Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cutting Edge Changes Coming to Salus!

I've been following the social media activity that some of our students have been generating about the condition of some of our facilities, namely the library and our optometric clinical procedures lab.  Since the first day I arrived at Salus I too have noted that both of these important resources were sorely in need of an update.  As luck would have it, this is the year we've developed a new strategic plan for the University that prioritizes and addresses these and other upcoming improvements to Salus. 

Beginning several months ago, working very closely with the Board of Trustees as well as faculty and students, we've begun to develop plans to completely renovate our optometric clinical procedures lab, review and update the entire optometric curriculum and modernize our library.   

Since all of these projects require a good deal of financial and human resources, we're spending an appropriate amount of time doing deliberate planning to ensure we're capturing best practices and obtaining the best and most effective equipment, technology and designs as possible.  In order to accomplish this, we've been sending teams of faculty members to several different optometry programs to look at clinical procedure lab designs, curricula and other aspects of their programs. We're also studying current literature and designs from non-optometric sources. Additionally, we've already learned a great deal from administering our new Optometric Scholars program that will be applied to the curriculum review.

We anticipate the cost of these renovations and updates could be upwards of $3 million.  In order to help fund these necessary initiatives I'll be reaching out to our alumni and industry base for assistance. Concurrently, we are developing a design and build timeline that hopefully will see a new clinical procedures lab by the end of summer 2016.  The new lab will have an integrated electronic health record, state-of-the-art clinical equipment and an efficient design allowing faculty and students to interact seamlessly. 

Changes in the library are commencing now with removal of antiquated, superfluous reference materials that have already been replaced with online resources. Removal of shelving is planned within the next couple of months and replacement carpeting and furniture will soon follow. We also hope to update the current computer lab with more modern equipment. 

The optometric curriculum review has already begun with a timeline for incremental implementation to commence sometime next academic year. The entire update to the curriculum will likely take about three years to complete to ensure our students don't miss out on essential material. 

I'm excited about all these changes as it will ensure that Salus remains at the cutting edge of optometric education by leveraging our extremely talented faculty, innovative technology, and the most progressive optometric curriculum taught in the country. 

I'll keep everyone posted as to our progress with these major projects. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Vision Expo East & other Recent Events

I've been on the road for the past couple of weeks. Last week I attended the American College of Healthcare Executives annual meeting in Chicago where I reconnected with some of my Navy colleagues as well as learned current healthcare trends for administration, finance, assessment and compliance. One lecture that struck me discussed the ever growing focus on healthcare customer service. While we have always taught (and lived it in the Navy) patient-centered care, there is a movement afoot to more clearly define what that means. I was encouraged to hear how some of the larger healthcare delivery organizations were moving from "patient-centered" care to "person-centered" care. When you think about it, that's what we're all about - taking care of people, whether they're our patients or not. As healthcare providers we have the responsibility to not only care for those sitting in our exam rooms or those who are the direct beneficiary of our care but also those around them. That includes being able to communicate effectively, ensuring ready and consistent access to care and information as well as spending time with our patients and families or significant others to help ensure they are active partners in their healthcare. In the days of productivity and RVU generation it's easy to loose sight of the fact that we're in the business of caring for people, not just generating numbers and data. It's a tough balance but I believe we need to maintain our focus on the person as providers. Sometimes that's easier said than done - which is where the challenge lies.  

Last weekend I had the opportunity to meet with alumni, friends and other industry professionals while attending Vision Expo East in New York. I never attended this meeting so it was a nice treat to experience something new. In my conversations with some of our alumni and others I discussed what I had heard in Chicago in the week prior. It was surprising to me the "push-back" I received from some stating that it's almost impossible to see enough patients during the day if we spend too much time with them. On the other side of the coin, I heard the opposite, where others were making the effort to ensure enough time was spent with patients in order for them to feel important. Once again, it's a balancing act that we absolutely need to get our heads around.  

Now I'm on my way home from San Antonio where I had the absolute pleasure of supporting our Osborne College of Audiology at their annual AudiologyNOW,  American Academy of Audiology meeting. It's funny, there was no talk of RVU's or anything like that. Audiology is a dynamic profession in the midst of growth and change.   Today's audiologists are trained at the highest level (they obtain an AuD or Doctor of Audiology degree), but because legislation has not kept up with educational levels, these amazingly talented professionals are not considered independent providers in the eyes of Medicare, most third party payers and the Federal Government. This creates quite a problem if Medicare patients need hearing care as they must be referred to an audiologist if that provider is to receive Medicare or third party reimbursement. While the profession is working hard to get this corrected, it's not likely going to happen for quite a while. The sad part is that the biggest loser is the patient. Getting back to my original points about patient or person-centered care, the government really needs to take a hard look at professions such as audiology. They need to ensure that patients are benefiting from current rules and regulations and not lobbyists, or others more concerned about their own rice bowls than they are about the patients we all care for.

