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International Working Group

Meeting of the International Working Group on Academic Health Center Development and Infrastructure February 18-19, 2010 Washington, DC

The Association of Academic Health Centers International™ (AAHCI) was established with the goal to facilitate academic health centers (AHCs) becoming agents of change embodying the ideals of enhancing health and well-being worldwide through the promotion of best practices and international networking and collaboration.  With the global health environment increasingly interconnected as diseases, patients, students, and professionals cross international borders with greater ease and frequency, AAHCI serves to mobilize and speak on behalf of the collective strengths and resources of academic health centers.  In so doing, AAHCI helps ensure that these institutions have a voice in international matters affecting health, research and the economy.  As an organized group, academic health centers can address pressing needs in public health, patient care, health professions education, and biomedical and clinical research.  In addition, AAHCI can work with institutions to develop the organizational and management expertise that captures the power of the combined missions of the academic health center.

Building upon the success and momentum generated from meetings in Asia and Europe as well as from the International Forums held in Washington, DC, AAHCI convened an International Working Group to address the successful development and sustainability of the academic health center.  Participants representing Europe, Asia, Latin America, North America, and Australia discussed the primary issues facing their institutions and common challenges facing academic health centers worldwide.  Key points addressed included the following:

Overarching Issues

  1. Improving and developing organizational and management structures to enhance the missions of academic health centers.
  2. Defining, measuring, and marketing the value academic health centers provide to a broad range of stakeholders and audiences.
  3. Adapting to new healthcare delivery challenges, including workforce concerns, primary care shortcomings, and new models of healthcare delivery.
  4. Sustaining the research mission and research funding in uncertain economic times.

 Enhancing Strategic Planning and Governance Models

  1. Recognizing that each academic health center faces unique circumstances, including political and economic contexts, participants discussed the importance of studying organizational, management, and leadership strategies to create a profile of models and develop guidelines that can be tailored to individual AHC needs.
  2. AAHCI is playing an integral role in the strategic development of AHCs by providing expertise and guidance on the development of strategic planning, leadership strategies and organizational models.
  3. Participants suggested that AAHCI could expand its assistance to AHCs by critiquing or reviewing existing governance structures/models, with a focus on maintaining an effective infrastructure, identifying best practices, and creating more efficient and better aligned institutions.
  4. Participants discussed their experience with ad hoc exchange programs for senior administrators, and suggested that AAHCI could facilitate such exchanges to foster experiential learning and knowledge transfers.

Adapting to the Changing Research Environment

  1. As international research and business opportunities continue to expand, AHCs and AAHCI should look for new ways to reduce and/or eliminate barriers to international collaboration and to facilitate cooperation through international networks.
  2. In response to increasing global competitiveness, AHCs should consider pursuing new opportunities with private industry.  For example, AHCs can benefit from marketing themselves as comprehensive research enterprises that offer unique opportunities to pool patient populations, provide platforms for research, and provide the technological and human resources for clinical trials.
  3. Participants discussed how AAHCI could play a role in helping academic health centers sustain their research missions.  Suggestions included: providing best practices for creating positive partnerships with industry, facilitating networking opportunities for international collaboration, and developing more efficient research management practices.
Developing the Academic Health Center “Value Proposition”
  1. Given the continuously changing political environments, AHCs must remain diligent in communicating their value message so governments and stakeholders understand and appreciate the educational, economic, and healthcare value AHCs provide.
  2. Academic health centers are faced with the challenge of improving how they define and differentiate what they are and the unique value they provide to their communities and countries.
  3. Participants discussed the importance of identifying quantifiable, measurable, and broadly comparable factors that could be used to demonstrate and track the value of AHCs.
  4. Faced with reforming health systems, shifting workforce needs, and increasing demands for clinical productivity, pressure is mounting to measure health outcomes, in addition to research output.  This requires a broader understanding of the multitude of ways in which AHCs impact health outcomes.

Addressing Population Health

  1. As leaders in healthcare, AHCs can set the standard for the provision of care.  AHCs’ efforts directly enhance the health and well being of their communities, while also playing an important role in the improvement of population health.
  2. To further enhance the goal of improving health and wellbeing, AHCs and AAHCI may have an opportunity to play a leading role by bringing key stakeholders together to galvanize and coordinate efforts to improve population health.

Evaluating the Healthcare Workforce

  1. The unpredictability of healthcare, including new diseases, changing models of care, and shifting demographics within the workforce, make it challenging to evaluate and predict future demands on the healthcare workforce.  
  2. Participants discussed that AHCs and AAHCI are well positioned to evaluate and provide guidelines on health workforce planning.
  3. There is also the need to address workforce planning on a global scale.  With increasing migration of healthcare workers, there is a need for an open discussion on international workforce migration.  AAHCI can provide a forum for key stakeholders to dialogue on the issue.

Considering the Role of AHCs in Health Systems Research

  1. Questions were raised concerning the role of AHCs in researching and improving health systems.  In this regard, AAHCI could act as a forum for analyzing and sharing case management strategies as well as developing disease and case management guidelines.
  2. AHCs and AAHCI could play a leading role in researching models of care and the curriculum and education strategies to support new models of care.
Suggested Future Activities for AAHCI
  1. Continue to bring together AHC leaders to address emerging global health issues, develop strategies to enhance AHC infrastructure worldwide, and provide critical networking and collaborative opportunities to AHC peers.
  2. Establish or develop groups to address best practices and evidence based models for AHC leadership, governance, and organization.
  3. Develop the AHC value proposition, with a focus on establishing concrete benchmarks and performance indicators to demonstrate AHC excellence.
  4. Examine strategies to facilitate international research collaboration by reducing barriers to research and creating opportunities for international research networking.
  5. Work to enhance the interface between education and workforce planning.

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In summary, AAHCI’s Working Group brought together leaders of the global academic healthcare community to address issues related to supporting and strengthening academic health centers worldwide.  The Working Group will continue to serve as part of the work of AAHCI, with a focus on promoting increased international collaboration.