In 2004, Rush University Medical Center decided to bring its facilities into the 21st century. The strong partnership with Siemens played a key role in the success of this transformation.
Rush University Medical Center was not just interested in upgrading its facilities; it was looking for a partner for a comprehensive transformation process.
The Medical Center found Siemens to be a vendor that understood the hospital’s needs and responded to its specific requirements.
The upgrade simplified processes, made the employees’ jobs easier, and led to higher patient satisfaction scores – even in departments that were not directly affected by it.
For Dr. Sharon Byrd, Chairperson, Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the 21st century began in 2004: “We were still in the 19th century as far as our imaging technology was concerned,” she admits openly. Even Professor Peter Butler, who as the Medical Center’s President is responsible for the operational and administrative aspects and procedures, recalls dark times when he thinks about the last renovation, which was completed in 1982: “I was here when we opened the then brand-new clinical facility, and I remember patients being rolled down the hall with paper charts on their chests.”
The patient folder has since given way to electronic medical records that can easily be transmitted wirelessly between departments and referring physicians, and thanks to an innovative layout for the new main wing, the distances in the corridors have become shorter – Rush is one of the leading and most modern hospitals in the United States.
Concept of the Transformation
Upgrading required more than a renovation – “transformation” is the term chosen by Rush management, headed by Butler and Larry Goodman, Chief Executive Officer. The implementation task for the newly created “Office of Transformation” was not limited to expanding capacities or purchasing new equipment; the primary goal, according to Goodman and Butler, was to integrate ideas and suggestions from employees on how patient care might look in the future into the concept of the transformation.
The Transformation Process
The design of the hospital’s striking new tower, opened in January 2012, did not come from the creative ideas of an architect team, but rather from the practical suggestions of employees: “Our nursing staff thought that a butterfly-type shape would actually create hospital wards that have better sightlines and shorter distances,” explained Goodman.
Rush was one of the first hospitals in the United States to implement the concept of an “interventional platform.” A total of 40 operating and treatment rooms for interventional radiology – as well as for interventional cardiology, electrophysiology, and surgery – are concentrated on three floors, which not only shortens the distances for patients but also encourages cooperation between the specialists. For example, a hybrid operating room is also equipped with interventional radiology imaging equipment. “It has really revolutionized the things we do,” states Dr. Byrd.
Improvements for Stroke Diagnosis
Technology for treating stroke patients was also stuck in the 19th century. Siemens experts have been able to raise the standard through the ‘Act on Stroke’ analysis tool so that Rush is now one of the top emergency centers for stroke patients in Chicago. Particular mention should be made of the expanded capacities for magnetic resonance imaging, explains Bernard Peculis, Administrator of the Diagnostic Services: “MRI has really become the primary modality for supporting our physicians in diagnosing stroke."
Choosing the Right Partner
One important step in this transformation, on which everyone agrees, was the decision to concentrate on a single partner when purchasing the medical – and particularly the imaging – technology. “I can’t imagine doing this with 85 different partners at once,” says Butler. Goodman insists that it is not just about the technology, but the fact that it is combined with experience and care from a skilled team of experts. “We were looking not only at the technology that’s available,” states Peculis, “but who can be the partner as we move forward, to support us in not only our clinical applications but our research and educational missions, as well.”
“Siemens Offered Us All of That”
Moving from an environment of running two 1.5-tesla MRIs to two 3-tesla devices and expanding the dual-energy CT capacities gave Peculis some cause for concern, because the X-ray technicians had to be cross-trained as CT technicians. Dr. Byrd, who had the final say on the imaging technology, therefore wanted to make certain that the staff’s training program for the new equipment was flexible enough to deal with all the different levels of knowledge as well as the resulting and unavoidable scheduling problems arising from the hospital’s 24/7 operations. “We looked for a company that could not only provide all the equipment we needed, but also respond to us and our requirements,” she explains. “Siemens offered us all of that.”
The enthusiasm that the construction project inspired in the employees has apparently also spilled over to the patients – and not just those who get to enjoy the new facilities. “The increase in patient satisfaction has occurred across the institution, also in the older facilities,” states Butler. “The new facilities suggest to the world that we are moving forward, not backward.”
At a time when “healthcare reform” is primarily discussed as synonymous with “cost reduction,” positive signals like this for the future are essential for the patients as well as the employees. “None of us are in healthcare just to balance the budget at the end of the year,” says Goodman as he explains that it is not all about finances – even if they are unavoidable. The University Hospital is on the West Side of Chicago, a region, according to Goodman, that has “significant disparities in healthcare, where many people use an emergency department as a primary care place.”
Increased Number of Patients
The pressure to cut costs makes several amortization calculations look different today than they did ten years ago, Butler admits. “But there are certainly far more people with insurance coverage than used to be the case – and that’s a positive thing. For example, in the Department of Radiology, we have seen an increase in the number of patients of between 7 percent and 20 percent, depending on the modality [CT or MRI],” states Peculis.
Focusing on the Patients’ Needs
And even if the economic conditions have changed since the transformation process started, the basic idea of the new hospital has not changed, claims Peculis: “The driving objective from the beginning was to be focused on the needs of the patient, so that regardless of what changes there were in the market, we focused specifically on creating an environment that best supports the needs of the patients and their families. And having that as the driving objective would not have changed.”
About the Author
Jürgen Schönstein, who has a graduate degree in Geography (Diplom-Geograph), has been a journalist since 1985. He has worked for DIE WELT, Springer Foreign News Service (New York Correspondent) and FOCUS (U.S. Correspondent from 2001 to 2010), to name just a few. He has been the editor-in-chief of the German science portal ScienceBlogs.de since the beginning of 2011 and teaches academic writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jürgen Schönstein is also a freelance writer for the German economic journal BILANZ and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.