Hospitals and researchers can dramatically improve patient outcomes by using big data so “care improves and informs care,” a national healthcare leader said at an inaugural Grand Rounds ceremony honoring retiring UCF President John C. Hitt.

Thanks to a donation from the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, UCF’s College of Medicine held its first Dr. John C. and Martha Hitt Grand Rounds May 16 to recognize the UCF president and first lady.

Grand rounds are a tradition in medical schools and hospitals, where care providers share an unusual case, new treatment protocol or research finding. “This is an event dedicated to teaching, learning and service,” said Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and dean. “And I can think of no better way to honor President and Mrs. Hitt for all they have done for our university and our community.”

To commemorate the event, Dr. German presented the Hitts with bronze medals bearing their likenesses. She made similar gifts to David Odahowski, president of Edyth Bush, and Dr. Jonathan Perlin, the Grand Rounds speaker. Dr. Perlin is president of clinical services and chief medical officer of HCA Healthcare. There, he leads clinical services and performance improvements at 178 hospitals and more than 2,000 outpatient surgical, urgent care and other practice units. HCA is the College of Medicine’s partner in building the new UCF Lake Nona Medical Center next door to the medical school.

Dr. Perlin’s theme was improving healthcare through partnerships and research. He described how HCA, the nation’s largest hospital corporation, uses scale and innovation to address serious patient needs. With more than 34 million patient encounters a year at 179 hospitals in 21 states, HCA’s patient base is more diverse than the nation at large, Dr. Perlin said. That means its findings provide scientifically valid answers to healthcare issues such as hospital-borne infections. A landmark HCA study published in 2013 reduced potentially deadly MRSA infections by 44 percent in hospital intensive care units. “It didn’t take one hospital 64 years to get those lifesaving results,” Dr. Perlin said. “It took 43 hospitals 18 months.”

Such results can help hospitals change care protocols and behaviors, he said. HCA recently determined that many obstetricians were having their patients give birth at 37 weeks instead of 39 or 40. HCA decided to determine whether earlier deliveries – because of choice and not the mother or baby’s health – increased risks to newborns. A 90-day study across multiple HCA hospitals showed that infants born at 37 weeks gestation had a four times higher rate of admission to neonatal intensive care units than babies born at 39 weeks. “Evidence development should be part of care delivery,” Dr. Perlin explained.

Technology can be a tremendous asset in such studies, he said. HCA, for example, is using “artificial intelligence” to have computers analyze physician notes and written reports to identify CAT scans where cancer may have been found while looking for something else – such as a shoulder injury. A new algorithm can determine if a patient is becoming septic 18 hours before symptoms appear.

Dr. German said the Grand Rounds theme of partnership was fitting for an event honoring President Hitt, who created UCF as America’s Partnership University®. Rick Walsh, a UCF alum and chair of the Edyth Bush Foundation, recalled working with President Hitt to get a new medical school at UCF.

“John, when you decided that UCF needed a medical school, I knew your dream was not only likely, it was inevitable,” Walsh said, “because your vision has always been that clear and direct.”

Dr. Perlin agreed that the partnerships that created Medical City provide a tremendous opportunity for the future of healthcare. Medical City, he said, is “a miracle that transformed a field of dreams to a field of promise.”