New ambulatory learning complex an innovative approach to patient care, education and research

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A strong partnership between Capital Health in Edmonton and the University of Alberta is resulting in an innovative solution to handle ever-expanding needs – a new facility that integrates patient care with teaching and research across six health sciences disciplines.

The Health Sciences Ambulatory Learning Complex (HSALC) will incorporate a unique patient and family-centered approach by offering patients “one-stop” access to multi-disciplinary expertise and health services. From diagnostic testing to day treatment procedures, teams of physicians, nurses and health-care providers will more efficiently and conveniently provide outpatient care and therefore, improve access to clinics and reduce patient wait lists.

“Capital Health is always exploring new ways to enhance and expedite care for our patients,” says Michele Lahey, Senior Vice President of Health Services at Capital Health. “HSALC’s streamlined approach to outpatient services will put our patients on the road to recovery much faster and result in better outcomes for them.”

Day clinics, currently located in Capital Health’s University of Alberta Hospital and Stollery Children’s Hospital, will be relocated to HSALC when it opens in 2008-09. The relocation will free up almost 20,000 square-metres in both facilities, which are currently operating at 130 per cent capacity. The space will be renovated into additional inpatient units and treatment space, alleviating some bed pressures.

Planning for the new outpatient learning complex has involved tours of similar centres in the United States, including the Mayo Clinic (Rochester), MD Anderson Center (Houston), the Barnes-Jewish Center for Advanced Medicine (St. Louis) and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (Denver). Best practices at those facilities, and others currently being examined, will become part of Capital Health’s model for ambulatory care at HSALC.

One of those best practices includes coordinating appointments so patients receive tests, expert advice and treatment in one visit, instead of two or three. That’s good news for the thousands of rural residents living in central and northern Alberta. For many of these patients, HSALC’s sophisticated scheduling system will reduce their number of trips to Edmonton for appointments and allow them to spend less time away from home.

From an educational perspective, HSALC will provide University of Alberta health sciences students with a unique opportunity to learn in an interdisciplinary educational environment within an active patient care setting. It will also allow the university to increase health sciences enrollments two-fold and attract more than $151 million in research activity annually.

“Capital Health and the University of Alberta share clinicians, scientists and a wide array of activity in our two institutions,” says Dr. Carl Amrhein, Provost and Vice-president (Academic), University of Alberta. “We are a combination that, in my view, is unbeatable in North America. This facility, as it develops, will allow us to retain our position within North America as one of the leading powerful combinations of academic health science in its many, many forms.”

The provincial government provided $2.5 million for planning of the complex and $20 million for the design of the clinical areas. The total complex is estimated to cost between $450-600 million. One million patients are expected to use the complex annually.