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By Cameron Sullivan
Arriving for his first visit to a county clinic or hospital, a patient may not expect to be greeted as a member of an exclusive club, nor would he imagine being served abundant food and entertainment at holiday parties. And he certainly won’t expect to burst into laughter after seeing a physician dressed up as a vegetable to promote healthy eating for Colon Cancer Awareness Month. But as he meets more people on his wellness journey, he will discover that these are just a few examples of how whole- person care is a way of life at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
He will realize that, at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, each individual
— from front-line staff members to nurses, medical technicians and physicians
— is devoted to his well- being. He will know that SCVMC is far more than a busy, public Level-1 Trauma Center; it’s an integrated health care network filled with talent, technology and world-class services.
To provide the best patient experience while reducing the burden of illness, SCVMC’s approach to integrated health care means that everyone involved in patient care coordinates seamlessly between and across disciplines. This patient-centric model leads to the most efficient, comprehensive treatment possible.
“We want to make sure each person has a primary care physician and a medical home,” said Paul Lorenz, CEO of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. “Continuity of care is critically important to supporting an individual’s ability to thrive. We have very strong partnerships with community-based organizations that support people beyond the walls of the hospital or the clinic.”
Barbara French, nurse manager at SCVMC’s Sobrato Cancer Center, provided a picture of how that continuum of care might look. “When patients arrive, they’re welcomed by nurse navigators who help them get past barriers to their care.” Barriers might include unemployment, poverty, domestic violence, mental health issues or inadequate transportation.
Nurse navigators follow up with patients on each aspect of their overall well-being while preparing them for comprehensive care. This assistance might include providing bus vouchers or connecting them with various social services. “We may find out that someone who came into the cancer center also has social or psychiatric issues,” said French, explaining the power of networking with the different specialties and community organizations. “We can’t treat the person who may not show up for their treatments; we work through those barriers to take care of the whole person.” SCVMC is also the first public medical center in California to receive certification by the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI).
As the only fully integrated health care system open to everyone in the valley, SCVMC currently includes 10 integrated health centers. One notable example of coordinated care at SCVMC is its primary care behavioral health clinic, estimated to open by March 2019. “Patients with mild to moderate mental health disorders can be treated in a primary care clinic by a provider who is an expert in behavioral health,” said Alice Naqvi Mugler, interim director of SCVMC’s Office of System Integration and Transformation. “We then reinforce that ‘this is your medical home.’ ”
Another benefit of comprehensive care is lower overall cost to the medical center and the freeing up of emergency services for the patients who need them most urgently. “We want to identify people who have been using the emergency department and get them into preventive care with follow-up support,” said Mugler. “Once they see us as their medical home, they’ll have better health and fewer hospital admissions.” By actively coordinating with other county agencies, SCVMC provides seamless care, reduces hospital stays and hastens recovery time.
Among the notable distinctions of SCVMC is its accreditation by The Joint Commission, a nationwide symbol of an organization’s commitment to meeting high-quality performance standards. “We are also among the first publicly funded hospitals in California to receive a designation for safety and quality in gastroenterology outpatient endoscopy care,” added Andrea Arce, RN, MSN, and manager of the Cardiovascular Center and gastroenterology and hepatology at Valley Specialty Center. “And our executive team and county leadership are also supporting expansion of the first-ever vascular lab for our county.”
A proactive, upstream approach to comprehensive care involves shared leadership across disciplines, Arce explained. By exceeding the standards for care with innovative, world-class spaces filled with passionate, committed professionals, SCVMC has created a new model for public health care. It’s a place that has become the preferred workplace of highly skilled and unfailingly happy caregivers, and where technology, compassion and communication enhance patient care.
“It is such a great feeling to know you work somewhere where truly no one is turned away,” said Arce. In many ways, SCVMC is just like home.