By Todd Hartley and Madeleine Osberger
Aspen Valley Hospital CEO Dave Ressler has a word, of sorts, for what’s going on in the mid-Roaring Fork Valley when it comes to the health-care options offered by practices affiliated with his organization and Glenwood Springs’ Valley View Hospital.
“We use the term ‘co-opetition,’” he said. “I don’t think it’s a real word, but it’s a blending of ‘competition’ with ‘cooperation,’ and it has become the namesake of our relationship with Valley View in the last few years, in particular.
“That’s partly being driven by the cost of health care being as unsustainable in this valley as it is everywhere else. It just doesn’t make sense for either hospital to over-invest in capital and other resources, but, rather, we hope to work together to make sure we provide coverage and access to care without duplication.”
It’s an amicable state of affairs that could see its dynamics shift when Vail’s Steadman Clinic opens an outpost in the Willits neighborhood of Basalt (see related story), but for now the focus on providing lower-priced, local care seems to be working quite well for AVH, VVH and patients in the Mid-Valley. It also mirrors a nationwide trend that AVH has long been at the vanguard of.
“We’re pretty progressive in this area in some of the things we’re doing with these capabilities,” said Ressler, “but at the same time there’s a lot of evidence emerging on a national level that ‘value-based care’ is part of our transformation as an industry, and it’s proving effective at maintaining a healthier, happier population and reducing costs.”
For AVH, that value-based care comes in the form of three facilities in the Mid-Valley. The after-hours medical care clinic in Basalt offers emergency care, childbirth education and lactation services, cardiology, cardiopulmonary rehab, occupational therapy, a laboratory and other services for those who find themselves in need of care after normal business hours.
The Midvalley Medical Center, located between Basalt and Willits, is home to the offices of OrthoAspen, as well as a surgery center and physical therapy services, and the Midvalley Health Institute, across the parking lot from the Midvalley Medical Center, houses an imaging lab and Aspen Valley Primary Care, which opened on July 15. Eventually the after-hours care will relocate to the health institute, though there’s no firm timetable.
For Ressler, offering those services in the Mid-Valley ties in to AVH’s role as a regional hospital serving not just Aspen but its whole taxing district, which encompasses Pitkin County and some of the surrounding areas.
“When we think about the services we offer, we always think about that geographic territory as being a priority for us to assure that we’re providing access to care for residents and visitors within that region,” he said. “It just seems natural that we would want to maintain a presence in, and provide services to a population that we consider to be our community.”
The difference it makes for folks in the Mid-Valley is considerable. Take, for example, a situation requiring major surgery. Before AVH and VVH expanded their reach to the Mid-Valley, which began about 20 years ago, having surgery meant pre-op visits to a doctor’s office at either end of the valley, getting X-rays or an MRI at a different location and then a trip to one of the two hospitals, where one could expect to spend many hours getting checked in and prepping for an operation that could be followed by time in a recovery room lasting many hours or even a few days.
Now, to repair, say, a ruptured quadriceps tendon requires a single visit to OrthoAspen, a trip across the parking lot for an MRI and an operation in the surgery center (next door to OrthoAspen) that can take place at 8 a.m. and have the patient back home by noon. A week or so later, physical therapy can start in the office across the hall from the surgery center, meaning that at no time does one have to travel more than about 10 or 15 minutes from home.
The process also eliminates much of the red tape and overhead associated with a hospital visit, helping to keep costs down. And, it’s a concrete example of the hospital’s vaunted strategy to “bring care to where the patients are.”
“Our Mid-Valley services, importantly, are lower-cost alternatives to the hospital,” said Ressler. “The surgery center, the imaging center, Basalt after-hours care – they are all the more affordable, lower cost, and for many patients both a better option than the hospital and sometimes the only option. It may be all they can afford.”
Key to AVH enhancing services in the Mid-Valley has been its specialist group OrthoAspen’s new affiliation with the Hospital for Special Surgery. OrthoAspen evolved out of the Aspen Orthopedics Associates group that’s had a local presence since its founding by Dr. Robert Oden and others in 1957. Since 2016, OrthoAspen has operated out of offices in Aspen Valley Hospital.
