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Dean’s Message

Medicine is still proudly a learned profession. But whether we like it or not, the delivery of health care has become a complex business. The survival of both depends on thoughtful approaches to melding the two in ways not imagined a few short decades ago.

Necessity is the mother of invention and I am sure many of you are starting to hear of a new clinical alignment that has occurred within Northwestern Medicine, an alignment to emerge as a national leader through revitalized organization. The medical school’s faculty foundation and the hospital’s physician group came together recently as a single new physician organization, joining our hospitals as part of a now larger health system. This change helps strengthen our clinical, scientific, and education missions, which in turn should increase our visibility among the nation’s top academic medical centers.

So why is now a good time to develop more alignment across our institutions? By integrating the clinical enterprise under one management group, we wisely position ourselves for success in an ever more uncertain healthcare environment. At the core, these changes are about planning for the future so Northwestern Medicine can provide services where needed, remain competitive, stay financially sound, and focus resources to support bold new endeavors. This alignment also enhances our ability to recruit and develop the nation’s best physicians, scientists, students, and staff.

Locally, we are also witnessing a rapid expansion of primary and specialty care closer to where people live and work. At the national level, there are new incentives for integrated and well-coordinated care across the inpatient and ambulatory continuum. We are also slowly seeing a shift away from fee-for-service to bundled payments that include both physician and hospital components providing quality outcomes. In addition, the Affordable Care Act may introduce new forms of reimbursement that require better models of healthcare delivery. Many of our local and regional competitors have already taken steps to integrate their clinical services.

Right now, the medical school and the health system are in excellent financial shape, so in coming together we are positioned of synergy. It should also come as no surprise, in spite of earnest cost reductions over the last two years, that many of our clinical departments  would not have survived financially going it alone without strategic partners. Alignment allows us to plan and budget our activities on a system-wide basis, leading our efforts from a united front of collaboration. In its essence, we are creating a new health system.

The transitions toward these new relationships began September 1, 2013, the official start of our new fiscal year, and will entail many new efficiencies over the coming months. And while some organizational change is occurring in the background, many of our outward features will remain the same, especially our dedication to delivering exceptional patient care. We realize it will take enthusiastic effort by all parties to advance our national brand as Northwestern Medicine.

This is an exciting time as we continue to grow and develop our new leadership, identity, and commitment to American medicine. I look forward to the possibilities as we enter a bold new future as aligned organizations.

With warmest regards,

Eric G. Neilson, MD
Vice President for Medical Affairs and
Lewis Landsberg Dean