UT Health Tyler is poised for growth.
Formerly East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System (ETMC), it is now the flagship of UT Health East Texas, a health system formed in 2018 by a joint venture of The University of Texas and Ardent Health Services, a healthcare company with 30 hospitals in six states.
The acquisition was finalized in March 2018, a few weeks before Vicki Briggs joined the hospital as CEO. Along with a name change, UT Health Tyler went from being a nonprofit to an investor-owned organization, resulting in significant tax revenue for the local government.
UT Health Tyler is a Level 1 trauma center with 502 beds.
It serves a population of more than one million in East Texas and admitted 18,750 patients in 2018. The hospital offers comprehensive services to the community, excluding burns and transplants.
UT Health Tyler infoThe connection with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has added a research focus at UT Health Tyler, along with two residency programs. Twenty internal medicine residents and three surgical residents are scheduled to begin working with medical staff in July 2020.
Having Ardent as a parent company offers benefits to UT Health Tyler as well. “They’ve given us insight into best practices,” Briggs says. “We’ve become more disciplined and focused on growth plans and strategic initiatives.”
UT Health Tyler grew quickly after the acquisition, reflected in inpatient admissions and surgery volume increases. The hospital added 12 beds and is in the process of adding another eight. It introduced operational efficiencies that reduced the average length of stay.
Although UT Health Tyler offers all types of medical services, it is particularly well known for its stroke treatments. The UT Health Tyler Neurological Institute attracts patients from throughout the region.
“Our team of neurologists and neurosurgeons are focused on the latest interventions,” Briggs says. “When tPA [an injectable treatment] isn’t effective, they can go in endovascularly, in a non-invasive way, into the brain and retrieve the clot. There is an immediate relief of pressure and [the patient] can usually walk out of the hospital in a couple of days instead of having a lifelong disability.”
UT Health Tyler dramatically improved stroke services in 2016 with new technology and an interventional laboratory. It is now a primary stroke treatment center with a 24/7 stroke team. The hospital is installing a new interventional laboratory and is in the process of being accredited by the Joint Commission as a comprehensive stroke center.
UT Health Tyler has made significant investments in technology since being acquired, including:
+ A Philips IQon spectral CT scanner, the only one in the region – This CT scan uses a lower dose of radiation and is also more efficient, decreasing the need for a second scan.
+ A da Vinci XI robot for robotic-assisted surgery used by vascular, thoracic and general surgeons – Cameras can be used on any of the four robotic arms to capture high-definition video.
+ Mako robotic-arm assistance for knee and hip replacement – Mako offers 3-D modeling of the patient’s anatomy and more accurate views during surgery. It is also less invasive, which hastens patient recovery.
+ Epic electronic health record platform – Implementation of the Epic platform will begin this fall and will be completed in fall 2020.
There is a great demand in the East Texas region for qualified healthcare professionals, Briggs says. UT Health Tyler has increased its recruitment staff, attends career fairs and offers sign-on and referral bonuses to attract employees.
UT Health Tyler 2Staff retention is equally important. “We do everything we can to make sure our nurses and caregivers feel valued and respected,” Briggs says. “This weekend I spent time Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, listening to what caregivers had to say and letting them know how much we appreciate them.”
Nearly a year ago, Briggs instituted a program she used at previous hospitals called CEO Link that allows staff to send her anonymous e-mails. “I can answer e-mails for everyone to see,” Briggs says. “I get great suggestions, can dispel rumors, clarify policies and offer accolades to caregivers.”
So far, Briggs has received more than 2,000 messages. Among them was a proposal that the hospital instituted: If a patient has a traumatic event and is not going to survive and the patient’s family chooses to donate that person’s organs, hospital caregivers are invited to come together to show their respect and gratitude to the patient and family for helping organ recipients.
Another anonymous tip to the CEO Link suggested painting the curbs on campus yellow to prevent falls. UT Health Tyler repainted the curbs yellow and the falls stopped.
“CEO Link provides a way for employees all over the hospital to be heard who may see opportunities that are outside their department and may not be comfortable or do not know where to make a suggestion,” Briggs says.
Along with its other projects, UT Health Tyler is designing a level three neonatal intensive care unit for its obstetrics department, which will be complete in about one year.
To attract new ideas and innovation, the hospital assembled a weekly approval council that considers matters related to finance, operations, nursing, IT, supply chain and facilities. If someone has a new idea or project that needs money, they develop a business case in writing that is distributed to the appropriate executives. The person then presents their case at the weekly meeting. “About 90 percent of the time, we can approve or not approve or offer suggestions to further enhance the business case,” Briggs says.
From a hospital perspective, UT Health Tyler’s future looks good. “For decades, there has been a lot of conversation about hospitals being over-bedded,” Briggs says. “With aging baby boomers requiring more care, it is like a big egg moving through a snake.”
Another factor for growth is the poor health status of residents in East Texas, which requires significant healthcare resources that UT Health Tyler provides including diabetes education and management, smoking cessation and those focused on heart health. In addition, we are proud to have the only certified medical fitness program in the state of Texas.” +