In June of 2016, the new Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin welcomed its first class of students into a first of its kind education experience. Unlike in more traditional lecture- and memorization-based learning models, starting on the first day of their training, Dell Med students work in inter-professional teams to apply critical thinking and coordinated leadership skills to solve problems based on real-world patient case histories. It is this core idea—that in our contemporary, information-rich world, physicians create more value for patients when they lead integrated teams that are entirely focused on treating each patient as a complete, multifaceted individual—that we believe will change the health care experience for people and their communities in meaningful and obvious ways.
This past October, Dell Medical School faculty and staff began practicing what they teach when they came together as UT Health Austin, the new medical group practice that is now delivering direct patient care in our state-of-the-art Health Transformation Building (HTB) located on Trinity Street in downtown Austin. Reflecting the thinking of hundreds of experienced medical and administrative professionals, there are three driving ideas behind everything we do:
1. Every patient is the center of their own, personalized care team:
Depending on your needs, your UT Health Austin care team may include one or more specialty physicians, as well as a nurse, pharmacist, physical therapist, dietitian, social worker, and others. Your UT Health Austin care team will also coordinate and collaborate with your primary care or other community physician to ensure the continuity of your care remains uninterrupted, and that every valued member of your care team stays up-to-date regarding your situation and needs. Working together, your care team will discuss your situation and progress throughout the entire cycle of care, creating an individualized care plan that will make the most of your scheduled visit time, and guide you every step of the way toward your health goals.
2. Every patient is an individual with unique circumstances, values and needs:
At UT Health Austin, we care for people where they are, doing everything we can to make sure our patients succeed. This means that we will go beyond the care room to include such factors as your age, overall health, weight and other conditions in your care plan. We will also take the time to understand your personal values, your preferences, and your beliefs to ensure that the details of your care align as closely as possible to who you are as an individual. If, for example, you are having surgery on your knee, we will start by asking how many stairs you have at home, and if you live with someone who can help you get around while you heal. But we will also ask if you prefer to avoid medications whenever possible, or if you would be interested in actively pursuing exercise or lifestyle choices that could help you achieve your care goals. By including your personal situation, preferences, family history and values in our evaluation, we will work with you to create the plan that is just right for you.
3. Measuring what matters to you helps everyone do better:
In health care, “outcomes” usually describe aspects of the care patients receive from a doctor or hospital that are comparatively easy to measure: like how many days the average patient spends in the hospital for a particular condition. But at UT Health Austin, we will also measure outcomes that are personally important in our patients’ lives. Such as your ability to do the things you hoped you would be able to do before you started your care; or if you felt informed during every phase of your care plan. By asking our patients what they value most, your UT Health Austin care team will make understanding your goals their priority; and meeting those goals will be the measure of our success.
Following the work that resulted in the Dell Medical School (constructing a premier physical space, recruiting respected faculty, securing accreditation for a new medical education curriculum, and welcoming our first two student classes), our relentless pursuit of excellence moved from the classroom to the care room when UT Health Austin began treating patients in October and November 2017. In the upcoming year, we will add several new specialty clinics that will allow us to better serve the needs of every member of our community. And, in the spirit of discovery that harkens back to The University of Texas at Austin’s original ambitions, we will build a world-class medical research program in the Health Discovery Building located next door to the HTB.
Making a positive difference by delivering great care, stimulating communication, and improving the quality of all our lives, is how everyone at UT Health Austin shows how much we care. You can experience the UT Health Austin difference for yourself by visiting us at uthealthaustin.org.