Defining a Great Academic Health System

As we close another successful fiscal year, one that included the opening of a new hospital in Lake Forest, implementation of a single electronic health record across the health system and advancement of many strategic goals, I am pleased to update you on the next chapter of the Northwestern Medicine (NM) strategic plan. This effort was initiated to better understand characteristics that define a great academic health system. A broad group of internal and external stakeholders shared perceptions of NM’s current strengths and where there were opportunities to further elevate performance.

We are grateful for the thoughts and feedback from leaders at Northwestern University and the Feinberg School of Medicine, as well as numerous valued partners, dedicated board members, advisors, patients and employees. We learned:

Great academic health systems:

  • Provide outstanding clinical care informed by groundbreaking research, led by nationally recognized clinicians and scientists;
  • Are a destination not only for patients, but for physicians, scientists and others who want to practice in an environment that is patient-focused, collaborative and innovative;
  • Achieve consistent results that optimize the patient experience.

Dean M. Harrison

NM’s core strengths today include:

  • The presence of gifted clinicians delivering superb clinical care;
  • The Patients First culture and collaborative environment;
  • Strong performance focus and consistent practices that deliver results.

There are opportunities to elevate NM’s reputation through:

  • Continued investment in research, innovation and the experience of patients, physicians and staff;
  • Deepening connections between hospitals and clinicians with Feinberg, the Kellogg School of Management, McCormick School of Engineering and more broadly, Northwestern University;
  • Greater focus on telling the NM story through superior patient outcomes, groundbreaking discoveries and our collaborative culture.

Since NM articulated its vision “to become a premier integrated academic health system” in 2015, significant progress has been made to integrate business functions such as finance, information technology and human resources. NM’s 34 business services now are able to efficiently scale with the growth of the health system.

With the implementation of a single instance of an electronic health record, NM’s caregivers are now connected across the health system. This technology, along with the formation of system-wide clinical collaboratives, positions NM to accelerate clinical integration to improve patient outcomes and safety. One example is the evolution of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute (BCVI). Formed in 2004, it has been the No. 1 cardiovascular program in Illinois for 10 straight years. An early result of clinical integration in BCVI is the expansion of the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) program to the far western suburbs, effectively scaling and connecting NM’s intellectual strength for patients to receive advanced care where they live and work.

Due in no small part to the extraordinary partnership between Northwestern University and Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, Northwestern Medicine is uniquely positioned for greatness in a turbulent and rapidly evolving industry. I look forward to providing further updates on NM’s year-end results and the next chapter of NM’s “Good to Great” journey.

With warm regards,

Dean M. Harrison
President and CEO
Northwestern Memorial Healthcare