University of Chicago Medical Center and Holy Cross Hospital establish clinical collaboration

University of Chicago Medical Center and Holy Cross Hospital establish clinical collaboration

April 3, 2009

The University of Chicago Medical Center and Holy Cross Hospital will launch a collaboration to provide hospital care for patients in several clinical specialties, beginning in April 2009.

On April 6, selected older patients who require hospitalization but do not require the high-intensity, technologically complicated care that an academic medical center like UCMC provides will be cared for by fellowship-trained, board-certified geriatricians from the University of Chicago at Holy Cross Hospital, 2701 West 68th Street--six miles to the southwest.

"We're excited about the promise of the new program and access to new options, care pathways, and resources for our patients," said William Dale, MD, PhD, section chief of geriatrics & palliative medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "This brings us an inpatient service dedicated to acute care for the elderly, with ready access to an established hospice care unit in the same facility," he said.

"The strong partnership of a highly specialized teaching hospital and a vibrant community hospital will give the highest quality of care to geriatric patients and their families in a setting that is easier for patients to navigate and less complex for everyone involved," said Wayne M. Lerner, DPH, FACHE, chief executive officer of Holy Cross Hospital. "We are confident that this collaboration of talent and shared mission will further expand accessibility, medical excellence and personalized treatment for the patients in our communities."

Geriatricians specialize in the care of older adults who face health issues associated with specific needs such as multiple comorbidities, cognitive impairment, and functional decline associated with aging. This can include memory loss, high risk of injury from falls, decreased immune function and susceptibility to infection, declining organ function leading to chronic disease, and the side effects caused by taking many medications.

"Geriatrics is a 'cognitive' specialty rather than a procedural one," said Dale. Geriatricians focus on understanding each patient's complex, interacting medical needs. This includes preventing complications from chronic diseases, minimizing the development of disability, and identifying social support needs to help patients maintain independence. "Our overall interdisciplinary, network care model fits well into the community hospital setting, such as Holy Cross, for typical in-patient hospitalizations as one component of the network," he said.

Elderly patients cared for at Holy Cross will come from the UCMC Senior Center at South Shore, the University of Chicago Medical Center, and from older patients who come to the UCMC emergency room requiring straightforward hospital care. University geriatricians will also offer consultative care to appropriate older patients, and those with palliative care needs, at Holy Cross.

"This inpatient service will likely grow slowly," said Dale. "We intend to begin caring for a few of our patients at Holy Cross as soon the program opens and to build volume from there. Most of our section's geriatricians will spend time caring for patients at Holy Cross, and we will build our training programs over time for medical students, residents and fellows to gain experience in the specialized care of older adults in this setting. Eventually, we intend to develop a robust program of care for older adults at Holy Cross."

As the geriatrics and palliative care program grows, UCMC and Holy Cross will look to expand their partnership. The University of Chicago Medical Center has had a similar relationship with Mercy Hospital, five miles to the north, since the beginning of 2006. Patients who come to the UCMC emergency room and need to be admitted to general medicine beds for care but do not require the Medical Center's technologically advanced--and costly--services are eligible for care at Mercy. More than 350 patients opted to make that transfer in the second half of 2008.

"Such arrangements with nearby community hospitals make good clinical as well as financial sense," said Kenneth Sharigian, PhD, vice president and associate dean for organizational strategy and planning at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "Those cared for by University physicians at Mercy Hospital report high patient-satisfaction. We have similar expectations for patients at Holy Cross."

The collaborative effort also supports the fiscal health of community hospitals such as Mercy and Holy Cross that offer excellent care but may not have the same resources as academic centers, such as the University of Chicago, where the costs of care can be significantly higher.

University of Chicago Medical Center
Founded by the University of Chicago in 1927, UCMC is a not-for-profit 571-bed hospital is consistently recognized as a leading provider of medical care. It is the only Illinois hospital ever to make the U.S.News & World Report Honor Roll, with eight clinical specialties--geriatrics; kidney disease; heart and heart surgery; cancer; digestive disorders; endocrinology; neurology and neurosurgery; and ear, nose and throat--ranked among the top 30 programs nationwide. The Medical Center was awarded Magnet status in 2007, the highest level of recognition for nursing care.

Holy Cross Hospital
Founded by the Sisters of St. Casimir in 1927, Holy Cross Hospital is a not-for-profit 331-bed hospital and neighborhood health system serving residents of Chicago's southwest side and suburbs. With more than 250 qualified doctors and 750 employees, Holy Cross Hospital is committed to providing a full spectrum of diagnostic, therapeutic, preventive and rehabilitation services consistent with the community hospital mission.