On July 29, 1999, the medical center officially separated from the University of Tennessee and formed a new organization, University Health System, Inc. (UHS).
The medical center opened in 1956, as a result of a partnership with some of the valley’s most powerful institutions, most notably the University of Tennessee. It operated for 40 years as a state entity, but eventually, community leaders realized it could better serve its patients if it governed itself.
Independence Means Better Patient Care
So began a lengthy discovery process, which led the team to decide on a friendly separation from the university. Many community leaders oversaw the transition, including Joe Johnson, who was the president of UT at that time. Johnson has been a UHS board member since the start.
WATCH: David Hall, senior vice president and chief operating officer, of the medical center, tells how becoming self-governing positively impacted the medical center.
“Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen us boost the quality overall. That includes physicians, clinical staff and team members,” said Johnson. “We’re serving those who need medical care better than we ever have.” Becoming independent gave the medical center:
- More flexibility to improve medical care to patients
- Access to capital, which meant no longer having to get permission from the state to borrow money for buildings or other needs
- The ability to develop partnerships and joint ventures, which led to relationships with providers like MedTrans, which administers UT LIFESTAR’s aeromedical helicopters
- The freedom to create its own products, like clinical pathways, which are tools to make patient care better
- Dedicated governance, with a board of directors overseeing the group, rather than the state
Expanding To Meet the Need
University Health System came into being, in part, to grow its services and facilities to meet community needs. You can see the growth in number of patients treated. For example, in 1999, the medical center treated 21,757 inpatients. In 2019, it’s on pace to treat more than 36,000 inpatients.
The increase in volume led the medical center to expand its facilities and services. Since 1999, the campus more than doubled, from 1.9 million square feet to 3.1 million square feet. And here are few other key additions:
- The Centers of Excellence, which focus treatment in seven areas: Advanced Orthopaedic Center, Brain & Spine Institute, Cancer Institute, Center for Women and Infants, Emergency and Trauma Center, Heart Lung Vascular Institute and UT Primary Care Collaborative
- Regional Health Center — Lenoir City
- Regional Health Center — Sevierville
- College of Pharmacy building
- Urgent Care Clinics in West Knoxville, Seymour, Sevierville and Lenoir City
- Addition of numerous primary care and specialty physicians and offices regionally
- Cancer Institute outpatient building
- Heart Lung Vascular Institute outpatient building
- Heart Hospital inpatient building
- Significant Emergency Department expansion
- Significant expansion in number of Operating Rooms
Building the Future, Today
Even though the medical center is now independent from the University of Tennessee from a governing point of view, the university remains a strong partner and collaborator. The UT name and logo remain an important part of the brand.
And through the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, the medical center conducts scientific research and provides advanced education for physicians.