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By Beth Krueger
Ellis campus: 1101 Nott Street, Schenectady
It’s been almost a decade since the restructuring of Schenectady’s hospitals brought the Ellis, St. Clare’s and Bellevue facilities under the umbrella of newly created Ellis Medicine., propelling a series of capital projects, that combined reconfiguring of service locations, the addition of new technologies and procedures to promote patient-centered care.
Projects have included the 2012 expansion and upgrading of the Bellevue Women’s Center on the Troy-Schenectady Road in Niskayuna, and the addition, also in 2012, of a Medical Center of Clifton Park on Sitterly Road with emergent and specialty care, as well as imaging and lab services. “We talked with the community,” Ellis President and CEO Paul Milton said about the creation of the facility in Clifton Park, which is open around the clock and staffed by ER physicians.
Among actions to reconfigure use of space was the relocation of the 82-bed nursing home and short-stay rehabilitation center to the St. Clare’s campus which became the McClellan Street Health Center and includes outpatient services.
This past May, doors opened on the Neil and Jane Golub Center for Emergency Care – a “state-of-the art ER that was very much needed,” said Milton. This total makeover of the ER facilities increased private treatment rooms from 47 to 61, with modern equipment in each room, so that patients don’t need to move to various areas. The new ER, with an expanded waiting area, also provides various tracks for patients depending on their needs, which aids in patient experience and efficient use of beds and other equipment.
Next: surgical and interventional center
Work is under way on a $19.4 million Center for Surgical & Interventional Medicine on the Nott Street campus. The Center will focus on cardiac and vascular issues—the leading cause of death in the communities served by Ellis. Milton described the capabilities of the Center as creating a “new generation” of care. Such related services as cardiology, radiology, vascular and cardiothoracic surgery will be relocated to the Center. The 25,000-square-foot suite will provide high tech imaging and surgical equipment, and space to enable physicians from different specialties to work in concert on the various surgical and non-surgical procedures needed in a patient’s care and enhance pre- and post-care.
“As we explained needs and plans, the donors were very philanthropic and very engaged,” Milton said, of the facilities projects.
Promoting patient-centered care
When all that resizing of facilities was being undertaken back in 2006, there also was planning for changes that reflect the patient-centered model of care that has been woven into the various restructurings. Milton noted that this involves designing facilities and procedures to promote patient and family guidance, involvement and hospitality. And it includes developing primary care centers in the community, with types of services and staffing to enhance access to appropriate means of care for the different types of issues and preventive actions.
There also was discussion of developing means of connecting patients who need other health care and community support to the appropriate services. The goals are preventing health situations by addressing core problems that can trigger illness, improving well being and, in so doing, reducing ER visits and hospital readmissions. Those conversations included the vision of what if we could build a system where we could say to a patient, “How about walking down the hall and arranging for some other services you may need?” The planning involved outreach to other health care providers, social service and community organizations about creating a coordinated support team.
That has led to Care Center, one of the first of the health homes in the state, conducted by the Visiting Nurse Service of Northeastern New York with Ellis Medicine, Hometown Health, and community organizations. Health services navigators help patients connect with health and community services,” Milton said, noting that this is especially valuable for persons who have multiple health conditions. Patients receive guidance on accessing and using primary care, rather than the ER, when appropriate. Coaches aid in follow-up care from discharge and nurse practitioners serve as transitionalists for post-hospital home visits. The program now serves approximately 4,000 residents in Schenectady and Saratoga counties who lack a primary care physician, have chronic and/or mental health conditions, with plans for expansion.
Care Central is profiled by the Healthcare Association of New York State as an example of the work of hospital to promote health reform’s “triple aim” for health care – improving population health, enhancing the quality of patient care, and reducing the per capita cost of health care.
Identification of service needs also included community outreach. Ellis led a door-to-door health care needs survey of more than 2,000 residents which found in 2013 that the top five priorities were asthma and smoking, diabetes and obesity, inappropriate ER use, mental health and substance abuse, and adolescent pregnancy. Additional surveying is planned to assess needs.
