Dr. Susan Taylor is an experienced OB-GYN, an exuberant personality, an emerging vintner and an ex-Michigander.
But most of all, she’s a team player, especially when it comes to running St. Charles Health System’s new obstetric hospitalist program.
“My biggest preaching point is that this is a team sport,” Taylor said. “This is not, ‘I go in and do my job and I do it all.’ No. I cannot work if I don’t have a team working with me. No one can.”
After a couple months of tireless work getting the program off the ground, Taylor will finally have her whole team in place in August, when Dr. Aleksander Robles and Dr. Andrea Keller arrive to fill out St. Charles’ roster of hospital-based OB-GYNs. Three physicians based in Redmond – Dr. Kristin Berry, Dr. Sarah Hellmann and Dr. Elizabeth Murrill – will also work for the OB hospitalist program.
Together, the group will provide 24/7 coverage for St. Charles, with a focus on providing immediate and consistent care to emergency OB-GYN patients as well as pregnant women who are not already assigned to a private practitioner in the area.
“They are right there, all the time. They don’t go home. When you’re in private practice, if there’s nothing going on, you generally go home. You’re on call and you have a 30-minute response time,” said Dr. Barbara Newman, a 37-year OB-GYN, former hospitalist and director of St. Charles Center for Women’s Health in Redmond. “OB hospitalists are meant to be there to help with things that need to be dealt with immediately.”
The hospitalists will also serve as consultants for caregivers at other St. Charles facilities, provide nurses with a round-the-clock source of knowledge and support, and work with established local OB-GYNs to ensure every expectant mother is evaluated and treated by a physician regardless of time, location, complication or circumstance.
“The bottom line has to be patient safety. That’s what it’s all about anymore,” Taylor said. “When I look at my role here, it’s taking care of patients, but even higher on the list is, ‘Let’s make sure we have a culture of safety here.’ That means looking at policies, setting up drills, figuring out what our team should look like and adapting the way we do things according to the very latest data.”
Taylor – who has 35 years of OB-GYN experience and also owns a vineyard near Turner – works for Ob Hospitalist Group, the South Carolina company hired by St. Charles to oversee the program. She started working at St. Charles in June and said she has been impressed by the Bend hospital’s Family Birthing Center and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, as well as other departments.
“The thing about OB is when things are going well, they’re going really well, and that’s how it goes the vast majority of the time. But when things go bad, they go bad fast,” Taylor said. “If it’s the worst day ever, you need to have (a number of different teams) potentially available, and Bend has it all. It’s amazing. We’ve got everything here.
“I feel like my back’s covered,” she continued. “I just have to make sure I coordinate everybody.”
Indeed, one of Taylor and OBHG’s first jobs was to engage with the private-practice OBs in the area to reassure those doctors that the program is not coming for their patients. The hospitalists' job is to staff the hospital and be ready when needed.
“They’re not here to compete with anybody for patients,” said Newman. “Patients who are assigned to a private doctor, you come in and you can be seen by that doctor. That doctor will be called to see you.”
Before the program was up and running, OBHG worked with the local OB-GYNs to develop what’s known as an obstetric services agreement, which outlines exactly how the private provider and the hospitalist will work together in non-emergent situations. If there is any lingering unease, Newman said, it’s usually alleviated over time as both sides work together and build relationships and trust.
“It makes life better for everybody,” Newman said. “It makes life better for the private practices, it keeps the hospitalists busy, it gives the nurses that extra level of comfort and it increases safety for the patient.”
The closure of Redmond’s FBC prompted the start of an OB hospitalist program in Bend, said Newman, who sat for the past two years on a St. Charles task force to figure out the future of obstetrics in Central Oregon. Generally speaking, hospitals tend to move to an OB hospitalist program when they cross a threshold of about 1,200 deliveries per year, Newman said. Bend just barely passed that number last year, and this year will also receive patients from Redmond, which had about 500 deliveries last year.
“About 1,700 to 1,800 deliveries is what Bend is going to see, and maybe more,” said Newman. “This was clearly the way to go.”
OBHG has programs in more than 160 hospitals across 34 states, with a regional director in Seattle who will support Taylor’s work in Bend. The company is handling every aspect of program management, including recruiting, hiring, firing, ensuring quality, monitoring data and more. Nationally, hospitals see improvements in key metrics with an OB hospitalist program, Newman said.
“Wait times are shorter. Patient satisfaction across the nation is shown to be higher. The amount of litigation is far less than the national average, partly because they’re there. Nursing satisfaction goes up because they have someone immediately available,” Newman said.
“It makes a huge difference in how we deliver care, to the quality we can deliver, and to the safety for our patients,” she continued. “Again, I want to emphasize: This program was not instituted because of any concerns over safety or quality of care. It was instituted to bolster all of it and to make it even better.”
Taylor echoed those sentiments.
“I’ve been very impressed with the standard of care here, both within St. Charles and with the private practice physicians. They’re very, very good, all of them,” she said. “I’d go to battle with any of them any day, and that’s huge when you’re talking about taking care of women and babies.”