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Spirit of Teamwork Takes Wheeling Hospital to Next Level

By DEREK REDD

In medicine, just as it is in so many other aspects of life, there’s nothing like teamwork.

The staff at Wheeling Hospital feels that way. Executives there believe that teamwork, between doctors and between hospitals, will help take the hospital to the next level and keep executing the game plan — to give people in the Ohio Valley a stay-at-home option for high-level care.

Wheeling Hospital CEO Douglass Harrison is a firm believer in the institute model of hospitals. That’s the strategy WVU Medicine is using, and that’s the road Wheeling Hospital is taking as part of the WVU Medicine network.

The relationship is a “hub and spoke model,” Harrison said. WVU Medicine’s epicenter, Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, is the hub. Wheeling Hospital is one of the spokes. Yet, Harrison said, Wheeling’s role as a spoke doesn’t mean it’s an afterthought.

The WVU Heart and Vascular Institute has a home at Wheeling Hospital. So does the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. The hospital’s NICU is managed by WVU’s Women and Children’s Hospital. And starting July 1, the WVU Cancer Institute will manage and oversee Wheeling Hospital’s Schiffler Cancer Center.

“So you should be able to, in an institute model of care, get the same level of care, of medical treatment, from a local facility, coordinating that care through the institute model,” Harrison said. “So if you need advanced care, then we take care of that and align with our partners in Morgantown and get you to Morgantown for that advanced care.”

What makes the institute model work, Harrison said, is that the same physicians in Morgantown are also coming to Wheeling to provide the same service.

All those physicians, be it in Wheeling or Morgantown or both, are working together to provide the best care for patients. There is no competition between the doctors to be the one who gets to have the “aha!” moment. They collaborate to have that moment together.

Dr. Vinay Badhwar, executive chair of the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, said that belief is shared between all his institute’s doctors from the top down. For instance he does not view himself above Dr. Chris Allen, a member of the WVU HVI and chief of cardiology at Wheeling Hospital.

“Dr. Allen is my partner, not an employee, nothing like that,” Badhwar said. “Our job is to provide the best for our patients, like they’re our family members. Because the model allows it.”

Harrison offered the example of a 97-year-old woman dealing with congestive heart failure and some other comorbidities. In the past, one physician may walk in, look at her and say she needed a heart catheter and open heart surgery. Then she’s headed in for a procedure with a slim chance at survival.

“Now we sit back and say, ‘OK, let’s talk about quality of life,'” Harrison said. “Can we manage this patient medically, and what is the quality of life for this 97-year-old person? Is it life threatening? Do we need to put this patient through this or not put the patient through this? So we’re having those types of discussions about medical care which are ultimately in the best interests of the patient.

“That’s the beauty of the team-based approach,” he continued, “that you get multiple physicians and clinicians looking at every single patient every single day and determining the best care plan.”

It’s not just the doctors at Wheeling Hospital that can enter the conversation. Harrison said those doctors can call colleagues in Morgantown as well.

Harrison said the institute model is working at Wheeling. Top doctors are looking at Wheeling Hospital as a destination when, in years past, they’d chuckle at the idea of moving to West Virginia. Harrison said the HVI has an opening for a cardiac surgeon and there are 12 top cardiac surgeons vying for the job.

He also can see it in how the doctors’ practices at Wheeling Hospital are developing.

“The proof is in watching their practices grow and their patient panels grow,” Harrison said. “More and more people are beginning to come and trust these physicians and follow them. We’re watching their practices grow significantly. That, to me, is feedback that says this is starting to work.”

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