Internally, through the “Ellis Strong” program, Milton said, “we are taking a look at how we are doing everything, from patient flow to revenue cycle.” This comprehensive assessment is designed to build on and complement the restructuring, upgrading and procedural actions.
Collaboration of health care and community providers goes beyond the Ellis service area, involving discussions with other providers in the greater Capital Region, Milton noted. Ellis is part of the Alliance for Better Health Care, working with St. Peter’s Health Partners, St. Mary’s in Amsterdam, Hometown Health Center, Whitney Young Jr. Health Center, numerous health care providers and community agencies to examine ways of building the effectiveness and efficiencies in care for individuals in the Medicaid program. Ellis also is in the Innovative Health Alliance of New York with St. Peter’s and others to take a collective look at service for Medicare patients. This “Accountable Care Organization,” designated by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as part of the Medicare Shared Savings Program, is working to increase coordination and integration of care received by Medicare beneficiaries.
St. Mary’s Healthcare
Hospital campus: 427 Guy Park Avenue, Amsterdam
Have you seen the signs around Amsterdam? “Opening Fall 2015 – Building better care,” the billboards state. That’s the new outpatient pavilion for St. Mary’s Healthcare. The 40,000-sqare-foot $18 million building, located on the Amsterdam Memorial campus on Route 30, will house an expanded cancer medicine center. The center will bring together medical oncology and infusion therapy and the addition of radiation therapy so more individuals needing complex treatment can receive comprehensive care in one centralized location with limited travel. Also at the pavilion will be coordinated medical imaging and a women’s breast health center, as well as a larger lab services area, outpatient teaching and pre-admission testing, and urgent care open seven days a week.
The project is designed to increase accessibility, convenience to health services in a comforting environment and provide state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. Construction is running ahead of schedule, making an early fall transition possible.
Health care evolution
This milestone project is just one element of the evolution of St. Mary’s in recent years and in the years ahead. The actions reflect changes in health care under way across the state and country that are responding to today’s community demographics, increased collaborations of health care providers, focus on preventing problems or escalation of problems, along with continuing advances in care and technology, and efforts to achieve efficiencies in costs.
To look over our shoulders a moment, let’s step back 126 years. Amsterdam City Hospital, Memorial’s predecessor, opened its doors, responding to medical needs in this growing industrial community. Four years later, St. Mary’s became the city’s second hospital. The early 21st century brought discussions of combining St. Mary’s and Amsterdam Memorial, accomplished in 2009 with St. Mary’s Healthcare as the new entity. That coming together included developing architectural and related facilities and a health care planning process to consider what should be where and how and when that should be accomplished, said President and Chief Executive Officer Vic Giulianelli.
Along with the hospital for acute care, there also are inpatient rehabilitation, behavioral health and transitional units; as well as, the 160-bed Wilkinson skilled nursing center, which includes a special unit for patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other brain disorders; diagnostic services; plus day rehabilitation, physical rehabilitation, specialty care and family health centers in Amsterdam and communities throughout Montgomery and Fulton counties. Noting the efforts to identify areas of need, Giulianelli said that, for example, the Gloversville urgent care center, opened last September, has become almost as busy as the Amsterdam urgent care. Check out the locations of services at www.smha.org/locations-2.
The planning process has included assessments of community needs, which provided information on what concerns are affecting health, where services were needed, what was needed, and how. These include core issues such as helping people achieve healthy lifestyles and nutrition, two elements that contribute to the goal of prevention of health problems. Another survey is being planned, to gain perspectives on critical needs and priorities.
The evolution of services includes reshaping the nature of patient care. The cancer center is a case in point. When a patient and family receive news of the presence of cancer, things can become a blur, Giulianelli observed. “A nurse navigator will be there to walk them through the next steps.” It’s a melding of high-tech medical care with patient support.
