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Shepherd Center Expands Role with Georgia Healthcare Alliance, Becoming Rehabilitation Provider of Choice

Collaboration with Stratus Healthcare aims to improve patient care, access and quality.

Shepherd Center has announced it is further expanding its innovative partnership with Stratus Healthcare, an alliance of 20 hospitals, 12 health systems and 1,500 physicians in Georgia. The move designates Shepherd Center as the community partner for people affected by catastrophic spinal cord and brain injuries, as well as other serious neurological conditions.

“This partnership will greatly benefit patients who are cared for by facilities in our network,” said Randy Chambers, project coordinator for Stratus Healthcare. “By having Shepherd Center at the table, our alliance members will not only have greater access to exceptional specialized rehabilitation care for patients with catastrophic injuries and illnesses, but they will also benefit from advanced education on how to best handle these cases and gain deeper, cutting-edge expertise in trauma care, neuroscience and rehabilitation.”

Research consistently shows the sooner patients have access to specialized rehabilitation, the better their chance of achieving optimal functional improvements and the lower the risk of related complications.

“It’s exciting to be part of an effort in which a group of healthcare leaders are all working together to improve the overall quality of care for our patients,” said Sarah Morrison, PT, MBA, MHA, president and chief executive officer of Shepherd Center.

Stratus’ network of hospitals and health systems – the largest of its kind in the Southeast – are working together to exchange best practices, improve quality of patient care, combine resources where appropriate, develop coordinated and shared health information technologies, manage the health of specific populations and work to reduce costs. Much of Stratus’ work is in response to the current healthcare environment, which has led to a growing number of consolidated systems.

“The alliance offers all the benefits of a merger and acquisition without having to do so,” Morrison said.

As part of the new agreement, Shepherd Center is also helping lead efforts to improve access, and healthcare quality and patient safety. Susan Bowen, RN, CPHQ, Shepherd Center’s director of Quality, Outcomes and Patient Safety, was appointed co-chair of the committee working on these issues. Efforts include working in a collaborative fashion to enhance post-acute services to assure quality care across the Stratus continuum; creating a standardized scorecard to allow member systems to view and compare quality data (including tracking rates of hospital-acquired infections) as one entity; and building reliable workflow processes to help reduce variations in care and outcomes for all hospitals.

“In years past, healthcare operated in silos,” Bowen said. “Hospitals could focus inwardly on their own performance. But the landscape has changed; the focus has broadened.”

Today, healthcare is about building relationships. One of Stratus’ driving principles has been to engage members who are like-minded in the provision of quality and efficient patient care. Through this alliance, efforts for improvement become achievable as they identify best practice facilities and leverage the expertise of those hospitals to serve as a resource for all members. Participation also provides unique insights for Shepherd, to understand the challenges faced by acute care and critical access hospitals. This knowledge allows Shepherd to improve on our own processes that impact access to care and to better meet these hospitals’ needs, Bowen explained.

“By forming these types of strategic partnerships, we can capitalize on the strengths and resources of the network facilities, which ultimately benefits patients and reduces healthcare costs,” she said. The value of Shepherd Center’s involvement is that many hospitals are not equipped to provide, or cannot afford to develop the type of specialized rehabilitation care offered at Shepherd Center, Bowen added. Traumatic spinal cord and brain injuries are lifelong conditions, so managing them well, can ultimately prevent re-hospitalizations and improve quality of life.

“One of Shepherd’s goals is to transfer knowledge to the clinicians within the Stratus network. People with catastrophic injuries often arrive in various emergency rooms and overwhelm staff who may not be familiar with these types of injuries. We are consistently told that the education we provide considerably increases their comfort level considerably,” Bowen said.

Shepherd Center and Stratus are also examining ways to expand multiple sclerosis care across the region.

“We are working to create a stronger, integrated network of care for patients in our region,” said Mitch Fillhaber, senior vice president of corporate development and managed care at Shepherd Center. “The alliance with Stratus also provides us with a blueprint to use for future partnerships that acknowledge the need for both general and complex rehabilitation.”

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About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.