This is the future of healthcare

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On first glance, it might seem like Women’s College Hospital’s (WCH) new building is missing one or two things.

You’ll definitely find state-of-the-art operating rooms, specialized treatment areas designed around coordinated care, and unique programs that aim to improve the way healthcare is delivered and advance the health of women. But if you’re looking for an emergency room, or a maternity unit, or even patient beds, you won’t find them here.

That’s because WCH is a different kind of hospital: one designed to keep people out of hospital. The new facility is purpose-built to lead and evolve the field of ambulatory care. Phase one of this new hospital was completed last spring, and opened its doors to patients in June, 2013.This is the future of healthcare.

“We call it the hospital of the future,” says Marilyn Emery, CEO of WCH. “And it’s about our innovative ambulatory model of care, which allows us to provide treatments, diagnostic and complex surgeries all without requiring overnight stays. It’s how we are developing programs and partnerships that enable us to offer our patients quality care with the best treatment outcomes and highest patient satisfaction.”

To build the hospital of the future, WCH looked at the realities of the present, and what health care trends will mean in the coming decades. At a time when healthcare is facing challenges such as the increasing prevalence of multiple chronic conditions, an aging population and limited health  care resources, WCH is focused on delivering tangible solutions for the health system.

Keeping people out of hospital means creating programs and models of care that reduce emergency room visits and hospital admissions. It means tackling issues like care transitions and health system gaps, and improving care for patients in marginalized and hard to reach populations. And it means providing sophisticated procedures that yield the best possible results.

One such procedure is Mohs micrographic surgery. Used to treat aggressive, non-melanoma skin cancer, Mohs is a meticulous surgical process that removes as much cancerous tissue as possible while preserving unaffected tissue. That means it provides both the highest possible cure rate and the best opportunity to minimize scarring.

The Mohs surgeon microscopically maps the edges of the tumour to provide the most accurate and detailed excision guide. This complex procedure is reserved for more challenging tumours, often on the face and neck. In the Greater Toronto Area, the only specially trained physicians performing this groundbreaking procedure are at WCH, where more Mohs surgery is performed than in any other hospital in Canada.

Two floors above the Mohs clinic in Phase 1 of the new hospital, Emery’s office overlooks the construction site of Phase 2. The second phase is scheduled to open in 2015 complete with an iconic pink glass cube that will serve as the new conference centre where new ideas and research come together to spark groundbreaking innovations. When joined together, the two phases will form a 400,000-square-foot facility that will have the capacity to welcome patient volumes 70 per cent higher than the previous WCH building that stood on the same spot.

“Our new building, will integrate treatment, education and research to provide fully coordinated care,” Emery says. “We know that patients often require care from more than one health care professional.  So we’ve set up clinical areas to provide patients with fast and efficient access to all aspects of the treatment they require.”

For example, the Breast Centre – which is the only program of its kind in Toronto – is set up to provide a one-stop shop for breast care. It has mammography and ultrasound located in the same place as the physicians, nurses and therapists that would be involved in the patient’s care. So patients don’t need to move around the hospital between different rooms and floors to see their various providers. Instead, the providers come to them. It’s all part of the patient-centred design of the new facility, which contributes to more efficient care delivery and a more comforting and welcoming environment for patients.

The Breast Centre is only one of WCH’s innovative programs – such as the unique Young Women’s Gynecology Clinic and the new Toronto Birthing Centre – that continue the hospital’s longstanding commitment to advancing the health of women.
Championing women’s health is one of the most celebrated aspects of WCH’s rich past, and it’s a past the hospital takes great pride in. And, outside Emery’s window, the future is taking shape on the busy construction site, where the old brick building that housed the hospital for much of its 102 years is making way for the new modern facility.

“This is such an exciting time for Women’s College Hospital. Designing an exclusively ambulatory hospital is an opportunity to create new models of care that address the most pressing needs of our health system,” Emery says. “It’s not just about building a new hospital. It’s about building the future of healthcare.”