Ascension Seton leader reflects on Pelosi, Doggett visit


Christann Vasquez, President of Dell Ascension Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, talks health care collaboration and a shared vision for a healthier tomorrow

On April 20, 2017, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett toured Dell Ascension Seton, the new teaching hospital set to open May 21 in the heart of downtown Austin. The tour ended with an engaging roundtable discussion among community members about what’s working with the Affordable Care Act, and what still needs to be fixed. Here she shares her thoughts on the day.

I’ve had my share of fulfilling assignments in health care, but earlier today I was struck by how much my current project – standing up Dell Ascension Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas – connects to my passion for making health care more accessible and comforting.

I was walking through our soon-to-open state-of-the-art academic medical center with California Congresswoman and Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett, explaining how we worked closely with community doctors, Dean Johnston and faculty from Dell Medical School, as well as patients themselves, to reinvent the way we deliver care.

It was a pleasure to show them how, after deconstructing the acute care experience, we are better equipped as a system to address patient and family needs and improve the quality of care. As the health care decision maker in my family, I think the community will appreciate the invisible thinking and technologies that went into reducing the complexity and anguish of a hospital stay. We borrowed quality processes from the manufacturing world that will save clinical staff both steps and time; that standardization and streamlining will clear the way for increased face-to-face contact with patients, and subsequently more healing.

As a representative of Seton, part of Ascension, the nation’s largest nonprofit health system and the world’s largest Catholic health system, I’m proud that we looked beyond the single, episodic hospitalization to the whole continuum of care. We’ve plotted a more holistic transition to the next setting for recovery – whether that’s back to home, to inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation, or to skilled nursing. Wherever our patients are headed, they will leave Dell Ascension Seton with a good foundation for future health and well-being. I’m convinced that what is good for the patient is good for U.S. health care overall.

Here is an example.

We’re providing each patient with a keyboard and monitor that offers information, entertainment and – here’s the kicker – customized education on how to get and stay well. Education is “prescribed” by the care team through a note in the patient’s electronic health record. The team will get feedback from the system that tells us whether or not the education is complete. If it is, that’s a good sign that the patient has the motivation and support he or she needs to follow through on instructions for self-care after leaving the medical center. If, however, we see that our patient is unable to complete a learning module, that’s a signal to the team that we need to adjust our engagement strategy to avoid an unnecessary readmission.

Again, partnerships like the ones we have with The University of Texas and the local health district, Central Health, have really made us a more inspired and smarter provider of care.

Speaker Pelosi and Rep. Doggett, who’ve been deeply involved in essential health care advocacy for decades, were as versed in the benefits of teamwork as we’ve become. So, it was immensely satisfying to hear Leader Pelosi refer to our collaborative approach and innovation as “remarkable,” and add that “if you combine collaboration, technology and the respect [for the patient] that you see at Dell Ascension Seton Medical Center, that’s a model for the country.”

At the very least, it’s a model for Austin, and I’m so glad to be part of it.

Hope to see a big crowd at our Community Open House on May 13!