Staying On the Cutting Edge of Care and Technology
by Patrick Peterson
A stone’s throw from Interstate 4, Central Florida’s most heavily clogged artery, Florida Hospital plans a scenic Health Village with shady sidewalks, pocket parks and a collection of “rock star” doctors who are dedicated to finding new treatments for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and women’s issues – areas where modern diets and living habits have amplified the devastation of illness.
Some traditional models of medical care have been set aside for new techniques and holistic approaches. The only sterile thing will be the medical equipment.
“We’ve always believed in the best science and the best technology, but what we add to it is the wholeness – the mind, body and spirit,” said Jody Barry, Florida Hospital’s director of strategic development. “When someone comes to us with a heart attack, instead of saying, ‘We put in a stent. Good luck.’ What we want to do is say, ‘What’s happening in your life that caused that heart attack. Is it your diet? Can you not get out enough (to exercise)? Do you have support at home? Do you have friends and family?”
Now with 8,000 employees and 300,000 patient visits a year, the hospital is setting its sights on helping patients stay out of the hospital. The 15-year plan includes 18,000 total employees and 2,200 hospital beds. The Health Village could become a national landmark for medical research and sustainable expansion.
Understanding the cause of illness and preventing it is the medical model Florida Hospital plans to follow. As health care costs spiral upward, individuals, insurers and the federal government soon will demand a greater focus on prevention. “We just feel that’s the way to heal people on a long-term basis,” Barry said. “The way we’re going to be paid in the future is based on our success, instead of on how many patients we see.”
Additionally, the Florida Hospital Health Village will be on the SunRail line and the hospital has plans to make mass transportation attractive for its employees. The hospital will pay $3.9 million to build a SunRail stop in the heart of the Health Village.
Francis Flynn, City of Orlando transportation manager, sees the hospital as making a large contribution to reduce traffic congestion. “We’re really excited about that stop,” Flynn said. “They’re really integrating land uses to help reduce the reliance on cars.”
At a cost of $300 million, the Health Village will turn 115 acres between Orange Avenue and Lake Estelle into a futuristic medical community, where medical staff can live and work in comfort, with nearby shopping, mass transit and housing. The project could establish a standard for planned communities in the U.S., where sprawl has increased the nation’s dependence on the automobile and reduced opportunities for healthy walking.
The hospital is building its own train station on the SunRail line from DeBary in the north to Sand Lake Road in the south. Some 100,000 square feet of shops on the hospital grounds will provide dining and shopping for employees and patients. Apartments will be built for 550 employees to live on the campus, which will have wide greenspace buffers along the streets and several “pocket parks” for employees or patients’ families to relax in during quiet moments.
“We wanted retail space here because we’ve seen other big medical developments and they’re around the clock. But there’s no vitality. There’s nothing to do,” Barry said. “Right now we have so many construction projects going on; it’s going to be a mess around here for a while,” Barry commented, “but the future looks incredible.”
Among its distinctions, not- for-profit Florida Hospital has a willingness to partner with for-profit companies and research groups that have a track record of accomplishment. “We have a proving ground for devices, pharmaceuticals and procedures,” Barry said. “They’re looking for the best processes that prevent patients from returning to the hospital.” The hospital’s massive databases of patient information, if studied carefully, can reveal which treatments work best.
The Profil Institute for Clinical Research will soon begin studies on diabetes and obesity at Florida Hospital with a focus on diet and metabolism. The company found Florida Hospital eager to help. “What makes them really different is they are nonprofit and they’re on a mission to transition from a community care provider to a provider that is involved in science,” said Marcus Hompesch, Profil president and CEO. “It’s up to the highest academic standards.”
California-based Profil will use 9,500 square feet and 14 research beds to conduct clinical trials with patient volunteers and doctors to advance metabolic research with a rigid focus on safety and efficiency. New diabetes treatments could reduce related diseases and lengthen the lives of those dealing with the disease. “It’s very complementary; a very nice fit,” Hompesch said. “I look at Orlando as the next generation (biopharmacology) hub. I believe there is a big future in Orlando.”
Diabetes is one of the prime focuses of Florida Hospital. “Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century,” Barry said. “When a person has diabetes, it causes all kinds of complications. You have all type of organ failures.”
The hospital aims to help find holistic ways to treat it, rather than just prescribing a drug. One physician, Dr. Steve Smith, scientific director of the Sanford Burnham Translational Research Institute, has developed a technique to measure a diabetic’s metabolism in order to give the right dose of medicine at the right time, which can add years to a patient’s life and improve their overall health.
Additionally, Mazor Robotics will work in the BioResearch Center at Health Village to improve its spine surgery techniques. The Israeli company’s equipment helps align the vertebrae precisely during an operation. Mazor will locate its U.S. headquarters in Orlando.
“Central Florida has a growing medical and biotechnology community that is an attractive environment for medical research and development companies,” said Christopher Prentice,
Mazor’s vice president of global marketing.
The company believes it will find a convenient base of operations in Florida. “Orlando not only offers state-of-the-art facilities and resources for many of our initiatives, but it is also a great destination spot with easy travel access for our domestic and international customers,” Prentice added.
Beyond the Horizon
Florida Hospital is already looking beyond this 15-year expansion. The Health Village expects to adopt an even more futuristic mission that could return health care efforts to the patient’s home. Yes, house calls might be the next big thing.
“We’re going to have to figure out how to be more efficient by providing care, at the least expensive level of care,” David Banks, Florida Hospital’s senior vice president, observed.
Government support of medical care will dictate that the health care industry become more efficient.
“There are a lot of good things guiding the reforms that are coming,” Banks said. And Florida Hospital will continue to lead as the conversation shifts from expanding coverage to finding efficiencies. The hospital will position its expertise in the areas of acute care and health-related techniques that head off expensive treatments.
“How do we keep them home longer?” Banks reflected. He has already met with several companies working on that problem, and they hope to find a powerful partner in Florida Hospital. “Our investments today are designed to continue to allow us to have a leadership position,” Banks concluded.