St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center debuts outpatient orthopedic surgery center, largest expansion of Hartford campus in a decade
The Hartford Courant, January 15, 2020
In a joint venture with nearly two dozen physicians, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center is debuting a $26.5 million outpatient orthopedic and spine surgery center, the largest expansion on the hospital’s Hartford campus in nearly a decade.
The first surgeries at the Lighthouse Surgery Center on Woodland Street, across from the main hospital, will be performed in early February; and the center expects to treat 4,000 patients a year.
“Where science in orthopedics and joint replacements is going led to the need for a facility like this,” Michael E. Joyce, an orthopedic surgeon and Lighthouse’s president and chief executive, said. “You can do it safer, you can do it less expensively and you can get better outcomes in a way that’s more convenient for patients.”
Lighthouse builds on St. Francis’ Connecticut Joint Replacement Institute, founded a dozen years ago, and is opening a little over three years after competitor Hartford Hospital opened its $150 million Bone & Joint Institute.
Lighthouse is not a competitive reaction to the Bone & Joint Institute, Joyce said.
“We’re both just responding to patient needs,” Joyce said. “They did it their way. We did it our way. Medicine is not a competitive sport.”
In the last decade, there has been a surge in shoulder, hip and knee replacement patients. The fastest-growing group are patients aged 46 to 64, who are wearing out joints but still want to remain active, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery.
Osteoarthritis also is striking at a younger age, and chronic weight gain is taking a toll on hips and knees.
The 35,000-square-foot surgery center — a new building on the St. Francis campus — has six operating rooms with video tie-ins; 26 bays for preparation and post-operating treatment; and a physical therapy space.
Joyce, who led a tour for the media in advance of Tuesday’s official ribbon cutting, said the reception and waiting area were designed with longer waits in mind for patients and their families. The longer waits come as more extensive surgeries are performed as outpatient treatment.
Joyce said the reception area, designed with a mid-century modern look — or as Joyce puts it, “with furniture like my parents used to have” — is equipped with computer and charging stations and even cubicles fitting the look.
The inspiration for the space came from an airport VIP lounge in London where he noticed different furniture arrangement geared for short stays and long layover.
“The traditional hospital waiting room was never even discussed,” Joyce said.
Joyce said there are no set parameters such as age, occupation gender or background that determines candidates for the more sophisticated outpatient surgery.
“That’s the question we have been spending the last four or five years on,” Joyce said. “If there is a way to define them, it’s somebody with a lot of resiliency, which is a personality type,” Joyce said.
Candidates are given tests similar to those given to members of professional sports teams — Joyce is the team orthopedist for the Hartford Yard Goats — that can come up with a “resiliency score.”
“You get a sense who is going to be able to do this pretty quick,” Joyce said, noting that outpatient candidates are
Patients are monitored through a downloadable app that asks questions and shows, among other things, exercises to do for the day. The answers to those questions can be compared with a vast database of other patients and their recoveries to ensure whether healing to moving in the right direction, Joyce said.
On the tour, Joyce noted that operating rooms can be interchanged easily, with rolling cabinets stocked with everything specifically needed for a procedure.
Operating rooms are outfitted with a plug-in post in the center of the room for tubes and wires to ease risk of tripping by doctors and nurses. A typical patient, Joyce said, can have 20-30 wires and tubes in a procedure.
Surgical observation rooms with windows into the operating rooms can host medical students, physical therapists, athletic trainers and other physicians. Two video monitors show the procedure as it takes place inside the body of the patient.
The center, which will employ about 60, and in addition to 20 physician owners, another 20 doctors also will practice there. Although the surgery center is a joint venture, it will be “physician-led” but its location across the street from the main hospital is intentional.
“We did that on purpose,” Joyce said. “Really rare things can happen, and you can get from our operating room here to some place in the hospital as fast as you could if you were already in the hospital.”
The Lighthouse name was chosen because Joyce said he was looking for a name that would stand out as “New England” and not a name that was difficult to remember.
“You google words for New England and lighthouse comes up second or third on the list,” Joyce said.