UC Health’s West Chester Hospital
President and CEO of West Chester Hospital, Dr. Kevin Joseph (left) and president and CEO of UC Health, Dr. Richard Lofgren (right)
Photo by Brian Ambs
UC Health is made og a group of individuals and healthcare facilities working toward a clear, common purpose: to “provide care that is more effective, efficient, safer, and of a higher quality,” says Richard Lofgren, MD, president and CEO of UC Health.
Dr. Lofgren speaks comparatively to differentiate UC Health not from its competitors but from itself. After all, UC Health is the only academic medical system in the area; there are no commensurable entities that can bear the comparison. UC Health’s self-differentiation must therefore be measured by institutional velocity—a continuous self-assessment coupled with a compelling drive to expand.
Thanks to West Chester Hospital, a component facility of UC Health, that institutional velocity is inclined upward. The hospital’s admissions grew 17 percent in 2013 and its surgical case volume grew by 31 percent. Moreover, for two years running it has been in the top 10% nationally in terms of service. It was recently recognized by Health Grades for being in the top 5% in patient safety. Its Emergency Medicine department, which boasts a 12-minute door-to-physician time, is the first in Ohio to become an Emergency Medicine Center of Excellence. The hospital also has a Bariatric Center of Excellence, a renowned Women’s Center and is a part of the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Stroke Team, an internationally recognized team of multidisciplinary specialists that is the first of its kind.
Yet UC Health constantly strives for improvement. To that end, it is building out a “continuum of care”, which is intended to improve its patients' health and wellness through continuous interaction with UC Health facilities. Continuums of this kind have become practical necessities for providers like UC Health, because while illnesses have historically been treated in discrete episodes at hospitals removed from the community, this model of healthcare is outdated.
“It’s no longer just about being in the hospital for a few days,” explains Dr. Lofgren. “With technology patients can now live longer with chronic diseases.”
With patients living longer – and with the proliferation of long-term diseases like diabetes that have several co-occurring conditions – more continuous care is needed outside the hospital. Emphasis has accordingly shifted to the continuum, which promises to reduce healthcare costs and increase efficiency by promoting preventative and post-episodic care in addition to traditional, acute care.
“The continuum of care begins with wellness and preventative medicine and it proceeds to acute care facilities like West Chester Hospital,” says Kevin Joseph, MD, president and CEO of West Chester Hospital. “Then it continues to post-acute care, rehabilitation, skilled-nursing facilities, long-term acute care and nursing homes.”
Making the continuum work requires that all these facets be integrated for the benefit of the patient. Yet policy problems abound. Navigating the healthcare system can be prohibitively complex, thus disrupting the effectiveness of the continuum. And while hospital networks are increasingly dependent on technology such as electronic medical records to make the process easy for the patient, “there are still many historical barriers,” Dr. Lofgren notes.
The goal is to connect together each visit a patient makes to UC Health care facilities so patient care can be continuous and efficient. To do this requires making another sort of connection – not between individual patient visits, but between the facilities they’re visiting. The success of the continuum is therefore reliant on the involvement of UC Health’s component facilities and their ability to engage communities so individual patient visits are connected to a facility network that is itself broadly integrated.
Indeed, the continuum’s breadth is integral; it must reach past the core of Cincinnati and out into the surrounding communities. Because “once you get beyond the metropolitan part of the health system, the backbone of healthcare delivery is smaller, there are more community hospitals,” Dr. Lofgren says. “And one of UC Health’s responsibilities as the only academic medical system is to find out how to support them so all the care that can remain local will remain local.”
Dr. Lofgren envisions UC Health expanding its partnerships with that next layer of community hospitals so the quality of care provided does not dissipate with distance and everyone in Greater Cincinnati has access to UC Health’s unique services.
West Chester Hospital has been a successful step in this direction, and it is a prime example of UC Health’s expanding breadth. It offers patients access to the specialized, academic physicians at UC Health, whose expertise is unmatched in the area. Moreover its unique, complementary relationship with UC Health expands the continuum broadly into the West Chester community.
“West Chester Hospital is the fastest growing hospital in the area in part because of the partnership we have with the community,” explains Dr. Joseph. “We consider our relationship with the community very important. We really want to be part of the community and we want it to be part of us.”
Dr. Joseph’s aspirations are realized in the partnerships West Chester Hospital has developed with local school systems, skilled nurse facilities, nonprofits and businesses. West Chester Hospital has also blended together the academic physicians from UC Health with community physicians who already have established ties to the area.
“It’s a nice blend of academic physicians and community physicians coming together under one roof with the ultimate goal of improving healthcare for the community,” Dr. Joseph says.
In this process of embedding itself within West Chester, the hospital is integrating care for its patients by dissolving traditional boundaries between hospitals and communities. The productive partnership between the hospital and the community has increased the quality of care the former can provide to the latter.
West Chester Hospital’s excellence then feeds back into UC Health’s continuum of care, extending its breadth and increasing its quality. And the continuum works on an individual level as well. At West Chester Hospital for example, physicians, nurses and employees derive from the continuum an ethic of holistic care.
“When we interview anyone for any position we hire them for their skill and capacity, but we also pay attention to who they are as a person. You can’t teach compassion, hard work or empathy. That pays off in the quality of our service. It’s the West Chester way,” Dr. Joseph says.
The “West Chester way” is taken seriously at the hospital. It is a real example of UC Health's continuous drive to grow. On the individual scale it means going above and beyond, going the extra mile, treating every patient like they’re a loved one. And in the aggregate it translates into an exceptional institutional velocity.
“I think if anyone becomes content with a product, that is where it starts to fall apart,” says Dr. Joseph. “I am always looking for different ways to improve care, to get better.”
In the end, both Dr. Joseph and Dr. Lofgren know their purpose— to provide quality care that is effective, efficient and safe. Clear enough. As for the more murky areas of their jobs— what to do on a daily basis, how to respond to individual quandaries, what is the material substance of that compelling drive to improve— the answers are not pregiven.
“It’s a journey, not a destination,” Dr. Joseph says. “The question is— how are you going to get there?”
West Chester Hospital is located at 7700 University Drive, West Chester, OH 45069. You can reach them at 513.298.3000. Visit their website at www.westchesterhospital.uchealth.com.