New UT System Institute to focus on health care system quality

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Lynda Chin, recently named associate vice chancellor for health transformation and chief innovation officer for health affairs for the UT System, is set to lead the newly created UT System Institute for Health Transformation. 

Chin will use the institute to develop workable, realistic strategies for improving health care quality.

Modern health care techniques must adapt to more properly handle chronic diseases, Chin said in a press release issued by the UT System.

“The current health care model is based on providing acute care to sick patients; that is very ineffective in management of chronic diseases like diabetes,” Chin said in a statement. “A system re-design is needed. Today’s social, mobile and cloud technology along with big data and cognitive analytics can be the keys to a much-needed transformation.”

The institute’s first course of action will be to take control of a program known as Project Diabetes Obesity Control (DOC). The program, approved by the UT System Board of Regents in November 2014, was created with the intent of improving care for patients with diabetes in South Texas.

“The goal of Project DOC is to use big data and technology — whether social, mobile or cloud — to improve the health of diabetes patients by enhancing access to care, empowering better self-management and promoting healthier living,” a November 2014 statement said.

A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows diabetes is on the rise in Texas. In 1994, between 4.5 to 5.9 percent of the Texas population was diagnosed with the disease. In 2013, that had risen to more than 9 percent of the population.

UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said the technology developed through Project DOC could be used for tasks such helping patients track and remember medication through a smartphone. She said the institute will provide the necessary social connections to help the technology advance.

“In order to design the app for the right users — who may or may not be the patients themselves — and for the app to be effective, technology developers must understand cultural and language preference in a community, as well as other social needs,” LaCoste-Caputo said.

LaCoste-Caputo said Project DOC staff will collaborate with the recently established South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute at UT-Rio Grande Valley, the UT System Research Cyberinfrastructure, the Institute for Transformational Learning and other UT System institutions.

The UT System will announce other initiatives the Institute for Healthcare Transformation will take on as they are launched, LaCoste-Caputo said.

Former UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa named Chin to be a Chancellor’s Health Fellow in 2014 with a focus on diabetes care. The UT System Office of Health Affairs created the fellowship to recognize innovative work being done at health institutions throughout the System that had potential to have broad societal impact.

Raymond Greenberg, UT System executive vice chancellor for health affairs, was not available for comment.