THE DAILY STUDENT NEWSPAPER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH

Everette James helps Pitt understand health care

Gwenn Barney | August 23, 2011    

Former Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Everette James came to Pitt last fall to take on a role… Former Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Everette James came to Pitt last fall to take on a role tailored specifically to his knowledge of the U.S. health care system and policy, which he’s used to shape-up Pitt’s six schools of health and sciences.

Since his Oct. 1 appointment as Pitt’s associate vice chancellor for health policy and planning, James has advised the University and UPMC on health reform implementation, become leader of the collaborative Comparative

Effectiveness Research Program and taught classes in the Department of Health Policy & Management. Since James works for both UPMC and Pitt, each institution pays 50 percent of his salary.

On July 1 he added a new responsibility to his already full plate: He became director of Pitt’s Health Policy Institute. His role allows him to oversee health policy creation and research in the six schools of health and sciences.

Arthur Levine, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor of health sciences and dean of the medical school, said in an email that the position was created especially for James because he “fits our need perfectly, with his legal expertise and his vast experience with health care policy, planning and legislation.”

“The position is necessary because there are abundant new opportunities for health care research associated with the Affordable Care Act (health care reform). We need a person familiar with the legislation and its many implications who can map the opportunities available to our institutional capabilities,” Levine said.

James, who has offices in both Scaife and Crabtree halls, focuses on combining existing practices or creating new ones to make health care more efficient.

James said he is now a resource shared between all six health sciences schools and UPMC — but none is under his authority.

“I’ve gone from managing 1,700 employees at the Department of Health to a role serving the great Pitt/UPMC health research and delivery institution,” James said. “Our institution, which combines world-class research, a strong and innovative health plan and unparalleled 20-hospital health delivery system, is uniquely positioned to define best care and excellence in health care in the health reform era.”

He resigned from the position as Pennsylvania’s secretary of health to pursue a “great opportunity at a unique school.”

“It was an opportunity to continue the work that I was doing as heath secretary in an institute with excellence in both academic, research and health care delivery,” he said.

Some of the health policy that James has advised the University on so far include new payment and delivery models such as Accountable Care

Organizations, new regulations on payment changes for hospitals with high readmission rates and higher than expected rates of healthcare associated infections, new programs to support community-based prevention activities and the new requirements for charitable hospitals.

James is engaged in teaching, student advising and collaborative research among all of Pitt’s schools of health sciences, as well as at UPMC in the area of health policy.

James hopes to improve the health care in the region through his work with the collaborative Comparative Effectiveness Research program. The Pitt program compares the clinical effectiveness of treatments and services with a goal of determining “what works best” to efficiently improve health outcomes.

“We’re comparing existing treatments and interventions to find the most effective way to treat the most costly conditions,” James said. “We’re trying to deliver better health care at lower costs to deliver the most efficient care.”

In his first order of business as the HPI’s new director, James moved the institute’s offices from the School of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy & Management to the vice chancellor’s office for Health Policy Planning. He did so in hopes of expanding the HPI’s research efforts so that it will include contributions from all six of Pitt’s health and sciences schools.

Previously, most research for the institute was conducted only through the Graduate School of Public Health.

The HPI will now work with researchers and students from all six schools to conduct applied health policy research. James said students will benefit from being able to work on interdisciplinary teams to study ways to deliver care more effectively and efficiently and make policy recommendations.

Students of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, rehab sciences, dentistry and public health will study team-based approaches to improving health outcomes and reducing costs.

“I think this is a University where the nursing school and School of Pharmacy can have a very strong role in health policy. That wasn’t the case before,” he said.

Other administrators in the health sciences have taken notice of James’ clear, effective approach to health policy.

“Faculty members found he brought clarity to the process of policy development,” Pitt’s pharmacy school Dean Patricia Kroboth said. “For those of us not trained in health care policy development, it was a breath of fresh air.”

James also hopes to improve the health care in the region through his work with the collaborative Comparative Effectiveness Research Program. The Pitt program compares the clinical effectiveness of treatments and services with a goal of determining “what works best” to efficiently improve health outcomes.

“We’re comparing existing treatments and interventions to find the most effective way to treat the most costly conditions. We’re trying to deliver better health care at lower costs to deliver the most efficient care,” James said.

Dr. Mark Roberts, chairman of the Department of Health Policy & Management, said he believes James has proven himself a valuable asset to the University.

“He’s been tremendously useful to us in how to move forward with a whole series of initiatives,” Roberts said. “He just has a wealth of knowledge about health regulations and legal requirements.”

Not only faculty and administration are benefiting from James’ expansive knowledge of the health system. This past spring the former government official stepped into the classroom for the first time to teach Health Reform in the U.S.: Past, Present and Future. The class examined the impact of reform on the health system.

“Teaching is my favorite part of this new job because I’m able to work with tomorrow’s leaders in health care and hopefully prepare them for this complex new health care environment,” he said.

The class drew more than 70 students, from both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

“It’s been a fantastic success,” Roberts said. “He never taught a class before and received outstanding evaluations from students.”

This semester James plans to expand his course offerings to also teach a health policy class and serve as a guest lecturer.

However, James is most excited for the spring semester of his original class.

“Next spring will be a fascinating time in health reform — with the presidential election and with the implementation and legal challenges to health care law at the Supreme Court level.”

James’ wife and two daughters will make the move to Pittsburgh from Chadds Ford, Pa., in August. A tennis player himself during his college days at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, James is excited to introduce his family to Pitt’s athletic traditions.

“I’m already a big fan of the Lady Panthers [tennis team],” James said. “I’m excited about bringing [my family] to be part of the Pitt Panther faithful.”

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