St. Mary’s is continuing to review and update its blueprint for placement of facilities and care, determining ways to enhance coordination of services in locations appropriate and accessible so that teams of health providers have space and equipment to work together, where needed by patients, said Giulianelli.
The coordination goes beyond the St. Mary’s network of programs. St. Mary’s also is a participant in the Alliance for Better Health Care, which includes Ellis Medicine, St. Peter’s Health Partners, Hometown Health Center, Whitney Young Jr. Health Center, CapitalCare Medical Group, Community Care physicians and some 1,400 physicians and mid-level providers to shape effective care to Medicaid recipients and also achieve cost efficiencies. That involves approximately 210,000 individuals in six counties. Areas include the transition from hospital to home care, use of urgent care facilities and embedded palliative care centers. St. Mary’s is part of a similar collaboration for Medicare patients. “It is great,” Giulianelli observed, “ to see health care providers and staff working together to focus on how to best deliver patient care.”
St. Peter’s Health Partners
Composed of 3 organizations: St. Peter’s Health Care Services, Northeast Health and Seton Health
As part of an ambitious project of St. Peter’s Health Partners (SHPH), a 550-car parking garage is scheduled to open this month on the Samaritan Hospital campus. And according to Norman E. Dascher, chief executive officer of Samaritan and St. Mary’s hospitals and Vice President of Acute Care Troy, SPHP, it is more than a garage. It is “just the first visible step in our vision to not only improve access to health care for the residents of Troy and Rensselaer County, but to transform the face of health care throughout the Capital Region.”
It will be one of the first elements in the $99 million dollar Troy Master Facilities Plan (MFP) to be completed. The MFP is a project that will re-envision, rebuild, expand, and reorganize both Samaritan and St. Mary’s, both of which have been serving patients in the area for over 100 years. The entire project is scheduled for completion in 2017.
The Troy Master Facilities Plan calls for, over the next few years, enhancing the modernization and specialization of each of the two hospitals, making St. Mary’s a leading-edge outpatient facility and expanding Samaritan’s ability to provide outstanding inpatient care.
Patient pavilion at Samaritan
An important element in this plan is the construction of a new, five-story patient pavilion at Samaritan Hospital that will house:
• a new expanded emergency department on the first floor, which will nearly double patient capacity
• an intensive care unit on the second floor, with large, private rooms that are each nearly double the size of current rooms
• a progressive care unit on the third floor that will provide an optimum healing environment for patients
• medical/surgical units on the fourth and fifth floors designed to increase staff efficiency; these will have private rooms that yet provide staff unobstructed observation from nursing stations and corridors.
Expanded outpatient care at St. Mary’s
The St. Mary’s campus will offer expanded and updated outpatient care, including an emergency department and urgent care facility; outpatient medical oncology and chemotherapy; a women’s health center; a nursing school; a sleep lab; physical therapy; wound care; cardiac rehabilitation; and outpatient endoscopy.
This summer saw the opening of a new cancer treatment center at St. Mary’s. Funded solely through donations, the center is outpatient, and will provide comprehensive medical oncology, hematology, and infusion services, genetic counseling, and integrative wellness programs. Radiation services will continue for now to be offered at Samaritan Hospital, although in several years, these services may shift to St. Mary’s, said Elmer Streeter, Director of Corporate Communications at SPHP.
“Everyone has been touched by cancer at some point in their lives,” said Dascher. “The opening of St. Mary’s Cancer Treatment Center marks the beginning of a new chapter in our legacy of cancer care for this community. The center provides fully integrated cancer services under one roof, offering every advantage to every cancer patient as we help them defeat this horrible disease.”
Design input from patients
The Cancer Treatment Center was designed using input from cancer patients about the kinds of rooms, amenities and services they need. It includes spacious exam rooms, a play area for children of patients, and a helpful concierge station where patients or visitors can ask questions. It also offers, free of charge, a program of integrative wellness such as healing touch therapy, therapeutic massage, nutritional counseling, healthy cooking classes, and yoga classes. And a new library gives patients access to educational materials and online resources and has tablets and iPads that they can use to pass the time watching movies or surfing the Net while undergoing lengthy treatment sessions.
