January 5, 2024

2023 health system highlights

MADISON, Wis. – To kick off the near year, UW Health is sharing key workforce, financial, care and community benefit outcomes and metrics for the health system.

Despite the many challenges facing health care providers, UW Health is coming off a very strong year, according to Dr. Alan Kaplan, CEO, UW Health.

“Our vision at UW Health is providing remarkable care to our patients and our community,” he said. “Our more than 24,000 providers and staff made that vision a reality for a record number of patients over the last year.”

Demand for care at UW Health is high and growing. Patient care levels are not only back to pre-pandemic levels, but greater than them in many cases, according to Dr. Peter Newcomer, chief operating officer, UW Health.

  • Approximately 808,700 patients received care in the 2023 fiscal year, which was July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023:

    • 480,500 patients at UW Health in Wisconsin

    • 174,400 at UW Health in northern Illinois

    • 1,300 at the UW Health Rehabilitation Hospital

    • 152,600 at UnityPoint Health – Meriter, with which UW Health has a joint operating agreement.

  • Record levels of care this year included:

    • 3,725,400 outpatient appointments

    • 221,700 emergency department visits

    • 83,500 surgeries

“We’re seeing more patients than ever before and providing more life-saving care than ever before,” Newcomer said. “From primary care to the most complex cases, we’re finding ways to treat our growing communities.”

UW Health celebrated many incredible milestones and patient stories last year.

In September 2022, the Pleasant T. Rowland Transplant Clinic opened. A couple of months later, surgeons at the UW Health Transplant Center transplanted the 12,000th kidney at the center. Comprehensive care teams including experts at the transplant center saved the lives of a mother who contracted a severe case of COVID-19 while pregnant, ultimately needing a double lung transplant, as well as a woman who overcame heart failure with a heart transplant to become a first-time mother. The transplant center also launched the pediatric heart transplant program in March 2023, performing the first pediatric heart transplant in August. A young patient re-enrolled in college in September 2022 after an accident gave him less than a 10% chance of survival thanks to experts in emergency medicine, neurosurgery and rehabilitation. The UW Health Fetal and Diagnosis Treatment Center saved twin boys’ lives with an in-utero procedure in November 2022 to reverse a rare condition that caused unequal blood counts between them. The UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center became the first breast cancer vaccine clinical trial site to administer the vaccine to a participating patient in February 2023.

UW Health has always been an employer of choice in the Madison region, and several initiatives helped the health system continue to grow and support the workforce vital to patient care, according to Betsy Clough, chief human resources officer, UW Health.

  • In total, UW Health added more than 1,000 new employees to the workforce in the calendar year 2023.

  • UW Health, alongside Madison College and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, launched the first registered nursing apprenticeship in the Midwest in April 2023, creating a supportive pathway to a career in nursing, often for those from historically marginalized communities.

  • The UW Health registered medical assistant apprenticeship celebrated a milestone in November, reaching its fifth anniversary with more than 200 medical assistants participating in the program since 2018. The program is open to UW Health and UnityPoint Health – Meriter employees and potential employees.

  • UW Health joined a pilot program this year to use generative artificial intelligence in select patient communication portals to assist with physicians’ workloads and prevent burnout.

“We are fortunate to perform among the best in the country in terms of retention. We know it’s critical to continue to focus on retention and recruitment to ensure we can hire and keep the best employees,” Clough said. “As our patient population and footprint grow, we are laser-focused on growing our workforce along with them.”

Against the backdrop of significant financial headwinds in the health care industry, UW Health had solid financial performance, according to Bob Flannery, chief financial officer, UW Health.

For the 2023 fiscal year, the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority and UnityPoint Health – Meriter reported the following for the service areas outlined in their joint operating agreement:

  • Operating revenue totaled more than $5.1 billion

  • Operating expenses totaled more than $5 billion

  • The operating margin was 1.4%

“In 2023, more than half of hospitals and health systems had a negative operating margin. Expenses grew at a higher rate than revenues, as payer contracts did not keep pace with increased costs,” he said. “We saw rising costs for care, inflation in everything from drug prices to medical supplies and continued supply chain disruption, but through that, we made strategic investments and came up with innovative solutions to stay ahead of most of the health care industry when it comes to financial stability.”

The health system continues to create close partnerships with community-based non-profits to improve the health of communities. One such collaboration is the ConnectRx program, which pairs Black birthing people with social determinants of health needs in Dane County with a community health worker. The program aims to improve the disparities in birth outcomes for the parent and baby. ConnectRx is a collaboration between UW Health, UnityPoint Health – Meriter and the Dane County Health Council.

In northern Illinois, UW Health is partnering with Alignment Rockford on the Ready to Learn with the Basics initiative, providing early childhood kits with books, educational toys and links to community resources for new parents. The goal is to ensure parents are aware of the community services available to help them.

This work reflects why UW Health is consistently rated the best in Wisconsin, according to Kaplan.

“As Wisconsin’s No. 1 health system 12 years running, with the only comprehensive cancer center in the state and one of the only Level I trauma centers, we know the state of Wisconsin and beyond look to us to treat a broad spectrum of cases,” he said. “We embrace that responsibility and look forward to what the year ahead brings.”