By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA– Kaweah Delta has put its heart in the right place, first place.
Kaweah Delta has joined forces with Cleveland Clinic’s Heart and Vascular Institute, the No. 1 ranked heart program in the U.S., in an effort to help further elevate services for people seeking cardiovascular care in the Central Valley. As an affiliate, the two organizations will stay independent and physicians and staff of Kaweah Delta’s heart program will remain the same. However, the affiliation will give Kaweah Delta access to best practices that have helped the Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic’s heart program achieve U.S. News & World Report’s No. 1 cardiology and heart surgery ranking since 1995. Kaweah Delta announced the affiliation at a Jan. 25 press conference in front of more than 100 people in the hospital’s Acequia Wing lobby.
“It is an honor to be chosen by the Cleveland Clinic as an affiliate and we know the relationship will be mutually beneficial,” said Gary Herbst, chief executive officer of Kaweah Delta, noting that in 2019 Kaweah Delta was named one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals for Cardiac Surgery for the third year in a row and one of America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Cardiac Care by Healthgrades. There are between 4,500 and 5,000 hospitals considered in the ranking. “For the past 34 years, we have provided heart care to our community and kept people close to home with great results, but we know that having this world-renowned peer organization will help us further elevate the care that we provide our community.”
Kaweah Delta and Cleveland Clinic’s heart program will share best practices in patient care, outcomes measurement, quality reporting and clinical research. Physician teams from both entities will collaborate to accelerate advances in heart care treatments and protocols. Medical staff members of Kaweah Delta’s heart program were very supportive of the affiliation, said Harry Lively, M.D., Chief of Medical Staff at Kaweah Delta.
“We have a strong cardiovascular program, and this relationship will help us take it to the next level,” Dr. Lively said. “The best get better by collaborating and learning from each other. Collaborating with a proven national performer will accelerate our progress toward having a world-class heart program here in Visalia to benefit people throughout the region.”
In addition to better patient outcomes, Dr. Lively said the affiliation should mean shorter hospital stays and lower hospital bills for patients in need of heart-related procedures due to faster recovery times and being able to handle more of the complex heart cases that previously may have been sent out to another hospital.
“Lower costs and shorter hospital stays are better for the patients and their families,” Dr. Lively said. “And complex issues, where families would have to travel out of town, can be addressed locally now.”
Located in Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Clinic employs 52,000 people including more than 3,600 full-time salaried physicians and researchers and 14,000 nurses, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic’s health system includes a 165-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 11 regional hospitals, more than 150 northern Ohio outpatient locations – including 18 full-service family health centers and three health and wellness centers. In 2017, there were 7.6 million outpatient visits, 229,000 hospital admissions and 207,000 surgical cases throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 185 countries. For more information, visit clevelandclinic.org or follow them at @ClevelandClinic. News and resources available at newsroom.clevelandclinic.org.
Jeffrey Rich, MD, chairman of operations and strategy at Cleveland Clinic’s Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute, said Kaweah Delta is only the 17th hospital nationwide to be selected for an affiliation. He said the affiliation will elevate care for patients in the Central Valley by sharing best practices, intellectual property, and educational and training resources and opportunities.
“Our affiliation will give Kaweah Delta access to the best practices, which will further strengthen their cardiac care,” Dr. Rich said. “Treating patients with cardiovascular disease is complex. Our affiliation with Kaweah Delta will advance heart care in Tulare County.”
Suma Thomas, MD, a cardiologist and Vice-Chairman of Operations and Strategy at Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute, will work directly with Kaweah Delta’s medical staff to find common practices, identify the hospital’s strengths, and to search for opportunities to improve the quality of their health care, from how they conduct meetings to implementing the latest technology.
“We want to work with the top hospitals with proven practices who also have the same dedication to health care that we have,” Dr. Thomas said.
The formal affiliation will be beneficial in a variety of ways, said Regina Sawyer, D.N.P., Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer of Kaweah Delta. “It has truly been rewarding working with the Cleveland Clinic physicians and staff over the past three years. I look forward to renewed energy and to our continued partnership through formal affiliation,” Sawyer said.
Benefits of the affiliation to Kaweah Delta patients and doctors include access to new treatments and technologies, opportunities to collaborate with Cleveland Clinic in medical research, sharing of care pathways, quality processes, outcomes data analysis and medical education opportunities, Herbst said.
“Collaboration and partnership is one of Kaweah Delta’s founding principles, and this relationship with Cleveland Clinic further demonstrates the value of that philosophy,” Herbst said. “The way forward in health care is through alliances that enable sharing of resources, knowledge and skills.”
In keeping with its philosophy, Kaweah Delta announced a partnership with Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville in December. The separate public hospital boards approved a joint powers agreement which will allow both hospitals to lower the cost of ordering pharmaceuticals and the cost of efforts to recruit physicians to the area. It also left the door open for a jointly operated clinic and centralize some of their services.
Herbst said then that partnerships between independent health care entities is becoming the norm.
“Hospitals are no longer called to just care for people who are the sickest, they are asked to take care of the health of an entire population. To do that effectively, you have to have broad geographic coverage and that is where affiliations and partnerships are becoming norms of change. From the consumer, patient and community point of view, this is a good thing.”
The JPA is in a draft state and not yet finalized. It will not have an expiration date, and will only be ended if one, or both of the healthcare districts vote to do so.
“We are looking to continue to offer high quality safe patient care with more affordable access to care,” Hefner said. “The community will benefit from both entities collaborating on the services being provided in our respective communities.”
While the affiliation with Cleveland Clinic will have no effect on the JPA with Sierra View, Herbst did say the two Tulare County hospitals have already signed an agreement that could also improve cardiology in Porterville. The two hospitals have already signed another agreement for Kaweah Delta’s cardiology department to be on-call during heart-related procedures at Sierra View. In order for a hospital to perform angioplasty and stent procedures to unclog arteries, Herbst said the hospital must also provide open-heart surgery in case of complications during the procedures. Sierra View does not currently provide open-heart surgeries.
Under the agreement, Herbst said Sierra View would be able to offer angioplasty and stent procedures because complications would be handled by Kaweah Delta heart surgeons. Herbst said if complications were to occur, the patient would be airlifted from Sierra View to Kaweah Delta where doctors would be on stand-by to perform open heart surgery. Herbst said the agreement has been signed but has not yet taken effect.
Kaweah Delta is a publicly-owned community healthcare organization that provides comprehensive health services to the greater Visalia region and Tulare County. With over 5,000 dedicated medical professionals and employees, Kaweah Delta is committed to meeting the community’s health needs through state-of-the-art medicine, high-quality preventive services and specialized health centers and clinics. For more information, visit www.kaweahdelta.org.