CLINIC IN FOCUS
Continuing our series of interviews featuring outstanding hyperbaric and wound care centers around the world, we spotlight in this issue the Catholic Health Advanced Wound Healing Centers in Buffalo, New York.
If an accredited facility, how has seeking UHMS accreditation affected your clinic?
In 2010, Catholic Health opened its first Advanced Wound Healing Center under the medical direction of Dr. Lee Ruotsi. Although we had a consulting agreement with a management company, our model differed from other programs in our geographical area. In our program, each center is staffed by system-employed medical directors, RNs, CHTs, office staff and a director. Our second center opened in early 2011, when Dr. William Lagaly was recruited from Little Rock, Arkansas. Over the next four years, the staff and medical directors worked to build a reputation for quality wound care and high patient satisfaction, boasting strong clinical outcomes.
During 2014, Catholic Health submitted our application, and over the following year, we worked diligently to prepare for the survey. In late 2015, we achieved UHMS accreditation.
The process was educational not only for us but also for our health system as a whole. It forced us to examine our business and clinical processes from a unique viewpoint: the hyperbaric patient perspective. During our preparation for the survey, we found that although our previous practices often met the minimum criteria required by UHMS, there was typically room for improvement. The survey also allowed the Advanced Wound Healing Centers to gain more visibility in our very busy, robust health system. Our quality, safety and senior leadership teams gained a better perspective into the challenges our department faces, and the accreditation fostered a sense of unity within our organization. The accreditation process gave senior leadership an in-depth understanding of how complex hyperbaric oxygen therapy is and what a strong program we had developed.
What are the most common indications treated at your clinic?
The most common indications treated at our clinic are diabetic foot ulcers, late effect of radiation, and failed or compromised skin grafts.
What is the most memorable treatment success story that has come out of your clinic?
“Of many memorable treatment successes, one comes immediately to mind: a 67-year-old female who was in our care in 2014,” Dr. Lee Ruotsi said. “She originally presented with typical chronic venous leg ulcers and was treated with multilayer compression wrapping to closure. During her initial consultation, a history of gynecologic malignancy in 1995 was noted; however, there was no further discussion of this at that time.
On one of her last visits for her leg ulcers, further history- taking and conversation led to a diagnosis of hemorrhagic radiation cystitis secondary to extensive external beam radiation therapy. She related her problems began about 8-9 years after the radiation treatments, and initially the symptoms consisted of mild discomfort, urgency, and occasional bleeding. As the years went on, however, the discomfort turned to pain, the urgency became incontinence, and the occasional bleeding became daily frank bleeding with clots. On a scale of 1-10, the adverse impact on her life was a 15. She had not left her house in years to attend social events or to go out for dinner, and she would not even sit on her own furniture unless she put down pads first.
We initiated hyperbaric oxygen therapy at 2.5 ATA for 90 minutes 5 days per week for a total of 40 treatments. As the weeks progressed, she became less and less symptomatic. The incontinence slowly resolved as did the pain, and the bleeding declined to occasional spotting. On her last visit she said the adverse impact was now a 2 out of 10. She was back to going out for dinner and sitting unprotected on her furniture. She thanked us, a bit tearfully, for what she felt had been a miraculous recovery. For us, it was a most gratifying reminder of the impact of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Do you work with a management company? If so, which one?
Catholic Health manages all operations internally, but we do have a consulting contract with Precision Healthcare.
If you had to pick one thing to attribute your clinic’s success to, what would it be?
As a healthcare system, Catholic Health is dedicated to the needs of the community we serve. A lack of accessible wound care services was identified in the Western New York area. In response to this, we opened the Advanced Wound Healing Centers. Being a part of such a large, yet community-centered, healthcare system allows our program to remain patient focused while being able to offer access to a broad network of collaborative services. We believe these are the key factors to providing the best possible patient care, thus achieving the highest level of successful outcomes.
What is one marketing recommendation that you can make to help clinics increase their patient load?
Our largest barrier to new patient referrals is a lack of wound care and hyperbaric oxygen knowledge within the medical providers in our area. Therefore, the best source of marketing for our clinic has been to utilize a wide range of educational activities. Our physicians speak to the medical community multiple times each year, including presenting to residents, nurses, and home-care clinicians. In addition, Catholic Health hosts an annual wound symposium — a full day, continuing-medical-education event that we market to all levels of caregivers on the latest advances in wound care. We also present relevant wound-care topics to the general public in support-group settings. Every educational event is an opportunity to market the services offered in our clinics.