University of Virginia Health officials are working on a 10-year plan they hope will set a course of expanding medical facilities across the state, stimulating more research and providing health care in underserved communities.
The plan is part of UVa’s overall 2030 strategic plan, which was finalized in 2019 but was put on hold pending the arrival of Dr. K. Craig Kent, the health system’s chief executive officer. Kent joined UVa Health in February 2020, arriving along with the pandemic.
“The expectation was that the health system would soon follow with a plan and three weeks later we were in the middle of COVID. That’s when I started my adventure here,” Kent said.
The strategic plan will guide the near future of the health system’s three basic functions of research, teaching and clinical care, but it this year it adds an important fourth goal—providing medical equity in the community.
“UVa Health has never had a strategic plan that looks at all four missions, and our goal is to find ways to connect them,” Kent said. “For instance, our researchers create better treatments for disease and that leads to providing better clinical care. Our school produces more and better doctors and nurses, which aids in clinical care and research and allows us to go into those communities that are underserved. Finding ways to tie these missions together will create something we’re proud of in the next 10 years.”
The plan will most likely support UVa expanding its clinical presence across the state by working with other health providers or purchasing systems.
In 2021, UVa Health bought hospitals in Culpeper, Haymarket and Prince William that it previously co-owned with North Carolina-based Novant Health. The purchase came with the affiliated urgent care centers, imaging centers, physician practices and other medical facilities in the northern part of the state.
UVa Health also finalized an agreement to acquire the Monticello Community Surgery Center, a stand-alone outpatient surgery center located adjacent to UVa Primary Care Riverside on U.S. 29 in Albemarle County.
It also joined Lynchburg-based Centra Health in an agreement that gives Lynchburg-area patients access to UVa doctors in their hometown for treatment of blood cell disorders, services related to kidney transplants, and joint recruitment of specialist physicians.
Currently, UVa Health is in discussions with Virginia Commonwealth University for cooperation in pediatric heart surgeries.
“We’re very much in the expansion phase. We’re interested in growing, and it’s a top priority to us,” Kent said. “We’re anxious to continue to grow and spread throughout Virginia. We have a really great product and our patient care is extraordinary. We take care of patients from the indigent to quaternary care, like heart transplants. And we’re good at it.”
Kent said taking the system’s services into underserved settings will also be a priority in the plan. He credited UVa doctors and staff, including Dr. Max Luna and Dr. Taison Bell, for taking vaccines and COVID education into minority and underserved communities at the pandemic’s height.
“They went out every weekend, talking to groups, going into the community and vaccinating people. They were going door-to-door, sending out information. When they were done, our community, across the board, was extremely well vaccinated,” Kent said.
“Their actions reminded us that you don’t just open your doors and say if you need help, come in. It doesn’t work that way. It’s important that we go proactively out to the community,” he said.
To get input on the plan, health system officials opened lines of communication to 14,000 local staff, employees and faculty and another 2,000 outside of the area. They are also asking for community commentary. Comments can be directed to the leadership through its dedicated website, onefuturetogether.uvahealth.com.
Leaders also created committees to focus on certain aspects of the system’s operations and held listening sessions.