Internationally recognized patient advocate returning to AU Medical Center

A pioneer in patient advocacy is coming “full circle” back to AU Medical Center to take a leadership position to increase patient outcomes and engagement.


Julie Ginn Moretz, who is currently associate vice chancellor for patient- and family-centered care at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, will be returning to Augusta in May to become assistant vice president for patient experience at AUMC. She began her career there in the 1990s after helping the hospital understand the needs of patients and families like hers who were dealing with a very sick child.

“I always say they couldn’t get rid of me so they hired me,” Moretz joked. “This is certainly where I got my first passion for patient- and family-centered care. It just seems fitting to bring my career full circle.”

Together with the late CEO Pat Sodomka, they were internationally recognized pioneers in helping health care incorporate the views and needs of patients and families in improving care and patient satisfaction over the last 20 years. Those issues have taken on greater importance because the government now tracks them through the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey, which is now part of rating systems and influences reimbursement rates.

“Pleasing patients and families, it has always been important,” Moretz said. “But now because there are new pressures and certainly those incentives make getting it right more critical. From reimbursement changes to engaging patients more and more in their own health care decisions. I do think the patient experience has evolved.”

AUMC CEO Lee Ann Liska called Moretz “one of the original architects” of patient- and family-centered care and said the medical center was fortunate to be able to welcome her back.

“It was an exciting opportunity to bring her back home to re-energize the medical center and escalate our performance in this area,” Liska said.

The center could use some help with its scores – it got two stars out of a possible five in the last federal survey and ranked below the state and national averages in nearly every category. However, Moretz said that data is two years old and every academic medical center has struggled in that area compared to community hospitals whose patients are not as sick and the care tends to be less complex. But Liska said even with those hurdles she expects to do better and for that reason elevated the position and made it one that reports directly to her.

“It is so important to me and I happen to love this work so I elevated the position and added a direct report to me so that the whole organization would know how important it is,” she said. “There is a lot of research that shows that if this position reports to the CEO other people take it seriously and I think it can help our results improve at a fast pace.”

Those results go beyond just satisfaction and mean improved care overall, Moretz said.

“It is more than just making our patients happy,” she said. “It really is about quality and safety and involving patients in their care. If we are not doing that at a leadership level, we are missing the boat.”

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213




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