Monday, January 26, 2015

University Mission & Vision Statements

It's been a while since I've written one of these. Lots going on at the University these days. We're getting ready to put the final touches on our strategic plan which is extremely exciting. We've been able to reach out to a large majority of our University community to include students, faculty, alumni, Board of Trustees and staff. The input we've received from each cohort has significantly shaped the tenor of discussion that has resulted in what I believe is an aggressive, thoughtful and realistic plan for Salus. In our off-site with the Board of Trustees yesterday we all agreed that we needed to drive a greater sense of urgency into portions of our plan that will result in accelerated curriculum changes in our optometry program, improvements in infrastructure and a continued emphasis on program accreditation, self assessment and program excellence.

To that end the Board approved our new Mission and Vision statements:



Subsequent College plans will align under the umbrella of the University's overarching plan.  It's exciting to be part of the process and see how each college is developing their road maps that lead to providing the most modern, efficacious and exciting integrated health science programs in the country.

It's an honor to be part of this great organization moving the delivery of healthcare forward.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Affordable Care Act and Our Professions - Players or Spectators?

Earlier this week while attending the American Academy of Optometry meeting I wrote a blog posing the question, "How does optometry want to fit into the new healthcare landscape?"  Much to my surprise, while many have had the opportunity to look at the entry, only one person responded - and that person did so in a personal email, not on the blog.  Now that the meeting is over and I’m headed home I'm wondering why the silence?  I think this is a discussion and debate that optometry and all the other health science professions need to have.  

As the effects of the Affordable Care Act take hold on the American healthcare system the number of payment and payer options for our professions will unquestionably change.  Today there are a myriad of payer and insurance companies.  According to the experts I've talked to this almost certainly will change.  In the (very near) future we will see a consolidation of insurance providers and payers much like we've seen in the American healthcare sector.  We've already seen this happen to our airline industry.  Remember when there was an Eastern, National, Pan Am, TWA, and Continental airline?  Well, now there are only a few major carriers.  We're going to see the same thing occur with health insurance carriers.  Optometry, Audiology, Occupational Therapy, Speech, Language Pathology and the other health sciences must be agile in adapting to this new environment, otherwise they risk being "boxed out" by major carriers or worse.  

In my humble opinion, one of the best ways to do this is to ensure we're all part of what will be an integrated system of healthcare providers who are aligned with Accountable Care Organizations, Patient Centric Medical Homes and Medical Neighborhoods and other entities that focus on the delivery of primary care, high quality and value.  As I mentioned in my prior blog I believe this will require all the schools and colleges to work together to develop and teach our students how to best work within this new landscape.  This includes business prowess but also must include in-depth discussions in policy and how to influence policies.  

For optometry, I also believe the profession will need to continue its evolution as a primary care profession to include the management or co-management of common metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.  As our healthcare system focuses more on the public health, outcome data, access to care and cost, professions such as those were training need to become more involved in prevention and patient education.  Smoking cessation, nutritional counseling, and lifestyle advice need to become integral parts of what we teach and ultimately integrate into our everyday practices.  

There is a great deal to think about as we enter into this new chapter in healthcare delivery.  I want us to be part of the discussion on what this looks like and not the recipient of what others develop for us.  Complacency and sitting on the sidelines is not only an unacceptable course of action but can very well become a devastating behavior that leaves many health science professions subservient to others; something many have successfully worked very hard to avoid over the past 50 years.  

It's time to be bold, creative and responsible.  Educators, providers, researchers, industry and other important collaborators need to come together and have a very candid debate on how we all fit into this new healthcare landscape.   We can choose to be spectators or players - Players determine the outcome of the game - spectators only can brood about the outcome.  I want to play;  I hope you do as well!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How Does Optometry Want to Fit Into the New Healthcare Landscape?

