U-M Health System announces plans to reposition itself for greater integration, improved patient care

September 17, 2015
  • umichnews@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan Health System – which includes three hospitals, the health centers, many basic science research departments and the UM Medical School – will be further integrated under a strategic approach outlined today to strengthen the university’s three-part health care mission of patient care, research and education.

The plan was outlined during a Board of Regents meeting by President Mark Schlissel, himself a physician-scientist, along with the head of U-M Health System, Dr. Marschall Runge. They noted that increased integration and collaboration, guided by a restructured leadership team, is necessary for the U-M Health System to remain competitive in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing health care marketplace.

In his introduction to the changes, the president said greater integration will help the university’s world-class health system better respond to rapid changes in the health care industry and to ongoing competitive challenges. “We are living in one of the most dynamic periods for health care in the last century, and possibly in human history. We have more to offer patients than ever before, especially at academic medical centers such as ours,” Schlissel said.

“Our ability to stay competitive depends on our ability to attract and retain the best faculty, compete successfully for research funding and deliver high quality, in-demand medical care in a cost-efficient manner. These factors place an increased premium on our ability to work across our institution in a seamless, integrated, collaborative fashion,” he said.

Regents approved the leadership changes recommended by Schlissel and Runge. All will take effect Jan. 1, 2016.

“Our institution must evolve as well to continue to remain a leading provider of quality health care, and to enhance our efforts to convert what we learn through research in our medical school into better care for our patients,” said regent Shauna Ryder Diggs, a physician and chair of the board’s Health Affairs Committee. “The vision described today helps us do this by making the most of what I consider our main strength — our tripartite mission of patient care, research and education.”

Runge, currently the university’s executive vice president for medical affairs, will assume additional responsibility as dean of the Medical School. Bringing together the EVPMA and dean roles will naturally increase collaboration between faculty and staff in the Medical School and their colleagues in hospitals and health centers, the president noted.

Schlissel thanked Dr. James Woolliscroft, the current Medical School Dean, for his nearly 40 years of service to the university and pointed out his innovation in redesigning the Medical School curriculum and the school’s consistently top ranking among U.S. medical schools.
Regents also approved two new positions to the health system, as proposed by Runge. Dr. David Spahlinger will be promoted to executive vice dean for clinical affairs and president of the hospitals, health centers and the U-M Medical Group. Spahlinger currently is senior associate dean and head of the faculty group practice and oversees the ambulatory care centers. In his new role, he will report directly to Runge.

T. Anthony Denton, currently acting CEO of the hospitals and health centers, will be promoted to senior vice president and chief operating officer for hospitals, health centers and the U-M Medical Group. He will report to Spahlinger.

In recommending these changes, Runge said that strong leaders are essential for the future as the health system pursues strategic priorities designed to help the system operate seamlessly as a single enterprise.

“Critical to our success,” Runge said, “is our ability to attract and cultivate strong leaders. We must have leaders who are change agents, willing to take risks, encourage innovation, and who can turn new ideas into daily practice.”

As the health system continues a process of assessment and review of priorities, additional top leaders will be named in academic affairs and education programs, the research enterprise and information technology.

Runge said that since coming to U-M in March, he has learned “that Michigan is a great institution with exceptional people at all levels of faculty and staff.” But he said he also believed U-M can be better.

“We have the energy, resources and talent to re-establish a performance record that reflects continuous improvement and innovation. Now is the time to do this, by focusing on enterprise-wide collaboration that will strengthen our performance in our hospitals and health centers, Medical School and research facilities. Doing this should lead to better patient care.”