creighton University and CHI Health collaborative initiative in population health will provide better access to health data for both insurers and research, especially as the academic health partnership moves into a value-based reimbursement model, which is the future of health care in the United States. Recruitment for a director is underway and getting close. “It is important to find someone who has a lot of experience in this area,” Svolos told the group.

“Population health is a fairly new term in health care over the last decade or two,” he said, “which reflects a way of thinking about health care that looks proactively at defined populations.” Populations can be defined in many ways, such as a state, a neighborhood, or a group of individuals who share certain characteristics. The goal is to design a way to deliver care to the individuals in the group that keeps them healthy. Health systems, insurers and employers are especially interested in this type of health care delivery, which is more efficient and more cost-effective, and should reduce health care costs. One goal is to study the social determinants of health in marginalized populations.

The Population Health Institute will not necessarily have just one location, and could be similar to the Creighton Global Initiative in that it will be a way of bringing people together for a common cause without creating a new organizational structure.

Funding for setting up the two institutes comes from both organizations, Creighton and CHI Health, over the years, including from the sale of the hospital. Ideally, both organizations will jointly run the institutes, Dunlay said.