Capstone Project helps VUMC launch a new home-delivery health service for Davidson County (and beyond)

Vanderbilt OnCall Mobile App

Vanderbilt Health OnCall launched in November 2016 as a pilot with significant anticipation from Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). “We’re excited by the addition of Vanderbilt Health OnCall to our health care delivery choices,” said Laura Beth Brown, vice president of Vanderbilt Health Services and president of Vanderbilt Home Care Services, in a December 1 release.

Since then, the service, which provides basic care at homes, hotels, and workplaces within Davidson County, has generated significant excitement and scale. OnCall has changed VUMC offices (from Home Health to Advanced Practice), started billing insurers (it started cash-only), and recently expanded into the post-operative, scheduled-visits space.

“Volume has been ramping up considerably, and now we’re dealing with the challenges of having a popular product,” said April Kapu, an Associate Nursing Officer within the Advanced Practice at VUMC and an overseer of the OnCall program.

The Origins

Flash back a year, and OnCall was in a very different place. The brainchild of Dr. Wright Pinson, CEO of Vanderbilt Health System and a co-founder of the MMHC program, the service was just a good idea waiting to happen. “We saw a huge amount of press about how this concept was taking off in the (western US), in similar populations (to Nashville),” said Emily Carpenter, Vanderbilt Health Services Program Coordinator and the Project Manager for Health OnCall. Carpenter and her team initially researched the on-call service space and conducted a large survey within Vanderbilt to assess validity, and the feedback was positive.

By the time students from the Masters of Management in Health Care (MMHC) got involved, Carpenter and Brown were having the concept vetted by executive teams. The project initially came to MMHC Director Burch Wood through Dr. Pinson himself, who provides capstones on an annual basis (just one of his many ongoing contributions — he teaches the program’s strategy class and delivers the closing address on “Senior Day”).

“We were excited by the opportunity to work with the capstone team and MMHC; there were such a diverse group of individual involved with the program,” Carpenter said.

The Project

While Brown and Carpenter worked to earn buy-in from their leadership, the MMHC team focused on operational details, working with billing, marketing, and other departments at Vanderbilt to finalize important aspects of the program. The diversity of experience on the team helped. “We had a great, diverse group of students – from background in Finance, IT, pharmaceuticals, dietary – and a wide variety of skill sets that spoke to this particular project,” said Heather O’Dell, an MMHC’16 graduate, a Lead Nurse Practitioner, Liver Transplant, at VUMC, and member of the OnCall capstone team.

Heather O’Dell (Far Left) on the job (photo by Susan Ermy)

Much of the team’s learning was done on the fly. “I think we could draw from some of the knowledge gained from our education, drawing some similarities that would lead us in the right direction, but a lot of it was hands-on experience,” she said.

Through the process, the team was able to meet with key decision-makers across VUMC that offered previously unconsidered insights and proved to be a receptive audience at the end of the project, when the team delivered a vision for the program over the next five to 10 years. “How could you implement this structure in different areas of the healthcare system, or even outside of Vanderbilt? Could (OnCall) teams go to large businesses if they need physicals or vaccinations, or go to schools? Our final presentation looked further into the future to see where this could be most valuable to Vanderbilt,” said O’Dell.

For the OnCall team, the MMHC students provided a high level of support at an early juncture in the life of the program. “They asked great questions,” Carpenter said, “and knew who to go to to get the right answers.”

For O’Dell and her capstone team, the project was mutually beneficial. “I think that we added value, but I would absolutely look at it as a partnership.”