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Mayo CEO joins ASU to lead health care policy program

Denis Cortese
December 08, 2009

Denis Cortese, a doctor of medicine, former president and chief executive officer  of Mayo Clinic, will join the faculty of Arizona State University in February.

Cortese will lead the ASU Health Care Delivery and Policy Program that is focused on facilitating and promoting a sustainable U.S. health care delivery system that produces high value health care for all citizens.

He also will be a Foundation Professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics and the School of Health Management and Policy in the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“Dr. Cortese has unparalleled professional expertise and is an innovative thinker when it comes to envisioning a health care system that is focused on the patient and is financially sustainable,” ASU President Michael Crow said. “ASU embraces and nurtures big ideas aimed at solutions to pressing challenges so it’s a perfect fit.”

“We are thrilled that Dr. Cortese is joining our faculty to help lead our efforts in shaping a better health care system for our state and nation and to work with our faculty and students who are interested in these issues,” said Elizabeth D. Capaldi, ASU’s executive vice president and provost.

Cortese, whose career spans 40 years at Mayo, said what drew him to ASU was the opportunity to lead an initiative truly focused on designing a better health care delivery system in the United States.

“I have been interested in this area for the past 20 years,” he said. “How do we design a delivery system that keeps people healthy instead of just takes care of them when they are sick? That means looking at a myriad of things, including the environment in which care is delivered, to changing the way people are paid, to allowing physicians to practice medicine in a way that makes sense for patients. Our country should have the highest value health care system in the world. It should not strive to simply have cheaper health care.”

Value in health care, he said can be measured as patient outcomes plus safety plus patient satisfaction/cost over a span of time.

Several universities were interested in Cortese’s goal of advancing a high value health care system, but he said that ASU was the right fit for several reasons.

The reasons included: a university president who understood the vision; exceptional academic programs led by people interested in redirecting how health care is delivered; the recent hiring of Dr. Lee Hartwell and his focus on personalized medicine (the “other side of the equation”), location in a state that is dynamic, growing and “willing to experiment;” proximity to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix where he continues to have ties; and “no medical school.”

In regard to the latter, Cortese said medical schools already have a certain way of training people and are difficult to redirect. What he is talking about is a paradigm shift that involves not only physicians, but nurses, hospital administrators, allied health professionals and the insurance industry. What ASU offered was “exceptional academic and research programs in business, engineering, nursing and biodesign.”

The ASU Health Care Delivery and Policy program will work to find the policy directions and options that will move Arizona and U.S. health care toward that high value goal. The program will accomplish this objective by:

• Analyzing and tracking the literature and actual delivery settings and approaches that deliver that high value care.

• Convening senior leaders from health care delivery organizations to review selected health policy directions that hold promise; reviewing actions by organizations that have improved patient value; and developing recommendations.

• Publishing a summary of the group’s views on the policy directions, recommended ways to implement the policies, and a summary of the various provider actions that have improved value so that these methods might be implemented elsewhere.

• Publishing a synopsis of the ASU Health Care Delivery Policy Program’s individual views on major health policy issues of importance in the United States and Arizona.

• Contributing ideas, promoting concepts and influencing those making policy decisions.