Apr 22, 2015 — Utah has some of the best health outcomes in the nation, but some of the lowest costs. Dr. Robin Marcus, chief wellness officer of University of Utah Health Care, talks about some reasons for this. She also discusses what can be done to further improve the health of residents and the ability of physicians to treat their patients in the most effective way possible.

Interview

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Interviewer: Utah has some of the best healthcare outcomes in the nation while still having lowest expenditures. We have Dr. Robin Marcus, Chief Wellness Officer for Health Sciences to help answer the question, why is Utah doing so well?

Dr. Marcus: As you mentioned, we have very high quality of care here at low costs and recently as you know we were ranked fifth, according to the 2014 Americas health rankings, and that's the ranking where we have consistently, I think from the beginning of those ranking we have actually consistently ranked up in the top 10 to 11 states in the nation.

There are number of different reasons for that and one of them probably is that we have a relatively healthy culture here. Low rates of smoking and drinking of alcohol, relatively active population. We also have a relatively young population and if you think about people who have moved to Utah specifically for jobs, a lot of people have moved here, myself included because of the outdoor activities and the opportunities that our beautiful mountains provide for us.

Interviewer: So, Utah obviously does very well. What I want to ask you is what are some things that we can improve on?

Dr. Marcus: If I refer back to those health rankings, the reason that we ranked so high, those are really what we are ranked on, obesity, smoking rates, diabetes, but some of the issues that face us that are not reflected on those ranking probably have to do with some of the mental health issues.
I will give you an example. Utah ranks relatively high in the prevalence of depression. If you ask Utahan's of they ever been diagnosed or told by a physician that they have depression. We actually rank pretty high in that question. one of the things that we have noticed here with our healthcare providers, not that they are depressed, but that they are treating a lot of people and they are doing a very good job at this. But the stress that that produces for them is relatively high, which leads to provider burnout.

One of the things that we are trying to do here in our institution is to identify places across the country that are addressing this issue with their healthcare providers and to try to take some of the things that we can learn from those institutions and apply them to our own individual, unique situations here in the state of Utah.

So one of the examples of that is the university of Rochester in Minnesota has actually a training program where they provide a mindfulness training for their physicians as a manner of reducing their stress and burnout and they are actually several other universities across the nation that are doing similar things and we looking at some of those and trying to introduce some of those projects or excuse me to try to institute some of those here in the state of Utah.

Interviewer: So we really do quite well here in the state of Utah but there are some areas where we can improve obviously and how we take care of mental health population and those afflicted with it. Do you have anything to add?

Dr. Marcus: It's not so much that we need to address a significant mental health issues, although that's an area that's beyond my expertise and we may need to do that, but within the area of providing opportunities for well-being and wellness of our population, I think one of the things that's very important is that we take care of our providers and we need to identify the best way to help those folks provide the best care that they can so we can continue to stay in this high quality, low cost area.

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