I just finished participating in a meeting of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry.  That group is composed of all the Deans and Presidents of the nations optometry schools with representation from our neighbors in Canada.  I had the distinct honor to lead a discussion on how optometry, as a profession, will prepare our new graduates to work in the new healthcare landscape that has been developed by the Affordable Care Act.  Along with that I also asked the group to explore how to build the foundation for the expansion of clinical privileges to include the diagnosis and treatment of such pervasive diseases as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and other prevalent metabolic disorders that often beckon the doors of optometric practice.  The discussion on expanding the scope of practice was spirited, to say the least. There was consensus that we, as educators, need to do a much better job of preparing our graduates to succeed under the new healthcare landscape to include understanding the lexicon of Accountable Care Organizations, Medical Homes and other payor models.  I think we agreed to all work together to develop a consolidated curriculum that will address this in the near future.  I'm committed to having Salus take the lead on this.  

There was much more discussion and debate around the scope of practice expansion.  The Affordable Care Act will result in a significant shortage of primary care providers in the country through the foreseeable future. Someone is going to need to fill that void to see those diabetics, hypertensives and others needing care.  While physician assistants, nurses and possibly others will certainly help to fill that void, optometrists are extremely well positioned to provide the necessary care.   Many diabetics and hypertensive patients are often diagnosed or referred for definitive diagnosis following a routine eye exam.  With additional didactic and clinical training, optometrists can obtain the necessary skills to care for those patients.  While much work still needs to be done both academically and statutorily, I believe this is the direction that optometry needs to take.  A little over 30 years ago optometry obtained diagnostic and therapeutic privileges.  For the benefit of the public health, economics and the patients optometrists care for, it's now time for the profession to take the next evolutional step towards the diagnosis and management of the common diseases aforementioned.  Appropriately, there will be much debate over this, but in the end, the profession needs to decide what direction to take as we enter into this new landscape of healthcare delivery.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Reflecting on Veteran's Day and a Call to Service

As we approach Veteran's Day next week I can't help but to reflect on the sacrifices those in uniform and their families have made to ensure Americans continue to enjoy the freedoms and quality of life that help to define our lives here.   Those veterans who came before us, as well as those currently serving, have done so out of a sense of patriotism and having the call to serve. 

As we reflect upon all the great gifts we have in our country, I think it’s also very fitting to reflect on how we too, as healthcare professionals, can contribute and give back to society, both here and abroad.  I’m not suggesting or expecting anyone to all of a sudden to join the Armed Forces or volunteer for the Peace Corps (although I also wouldn’t discourage it) but I am proposing we take some time to explore how we can better leverage all of our skills towards the betterment of the public health of Americans as well as others.  The call to serve should be a natural desire for all of us in healthcare.  While many do volunteer to “do good things”, I don’t believe it’s the norm; and I certainly don’t believe there’s enough. 

I’d like Salus to set a new standard and redefine how we reach out to others, both here and abroad, to have an even greater impact than we do now on society.   As many of you know, we currently care for children in Philadelphia, Norristown and surrounding public schools, send teams to Haiti, rural, middle America as well as other locations, but we don’t have a centralized, fully aligned approach to this.  I would like to use this refection on Veteran’s Day and a call to service to challenge the Salus community to work together to see how we can COLLECTIVELY pool our expertise as a University community to positively affect the lives of others.

I don’t believe there’s a single formula for this, which is why I’m challenging you to come up with some ideas.  One idea I’ve discussed is to reorganize SOSH and have them align with others at the university to expand their scope of services and destinations.  Let’s talk about it, develop a plan and then, in the true spirit of caring, generosity, ingenuity, and selflessness, execute something that has the Salus signature on it in honor of all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice which allowed us to exercise our freedom in being able to choose healthcare as a profession - and then give something back to society as a way of saying "thanks". 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dr. Joseph Toland

Today Salus University payed tribute to Dr. Joseph Toland, a gentleman, scholar and true professional who has played a significant role into the evolution of optometry and our institution for several decades. Thanks to the generosity of many of our alumni, faculty and staff we have named the large classroom in The Eye Institute in honor of Dr. Toland.  

Dr. Toland has single handedly trained hundreds of us, took on organized opposition to the evolution of the scope of practice of optometry while at the same time caring for thousands of patients in world-class fashion.  His loyalty to our university, his students, his patients and our profession, combined with his compassion, great sense of humor and keen intellect, has had a significant impact on the quality of care we provide for our patients and the manner in which optometry is practiced nationally.  

If you get a chance, please stop by and say thanks to Dr. Toland for all he's done - and check out his portrait in the Dr. Joseph Toland classroom on the second floor of The Eye Institute.