S. Shorb, CEO of Methodist Healthcare, says partnering
with the U of M benefits the health-care industry
as well as the University.
It's a partnership that's creating healthy changes for both
children and adults. The University of Memphis and Methodist
Healthcare are teaming up to change the face of health care
in the Mid-South.
Patients and health-care staff are already benefiting from
the partnership: Patients using Methodist Healthcare's Outpatient
Diagnostics department now have shorter waits, and linen supply
problems within the system have been alleviated. Lawmakers
and community leaders have been educated about the health-care
industry's impact on the economy. And social service, legal
and health-care researchers now have ready access to critical
data on child health-care issues. All of these improvements
are a result of projects made possible by $7 million in gifts
from LHS Inc., a grant-making organization that emerged from
the 1995 merger of Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center and
LHS will give $5 million over five years for Methodist to
work with the University in developing "its intellectual
and human capital," says Gene Cashman, president/CEO
of LHS. A second gift of $2 million has gone directly to the
University to support a project that collects, analyzes, maintains
and monitors information about children's health-care issues.
These ventures give the University another opportunity to
serve the Memphis community, expand its research capabilities
and follow the leadership of U of M President Shirley Raines
in developing interdisciplinary and community-based approaches
The Methodist partnership with U of M began in September
2002 with the creation of the Methodist Healthcare/Maurice
Elliott Leadership Institute (MELI) to train middle management
at Methodist. Methodist executives and U of M faculty members
from such disciplines as economics, communications and health
administration conduct the training. The project has produced
ideas that have already saved Methodist thousands of dollars
and improved patient care. An unusual part of the two-week
academic and practical training involves the development of
group projects headed by an executive "champion."
The first and second MELI classes of 20 to 25 employees suggested
ways to improve food service, streamline outpatient schedules
and prepare for bio-terrorism. All of the project recommendations
were presented to top Methodist executives at the final class
"We invested in this because we felt our ability to
achieve our vision and reach our goal depended on the quality
of our people and the intellectual capital we have within
our own organization," says Gary S. Shorb, CEO of Methodist
Healthcare. "Doing it in partnership with the University
of Memphis made so much sense."
For example, Shorb says a study of linen distribution was
beneficial from a patient-satisfaction and operations standpoint.
"Linen distribution is a serious problem that's
true of all hospitals," Shorb says. Now that the leadership
team's recommendations have been implemented, he says, "we
have an extremely consistent supply of linens and have upgraded
MELI's director calls the program a unique partnership. "There
is nothing like it in the whole country. The combination of
university faculty and practicing executives delivering the
program is unique and innovative," says Dr. Paul Fitzgerald,
who also serves as associate professor and director of the
U of M Division of Health Administration. "One of the
very nice offshoots of this is that we are now developing
similar programs for other health-care providers in the Mid-South."
In February 2003, the University used the first of its two-year,
$2 million gift from LHS to create the Child Health Data Consortium
under Richard Janikowski, interim director of the consortium
and chair of the U of M Department of Criminology.
Already the consortium has created databases about Memphis
child health issues for the community to use in deciding how
to care for its youngest citizens. The goal is to prevent
a "ready, shoot, aim" approach to the assessment
and delivery of health services to neighborhoods and children,
says Janikowski. Using data generated by the consortium, health-care
providers and others interested in the welfare of children
"can develop prevention and intervention programs based
on accurate and timely data," Janikowski says.
The consortium put up preliminary reports and data on the
Shared Urban Data (SUDS) Web site (http://suds.memphis.edu/suds.cfm)
to allow anyone to access information already gathered, says
Child Health Data Consortium was made possible by a grant
from LHS Inc. The result of the consortium is better health
care for Mid-South children.
Technical support for this second phase of the partnership
comes from staff at the University's Center for Community
Criminology and Research. To ensure the consortium's work
meets community needs, the consortium's 10-member advisory
board is broad in scope. Members include U of M professors
from health, government relations, economics, psychology,
nursing and education, as well as representatives from the
University of Tennessee-Memphis, Shelby County government
and the Community Institute for Early Childhood (CIEC), an
umbrella organization for groups involved in children's health
In addition to creating databases, the consortium worked
with CIEC to develop a directory of services for early childhood
care and youth health concerns in Shelby County. The group
also created an on-line method for pinpointing where those
services are located. That information is available at the
SUDS Web site, and is already being updated. A new project
involves studying trends in foster care for the state Department
of Children's Services.
Janikowski says the consortium represents "the first
exciting steps in creating an integrated, shared data system
that will put information in a standardized format that researchers
and policy-makers can access and use." This will become
more and more important as grant-making organizations like
the federal government demand programs that are data driven.
Moreover, the consortium's research cuts across departmental
lines and defines "children's health" in a very
In the past, for example, homicide would never have been
a health-care issue for children. Now it is, Janikowski says.
economics of health care
In March of 2003, Methodist used another $1 million of its
$5 million gift to create the Methodist
Le Bonheur Center for Healthcare Economics headed by Fogelman
College of Business and Economics professor Cyril Chang. Dr.
Chang's first research project updates a study that he and
a colleague conducted
15 years ago on the health-care industry's economic impact
on the Mid-South. The new study found that the overall dollar
contribution of the medical community in the Memphis metropolitan
area is about $10.4 billion. This represents approximately
27 percent of the overall local economy, Chang says.
With Cashman's assistance, Chang is also analyzing TennCare,
its trends and other implications for the health-care community.
Looking at the study from Methodist's perspective, Shorb says,
"It's very helpful as we think about the economics of
our business and as we look at how we can continue
to stay financially viable yet serve the entire community
to get a handle on data so we can see the scope of
the problem we are trying to solve."
Armed with accurate, timely information about health-care
issues, Shorb sees Methodist working more closely with lawmakers
at all levels of government. He says the data collected by
the economics center are
important when making sure lawmakers "appropriately prioritize
what they are doing to help our industry."
Chang agrees that the focus of the center is to examine ongoing
and emerging health-care issues to help lawmakers, medical
professionals and business leaders with their decision making.
"Our job is to enlighten and discover," he says.
"Hopefully, this will assist in the formation of policy
that is based on credible data. We are available as a community
asset to help government entities and nonprofits with their
problems. We are willing to step out of the classroom into
the real world."
Chang, who is in the process of hiring staff, is now examining
the use of prescription drugs in Tennessee. "Tennessee
is not a rich state. However, Tennessee has the highest per
capita use of prescription drugs," he says. "How
did it happen this way? Is it a medical issue that has to
do with poor health and how physicians practice here, or is
it an economic issue that is, a matter of how we deliver
health care in Tennessee?" This drug research project
will be a team effort involving the U of M business college
as well as other departments, the University of Tennessee-Memphis
and U of M graduate students.
Since the Child Data Consortium and the Health Care Economics
Center use U of M graduate students to assist with research,
the University is able to strengthen the educational opportunities
offered to those working toward advanced degrees while paying
them a small stipend.
Continued funding for the Methodist-U of M partnership depends
on the successful use of funds in the previous year, says
Cashman. Since two programs supported by LHS have reached
their objectives, a third year of funding is forthcoming.
Next year, LHS' gift will focus on some aspect of nursing.
Partnerships and cooperative efforts through such projects
as the Child Health Data Consortium, the MELI and the Economics
Center are a win-win situation, says Cashman. "Clearly
the person who goes through leadership training takes it back
to the workplace, and the workplace benefits," he says.
"The University benefits by being able to create resources
to share with faculty and the rest of the community."