August 28, 2015

AZ Business Magazine

Arizona hospitals use innovation to create better patient care

In the ever-changing face of healthcare, many Arizona hospitals have stepped up to the plate to provide some of the most innovative advances in treatment in an effort to provide patients with better care and better results.

Beyond better treatment, the impact of healthcare on Arizona’s economy is undeniable. Twelve of the 50 biggest employers in Arizona are healthcare-related businesses. In an industry that is constantly being asked to re-invent and redefine itself, the ability to innovate is what will make hospitals and healthcare a growing sector in Arizona’s economic landscape.

Want to know who some of those leaders in healthcare innovation are?

Az Business magazine takes an in-depth look at what four healthcare providers are doing.

Maricopa Integrated Health Systems (MIHS)
The Arizona Burn Center, under the umbrella of MIHS, is world renowned for its burn care and continued research to improve burn treatment. It is not only one of the largest burn centers but also the only one in Arizona to have received verification by the American Burn Association. The center is leading the charge when it comes to better solutions to heal burn victims and is on the cutting edge of two of the most promising new skin substitutes, a “skin spray” and lab-grown artificial skin.

“Our original intention for the skin spray, which has not yet been approved by the FDA and is undergoing trials, was to be used to treat relatively small burns, but we discovered it is much more useful for large burns,” says Kevin Foster, surgeon and medical director of the Arizona Burn Center. “With special approval from the FDA, and of course the patients, we have used it outside the study in three cases.”

The results of those cases were so promising that Foster says they changed the direction of the study to reflect the way the skin spray will ultimately be used, for large burns rather than small burns.

Foster calls a true artificial skin the “Holy Grail” of skin substitutes and notes that a product utilizing lab-grown cells is currently being developed by the University of Wisconsin. The Arizona Burn Center is the research site for that product.

Beyond the development of these new skin solutions, Arizona Burn Center is changing the way burn victims receive diagnosis and treatment. With telemedicine, Burn Center surgeons are available 24/7 via desktop or laptop to consult with emergency physicians at outlying hospitals. Burn specialists can “see” patients, assess the injuries and determine whether a patient can be treated locally or needs to be transported to the burn center.

Though admittedly very expensive to develop and use, these advances in technology are designed to return the patient to their normal lives sooner and with less rehabilitation, which is where the savings will result, says Foster.

“Ultimately, we want patients to get better sooner with less time spent in hospital,” Foster adds. “The skin spray and artificial skin will do that.”

Tucson Medical Center
While innovations in medicine and treatment are paramount, it is also crucial to keep up with the advancing technologies of daily operations within a healthcare organization to keep it running as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Tucson Medical Center (TMC) Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Elizabeth Maish says that 2015 has been focused on taking TMC’s operations to the next level, as it’s the foundation for all of the other improvements that need to occur within a healthcare organization.

“We placed great importance on our electronic medical records (EMR) at an early stage in the game,” Maish says. “While many organizations are just now really diving in, we began our journey in the early 2000s, even before the Affordable Care Act. This has allowed us to reach Stage 7 EMR, which very few hospitals in the U.S. have achieved.”

In addition, TMC has built several interactive, data-rich tools to improve operations, such as the Bed Board, which is an electronic board that allows for ultra-real time management of patients who are waiting for a bed, placed in a bed or discharged.

“This technology has reduced the amount of time that it takes us to get patients in a bed by 30 percent,” Maish adds.

TMC’s goal is to keep people “at home and healthy” versus being in the hospital, according to Maish. In an effort to improve care management and keep readmission rates low, the facility has become an Accountable Care Organization and established the Arizona Connect Care program, within which special measures are taken when discharging patients to ensure they have all the information they need to continue healing at home.

Maish feels that the innovations TMC is taking in the quest for operational excellence will yield better efficiencies and outcomes, which translate to dollars and an optimized bottom line. However, that is secondary.

“More importantly, adopting a steadfast approach toward improvements through innovative thinking, data use and clinical evidence can be the platform for untold financial strength and cultural transformation,” she says.

Mayo Clinic
Sometimes going forward to advance patient care requires reverting to basics. For the Mayo Clinic, that means going back 150 years to the team-based care initiated by the Mayo brothers. Dr. Richard S. Zimmerman, M.D., a professor of neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, says the organization “has a long tradition of innovation in healthcare built upon our core belief that the needs of the patient come first … yet only recently has this been emphasized that much better care occurs with this integrated care model.”

Mayo Clinic has advanced medical research with the goal of providing the best possible care for patients. Some of its most recent areas of innovation include cancer care, with its upcoming Proton Beam facility — the first and only one of its kind in Arizona and scheduled to open in February 2016; medical education; telemedicine; genomic research; personalized medicine; regenerative medicine; and the science of healthcare delivery.

“The needs of patients drive research at Mayo Clinic,”  Zimmerman says. “As doctors treat patients and see opportunities for advancing patient care, they work together with Mayo scientists and research teams to develop new and improved diagnostic tools, medications, devices, treatment protocols and more.”

Another major innovation at the Mayo Clinic is the development of The Mayo Medical School — Arizona Campus, which will include a key collaboration with Arizona State University. A major differentiating feature resulting from this new branch of Mayo Medical School is that all students will complete a specialized certification in the Science of Health Care Delivery concurrently with their medical degree. Zimmerman believes Mayo Medical School is the first to offer such a program.

“The science of healthcare delivery focuses on how patients actually receive care,” Zimmerman says. “From using engineering principles to determine the most efficient way to schedule patient appointments to research focusing on the most successful, cost-effective means for delivering treatment, this discipline’s aim is to enhance the patient’s health care experience by improving quality, outcomes and cost.”

Flagstaff Medical Center
Donated to the Flagstaff community in 1955 by Dr. Charles Sechrist as Flagstaff Hospital, the not-for-profit healthcare organization, now known as Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC), has one very unique aspect — its staff treats every patient, whether or not they are able to pay for their care.

FMC, which is DNV Healthcare accredited, also has a special partnership with Northern Arizona tribes, such as the Navajo, to provide care to those with limited access. This exemplifies the true spirit of healthcare leaders, refocusing efforts back on patient care and satisfaction.

The big picture
Based on the innovative efforts of Arizona hospitals and healthcare organizations, patient care has never been more of a priority. This focus has caused an interesting new trend of collaboration, according to Joan Koerber-Walker, president and CEO of the Arizona BioIndustry Association.

“Patients are now receiving the highest level of care, not only by today’s standards but by tomorrow’s as well,” Koerber-Walker says. “This is a result of collaborations of hospitals with other hospitals, universities, entrepreneurs and global leaders. Arizona has a true collaborative spirit and, with that, we’re seeing great things.”

Koerber-Walker cites the Arizona Alzheimer’s Association as an example of multiple organizations working toward a common good.

“TGen, UofA, ASU, Banner, Mayo and Barrow are all working together on this project and we’re seeing how the best of each of these institutions can come together to end this disease,” Koerber-Walker says, noting that Arizona is receiving global attention for its collaborative effort on Alzheimer’s research.

Koerber-Walker believes strongly in the recent innovations such as telemedicine and collaborative research will continue to result in better patient care and ultimately prevent readmissions that hurt hospitals’ bottom lines.

“Innovation is not only making patients’ lives better, it’s improving quality of care,” she says.