Heart patients at Kaweah Delta will now have access to resources from the “world-renowned” Cleveland Clinic thanks to a partnership between Kaweah Delta’s cardio clinic and the nation’s top-ranked heart treatment program, CEO Gary Herbst announced at a press conference Friday, January 25.
Cardio Program Gets New Name
“Going forward we will be the Kaweah Delta Cleveland Clinic Cardiovascular Program,” Herbst said. “The Cleveland Clinic’s Heart and Valve Institute has been recognized as No. 1 in the United States for cardiology and heart surgery for 24 years in a row, as recognized by US News and World Report.”
The partnership makes Kaweah Delta the 16th hospital to gain proprietary access to Cleveland Clinic’s treatment protocols and educational opportunities through its affiliate program. Kaweah Delta is Cleveland Clinic’s second affiliate in the state, joining Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City.
“Having our name right next to theirs means an incredible amount to us,” Herbst said of working with Cleveland Clinic.
He emphasized the two hospitals are sharing information and resources, but are not merging and will maintain independent staffs.
“As an affiliate, Kaweah Delta and Cleveland Clinic will remain independent,” Herbst said. “We’re not becoming part of the Cleveland Clinic, nor are they becoming part of Kaweah Delta.”
Work on creating the cross-country partnership with the Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic began more than two years ago, Herbst said, and represents an attempt to bring better cardiovascular practices and equipment to Visalia and the South Valley.
“With this affiliation comes an incredible amount of expertise and education and training and talent,” he said. “All of these new resources actually benefit our community by helping to further elevate the care patients receive here locally, as well as our continued pursuit of driving down the cost of care.”
During the last two years, Kaweah Delta’s cardiovascular surgery program has been rated one of the 50 best in the nation by Healthgrades, and as one of the 100 best in cardiac care. That was a major factor in attracting Cleveland Clinic’s interest.
“Cleveland Clinic wanted to do this because we wanted to work with a top health care provider who also had the same dedication to quality that we had, as well dedication to change,” said Dr. Suma Thomas, Cleveland Clinic’s vice chair of strategic operations.
While Herbst was also focused on the cost savings the partnership will mean for Kaweah Delta, Dr. Jeffrey Rich, Cleveland Clinic’s chairman of strategic operations, highlighted the sharing of his program’s “intellectual property,” including their treatment protocols and “clinical care pathways.”
“It’s important to realize that there are many educational opportunities for the team here, not just the physicians, but the nursing staff and others, to come to the Cleveland Clinic to learn and to see how we do things there,” Rich said. “And, we will also be coming here to help educate you along the way. Giving you the protocols and the care pathways is not enough. We have to help you implement those.”
Dr. Harry Lively, a cardiologist of 30 years experience and Kaweah Delta’s chief of staff, says the partnership will mean better, less costly local treatment for heart and vascular patients in the South Valley.
“For Kaweah Delta, I think it’s a huge step forward in terms of the care that we can deliver,” he said. “Now we have access to a lot of the programs, the protocols, the physicians for our patients, our high-risk patients, unusual patients that we may see that normally we have to transfer out. We may be able to take care of those patients locally, prevent the expense of having to leave town to get the quality of care they should receive at any facility.”
‘Culture of Change’
Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Rich said it was Kaweah Delta’s willingness to embrace change that made the Visalia hospital a prime candidate for affiliation.
“It (Kaweah Delta) had a very strong reputation in cardiac care. We, in our affiliate program, like to find and develop relationships with quality centers that have like-mindedness in terms of improving quality and a culture of change,” Rich said. “Cardiac care is very complex and it changes all the time, and you also have to change your institutional focus. So you may need changes in the administration, you may need changes in the staffing or in the way the operating rooms are run, but certainly changes in accepting performance measures, adopting the performance measures and doing well with them to improve the care of patients.”
Kaweah Delta’s Dr. Lively’s willingness to adopt new ways is part of the institution’s drive to be the best.
“It’s an ongoing effort. It’s not easy to achieve, but it’s harder to maintain. So, sometimes climbing the mountain is a lot easier than staying on top of it,” Lively said. “That’s our goal, it’s to continue to stay on top and to continue to step forward and not rest on our laurels. I think this affiliation with the Cleveland Clinic will help us achieve that.”