LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 5, 2014) -- Dr. Mark V. Williams, the new director for the University of Kentucky Center for Health Services Research, has a clear vision for the multidisciplinary research center: Applying research to optimize care.
Williams joins UK's continued efforts on quality improvement and outcomes research. The Center for Health Services Research (CHSR) is focused on creating, testing and scaling next-generation solutions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health care delivery and the overall health of people within Kentucky and beyond. A primary objective of the center is to accelerate the discovery of new knowledge concerning clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of health care delivery, particularly in rural and limited-resource settings.
Health services and outcomes research is an evolving priority area for UK. With the recruitment of Williams and his research team, UK adds significant clinical informatics expertise and depth to the biomedical informatics capacity already housed within the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science.
"Just as evidence-based medicine has permeated the specialty areas of care, we need to do the exact same thing to determine the best evidence for how we care for patients across the system of care," Williams said."That's what the Center for Health Services Research is about."
Under Williams's leadership, the CHSR will strive to translate research findings into improved decision-making in the clinics, conference rooms and administrative offices of UK HealthCare.
Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president for health affairs, recognizes the importance of health services research in ensuring efficient, high quality care. "We must continue to invest in informatics and research in order to successfully adapt our health care delivery system to the changing health care environment," he said.
Williams brings to the Center a wealth of clinical and research expertise. He most recently served as the chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. A graduate of the University of Florida and Emory University School of Medicine, Williams completed an internship and his residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. He also completed postdoctoral training at the General Medicine Faculty Development Fellowship Program of the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, the Woodruff Leadership Academy, the Harvard Palliative Care Education Program, the Advanced Training Program in Quality Improvement at the University of Utah, and obtained a Lean Certification from Simpler Consulting Inc.
His extensive experience has taught him the importance of looking several years ahead to anticipate and prepare for changes in the health care landscape.
"If you don’t prepare for the future, when it arrives and you're not ready, you're going be in a swamp of confusion," he said. "And people are recognizing that there isn't going be the same amount of money in health care delivery as there has been."
He also recognizes the increasing importance of collaboration in providing the highest quality care amidst stretched health care resources. In fact, it was the capacity for collaborative research that drew Williams to UK. He was accustomed to receiving emails inquiring about his interest in various professional positions, but as soon as he saw the job description for the CHSR director, he was entranced. Leveraging diverse resources for research to improve health care delivery is something he has been interested in since the 1990s.
"To deliver health care efficiently and still at the highest quality, you have to have a team approach. It mandates that everyone is working together to coordinate a patient's care," he said. "UK has very high quality, mid-career faculty and the ability to recruit top-tier researchers. And a unique aspect of UK HealthCare is that within a stone's throw, you have all the other colleges like nursing, pharmacy, health sciences, dentistry and public health with business and engineering just down the street. This sort collaboration is the future of health care."
That sentiment is shared by Dr. Stephen Wyatt, dean of the UK College of Public Health and associate director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science. "Building the Center for Health Services Research will help coalesce health services and clinical informatics research on our campus, so that we can continue to make advancements in health outcomes and efficient care delivery," he said.
Several areas of focus will take immediate priority at the CHSR. Williams acknowledges that a byproduct of UK HealthCare's success is a capacity constraint as more patients seek treatment at, or are referred to, UK.
"We need to figure out how to deliver care more efficiently with higher throughput in order to open up our capacity," he said.
Another pressing issue is appropriate staffing for patient care. Again, Williams sees improved collaboration as a key to the solution.
"Patient care involves more than just physicians - it's about the whole team. There have to be strong partnerships with nursing and pharmacy, for example, to increase efficiency of care. We need to get the staff out of their swim lanes, put them in a boat and have them row together."
The CHSR will also investigate how increased efficiency can facilitate improved care transitions to reduce readmission and follow-up visits to the emergency room, common issues faced by hospital systems.
Williams envisions a robust educational component CHSR, as well. He plans to engage training programs and students in quality improvement work and research. Specifically, he is interested in developing interprofessional education programs such as communication training for providers in order to better inform and guide patients through difficult health care decisions.
Williams is excited about the capacity of the CHSR to improve patient outcomes, increase efficiency, and serve as a bridge between the extensive resources across UK's medical enterprise and campus.
"We need to think imaginatively and look at patients' interactions across the system of care," he said. "We don’t necessarily know what the best approaches will be, but through research we can figure it out. And we cannot afford to be investing in an approach to care delivery if we're not sure it's going to work."
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