Streeter said that this kind of patient input in design is something that St. Peter’s Health Partners does regularly. When construction on the St. Peter’s campus in Albany started about 10 years ago—in a $250 million project known as the Albany Master Facility Plan—the first step done was to draw up provisional architectural plans and show them to staff and patients, asking for their input. “People would say, for instance, ‘It would be nice if we had an oxygen hookup here, or a cozy waiting room here,’ and a lot of those suggestions were incorporated into the final design,” he said.
He added that more patients are asking for private rooms, and indeed, studies bear out the idea that private rooms facilitate healing and cut down the risk of medical error or infection. Another change has been the need for rewiring for greater digital access, a feature that Streeter said is being incorporated into all of SPHP’s rebuilding and remodeling.
Bringing health care to community
Patient needs today are different than they have ever been in the past. People need high-quality care close to their homes, Streeter said. They also want it at times that are convenient, such as at night and weekends, “so that they don’t have to take time off work.”
Streeter said that SPHP currently has four urgent care facilities located throughout the Capital District, in Albany (Prime Care Urgent Care, 400 Patroon Creek Blvd.), Clifton Park (Clifton Park Urgent Care, 1 Tallow Wood Drive), East Greenbush (East Greenbush Urgent Care, 2 Empire Drive), and South Troy (South Troy Health and On Call Center, 79 Vandenburgh Ave.). It also has been building a large network of physicians, Streeter said, and now has over 350 providers in more than 80 locations from Glens Falls down to Poughkeepsie.
Another way that SPHP brings health care directly to the community is through wellness programs. These have included blood pressure, asthma, and cholesterol screenings performed by nurses and doctors; BMI (weight and height) checks for kids done at community clinics; and free cancer screenings such as mammograms, clinical breast exams, and pap and pelvic exams, for uninsured and under-insured women.
Once a month, you can Walk With a Doc, a free one-mile walk free open to everyone that involves joining cardiologists for a fun and informal walk and the chance to ask one-on-one questions. The walk is held at the Troy Farmer’s Market April through November, and inside the Robison Gym in Troy December through March. To learn more, call 833.6479.
St. Peter’s has partnered with WNYT and Colonie for “16 or 17 years now,” Streeter said, to offer the interactive exhibit called Journey Through the Body, for kids and their parents. A lot of it is about creating dialog among families, Streeter said. “When you show two actual lungs, and one is the lung of a smoker and one is not, the kids will often turn around to Mom and say, “Mom, look what’s happening to you.’”
Albany Medical Center
Hospital campus: 43 New Scotland Avenue, Albany
Perhaps the most visible of Albany Medical Center’s innovations is the large-scale, $110-million Park South Plan for the Future, which will transform the neighborhood around the main campus, with new streetscapes, retail shops, and housing units. Albany Med is partnering with Tri-City Rentals; each has invested $55 million in the project.
The developer is Columbia Development. The Park South project encompasses two city blocks: one bordered by New Scotland, Myrtle, Morris, and Robin; the other by New Scotland, Morris, Dana, and Robin. The project includes a large parking garage scheduled to open September 1. A nearby medical office building should be ready for occupancy in about November of this year, and begin filling in the offices one floor at a time, starting several months later.
And within this area will be 268 rental units—a figure that is up from about 60 units, Columbia Development Vice President Richard Rosen estimated. For years, he said, Albany Medical Center had been “accumulating” buildings in the area—some were empty, and some rented. Some of the buildings will be mixed-use, with businesses on the first floor and residential units above. Bank of America is already signed on, and owner Tri-City Rentals is seeking other businesses that will “complement the neighborhood,” including, for instance, restaurants or coin laundries, Rosen explained. “It will be interesting to see the tenant mixture. We’re hoping the first thing it will attract is young people who work at the hospital and want to be close to work.”
