Johnston discusses changing health care system

Ariana Guerra

Clay Johnston, dean of the Dell Medical School, emphasized in a lecture Monday the importance of not accepting the status quo when looking for new solutions in the health care system.

Johnston was hired as the inaugural dean of the Dell Medical School in January. Currently under construction, the school is scheduled to open in fall 2016.

Johnston said medical schools have become multibillion dollar enterprises that see any new business models as threats to their structure.

“They get stuck,” Johnston said. “And promoting health isn’t the priority — but helping the sick.” 

During the lecture in Burdine Hall for a freshmen signature course speaker series, Johnston said, as a researcher focusing on stroke prevention, he was frustrated with the process of executing research studies. He felt the procedure took too long and did not effectively reach
the patients.

“There were few people saying, ‘How do we make research faster? How can we reorganize the structure in order to accelerate studies to reach patients? [It’s] horribly inefficient and everyone is suffering from this,’” Johnston said.

His criticism of the standard method for conducting research studies influenced his concern with other areas in the medical field.

“A new issue comes up,” Johnston said. “Not only is it inefficient, but, with new innovation, it increases the cost of health care. … People are not benefitting from the new technology. The cost of banking and telecommunication has gone way down, so it’s changed the way we live our life, but that’s not true in health. Drugs are not getting cheaper with technology. It’s actually gotten more and more expensive.”

Johnston identified several issues he saw within the health care system and urged students to think critically about those issues, including the requirement to visit the doctor’s office when patients have the flu or that hospital gowns exposing a patient’s rear are still used.

Johnston also evaluated the gap insurance companies create between patients and the value of their care, as well as the “lone cowboy” physician who underplays team and community efforts.

“Just accepting that they should be that way means we’re not looking for solutions,” Johnston said. “It’s not something to be sad about, but it’s an
opportunity for things to be addressed and solutions to be proposed.”

John Daigre, Dell Medical School spokesman, said the presentation was aimed to help students envision themselves in the school and see their work in the medical field go beyond UT.

“It’s about understanding that … creating a medical school of the future … includes a lot of things that people may not recognize,” Daigre said. “It’s all about new models of care — using data and technologies [in a] new way.”