Over the past eighteen months, a foundational service line has substantially grown and evolved within Parkview Health. As Parkview Physicians Group (PPG) has introduced neurosurgery, neurology and neurointerventional practices, Parkview Neurosciences has begun to transform the regional landscape in the treatment of neurological conditions. Parkview now offers some of the most advanced care available in treating conditions that include stroke, brain injury, neck and back pain, epilepsy, tumors, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
“This is a very exciting time to be with Parkview,” says Dr. William Young, a PPG neurosurgeon who specializes in spine surgery and movement disorders. “We’ve had many of the elements in place for years, but now we’re bringing them together to work in concert.”
One of the cornerstones of the vision for the neurosciences service line centers on a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to caring for patients. Physicians work with advanced practice providers, neuropsychologists, social workers, pharmacists, hospital and practice support personnel, and community organizations to provide a care experience that addresses every area that may touch a patient.
“We want to put more attention on a patient’s health, not the disease,” explains Neurosciences Service Line Physician Leader Fen-Lei Chang, MD, Ph.D. “We don’t just deliver care to the patient; the patient is our center.”
The goal is to bring all services into a single appointment setting. Jolynn Suko, Senior Vice President and Neurosciences Service Line Leader, explains it this way. “People with neurological needs have a lot of complex issues and benefit from multidisciplinary care. Each clinician brings specific expertise to the whole patient. In the model we are building, everything comes to the patients where they are. They won’t have to go from appointment to appointment.”
Parkview has already established two clinics using this model: one focused on fall prevention and another focused on movement disorders and mobility issues. At each of these clinics, the patient stays in a single exam room and is visited by different members of the care team. These may include neurologists, neurosurgeons, nurse practitioners, occupational and physical therapists, pharmacists and social workers. Team members consult with each other in real time, while the patient is still on site, to coordinate treatment and follow-up. The patient receives a care plan that reflects a holistic approach to his care and covers everything from medication to therapy to lifestyle changes. Most importantly, the patient leaves with a thorough understanding of his treatment and the resources in place to accomplish it.
“This multidisciplinary model is really how we want to take care of all patients with complex neurological needs,” says Suko.
A second cornerstone of Parkview’s vision is the exploration and expansion of new technologies to offer innovative treatment options. In 2017, Parkview became the first community hospital in North America to purchase a device called BrightMatter™ from Synaptive Medical. This advanced equipment allows neurosurgeons to perform extremely precise brain operations that avoid the white matter tracks affecting key brain functions. In many cases, surgeries can now be performed on conditions that were once considered inoperable.
Dr. Jason Voorhies, the PPG neurosurgeon who was instrumental in bringing this technology to the program, explains, “This technology allows us to find the safest route to access and remove brain tumors and hemorrhages. Until now, we have not had the ability to accurately navigate the critical white matter tracts of the brain.”
The Parkview Neurosciences team plans not only to embrace new technologies as they come about, however, but also to position themselves to be part of developing them.
“Advancing neuroscience requires doing clinical and translational research and the adaptation of new technology, not only to adopt the most advanced technology and knowledge, but also to create it,” says Dr. Chang. “In this way, Parkview uses its resources to advance knowledge for the benefit of the community.”
Partnering with the Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation, Parkview Neurosciences is poised to become a significant contributor to research efforts in its field. For nearly 20 years, Parkview has been involved in high profile clinical trials for patients with stroke and other neurologic diseases. With the addition of top neuroscience clinicians to Parkview Physicians Group, these efforts will continue to grow. Although this stance is typically found in large academic centers, Parkview is bringing the benefits of this collaborative, forward-thinking approach to neurological care in northeast Indiana.
Although many people associate neuroscience with brain surgery, the field encompasses far more than that. In fact, one of the most pervasive issues in this specialty is that of spine-related conditions.
“People often don’t realize that neck and back pain can be a neurological issue,” says Dr. Young. “A big part of neurosurgery and neurology is nerve decompression in the spine.”
Due to an aging population, spine abnormalities have become increasingly common. Determining whether a specific abnormality is the cause, effect or only peripheral to particular symptoms is often a complex process. Within that, neurologists focus on non-surgical treatment and neurosurgeons focus on surgical treatment as the two specialties work together to come up with an optimal treatment plan.
“Part of our job is being a detective and working through all the issues,” explains Dr. Young.
PPG’s collaborative approach to spine care helps determine the best course of treatment for a patient, even when surgery may have been previously recommended. Often physical therapy, injections, medication, and even lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise will result in more effective and better outcomes.
“We have to determine if the symptoms and the MRI findings correlate,” says Dr. Voorhies. “You don’t want to go through unnecessary operations; surgery should be a last resort.”
Regardless of the particular condition being treated, the team’s goal remains the same: to restore as much function as possible and reduce the risk factors that originally caused the condition. Those efforts require a broad spectrum of healthcare providers and drive the patient-centered, collaborative care model embraced by Parkview Neurosciences.
“When we involve all different types of expertise,” says Dr. Chang, “we can each focus on what we know the best.”
“It makes us better physicians,” Dr. Young adds.
This model and the technologies embraced have been a huge draw to healthcare professionals all over the country. Over the past eighteen months, PPG has recruited fourteen physicians and advanced practice providers to join the service line, with more to come.
“We’re really focused on getting the right clinicians in place to serve the people in this region,” says Suko. “This team will make a difference in patients’ lives in our region for years to come. We want to ensure excellence in neuroscience care, now and into the future.”
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