The first residential units that will be ready for occupancy should be in January 2016, Rosen said, and the last in August of 2017.
Brave Will Room for families
More intimate in scale is Albany Medical Center’s newly constructed private room where families who have a loved one receiving palliative care can gather. Called the “Brave Will Room,” it is a large, homey fully equipped hospital room where families can make short or overnight stays.
The room was made possible by a $100,000 donation to the Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center by the Brave Will Foundation, a group dedicated to improving quality of life for children with life-threatening illnesses.
The group is named for Willem Bernard Hladun of Ballston Lake, who died in 2009, eight days before he would have turned seven months old, after fighting a five-month battle with a rare form of cancer known as rhabdoid. The foundation and its supporters honor Will’s bravery in the valiant fight that he waged at such a young age.
“This room will afford a family the opportunity to stay together during crisis times,” said Joanne Porter, MD, Director of the Journeys Palliative Care Program at the Albany Medical Center Children’s Hospital. “In particular, it was developed for end of life situations, but there are other equally serious medical situations that would be applicable—for instance, a brand-new devastating cancer diagnosis, where families can join together and find support.”
Will’s father, Matt Hladun, added, “Keeping the family together within the walls of the hospital is so critical when one of your children is battling a life-threatening illness. We felt that a space like this was needed for all families in situations similar to ours. Seeing our dream become a reality at the Children’s Hospital at Albany Med is such an amazing tribute to our son and our journey with him.”
EmUrgent Care facility
The hospital also recently opened its newest urgent care facility, the first of its kind in Albany County. Located in the Hannaford Plaza on Wolf Road in Colonie, Albany Med EmUrgent Care has eight exam rooms, including a large pediatric exam room capable of accommodating large families, as well as a procedure room, an eye exam room, and a digital x-ray suite.
Center staff will treat common ailments such as ear, sinus, and throat infections, asthma, lacerations, rashes, and tick and other insect bites and also diagnose sprains and fractures. The Center also will provide occupational medical services to local employers.
“Albany Med EmUrgentCare is helping us make it easier for patients to receive the unique level of expert care offered by Albany Med specialists,” said Ferdinand Venditti, MD, Vice Dean for Clinical Affairs at Albany Medical Center and President of the Albany Med Faculty Physicians Group. “The response to our new location from both residents and the dozens of businesses surrounding the facility has been tremendous, with a steady volume of patients who are able to receive quick and effective treatment for the full range of urgent care needs. This is a densely populated area, and having easy access to this type of urgent care facility has been very well received.”
In July, Albany Medical Center was named one of the Most Wired Hospitals in the nation in the 17th annual Health Care’s Most Wired Survey, which is conducted by Hospitals and Heal Networks. Albany Med is one of just 15 hospitals in New York State, and one of 338 in the country, to receive this designation.
The designations were awarded based on hospitals’ responses to a survey, conducted by Hospitals and Health Networks that investigated use of technology in infrastructure, business and administrative management, clinical quality and patient safety, and clinical integration. Survey respondents represented more than 39 percent of all U.S. hospitals. The organizations designated as Most Wired this year scored high in privacy audit systems, provisioning systems, data loss prevention, single sign-on, and identity management.
“Implementing advanced technology is critical to meeting Albany Med’s high standards for care delivery, research, and teaching,” said Dennis P. McKenna, MD, Medical Director of Albany Medical Center. “As the region’s only academic health sciences center, Albany Med is committed to remaining on the leading edge of technology.”
By Rachel Spensieri
Glens Falls Hospital
100 Park Street, Glens Falls
Located in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, Glens Falls Hospital serves a diverse patient population, from high to low-income residents, plus part-time retiree residents and vacationers. While Glens Falls may be perceived by its neighbors as a community hospital, there are a lot of big-city healthcare advances and treatments going on within its walls.
