Northwest Medical Center's (NMC) Total Joint and Spine Surgery programs have each earned a Disease Specific Care Certification and a Gold Seal of Approval by the Joint Commission, a national accreditation and certification organization.

    The Total Joint program received its recertification for total knee and total hip arthroplasty surgeries, while the Spine Surgery program was certified for the first time for laminectomy, discectomy and lumbar fusion surgeries. NMC's Total Joint program was first certified in 2010.

    The Joint Commission is a not-for-profit independent group that accredits and certifies approximately 15,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. The certifications mean the NMC programs have demonstrated compliance with the Joint Commission's national standards for healthcare quality and safety in disease-specific care.

    NMC is the only hospital in Arizona to have Total Joint and Spine Surgery programs that have received those certifications from the Joint Commission.

    Richard Chua, M.D., NMC chief of staff and surgery, and physician leader of the Spine Surgery program, called the certification "an affirmation of the highest quality of care for patients who require surgery of the spine." He continued, "From my perspective as a surgeon, it means my patients are treated using the latest outcomes-based treatment protocols, which have been shown to reduce complications related to spine surgery."

    Chua noted that NMC uses a multidisciplinary approach to patients who undergo spine surgery, focusing on patient education before the surgery and using the latest surgical techniques during the procedure. Aggressive rehabilitation after surgery completes the process.

    "We pride ourselves on using minimally invasive and image-guided techniques in our spine surgeries," Chua said.

    The image-guided techniques consist of computer-assisted navigation and placement of screws or instrumentation into the spine, he explained. Minimally invasive techniques result in less pain after surgery, shorter hospital stays, faster recovery, less bleeding and fewer infections, Chua added.

    John Maltry, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon and medical director of the Total Joint program, said the program's recertification for another two years brought best practices and cutting-edge guidelines together to improve all facets of patient care.

    "From the surgeon's office to pre-procedural process, into the operating room, the inpatient nursing unit and then discharge to home, this certification is an assurance to the Tucson community of NMC's comprehensive, patient-centered program and quality outcomes," Maltry said.

    Maltry said that a Joint Commission surveyor performed an on-site evaluation of NMC in mid-April for compliance with standards of care specific to the needs of patients and families, including infection prevention and control, leadership and medication management. The surveyor also spent time viewing the initial phases of a spine surgery during the visit.

    Before the evaluator ever set foot in the hospital, NMC had to collect, compile and report a year's worth of data that shows the program complies with a baseline of nationally-accepted standards, Maltry noted. Such data included the attentiveness of staff, patient identification procedures, facility cleanliness and patient care, among others.

    Maltry pointed out that NMC's record on hip and knee replacements show that 95 percent of patients have a positive outcome.

    "We are able to get people back into athletics, other activities and back to work," he said. "And hip and knee replacements are lasting much longer, up to 23 years with a 90 percent confidence level."

    Maltry said that preparing patients for their surgery and what to expect during their recovery is an important component of the program.

    "The Total Joint and Spine Center employs a dedicated nurse coordinator to provide comprehensive patient education to fully prepare patients for their surgery and what they need to do to maximize their recovery," he pointed out.

    Mary Sotelo, R.N., coordinator of NMC's center of excellence, said that educating the patient is an important performance measure considered by the Joint Commission.

    "We have a pre-surgery education class for patients where we go over the procedure, both during and after the surgery, so the patient has knowledge of all the elements that will take place," Sotelo said. "These patients are coming in for a mechanical fix, not because they are sick, and they have to be a part of their care."

    Patients are given handbooks about their surgery and care, and are directed to information on the hospital's website specific to their surgery, Sotelo added. NMC also partners with the patient's primary care physician so they know the outcome of the procedure.

    NMC regularly presents hour-long community seminars free for the public on joint surgery and spine procedures, Sotelo noted, usually at one of its four urgent care centers. Maltry recently gave a presentation at NMC's La Paloma Urgent Care Center on total joint replacement and Chua will speak about spine care on May 10 at that location.

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