Vanderbilt University Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Harry Jacobson had all the right numbers at his fingertips during an interview yesterday with NashvillePost.com.
He'd been preparing a lecture on healthcare entrepreneurship he delivered last night to students at the Owen Graduate School of Management. To that end, he was primed and ready to explain the ambitious agenda he shares with newly appointed Vanderbilt Chancellor Nick Zeppos.
Jacobson's thinking carries special weight given the $2.5 billion annual operating budget of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the fact that ability to work well with Jacobson may have been a key factor in the Board of Trust's choice of its new campus leader.
Zeppos said during his March 1 press conference that he believes achieving further gains as a leader in healthcare and healthcare policy "is an obligation that Vanderbilt has, not simply an opportunity." Zeppos said he assigns moral imperative to "health care for all" and high priority to "addressing diseases that plague so many people."
Jacobson said yesterday he and Zeppos have worked closely since the latter was named provost seven years ago. Among his observations on their collaboration moving forward:
• Vanderbilt will keep pushing its national policy agenda through its Vanderbilt Center for Better Health; the Healthcare Solutions Group (formed with the Nashville Health Care Council); and, via the PresidentialRx Web site that focuses on the health policies of the nation's next President.
• Vanderbilt Hospital is still reeling from losses brought by TennCare's shedding of thousands of patients, and will continue to cope while harboring faint hope for restoration of funds in the near term.
• Start-up ventures and technology transfer "activities will increase," with early emphasis likely on medical devices, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and information technologies.
• Jacobson is "cautiously optimistic" that, despite slow progress, Middle Tennessee will actually gain a regional health information organization that will allow hospitals and physicians to share vital health information.
• VU will leverage its prowess in healthcare IT and will probably launch more ventures like its Informatics Corporation of America.
• Zeppos and Jacobson jointly created the Institute for Chemical Biology, which now links chemistry and biomedical faculty in an effort to find "some really very high-impact discoveries that might lead to new diagnoses and treatments."
• Vanderbilt will push for broader adoption of evidence-based medicine technologies and techniques in order to improve patient safety and drive down wasteful spending, thereby freeing enough capital throughout the U.S. healthcare system to pay for all care that is currently delivered as charity, at a loss.
• The university will become increasingly active in alerting policymakers and, by implication, consumers to the fact that runaway healthcare costs and the millions of uninsured Americans are largely the result of the inability of providers to manage the flood of new medical information and technologies. As a result, Jacobson said, "We don't do what evidence says is the right thing to do, each and every time."
• Vanderbilt and its peers will seek greater federal support for sponsored research, after the "bottom fell out" in 2007. VUMC was awarded more than $400 million in such funding last year, moving it into Top 10 ranks, but spending $111 million on uncovered charity care has put intolerable pressure on the center's capacity to contribute to research funding.