“In our region, we have already implemented what many are predicting will be changes across the board in the health care environment, such as a shift from inpatient to outpatient care,” said Paul Scimeca, Chief Operating Officer of Glens Falls Hospital. “We are focused on helping people receive care in the most appropriate setting for their individual situation. We want to keep people out of the ER or hospital if it is medically unnecessary or avoidable.”
One way they are doing this is with a patient-centered medical home model. “Virtually 100 percent of primary care in our region is being delivered through this model, especially for patients with chronic diseases who have a need for disease management,” Scimeca said. “Two-thirds of our hospital’s revenue is from outpatient services [versus inpatient care]because it’s the right thing to do for the patient. We continue to reconfigure our organization to accommodate that type of patient-centric care.” See the range of services, including outpatient clinics and community programs throughout the area – www.glensfallshospital.org/services.cfm.
Glens Falls Hospital also has invested in technology that provides expanded care for those undergoing cancer treatment. “We are committed to bringing the latest technology to patients at our C.R. Wood Cancer Center,” continued Scimeca. “The treatment being provided to our patients, including advanced interventional cancer care, is the best in the area. We have implemented the latest advancements in radiology including the recent installation of two new linear accelerators for cancer treatment.”
While Glens Falls Hospital strives to keep people out of the hospital–instead, caring for them in outpatient settings–for those who do require hospitalization, they will rest and recuperate in new beds. “We just replaced all 132 in-patient beds with state-of-the-art beds,” said Scimeca. “The new mattresses help prevent bed sores, and the beds feature integrated alarms to prevent patient falls by alerting nurses when a patient is getting out of bed.”
The hospital is attuned to the changing health care needs of their community, including behavioral health, and has responded accordingly. “We have seen a significant increase in the demand for behavioral health services, especially pediatric and adolescent behavioral health, and especially for people in crisis who come in through our Emergency Care Center [ER],” Scimeca observed. “We have addressed this shift and changed our care team, changed the care environment, even changed the food we serve in order to address patients’ needs, but we need to continue to develop partnerships in the community to address mental health services to be even better positioned to provide that care.”
And Glens Falls Hospital is working hard to form these crucial community partnerships. The hospital participates in the Adirondack Health Institute. “In this group, health care providers from Glens Falls through the North Country have come together to look at how they can better integrate to improve patient care,” explained Scimeca.
Glens Falls Hospital also has partnered with Hudson Headwaters Health Network, a nonprofit system of community health centers, to develop a joint palliative care program. “For people who are nearing end of life, we work together to provide them with a better experience,” Scimeca said.
While its programs and treatment rival those found in some much larger medical centers, Glens Falls Hospital is at its core a community hospital. “This is a unique area,” noted Scimeca. “Our local region has a high degree of ownership in this hospital; and we in turn have a high degree of responsibility to this community. We strive to be very transparent with the community. At the end of the day, we are a safety net organization,” he said. “People come to us when they are in crisis–be it medical, behavioral, or even financial. For example, over the winter, some people came in because they needed to warm up.
“We have been a part of this community for 120 years, and we are the largest employer by far. It is hard to be here as a patient and not be cared for by someone you know. That gives us an even higher sense of responsibility because we are taking care of our friends and neighbors; we take that very seriously,” Scimeca explained.
Scimeca said that the hospital is constantly analyzing the number of professionals needed to meet the needs of the community going forward. “We strive to project population growth and age, and implement recruitment plans to ensure an appropriate supply of health care providers for the future.”
“We feel very strongly about access to care; residents of our region deserve to have access to high quality, affordable health care. We continue to improve that care to exceed patient expectations as we move into this new era of health care,” he added. “We have a phenomenal team that is extraordinarily dedicated. We are proud of the work we do–it’s why people come to work every day–and it’s humbling to be part of a team that’s so patient-focused.”
211 Church Street, Saratoga Springs
With its mineral waters, Saratoga Springs has long been known as a center for health and healing, and that reputation extends to the innovations occurring at Saratoga Hospital.
