On the record with RUSH Specialty Hospital CEO Mike DeLaRosa

On the record with RUSH Specialty Hospital CEO Mike DeLaRosa

Rush University System for Health and Pennsylvania-based Select Medical Corporation this week formally opened a new 100-bed specialty hospital on Chicago’s west side.

RUSH Specialty Hospital includes 56 comprehensive rehabilitation beds and 44 long-term acute care beds.

“There’s a lot of excitement around the product that we’re here to deliver,” Mike DeLaRosa, CEO of the hospital, told Health News Illinois ahead of this week’s opening.

He also spoke on what makes the facility unique among healthcare sites in Illinois and how Rush and Select Medical will collaborate to improve care in the Chicagoland area.

Edited excerpts below:

HNI: What is the feeling like headed into the opening of the hospital?

MD: There’s a lot of excitement around the product that we’re here to deliver, being a unique hospital throughout the state of Illinois and the first of its kind in Chicago. But I think more or less, as the leadership team has started to come together, the excitement around building our teams is high. We all got into healthcare to take care of people, and that’s what we’re most excited about. I joined in November, and not having direct patient care here for the last six months is something that is a void. It’s what we love to do day in and day out. We’re excited for that aspect, to just really open these doors to the community and support patients and their families.

HNI: How will the facility meet community needs?

MD: For us to take care of the medically complex needs of our patient population, it’s going to require a very well-rounded, multidisciplinary team led by physicians across the board … but also driven by nursing. We’ll have respiratory therapy around the clock. We’ll have a comprehensive wound care team. We’ll be able to administer dialysis to patients — many of the times in the patient’s room, but we also have a dialysis suite. There’s going to be a full gamut of services available to patients. It also will have dietary. That’s well involved in the care team as well. But I don’t want to forget that the patient and family are also very much a part of that team. So it’s a full complement of medical specialists from the physician side down to the bedside clinicians in nursing and respiratory.

HNI: What makes this specialty hospital unique?

MD: This is the first time, at least in Illinois, where you have two sectors, or two levels, of post-acute care under one roof. In theory, it helps us continue to provide comprehensive care throughout the continuum. In addition to that, it simplifies the post-acute space for patients and families. When we talk about access and we talk about health literacy, oftentimes we’re talking about primary care, preventative care or your community acute-care hospital. But then when we get down to the post-acute space, it starts to get murky a little bit. The consumer oftentimes … has a hard time differentiating between long-term acute care, acute inpatient rehab skilled nursing facility and outpatient therapy. At what point does a patient or an individual need that specific level of care? Our goal is to help families navigate through that post-acute space. The beautiful thing is we’re able to admit medically complex, really critically ill patients into our long-term acute care hospital or critical illness recovery hospital … Our goal is always to get patients home, and as we identify milestones in order to get them there, those milestones include what it takes to get you to acute rehab.

We can discharge a patient from the critical illness recovery hospital and admit them into the acute rehab unit. And many of the individuals, physicians and otherwise will continue to follow this patient in the acute rehab unit. It’s easier for patients. It’s easier for families. It takes longer to get acclimated to the facility, and the providers are all already used to that patient and the progress that they’ve made. It’s a special offering to patients and families as they start to navigate through the post-acute space.

HNI: How will Rush and Select Medical work together?

MD: That’s really the exciting piece of all of this. You take the leader in post-acute care in Select Medical throughout the country, and Rush, a world-renowned academic medical center here locally in Chicago, and you marry their two skill sets together. The product that we have developed and the product we’re about to launch are really the special products of the marriage of the two organizations. This is a partnership in the truest sense of the word. So we’re going to have representation from Rush clinicians and leaders in addition to Select leaders and physicians and administrators and otherwise.

The partnership started and really was conceived at the very beginning of the idea of the joint venture and meeting the needs of the community. It continues to be present and grow every step of the way, even from the construction, building and design of the facility perspective to partnering on program development, programmatic growth and what our community needs. As we open up, we’re going to have great collaboration across the board, from a physician standpoint, a leadership standpoint and an administrative leadership standpoint.

Overall, I’ve been known to classify healthcare as the ultimate team sport. And we’re going to have interaction and input across the board from all leaders at the local level here at RUSH Specialty Hospital, with input from Select leaders and also from Rush leaders. As we talk about specific roles and responsibilities, everybody’s going to have input.

HNI: What are some of the near- and long-term goals for the hospital?

MD: In the short term, I’m here to create an environment where patients are able to be engaged and are able to rehab and recover to the best of their ability in an environment that is inviting and warm and compassionate to meet their needs. We should all be striving for that as healthcare leaders. I want to bring the first patient in here over the threshold … and really start to just hone in on what RUSH Specialty Hospital is going to stand for long term: high-quality, compassionate patient care that really puts the patient at the center of everything we do every day. We continue to get better for the betterment of our community, our organization and for our patients.

In the long term, I’m trying to revolutionize the way that we deliver post-acute care in Chicago. I think there’s a lack of understanding across the board from the lay audience or the healthcare consumer as to, ‘When do I go to acute rehab, and when do I need certain levels of care?’ And I want to make that known and I want people to understand what we do and the types of patients we take care of. I want this to be a model that ultimately is sought after and replicated throughout Chicago and hopefully throughout the country. Select Medical, they’ve deployed this model to a certain extent in two other markets, in Springfield, Missouri and Pensacola, Florida, but never to this extent and never built a facility from the ground up with two levels of care. And I think it’s going to provide significant value for patients, families, referring physicians and referring hospitals that’s ultimately going to lead to better outcomes and higher quality patient care.

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