Point of View

Innovation essential for NC health care

February 21, 2014 

  • Want to go?

    What: Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s Life Sciences Conference

    When: Wednesday and Thursday

    Where: Raleigh Convention Center

    Details: cednc.org/lifescience

North Carolina is clearing a path in the murky health care crisis that could spotlight the state as a model for the other 49. The struggles in health care will not be solved in Washington or by the private sector alone. Solutions will come from innovation, research and collaboration that foster new models of care.

Following a history of working together, organizations across our state are making important strides to put North Carolina at the forefront of health care progress.

Next week I will be co-chairing the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s Life Sciences Conference, which is focused on the future of health care innovation. Expert health care providers and policy leaders from across the country will be in Durham to discuss what the industry will look like in 2020.

In our state, many organizations are already deploying innovative technology, research and approaches to care. As the fastest-growing sector in our state, health care presents great opportunities for organizations to advance new, forward-looking ideas.

In the last fiscal year alone, North Carolina received 2,229 awards from the National Institutes of Health totaling more than $1 billion for research. A beacon for innovation, the state consistently ranks in the top 10 states nationwide for research funding – making us an attractive location for some of the best and brightest researchers and doctors from across the country.

Aside from research awards, many organizations across the state are advancing inventive models of care.

The North Carolina Hospital Association is a leader in this effort. In 2004, NCHA created the NC Quality Center with an aim to improve quality and safety in every provider environment across the state. For years, the NC Quality Center has worked with hospitals to improve patient safety and to more strongly connect providers to the patient experience. Because of the center’s work, our state is poised to lead in quality improvements and patient-connectedness.


For more than four decades, the N.C. Area Health Education Center Program has worked to improve the health of communities throughout the state and to address new challenges in health care. As a partnership among UNC, Duke, Wake Forest and East Carolina, the AHECs provide opportunities for health care professionals to train and expand access to high-quality care.

While AHECs have been operating in the state for many years, the program can identify health care challenges in communities and work with local and statewide providers to address those challenges. Other states should be looking at us to replicate this successful model.

Health care reform also presents great opportunities for health care providers. Statewide, tens of thousands of North Carolinians are entering the health insurance exchange. In fact, by the end of 2013, our state’s exchange had the fifth-highest enrollment in the country. The exchange will allow providers to access patient records no matter where they are in the state – streamlining the experience and ensuring a patient is treated in the light of a complete medical history.

And, many hospitals across the state, including those in the UNC Health Care System, are implementing electronic medical records systems. Our system, Epic@UNC, will lead to a more seamless approach to care, improving patient experiences.

While health care has obstacles to overcome, our state has proven that by working together and by making imaginative changes, progress that benefits patients is achievable. It is an exciting time to be in health care, especially here in North Carolina.

I am encouraged by where we are now, and also certain the country will be watching to see what our state’s health professionals come up with next.

William L. Roper is dean of the School of Medicine and chief executive officer of the UNC Health Care System.

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