Since opening its doors in 1895, the hospital has seen numerous medical advances, and the recent opening of the 19-bed Marylou Whitney and Desmond DelGiacco, MD Intensive Care Unit shows that Saratoga Hospital continues to be on the leading edge of patient care.
“People are living longer and have chronic health care issues that add to the complexity of their care,” said Diane Bartos, director of intensive care and cardiac product line at Saratoga Hospital. “When we designed the new ICU, we incorporated features and technologies that better accommodate patients with these chronic illnesses and assist clinicians when caring for the patient.”
In every hospital, infection is a concern, so the new Saratoga ICU completely eliminated one item that can potentially harbor dangerous germs: cubicle divider curtains. “We instead incorporated a new technology called electronic glass,” explained Bartos. “These room dividers consist of two panes of glass which have gas between them; we flip a switch, and the glass goes from clear to opaque for privacy.”
On top of improved computer system integration to give the care team a more comprehensive look at the patient’s health status, communication has been enhanced in the new ICU thanks to an innovative device called Vocera. “A small device is worn on the lapel that allows a practitioner to simply press a button and use voice commands to call other care providers right from the patient bedside, or call an emergency right away without having to go find a phone,” Bartos said. This Vocera voice command technology will be implemented in other areas of the hospital in the coming year.
Integrating suggestions from the nurses who work there, rooms in the new ICU were designed to be both flexible and family-friendly. “We made the rooms adaptable to the acuity of the patient,” noted Bartos. “Booms suspended from the ceiling have ports for oxygen, suction, medical air, and electricity. The boom can rotate 360 degrees, so the patient can be placed anywhere in the room. If the patient is improving, we can move the bed to give them a view outside; or if needed, we can turn the bed toward the nursing station to be able to keep an eye on them constantly. “For family, there is a couch in each room that can be flipped to be a twin bed so they can stay overnight. There are even USB chargers and a patient/family locker they can use.”
Elsewhere in the hospital, innovative protocols and collaborations are improving the care patients receive.
An early warning scoring system implemented on the surgical floor uses technology to quickly alert nurses if a patient’s condition is beginning to deteriorate. With an advanced bedside vital signs monitor to gauge blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate, a computer uses an algorithm to assign points to the monitor’s readings, and at the first signs of distress, alerts the nurse to escalate care, even triggering a request for an ICU nurse if needed.
Collaboration for stroke patients
For stroke patients, the unique collaboration between Saratoga Hospital and Albany Medical Center is saving lives and improving outcomes.
“This relationship came about because of significant changes in recent years in how strokes are managed,” explained Dr. Timothy Brooks, medical director of the emergency department at Saratoga Hospital. “The FDA approved a so-called ‘clot-busting’ drug called tPA [tissue plasminogen activator]that had previously been used for heart attack patients but was shown in trials to help stoke patients if given within three hours of onset of symptoms.
“We wanted to expand our role in quickly delivering that treatment to acute stroke patients, so we developed a contract with Albany Med, which is a designated stroke center and an interventional stroke center,” Dr. Brooks continued. “If a patient comes into our facility with acute stroke, we assess them, determine if they are an appropriate candidate for tPA, and if they are, we administer the drug here. We have a direct line to the stroke specialists at Albany Med, can upload images to share with them, and then quickly transfer the patient to Albany for further urgent interventional care.”
As Dr. Brooks pointed out, “You don’t have to be a major stroke center to deliver great stroke care; you just have to be able to put the protocols and relationships in place, and you can make it work.”
In support of the hospital’s emphasis on community outreach, this collaborative relationship between Saratoga Hospital and Albany Medical Center has been the impetus for local education efforts as well. “We’ve worked together with Albany Med to give lectures to the Saratoga community to get information about stroke out there,” noted Dr. Brooks. “We want to make people aware: if you think you or your loved one might be having a stroke, don’t wait–call 911. If it turns out to be something else, great, but don’t waste time.”