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The front door

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 10:00 a.m. February 13, 2015
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Strategies
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With 806 beds and a $564 million annual operating budget, in addition to a thriving urgent care and outpatient services operation, Sarasota Memorial Hospital is a medical giant.

But its closest competitor, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, has embarked on a bold plan to win over future patients. The centerpiece of the Doctors strategy is a $17 million renovation and expansion, with the overarching goal to deliver Ritz-Carlton-like customer service to what can be a difficult experience. “It's about patient-centered care and making people feel like you aren't in a hospital,” says COO Steve Young.

Officials at Doctors, owned by publicly traded Nashville-based HCA, particularly seek to position the hospital at the front of the line for the parts of Sarasota-Manatee east of Interstate 75. That's where many area experts project the next big population surge will occur. Also, the 155-bed hospital, with about 500 employees, hasn't had a major expansion or renovation project in nearly 20 years at its campus of Bee Ridge Road, just west of I-75. “We are pretty excited about it,” says Doctors CEO Robert Meade.

The heart of the expansion project will be the emergency room. Plans call for six new ER bays, to go from 13 to 19, and the overall space will double, from 5,200 square feet to more than 10,000 square feet. Also, each of the 19 rooms will be private, a big change from the current layout where emergency rooms are semi-private with curtains. The ER project, to take place in three phases, is scheduled to start in April and be completed by March 2016.

The revamped ER will have a new entrance and a more customer-friendly patient service desk, adds Young. There will be expanded trauma-like services, and an isolation room for Ebola drills.

The focus on the ER partially stems from data: ER visits at Doctors have increased 14.3% since 2011. “The ER is looked at as the first interaction someone has with our facility,” says Young. “We want that to be a warm one and an inviting one. Everything will look brand new in our ER.”

Sarasota Memorial Hospital has also responded to patient growth trends and demographic projections. SMH, for example, opened a nine-story, $250 million tower at its downtown campus in 2013. The medical system has also rapidly expanded its urgent care centers in the region, and now has five from Venice to northeast Manatee County. An SMH official says the urgent care centers, including one that opened last April across the street from Doctors Hospital, are halfway between a private doctors office and an ER.

Other renovations have taken place in Doctors Hospital beyond the ER. One part, in the hospital's nationally recognized Orthopedic and Spine Institute, was completed late last year. Work there included new floors, lighting and a family room, to make it easier for patient's relatives and friends to stay close by. Patient rooms were also upgraded, and now have a sofa bed, a reclining chair and even a mini refrigerator. “That's a touch that's especially uncommon in facilities,” says Young, “but a nice one.”

More hospital changes include two state-of-the-art operating rooms, which officials say will complement the facility's highly ranked robotic surgery programs. Meade says the project, while it gets the hospital ready for population growth, is really about constant internal improvement. “Our mission is to provide personalized care for all patients,” Meade says. “The hospital environment can make a significant impact on patient healing.”

Follow Mark Gordon on Twitter @markigordon


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