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Through creative partnerships, Virtua cares for the local community

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From left, Stephanie Fendrick, the senior vice president of strategic partnerships and service line strategy at Virtua, Patrick Connolly, MD, neurosurgery chief at Virtua and a neurosurgeon at Penn Medicine, and Orin Atlas, MD, orthopedic spine surgeon at Virtua, share experiences in the Virtua Brain & Spine Institute at Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly.
From left, Stephanie Fendrick, the senior vice president of strategic partnerships and service line strategy at Virtua, Patrick Connolly, MD, neurosurgery chief at Virtua and a neurosurgeon at Penn Medicine, and Orin Atlas, MD, orthopedic spine surgeon at Virtua, share experiences in the Virtua Brain & Spine Institute at Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly. - ()

In December, Virtua, one of New Jersey's largest non-profit regional health systems, will partner with Legacy Treatment Services—a Hainesport-based organization that provides a comprehensive array of behavioral health and social services—to open a round-the-clock assessment and stabilization unit at Virtua's Berlin facility. Thanks to this and other partnerships, Virtua is changing the way health care is delivered, enabling South Jersey residents to get cutting-edge physical and mental health treatment without having to leave their local region.

With more than 9,000 employees, Virtua provides services through Virtua Medical Group, fielding 500 providers operating urgent care centers, hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, health and wellness centers, fitness centers, home health services, long-term care and rehabilitation centers, and paramedic program. Virtua provides health services to 1,500 businesses, and participates in Virtua Physician Partners, an integrated network of 1,000 physicians and other clinicians. Virtua also has a strategic relationship with Penn Medicine for cancer and neuroscience, and with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for pediatrics.

“We understand that for hospitals to be accountable and support their local communities most effectively, we have to collaborate with other trusted providers that can supplement our competencies,” said Stephanie Fendrick, Virtua’s senior vice president of Strategic Partnerships and Service Line Strategy. “Partnerships enable Virtua to elevate the services provided in our community and, in the case of Penn Medicine and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, create a streamlined and efficient process for transferring patients that need more advanced intervention. The partnership creates a closed loop system that gives the patients greater confidence in the care they’re receiving, and allows Virtua to efficiently monitor their progress and support their recovery.”

The ABCs of partnerships

What does a medical system like Virtua look for when it partners with organizations like Penn Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia? “From a strategic point of view, we consider issues like the potential partner’s ability and capacity to meet needs of patients,” said Stephanie Fendrick, Virtua’s senior vice president of Strategic Partnerships and Service Line Strategy.

“We also look for alignment in our philosophy around patient care. We seek a similar cultural alignment as well as the ability to have trusting relationships among the leadership teams. We are fortunate that these partnerships, as well as the new partnerships we have added, improve our ability to take care of our community with a comprehensive approach.”

Making connections

In October, orthopedic surgeons from Virtua joined with neurosurgeons from Penn Medicine to unveil the Virtua Brain and Spine Institute at Virtua Memorial in Mount Holly, delivering comprehensive local care for residents with spine or brain conditions.

Fendrick said Virtua has also enhanced the total patient experience by investing in a centralized access center, which is essentially a customer resource center staffed with trained “navigators” that help coordinate patients’ care from initial appointments through follow-up work.

“Acting as intermediaries, our navigators help patients make their appointments with primary care physicians and specialists in an efficient sequence,” she said. “This way, they’ll be sure to meet with Doctor ‘A’ and get necessary tests ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D’ done before they see, say, a cardiologist. Then, if needed, navigators will coordinate the results to ensure that the primary care physician and others are advised of the results.”

Going beyond medicine to heal

Beyond delivering direct medical services, the hospital system is helping local communities in other ways. This spring, in a partnership with Whole Foods Market, Virtua introduced the Virtua Mobile Farmers Market, a 23-foot bus that sells healthy fruits and vegetables four days a week at significantly reduced prices in communities—so-called food deserts where residents have limited access to sufficient, affordable, nutritious food—throughout Burlington and Camden counties.

“The Virtua Mobile Farmers Market will benefit 6,000 South Jersey families in its first year,” according to a Virtua announcement. “The goal is to reduce hunger and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables in key communities where access to fresh produce is limited, and thereby improve residents’ health.”

Fendrick also noted that Virtua’s Camden and Berlin locations are providing care and treatment for school-age children with the CASTLE (Children Achieving Success through Therapeutic Life Experiences) program. A collaboration between Virtua and The Center for Family Guidance, CASTLE provides diagnoses and treatments for children with mild to severe emotional and behavioral challenges.

“Whether a child has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, anxiety or mood disorder or other emotional problems, our experienced staff of CASTLE can help,” she said. “Mental health services are paid for by Medical Assistance and some commercial payors; educational services are paid for by the child’s school district. Door-to-door transportation is offered to eligible participants, and meals and snacks are provided each day. It’s all part of improving patient experience and making a positive difference in the community.”

Email: dakscom@aol.com

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