Shepherd Center

Unlike community hospitals and local rehabilitation facilities, Shepherd Center faces the challenges of being a national provider.
A noprofit hospital that specializes in the treatment of individuals with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain and other neuromuscular conditions, the Atlanta-based rehabilitation facility is the largest provider of these services in the United States.
Shepherd CenterRoughly 50 percent of its patients come from outside its home state. Last year, the hospital admitted patients from 27 states. On average, it treats between 900 to 1,000 inpatients and conducts about 26,000 outpatient visits annually.
“We’re the largest in the U.S. in regards to our specialty, especially brain and spinal cord injury,” says Sarah Morrison, president and CEO. “When a patient discharges from inpatient, our average discharge-to-home rate is 90 percent. The national average is between 70 to 73 percent. We’re very proud of what we do here.”
To further improve its services and operations, the hospital recently acquired land to build additional housing for the families of its out-of-town patients and it is working on implementing a new electronic medical records system.
Moving Forward
In January, Shepherd Center started implementing a new electronic medical records system that it hopes to have fully implemented by spring of 2019. The new Epic system was developed by Epic Systems Corporation. According to the healthcare software company, hospitals that use its software hold medical records of 64 percent of patients in the United States and 2.5 percent of patients worldwide.
“Epic will allow us to have better functionality, better data analysis and improved ability to share medical records with other hospitals since over 60 percent of the hospitals that refer to Shepherd use Epic,” Morrison adds. “We hope that Epic will make us more standardized.”
Shepherd Center 2In addition, Shepherd Center acquired roughly 2.5 acres of land this year. The land will be used to build additional free housing for the families of its out-of-town patients. Currently, the hospital has more than 120 units with each unit being able to accommodate four family members.
“Spinal cord and brain injuries are very life-altering and traumatic,” Morrison says. “The fact that their loved ones are here makes a difference in their rehabilitation and emotional recovery.”
Shepherd Center plans to build roughly 80 additional units, which may go under construction in 2020. Currently, families of patients who live more than 60 miles away qualify for 30 days of free housing.
“But the average stay for our patients is 45 days,” Morrison adds. “Currently, we don’t have enough housing to provide them with the entire stay. So, we’re very excited about the new housing. I think that makes us unique.”
Future Vision
Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation.
Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital known for its innovative brand of neurorehabilitation. The hospital – which even receives patients from outside the United States – believes in giving its patients more than medical care: “They get an experience that brings healing and hope,” states its website.
The hospital has a vision for the future: Vision 2025. “When Shepherd Center turns 50 years old, we want to be the No. 1 catastrophic rehabilitation destination in our field,” Morrison says.
Along with expanding its services, improving quality of care and becoming a destination experience, the hospital is placing a heavy emphasis on making certain its patients can access services at any part in their continuum of care.
“We’re challenged to make sure we can keep in touch with our patients who don’t live in our geographic area,” Morrison says. “So, we are looking at enhancing our telecommunication capabilities so patients can connect with doctors through the internet or phone after they are discharged.”

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