Numerous agencies in Central Texas are spurring advances by focusing on improved innovation, wider health care delivery and bridging the socio-economic divide. The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), a national organization based in Washington, D.C., in collaboration with Seton Health Care Family, hosted a symposium in October 2011 on "Healthy Ideas Showcase: Changing the Way Health Care is Delivered" in Austin, Texas.
Three key focuses of the event were increasing the health care workforce in the next decade, improving health care technology and its delivery, as well as improving the health of all Central Texans, including children who are socio-economically disadvantaged. The event featured national and local health care leaders highlighting significant progress in workforce development for health professionals and new models of care enabled by health information technology in Texas.
At the “Healthy Ideas Showcase,” different agencies detailed their work in advancing innovation in electronic health records processing, serving the underserved and creating vibrant workforce training programs to serve those in need through the 21st century.
Forefront is sharing a few success stories from the showcase panel that are positive heralds for life-changing health care initiatives in Central Texas. Perhaps in the next decade we’ll see Austin being known as the Innovative Health Care Capital of the World along with live music. As you’ll soon find out, these agencies and their work are also making a national impact, all the way to Capitol Hill, as many of our programs are capturing the attention of policymakers.
The following highlights focus on health care IT initiatives, building a 21st century health care workforce and bridging the socio-economic care divide in our region.
Read synopses of each panelist's presentation. The full presentations can be viewed on the video referenced above.
Susanne Nash of Seton Health Care Family Innovations represented Seton Health Care Family and its focus on continuing care, reducing patient care costs and maximizing care. Nash discussed Seton Care Plus, Seton Virtual Transition Center and Seton Comprehensive Care Center.
- Seton Care Plus is a decade-long partnership with The Health Plan to use technology and information to serve patients better. It has reduced patient care costs, duplication of services and helped manage the lives of more than 5,000 unfunded patients.
- Seton’s Virtual Transition Center is headed by Steve Conti and provides extended care to chronically ill patients when they leave the hospital.
- Seton’s Comprehensive Care Center is a fully dynamic medical collaboration of physicians and nurse practitioners working with patients who have multiple chronic health needs. The staff can follow the person into the hospital, the home and beyond. The goal is to coordinate, manage and help maximize the care they are providing to patients.
Seton is focused on building what Nash termed "a virtual transition health care team" that helps people find the right care at the right time at the right place. This is most beneficial to people with chronic illnesses. "The virtual team represents all different disciplines in the medical field and helps patients find the right treatment and get it in the right place," she said.
"These programs are key in making sure duplications of health care are avoided and that, even down to filling prescriptions, chronically ill people know how and where to do this," said Julie Barnes of the Bipartisan Policy Center. "What it addresses is a national issue as well in terms of making sure we are helping patients get the best care they need and reducing the costs associated with lack of information or medical direction that has been a challenge in the past."
- Learn more about the Seton Health Care Family
Professor Patricia Recek of Austin Community College highlighted the Nurse Success Project, a federally-funded grant project in its third year of operations. This program is directed at increasing racial minority enrollment and boasts a 93 percent retention rate for the students in this program who receive stipends. ACC also has two programs aimed at serving women and underserved communities in Central Texas.
- Learn more about ACC’s Nurse Success Project
Earl Maxwell, CEO of St. David’s Foundation, presented St. David's Foundation focus on successfully marrying the idea of workforce development and Health IT. Over the past four years, St. David's Foundation has invested $3.5 million in the Austin community to bring all the electronic records to all the SafetyNet clinics in this community. Those monies are building the electronic medical platform that Central Texans can count on to deliver health care effectively in the future.
"Young medical students do not want to practice with a clipboard and ballpoint pen," Maxwell noted. “They are going to demand these changes whether Washington determines it or not.” St. David's Foundation programs provide financial support to all the nursing schools and programs in Central Texas that have health science programs. This helps sustain research, create new nurses and support programs aimed at providing wider access to health care. Recently, St. David's Foundation established a $2 million endowment for nursing students. The Foundation funds $400,000 yearly in grants to non-traditional college students through programs offered in partnership with Capitol Idea.
Susan Fenton of Texas State University (TSU) Department of Health Information Management, highlighted TSU’s mission is to educate health information professionals to get the right health information to the right person at the right time in order to provide the best outcomes for patients. TSU’s Health Information Technology (HIT) apprenticeship program provides intensive real-world HIT training. The first co-hort will finish on October 21st and one apprentice is already employed said Fenton. The program will be expanding in the next decade.
- Learn more about TSU's Health programs
Dr. Leanne Field of University of Texas at Austin’s Medical HIT Workforce Training program discussed the meaningful use of electronic health records and the creation of UT Austin’s HIT Consortium. The HIT consortium has received funding to develop a university-based training program for a post-baccalaureate certificate program at the UT campus. The program will also expand into executive education and online learning. Field added that the program had received a grant to configure a health information exchange which, it is hoped, will create a network of health information to be a huge resource of medical information and care statewide.
Dr. Tamara Duperval-Brandlee, Chief Medical Officer of Lone Star Circle of Care, presented the organization’s success in helping underserved populations in Texas. Lone Star Circle of Care has a network of 26 clinics impacting more than 80,000 lives in Central Texas. These people are often in the chronic or disadvantaged sectors of the population that tend to drive up health care costs, noted Brandlee.
By adopting health care technology early and implementing it across its clinics nearly three years ago, Lone Star Circle of Care has seen a reduction across the board in health care costs, as well as significant improvements in health care delivery. With its focus on the health care infrastructure, the clinic has leveraged its IT capacities to strengthen its inter-care coordination.
- Learn more about the Lone Star Circle of Care
Maureen Britton of Children's Optimal Health (COH) highlighted the power of geo-mapping in identifying neighborhoods with high-risk or negative health outcomes. GIS mapping makes a difference in that it allows mapping of proprietary de-identified data for neighborhood health hotspots, then COH can overlay all the available assets or services in those areas and bring them together to serve those communities.
For example, in October 2010 COH’s data revealed that fitness levels in AISD middle schools were improving. The data, which included the results of students’ cardiovascular fitness tests from 2007 to 2010, indicated a decline in the proportion of students failing cardiovascular tests in many of the schools. Several schools, including Burnet, Dobie, Garcia, Mendez and Webb, showed marked improvement for cardiovascular fitness scores.
- Learn more about Children's Optimal Health
Another strong initiative in Central Texas is increasing health literacy. The Literacy Coalition of Texas celebrated its ten-year anniversary in 2011 and its successful efforts in extending health care literacy for the underserved.
The American Medical Association found that "poor health literacy is a stronger predictor of a person's health than age, income, employment status, education level and race." Furthermore, an estimated 90 million Americans suffer from low health literacy. With an average of increase of $7500 in healthcare costs for a low health-literate individual, the financial strain on the U.S. healthcare system due to low health literacy is between $106 billion to $238 billion annually.
Low health literacy is not only contributing to the poor health of Central Texans, but it’s also costing the five-county Central Texas region hundreds of millions annually in additional medical expenses.
The Health Literacy Initiative's primary method of addressing poor health communication is offering health literacy training and services for both adult educators and health care professionals.
- Learn more about the Literacy Coalition of Texas
All these initiatives represent positive news for health care delivery in Central Texas over the next decade, coupled with strong collaborative efforts at increasing health care options to underserved communities. With a direct focus on improving health care literacy, providing stronger health care infrastructure and increasing technology innovation, Central Texans will experience a renaissance in health care that will benefit the region for decades to come.