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Horns: Why ECU Physicians and Vidant must unify

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Phyllis N. Horns

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Sunday, October 9, 2016

To understand the ongoing effort to integrate the clinical practices of Vidant Health and the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, it’s important to begin with this premise: The status quo is not an option.

Health care is changing nationwide — particularly the way in which providers are reimbursed for delivering care. It’s no longer about receiving compensation to treat people who are sick. Rather, we are challenged to build a system that can keep people well.

The integration of ECU Physicians and Vidant Medical Group can meet that challenge.

A unified clinical practice will improve patient care and outcomes across the region, increase the efficiency and effectiveness of that care, and advance our ability to identify new strategies addressing the state’s most prevalent health issues. We can share information more easily, pool resources and better manage the cost of care.

Integration also expands our ability to educate a workforce that will serve eastern N.C., by adding access to almost 400 additional physicians and to new training sites across the region.

For East Carolina, it reduces the financial risk associated with operating a clinical practice in a rapidly changing industry while retaining access to an academic, clinical setting for physician faculty and patients.

The Brody School of Medicine and Vidant have had a successful public-private partnership for 40 years. Our missions are uniquely aligned. We’re committed to keeping jobs and high-quality health care in the East, provided by people who have lived and worked in our communities for decades. And we are building a fully-integrated, 750 physician multispecialty practice that will be successful for decades to come.

However, we know Project Unify cannot succeed without our people.

When we embarked on integration in January, leaders from Vidant and East Carolina made a commitment to conduct the work in an open, transparent manner. Transparency can be uncomfortable. It often involves sharing information before a great level of detail has been determined. But it also grants the opportunity for input on the process and its outcomes. Every question asked has the potential to influence the work underway. Leadership weighs every suggestion.

There remain many unknowns regarding how the new organization will operate — including details of employment benefits for those who transition to the new entity. We understand this causes concern, and we ask for employees’ patience with the process.

Human resources staff from East Carolina — operating with employees’ best interests in mind — are engaged in a thorough and thoughtful review of our respective benefits programs. We are reviewing mountains of data about where our employees stand today and discussing how we best meet their needs and expectations. We’re engaging external consultants to provide perspective on that information.

It takes a great deal of work to create something new. We are working as fast as we can, but there’s too much at stake to act in haste. We want the benefits package for the new entity to be attractive, because we need all of our best people to make this initiative a success.

ECU Physicians and the Brody School of Medicine have steadfastly served this region, providing meaningful work for our employees and high-quality care for our community. We’re committed to continuing that legacy.

Phyllis N. Horns is vice chancellor for health sciences at East Carolina University.

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