That alliance between RIT and the former Rochester General Hospital System (now known as Rochester Regional Health) was launched at a dinner meeting in December 2008. RIT President Bill Destler, former RGHS CEO Mark Clement, and the late Michael Morley, a member of both RIT and the hospital system’s boards, came together to talk about how a strategic alliance between the two organizations could leverage their respective strengths and benefit both.
It took another year to work out the details. But by December 2009, an interim managing director and a team of consultants were in place and an agreement was signed to establish a joint committee whose working groups would create a strategic plan for the alliance. The committee drafted a five-year plan, which was presented to boards of both organizations for approval by June 2010.
The five-year strategic plan recommended:
- Development of an Institute of Health Sciences and Technology to solidify the union of technology and medicine to innovate in health care education and delivery;
- Development of mutually beneficial shared services that take advantage of mutual strengths and expertise to create increased access to quality health care and education and to create cost efficiencies for both institutions.
Since that approval, so much has happened. In February 2011, the Institute of Health Sciences and Technology was established, and a search was initiated for a new vice president and dean. That April, RIT announced creation of its ninth college, the College of Health Sciences and Technology, with enrollment for the 2011-12 academic year of more than 550 students. By year’s end, Dr. Daniel Ornt had been hired as vice president of the Institute and dean of the College of Health Sciences and Technology.
Under Dr. Ornt’s leadership, the college continues to grow.
Programs include master’s degrees in health systems administration and medical illustration, BS degrees in biomedical sciences, nutrition management, diagnostic medical sonography (DMS), and physician assistant, which was approved for a new 5-year BS/MS degree. The DMS program has added a certificate in echocardiography and a certificate in exercise physiology has now evolved into a BS in exercise science as part of the new Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition. The college enrollment has now expanded to enrollment of 645 students.
Shared services between the two organizations also has expanded over the years. Starting in 2013, RIT modeled an employee health benefits plan to offer significant discounts for employees to use the health system’s providers. RRH established a Find-a-Physician Service for RIT faculty and staff, including assistance with appointments, and more RIT staff are now getting medical services from RRH.
In fall 2013, Rochester Regional secured a five-year agreement with RIT Athletics to provide sports medicine services for the university’s teams, with 24-hour on-call coverage, expanding Rochester Regional’s reputation in its sports medicine and orthopedic program and giving students ready access to expertise and quality care.
The October 2015 opening of a Rochester Regional Family Medicine Practice and Lab, co-located in the RIT Clinical Health Sciences Center with CHST’s clinical programs: physician assistant, diagnostic medical sonography, the Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition and Behavioral Health Research. This medical practice offers services to RIT employees and partnership opportunities with these clinical programs, as well as with RIT’s Better Me Wellness program for faculty and staff.
Our Health Coach initiative is now in its third year. RIT students, primarily those interested in professional health care careers, are offered a semester course on community health, taught by Rochester Regional and GRIPA clinicians. A practicum course follows in which students work as part of a care management team to impact the health of chronically ill patients. The program helps train the next generation of health care leaders in the challenges of delivering services in the context of psycho/social and economic barriers. To date, 21 patients have been engaged, resulting in a 90 percent drop in their emergency room use and a 35-percent reduction in inpatient visits.
The Health Care Idea Lab, beginning its fourth year, provides RIT students with real-world experience in solving challenges provided by Rochester Regional Health team members. Projects such as the mobile centrifuge carrier designed by a student team have already reduced costs for the health system. Other student and faculty projects over the years have provided valuable operational studies that have resulted in changes in thinking and process that impact patient safety, and improve quality and the bottom line for the health system, while furthering RIT’s signature experiential learning. The alliance is now headed into the future with a new strategic planning process and a new focus on entrepreneurship.
Cynthia Gray is assistant vice president, RIT-Rochester Regional Health Alliance.