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Special Communication
March 23/30, 2005

Why Have Academic Medical Centers Survived?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: The Alerion Institute, North Garden, Va (Dr Moses); The Boston Consulting Group, Bethesda, Md (Dr Moses and Mr Matheson); The Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass (Dr Thier).

JAMA. 2005;293(12):1495-1500. doi:10.1001/jama.293.12.1495

Over the past decade, many observers predicted the demise of the academic medical center (AMC) due to competition from community hospitals and physicians, fragile finances, inefficiency, and organizational complexity. In 2004, we interviewed 23 AMC and community hospital administrators to determine why those predictions have proven unfounded, learn the leaders’ current concerns and priorities, and to identify desirable changes. Chief concerns were reimbursement uncertainty, federal research policy, ineffective internal decision-making, and clinical quality (mentioned in more than 75% of interviews). Priorities included ensuring sufficient investment capital, revising undergraduate and graduate curricula, strengthening ties with physicians and community hospitals, attracting faculty, and meeting regulatory requirements. We advocate that the AMC: (1) modify the research model to allow greater collaboration with institutions and researchers; (2) enhance free and open export of new and proven clinical techniques and knowledge; (3) devote greater attention to meeting patients’ increasing needs for counsel and guidance, not just intervention, given the plethora of complex new technologies and their promotion in the popular media; and (4) simplify their organizations. To accomplish this, it is desirable for future leaders to gain experience outside the AMC, and for faculty and institutions to be less inwardly focused and more attentive to preserving the public’s trust.