Newswise — Austin, Texas, March 27, 2019 — The McCombs School of Business and Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin announce a collaboration with Blue Crossand Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) to launch a research project, “Improving Adult Vaccine Delivery by Optimizing Clinical and Health IT Processes in Austin/Travis County, Texas (VACOPT).” The $500,000 research grant award and collaboration is part of the company’s effort to advance academic research to address the critical issues created by gaps and fragmentation that lead to a high-cost health care system.

The effective and widespread use of vaccines can improve health outcomes at a much lowercost than other health care interventions. High vaccination rates not only protect individuals against infectious diseases, but they also protect entire populations through community immunity. In contrast, when vaccination rates fall below a critical threshold, vaccine-preventable diseases can reappear in the population, as seen with recent outbreaks of measles in several states across the country. Vaccination rates can be improved by optimizing clinic workflows, providing clinicians with robust clinical decisions support systems (CDS), and by engaging patients directly in their own health care.

The VACOPT research team is being led by Dr. Leanne Field, clinical professor (College of Natural Sciences) and director for Digital Health Care Innovation (McCombs School of Business), and includes Dr. Josh Barbour, assistant professor (Moody College of Communication), and Dr. Vince Fonseca, a physician with expertise in community-based, public health interventions.

“Vaccines are some of the most cost-effective, high-value health services available, yet adult vaccine coverage is suboptimal in the United States,” says Fonseca. “Improving vaccine delivery is a systems improvement issue, and we will support our partner clinics to address these care gaps.” Fonseca is the former Texas State epidemiologist and a physician with board certifications in clinical informatics, preventive medicine, and lifestyle medicine.

“Systemic health care technology and policy transformation is difficult and complex,” says Barbour. “This project is so compelling because it promises to make a concrete difference in health outcomes in Central Texas while also advancing the science of health and organizational communication.” Barbour studies technological, organizational, and institutional change in health care.

“Dr. Barbour is credentialed and well-respected, and we are proud he represents Moody College in this study,” says Moody College of Communication Dean Jay Bernhardt.

“It exemplifies a cross-cutting collaboration, and communication helps connect across the fields of medicine, business, digital innovation and public health.”

“It is a privilege to be collaborating with a talented, cross-disciplinary research team with expertise in health informatics, medicine, public health and communication to apply innovative technological solutions to strengthen adult vaccination rates in Austin and Travis County,” says Field, the principal investigator."

“This project, purposefully designed through a lens of integration to significantly impact the health of individuals and the broader community, represents the type of model Texas McCombs is striving to build and support in relation to the health care industry,” says McCombs School of Business Dean Jay Hartzell. “We are very pleased to have Dr. Field leading this prestigious research team, as she brings deep expertise in public health and her background in creating and leading health informatics and health information technology educational programs to this innovative, collaborative effort.”

“Failure to address access and affordability of health care has real consequences. We need to challenge the status quo by bringing transformative research and ideas to the table,” says Dr. Dan McCoy, president, BCBSTX. “By collaborating with a diverse set of institutions and researchers who are embedded in and understand the communities we’re serving, we can better identify and develop solutions that tackle high health care costs at their foundation.”

This project is part of BCBSTX’ Affordability Cures SM endeavor and will support initiatives in both Illinois and Texas that help improve quality and coordination of care delivery, balance inequities and eliminate waste in the system.


About the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin

Texas McCombs is a premier business school at a world-class public research university. We are a community that fosters lifelong engagement with our students and alumni. We cultivate principled leaders and develop ideas that will advance our economy, improve lives, strengthen our communities, and create new knowledge for future generations. Through high-quality instruction, experiential learning, and the pursuit of relevant, groundbreaking research, we are shaping those who will shape tomorrow and solve our most challenging problems.

About the Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin

Established in 1965 with departmental roots reaching back to 1899, the Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin is one of the largest and most comprehensive communication colleges in the country. Each of Moody College’s five departments: Advertising and Public Relations, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Communication Studies, Journalism, and Radio-Television-Film, features nationally recognized teachers and scholars and consistently receives high rankings across the nation.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas 

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) – the only statewide, customer-owned health insurer in Texas – is the largest provider of health benefits in the state, working with nearly 80,000 physicians and healthcare practitioners, and 500 hospitals to serve 5 million members in all 254 counties. BCBSTX is a Division of Health Care Service Corporation (which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Texas, Illinois, Montana, Oklahoma and New Mexico), the country's largest customer-owned health insurer and fourth largest health insurer overall. Health Care Service Corporation is a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and an Independent Licensee ofthe Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. | | |