- Mission Forward is a new initiative to address capacity and staffing constraints, restore long-term financial stability and chart our future path to ensure UW Medicine can continue providing high-quality, equitable patient care to meet the needs of our community.
- We’re in the early stages of this initiative and anticipate updating the community through town halls, email messages and a new website where the community can access up-to-date information on our progress.
- The FAQ below answers some of the top questions about Mission Forward.
Last week, we announced Mission Forward, an initiative to address capacity and staffing constraints, restore long-term financial stability and chart our future path to ensure UW Medicine can continue providing high-quality, equitable patient care to meet the needs of our community. As we address these challenges together, we also recognize the toll of the past three years and are committed to continuing to support the well-being of our UW Medicine community.
We know that you have questions, many of which we may not have answers to yet. Below, we have answered 10 initial frequently asked questions. This FAQ will evolve as Mission Forward progresses and more information is available.
Q: What is Mission Forward?
A: Mission Forward is an initiative to define our future path, including the steps we must take to continue delivering on our mission to improve the health of the public. We will work together to address capacity and staffing constraints and restore financial stability while supporting our patient care, educational and research programs. As we address these challenges together, we recognize the toll of the past three years and are committed to continuing to support the well-being of our UW Medicine community.
Q: Why is Mission Forward needed?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the healthcare landscape. Along with all healthcare systems across the country, UW Medicine is struggling with serious capacity, access, staffing and financial challenges. This initiative is necessary so that we can continue putting patients first, supporting excellence in the workplace, delivering unparalleled and advanced clinical services, and providing high-value, equitable care.
Q: How serious is the financial situation facing UW Medicine and what are the key drivers?
A: The financial situation for UW Medicine’s three hospitals is serious. In the first quarter of our current fiscal year, UW Medicine hospitals reported a loss of over $80 million. We anticipate another significant shortfall in the second quarter. There are many reasons for this, but key drivers include:
- Average hospital length of stay has increased due to reduced ability to discharge patients who no longer require hospitalization while limiting access for those patients who need our care.
- Patient volumes at our hospitals remain extremely high, again due in part, to the lack of post-acute care availability.
- Costs associated with our workforce have increased as a result of contract labor and wage increases as we continue to invest in staffing to serve our patients.
UW Medicine is not alone. This summer, the Washington State Hospital Association reported a net loss of approximately $929 million for hospitals across the state in the first three months of 2022. While operating revenue increased by 5%, operating expenses increased by 11%.
Q: Has UW Medicine engaged anyone to help with this work?
A: Yes. UW Medicine has engaged Huron Consulting Group, a global professional services firm, to help lead this work. Phase 1 of the project is focused on assessing our current situation and identifying near- and long-term opportunities. We anticipate Phase 1 of the project lasting roughly 12 weeks.
Q: Are there specific initiatives being considered?
A: Yes. We are implementing several short-term initiatives to address key issues and support well-being. These include:
- Reducing length of stay to create capacity for additional inpatient admission volume.
- Improving clinical documentation to accurately reflect the complexity of our patients.
- Improving how we get paid for the services we provide.
- Reducing use of, and reliance on, contract labor.
Many of these initiatives may build on existing work. However, Huron’s assessment will help us identify where we should focus our attention in the short term to achieve meaningful improvement as quickly as possible. In addition, Huron’s work will help us identify new near- and long-term opportunities.
Q: How long will Mission Forward last?
A: We know it will take time to make meaningful, long-term changes to our operations and expect this to be a multi-year initiative. We’re currently identifying opportunities, setting priorities and creating action plans.
Q: How will this work impact me?
A: When launching a project of this nature, we recognize that many of you might be wondering how this will impact you. Our work over the next several months will help us answer that question with more detail and clarity. We expect the work will require changes for many of us and may require us to reimagine aspects of our operations, adopt new technology or learn new skills. We acknowledge that all this change can feel overwhelming, so we will do this work together, supporting each other and the well-being of our UW Medicine community.
Q: Are layoffs or furloughs planned at this time?
A: Our ability to achieve our mission depends on the talent and dedication of our faculty, staff and trainees. Widespread layoffs and furloughs are not planned at this time. UW Medicine makes all staffing decisions with the utmost care and in accordance with applicable law, policies, procedures and collective bargaining agreements.
Q: When will additional information be provided?
A: We are committed to providing our community with frequent and transparent communication on Mission Forward. We anticipate updating the community through town halls, email messages and a new website where the community can access up-to-date information on our progress.
In the coming months, teams directly involved in Mission Forward will be developing our plan. Though these teams are working with great urgency, this initiative will take time. We will share more information as soon as we are able.
Q: How can I contribute?
A: Our strength as an integrated clinical, research and learning health system comes from the contributions of each person who is part of UW Medicine, and we will need everyone’s help to ensure UW Medicine is positioned for future success.
There will be many ways to contribute in the coming months. Here are some easy ways to engage now:
- Read and share with your colleagues the information communicated about this project.
- Prioritize Mission Forward work and consider delaying non-essential meetings or projects.
- If you have an idea, share it: for now, please use your standard leadership pathway.
We thank you for your continued commitment to UW Medicine, our patients and our broader community.
Timothy H. Dellit, MD
Interim CEO, UW Medicine
Interim Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and
Interim Dean of the School of Medicine,
University of Washington
Interim President, UW Medicine Hospitals & Clinics
Interim Vice President for Medical Affairs,
University of Washington