Patients should stay in Northwest Indiana for their neurology, oncology, cardiovascular care, hospitals say - March 18, 2019

Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • March 18, 2019

By Giles Bruce giles.bruce@nwi.com, 219-853-2584

Northwest Indiana hospitals say they’re increasingly adding technologies and services so that fewer and fewer residents have to leave the Region for health care.

“Unless a patient requires highly specialized medical care that can only be found at tertiary academic medical centers, most of the care a patient might need can be delivered right in our community,” said Dean Mazzoni, president and CEO of Franciscan Health hospital in Michigan City.

To that end, his hospital opened a new $243 million facility in January along Interstate 80/94 in January.

He said the facility has the “latest and greatest in medical and clinical technology” but also patient-safety and infection-control elements. That’s important, he noted, because more than 99,000 deaths occur every year due to hospital-acquired infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Through surveys and focus groups, we have found that patients and their families prefer to receive medical care closer to their homes,” he said.

“The convenience of accessible, quality, medical care reduces stress and anxiety, which we know from studies also promotes health and healing.”

Another new Northwest Indiana hospital is being built in downtown LaPorte. The $125 million building is expected to be completed in 2020. Ground was broken in August.

“We’ll have all the latest and greatest equipment and facilities to take care of our patients and our community,” said LaPorte Hospital CEO Ashley Dickinson.

She noted that her hospital is also part of an effort, being led by Pat Bankston of Indiana University Northwest, to bring medical residents to the Region, which advocates say will improve the quality of care in Northwest Indiana. LaPorte Hospital has also recently recruited about 20 new providers to the area, in specialties such as primary care, pediatrics and OB-GYN, she said.

“A lot of our physicians trained at academic institutions and came to a community hospital to care for the patients here,” she said.

“Community hospitals give really good care, taking care of our friends and neighbors here in the community. You can pull our quality scores and compare them to facilities in Chicago. You’re getting very good care here in Indiana.”

Technology leads the way

Much of that can be attributed to improvements in medical technology. Dr. Alan Kumar, chief medical officer for Community Healthcare System, noted that his hospital group — which consists of Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart — has invested in technology to improve care of heart disease, strokes and bad joints.

He pointed to transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, a minimally invasive way to replace narrowed aortic valves. “It is cutting edge. It is much quicker for recovery. You’re home the next day, generally,” he said. The hospital system is also planning to offer that service for the mitral valve.

In addition, Community Healthcare System is about to become comprehensive stroke-certified, with 24-7 coverage for endovascular care, he said. That’s due in part to a partnership with Rush University Medical Center on a telestroke program, which allows stroke patients to get diagnosis and treatment plans any time, as well as Abbott’s Infinity deep brain stimulation system, which helps minimize the impact of tremors in patients with advanced Parkinson’s’ disease.

The health system also recently started offering the Mako robotic-assisted surgery system for partial and total knee replacements. “It can shorten recovery time and reduce pain after the procedure,” Kumar said.

“The 3-D mapping allows for a better surgical plan, can customize care better, make for more precise cuts, smaller incisions. It’s been a huge hit for us so far. And the best benefit is patients get better outcomes.”

He said community hospitals are able to offer these services because conditions that used to be rare — and thus only performed at academic medical centers — are now becoming more common because of the aging baby boomer population.

“You want to be able to provide that at a location is convenient to patients and families,” he said, adding that local care is better coordinated because all the providers are in one place.