The “silo” metaphor is one of the most pervasive in health care. The parallels to vertical structures standing in isolation from one another are well-documented. Unfortunately, so are the many consequences to health and patient care – particularly for those managing multiple physical and mental health challenges.

If you, or a loved one, are among the roughly 30 percent of Marylanders who has been diagnosed with more than one, often-related health condition like diabetes, lung, heart or kidney disease, or sleep disorders, chances are you are bearing the burden of navigating a complicated health care system on your own. You know how frustrating it is to juggle appointments with doctors and other health care providers in different locations, sometimes miles or cities apart. In this outdated model, the lines of communication between clinicians are limited, and patients’ needs are addressed episodically rather than holistically.

So, the question, of course, is, “How do we make a shift to better address today’s reality for the growing number of people faced with multiple health challenges?” While the answer is complex, the solution is clear: create a hub of connected care, place the patient at the center and partner with each person achieve their best health. Sounds simple. But like any traditional structure, health care models have strong customs and culture behind them. A rhythm and comfort that makes bucking the status quo difficult. Too often, excellent clinicians do exactly the right things to treat the individual problems they were trained to treat, but they are a single module in a disconnected model that fails to serve a person’s collective needs.

But, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, we need to shed the old ways of doing business to meet the challenges of our times. For our doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals at the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, this is clearly the right time to come together to make collaborative, connected care accessible for all.

Today, we are celebrating the opening of a new 10-story outpatient tower designed to allow teams of leading academic physicians, nurse practitioners, therapists, social workers, nurses, pharmacists and community health workers to join forces under one roof, streamlining the experience for patients. With this integrated approach linking all the experts involved in a patient’s care – from diagnosis, to a tailored treatment plan, to a host of wrap-around services and support – the improvements to health outcomes and patient experience can be dramatic.

Team-based academic medicine should not be reserved for only those people who can afford to assemble their own medical team. That’s why we never paused in our commitment to completing the outpatient tower, even during a pandemic. In fact, the last 18 months have underscored the growing need for more integrated health care to address the serious impacts of what the world now knows as “underlying conditions” and stark disparities.

There is a better way. Today, UMMC Midtown is charting a new course in health care – one that promises to improve the quality of health care we provide to the communities we serve, here in Baltimore City and from across the region, particularly the most vulnerable, at-risk people struggling with multiple, complex health issues. People want more efficient, effective and respectful care that will enable them to live their best lives – and keep them out of the hospital. We feel they deserve no less.