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St Francis Spine Center receives Specialty Center Designation

February 28, 2008

St. Francis Spine Center has received status as a UnitedHealth PremiumSM Surgical Spine Specialty Center for 2007. The designation was based on a review of the facility’s quality and cost-efficiency data. St. Francis is the only Topeka-area hospital to receive this designation for its spine program.

UnitedHealth PremiumSM Specialty Centers is a facility designation program designed to help consumers make more informed choices in selecting facilities that are high quality and more cost efficient in the delivery of medical care.

St. Francis Health Center opened its Spine Center in June 2006. As of Jan. 31, 2008, the Spine Center had completed 359 surgeries.

To be considered for the designation, hospitals must demonstrate that they meet quality criteria developed in collaboration with a scientific advisory board comprising nationally recognized spine specialists. An extensive list of criteria includes:

  • Joint Commission accreditation as a Medicare provider and UnitedHealthcare participant
  • a spinal surgeon who has completed a fellowship in spine surgery
  • on-site physical therapy

The review panel assesses mortality and readmission rates within 90 days of discharge, postoperative infection rates within 90 days of discharge and revision rates of primary procedures within 12 months. Efficiency scores are calculated annually for all hospitals in a market using UnitedHealthcare claims, and hospitals in the higher third are given Higher Efficiency status.

Topeka Neurosurgery at St. Francis neurosurgeons John Ebeling, MD, and David Fritz, MD, use state-of-the-art equipment and techniques, including minimally invasive surgery for nerve, spine and disc replacement procedures.

They work with orthopedic surgeons Kenneth Gimple, MD, Tallgrass General & Vascular Surgery, and Michael Smith, MD, Kansas Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, to treat patients with spine and neck conditions arising from degeneration, tumors, falls, automobile accidents and other traumas, as well as “general wear and tear that is part of the human condition,” says Dr. Ebeling. “Anywhere from 21 to 24 percent of the population will have a herniated lumbar disc during their lifetime, and some will require treatment while others won’t.”

Dr. Fritz says, “The spinal cord provides communication to the brain, mobility and sensation in the body, so when the spinal column protecting the spinal cord is injured in some way, a person’s quality of life can be compromised. When medication and physical therapy no longer provide relief, surgical procedures can help.”

Dr. Gimple adds, “Although patients staying on the Spine Center unit have all undergone some type of spine surgery, their post-surgical treatment is individualized to meet their particular circumstances for quicker, more comprehensive recovery.”

“The St. Francis Spine Center promotes wellness and places great emphasis on patient education through informational sessions, written materials, family involvement, early rehabilitation and positive reinforcement,” says Dr. Smith.

“The St. Francis Spine Center staff work in partnership with the surgeons to help many patients reduce chronic pain and regain mobility so they can enjoy active lifestyles. It’s rewarding to be honored by UnitedHealthcare for high-quality outcomes, and we appreciate our patients and their referring physicians for entrusting their spine care to us,” says Dr. Ebeling, who completed a spine instrumentation fellowship at the Columbia Spine Center in Columbia, Mo., in affiliation with the University of Missouri Health Sciences Center.

 For more information about the St. Francis Spine Center, call Sharon Loughrea, coordinator, at 785-295-8485.