Concussion and the Parallel Journey


Dr. Bennet OmaluThat’s not the actor Will Smith standing next to me, it is Dr. Bennet Omalu, the real-life “star” of the movie Concussion.  Dr. Omalu was the dinner speaker at the recent meeting of the Vizient Mid-Atlantic Region leadership in Williamsburg, VA.  His story and the Vizient story share some interesting parallels.

Dr. Omalu is a compelling individual who labored for years in self-described obscurity before discovering something that most neuropathologists had overlooked— Concussive Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE),  a devastating brain injury caused by repeat concussions.  In an emotional speech, he described how the NFL sent investigators to discredit his work, and his personal journey from self-doubt, to self-evaluation, and eventually to public recognition for his outstanding contribution to sports medicine.

In my view, Vizient is on something of a parallel journey. Established as a result of the merger of UHC (formerly University HealthSystem Consortium) and VHA (formerly Voluntary Hospitals of America), Vizient is undergoing a nationwide self-evaluation.  Through this process, they have come to better understand the needs of all of their heterogeneous hospital constituent members (from a 150-bed community hospital in rural Pennsylvania to major academic medical centers like Jefferson).  One thread connecting this journey is Vizient’s collective need for the hospitals to better understand population health and its implications for the delivery system.

I was privileged to be invited to spend an entire morning with these hospital executives from across the Mid-Atlantic region.  My energy was focused on the true meaning of clinical integration and how we must pass through a process akin to Dr. Omalu’s journey of self-evaluation and measurement, and emerge on the other side with good evidence to promote a new style of clinical practice.  As you might imagine, these individual hospital executives are not wallflowers, and they engaged enthusiastically with me as we discussed the transformation of the delivery system from volume to value.  They seemed to  embrace my “no outcome, no income” message.

I’d like to commend Vizient leaders Julie Cerese and Ken Braithwaite for listening carefully to the discussion and making thoughtful contributions to the conversation.  As a result, I’m hopeful  that Vizient will garner positive public recognition, much like Dr. Omalu, as long as they embrace an evidentiary basis to inform their journey from volume to value.

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