Ochsner Health System In New Orleans, one of the most successful group practices in the world, has a prewar past, its founding momentary observation linked smoking to pioneering surgery with lung cancer, with an operation involving individual twins Is included. Today, the practice started by five former surgeons at Tulan University employs more than 1,000 physicians and has become a health system encompassing 25 proprietary and affiliated hospitals in Louisiana.
Ochsner President and CEO Warner Thomas, who will speak at the upcoming US News Hospital of Tomorrow ConferenceAfter spoke with US News about the effort to rebuild health care in New Orleans Hurricane Katrina In 2005, the recent expansion of the hospital system and its increasing investment in telemedicine and electronic ICU services. (The interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Oshner’s growth has been dramatic in recent years.
We have seen significant changes in our organization and healthcare environment over the last five to 10 years. If you go back to a decade ago, our clinic had about 500 physicians; This year we have hired only our thousandth. … at a time when New Orleans is undergoing rebirth and redevelopment. I think people have seen Ochsner as the leader of health care in the region and that has really helped to bring healthcare back to New Orleans.
To what extent was Katrina’s decision to expand based on opportunity vs. community need?
If you look at when we started our major expansion by purchasing Tenet Healthcare’s three hospitals in 2006, this was a time when New Orleans was not the vibrant place it is today. The chips were as below in 2005, 2006. But our board (we have a community board; they made decisions as well as management) decided to double down on New Orleans and make sure healthcare was brought back in the right way… because we redevelop the city Was the cornerstone of I think that was the right decision. This is why Ochsner was brought in to invest to buy those hospitals at a time when not many people were placing bets on New Orleans. It was a huge investment for us, but after 10 years, it was clearly very good.
When Katrina was hit, Charity, another major hospital in New Orleans, was a refuge for poor patients. Recently reopened as the University Medical Center, it is replete with state-of-the-art technology and art. How will it affect Oshner?
Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health System, will speak at this year’s American News Hospital of Tomorrow conference.Courtesy Ochsner Health System
I think the charity has an important mission and an important focus in the city. We have a very strong New Orleans presence, but we are very much attracted to regional and national levels [base]. In the past year, we have cared for patients from every parish in Louisiana, every state in the US, and 99 countries. … Ochsner has made New Orleans a health care destination for years and still does so today. They are coming for services like transplant, heart care, cancer care, neurology, pediatrics.
What separates Ochsner from charity and other nearby hospitals?
We have invested heavily in people and programs to ensure that we have the best talent, the best capabilities and the best access to services. We have worked very hard in the same day for all our patients in the last 24 months. We ask every patient who calls us, “Do you need to see today?” A high percentage of them do not, but when they do, we do everything to get them in today. Those who are not impressed that we ask them.
The Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic have networked to help other hospitals improve their services and expand their brands. Is there anything similar in Oshner?
It is called Osner Health Network. [Launched in June, the founding partners include the hospitals in the Ochsner system and St. Tammany Parish Hospital, Lafayette General Health, CHRISTUS Health Louisiana and Terrebonne General Medical Center.] Basically we have chosen these organizations to partner with us. … We are collaborating on a number of different initiatives including building clinical data analysis capability among all our organizations.
You will speak on telemedicine at tomorrow’s hospital meeting. Can you talk about Oshner’s program?
Today we have 42 hospitals on telemedicine. This year I think we are going to do about 17,000 telemedicine consultations with other hospitals, stroke care, heart care, services for high-risk women – among other capabilities that other hospitals may not have locally . Over the past few years we have seen our telemedicine console grow by over 200 percent. I think you are going to see that this explosion will continue. … It is another way to build relationships and take care of people away from our organization but closer to home. We think local care is the best care. If we can help someone stay close to home and take care of them there, then ultimately it is our goal.
What about electronic ICU services?
We have 24/7, 365-day virtual monitoring of ICU patients. Our entire suite of ICUs in our facilities – nine units in seven hospitals with 193 beds – are remotely monitored. We have a telemedicine bunker located here in New Orleans. People in the telemedicine bunker are guiding clinical teams onsite with certain capabilities and specialties. We want to bring those capabilities to other organizations as we do more outreach.