Health system ‘making progress’

University of Illinois Hospital and Healh Sciences System LogoSpeaking to a standing-room-only crowd last week, Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia, university vice president for health affairs, outlined the progress, challenges and opportunities for the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System.

“Obviously there’s a lot more work to do here, but I do want to leave you with a sense that we are making some progress,” he said.

Ten months ago at a similar town hall meeting, Garcia unveiled a new identity for the university’s health care enterprise, the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, and announced plans for a marketing campaign to raise the institution’s profile in the Chicago area.

The rebranding effort has reinforced the health system’s mission to bring high quality, cost-effective health care to the people of Illinois and deliver personalized health care to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities, Garcia said at the Oct. 4 meeting in the College of Medicine Research Building.

The health sciences system has increased community engagement by marketing to its primary service area with a focus on at-risk populations, he said.

Examples he mentioned included community health fairs, advertising and sponsorship with the Chicago Fire professional soccer team to increase awareness of the health system and improve its reputation in the community.

In FY 2011, the hospital finished with a $10 million margin; in FY 2012 the hospital reported a $14 million margin, its highest in 15 years.

Even with current challenges, Garcia anticipates FY 2013 will finish with a projected $15 million margin.

“It sounds great — it is great — but the fact is, we have a lot of room for improvement,” said Garcia, who said the health system will require a $20-25 million margin to maintain sustainability.

Improved business practices in the health system include improved electronic integration of a billing and collections system across the hospital and Medical Service Plan.

“By doing these interventions, the overall value to the enterprise has been suggested, conservatively, to be in the neighborhood of $70 million over the next 10 years,” he said.

He described a new Illinois Provider Access Line that will provide better service to referring physicians and help track the volume of transfers to the hospital.

Improved patient satisfaction scores, quality and patient safety are immediate goals, Garcia said.

The challenges ahead include shrinking Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, an increasingly competitive Chicago health care market and infrastructure and capital needs.

His proposed solutions include a $75-150 million bond issuance to address infrastructure modernization and renovations; strategic partnerships with other health care systems in Chicago; and greater integration of the UI Health System to compete for improved rates from third-party insurers, improve quality and expand market share.

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