Improvements separate Valley View from other rural hospitals
With the completion of a pair of new labs, Valley View Hospital put the cap on years of improvements in its robotics program this month, an effort doctors believe will mean better outcomes for cardiovascular patients and others.
“Before 2007, if you had a heart attack, the only options for treatment were Denver or Grand Junction,” observed electrophysiologist and interventional cardiologist Frank Laws. “Now, you get to Valley View and you’re going to have the vessel open in 35 to 40 minutes. The national standard is 90 minutes, so we take great pride in that statistic.”
The hospital opened its first catheterization lab in January 2007 and had its first coronary intervention shortly thereafter. It went on to serve around 180 patients that year, while the current annual rate is up to 400 and climbing. Robotic assistance was added for percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI) — a catheter-based procedure to open up the arteries, commonly known as an angioplasty — in 2013. It was one of the first institutions to conduct such procedures without surgical backup, an increasingly common approach that’s more within the reach of small hospitals.
The new dedicated robotics PCI lab is the only one of its kind in Colorado, while the biplane hybrid catheterization lab is one of only two such Siemens demonstration setups in the country.
“Siemens is a major partner for us,” Laws said. “They could have worked with anyone. They came to us, and that says a lot. It lends some validation to the things we are doing.”
According to Laws, the new approach reduces radiation exposure for both the patient and physician, requires less iodinated contrast for imaging, and ultimately results in more precise stent placement — all of which translates to a better experience for the patient.
“We have the ability to condense care from the time of diagnosis to treatment to recovery and enhance the outcome,” Laws said. “It’s a combination of the right equipment, the right personnel, the right infrastructure, and the right support from the hospital that all comes together right here.”
That’s not necessarily the norm for a rural community.
“You don’t usually attract a physician like myself to a small hospital,” he said. “We like the atmosphere of working in the mountains in a small community. I do cases all over the country, but I always come back to Glenwood Springs.”
That sort of draw gives the hospital an opportunity to push the boundaries of what a small institution can do — at least in certain fields. According to Laws, the hospital tries to focus in areas that are in demand locally or nationally. Orthopedics, for instance, are of particular use where high levels of outdoor recreation lead to corresponding injuries. Rising cancer rates necessitate oncology, while cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the country.
“Our patients dictate where we go,” he said. “This was driven by the fact that these services were needed.”
The latest improvements help the hospital specialize even further and treat high elevation issues like heart arrhythmias and lung nodules. It’s another situation in which locals use to have to travel for treatment. Laws believes that expense of equipment and personnel is more than offset by what patients save on travel and accommodations for themselves and loved ones.
“You can take care of everything right here, and that’s much cheaper for them,” he said. “Our goal is to demonstrate that we provide quality of care to an advanced degree, patient experience of surpassing quality, and it’s still cost effective.”
In the process, such resources might induce others to relocate or seek treatment here.
“One of the major factors that defines where people retire is the quality of health care,” he said. “We can provide a level of care second to none for our local population, attract patients from outside, and the more cases you do the better you get at it.”
Meanwhile, Valley View will continue to gather data on the success and cost of its interventionary programs in hopes of leading the way toward future innovation.
“We feel that we’re on the tip of the spear in terms of where things are going to be,” Laws said. “We are going to be an example for other hospitals.”
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