This is the first collaboration for the New York-based Hospital for Special Surgery, a more than century-old group that has consistently received a top ranking for orthopedics in U.S. News & World Report, according to Zubin Kapadia, vice president of global ventures for HSS. OrthoAspen and HSS’ affiliation features recruitment, training and mentorship of clinical staff, research exchange and facilities advancement.
Flexing with the community’s needs
Valley View Hospital is newer to the Mid-Valley than AVH, having started out with offices in the Alpine Bank building in Willits in 2005. The hospital then purchased an entire 20,000-square-foot floor of another Willits building in 2013 and opened its expanded services in 2015. It now offers pediatric care through Pediatric Partners, women’s health services, rotating specialists, physical therapy and a branch of Roaring Fork Family Practice.
“The intention is to really serve that Mid-Valley community,” said Stacey Gavrell, community relations officer for VVH. “We appreciate that people want and deserve health care that’s accessible and convenient.”
Having the entire floor of the building also gives VVH the option of expanding their services as the population of the Mid-Valley continues to grow.
“The way we’ve set up the services there, we can flex with the needs of the community,” said Gavrell. “For example, Roaring Fork Family Practice, which has its main office in Carbondale, and women’s health, which has its main office in Glenwood Springs, as they see the demand for their services grow, we can bring more providers up to provide more care on more days.”
And while there is some overlap with the services provided by AVH, Gavrell feels VVH is fully on board with Ressler’s notion of “co-opetition” when it comes to the two hospitals working together.
“We’re really pursuing a complementary approach to care,” she said.
“It’s not just about our patients; it’s all patients,” said Ressler. “We’re very partnered with Valley View. As a matter of fact, together VVH and AVH and our physicians are creating a valley-wide primary care network to serve our local employers and local population through an organization called the Valley Health Alliance that involves employers that are large and pay their own health costs.”
Is the Mid-Valley at possible risk of having “too much of a good thing” in terms of health care choices?
According to Mike Kimbel, AVH’s orthopedic service line director, the multitude of options “is better for the patients.
“It’s like having a City Market and a Whole Foods. I live in Willits and shop at both. Ultimately, the patient benefits from that,” he said.
AVH is inviting one and all to come out to a “Fresh & Healthy” community picnic at the Midvalley Health Institute on Sept. 8 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. to enjoy healthy barbecue with dishes prepared by AVH’s nutritional team, games for kids and live entertainment by local bluegrass favorite Timbermill (suggested donation is $10 for adults and $5 for kids and seniors). It’ll be a perfect opportunity to speak with hospital staff and doctors and let them know how to make health care in the Mid-Valley the best it can be for everyone.
“That’s what this is,” said Ressler. “This is about changing the way health care is provided and trying to be responsive to the changing needs of the consumers and the realities we’re facing.”
Vail’s Steadman Clinic planning Willits presence
A name that’s become synonymous with orthopedics is moving into the Roaring Fork Valley with a multi-million-dollar clinic and research institute that will be based in Willits Town Center.
Specific details about the Steadman Clinic and Steadman Philippon Research Institute’s plans for its forthcoming orthopedic center in Willits will be unveiled this evening, Aug. 15, during a private reception in Aspen. In addition to Steadman’s flagship operation in Vail are existing facilities in Edwards and Frisco, making this the fourth Colorado facility of its kind.
An outgrowth of the Steadman Sports Medicine Foundation that was founded in 1988 by Dr. Richard Steadman, the operation that was once called the Steadman Hawkins Clinic today is known simply as the Steadman Clinic. Its namesake founder remains co-chair of the Steadman Phillipon Research along with Dr. Marc Philippon, who is its co-chair and has been the managing partner since 2014.
According to a former board member based in the Roaring Fork Valley, the number of local people who use the Steadman Clinic’s services has been on the rise, which contributed to the decision to open this facility in Willits Town Center. The person, who provided background for this story but did not want to be quoted, said, “They have a market here and that’s not meant to demean the local doctors.”
Information provided by the clinic noted that there has been double-digit percentage growth of Roaring Fork Valley patients in recent years and that this new location will give patients care they have heretofore received in Vail, closer to home.
Dan Drawbaugh, CEO of the Steadman Clinic and Steadman Philippon Research Institute, could not be reached for comment by press time.