Delivery of Care

The mantra: Think like a patient

Ortho RI celebrates the opening of new outpatient surgery facility in Warwick, changing the way that orthopedic health care is delivered in Rhode Island

Photo by Richard Asinof

Members of the Ortho RI team: From left, Kyle Anderson, the regional director of Ancillary Services; Dr. Michael Bradley, president and CEO; Executive Director Mary Elle Ashe; Kat Young, director of Patient and Employee Experience; Mary Brum, director of Operations, and Michelle Inkley, Business Support Manager.

Photo by Richard Asinof

The new Ortho RI campus hub in Warwick.

Photo by Richard Asinof

Mary Ellen Ashe, executive director of Ortho RI, speaks, as Dr. Michael Bradley, John Yurthuck, president of Calspan Development & Construction, Rep. Jim Langevin, and Warwick Mayor Frank Picozzi listen

Photo by Jordan Inkley

The ribbon cutting at the opening of the new Ortho RI campus hub in Warwick. From left: Steve Federico, Calspan Development & Construction; John Yurthuck, Calspan Development and Construction; Mary Ellen Ashe, executive director, Ortho RI; Congressman Jim Langevin; Warwick Mayor Frank Picozzi; and Dr. Michael Bradley, president and CEO, Ortho RI.

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By Richard Asinof
Posted 3/29/21
The opening of a new flagship campus by Ortho RI in Warwick heralds the arrival of an innovative approach to orthopedic care and rehabilitation in Rhode Island, pushing forward a new model of health care that is non-hospital center and organized around “thinking like a patient.”
Why are most news media in Rhode Island seemingly locked into reporting on preserving the status quo in health care? How does the new outpatient surgery center built by Ortho RI challenge the cost assumptions around hospital-centered surgery and rehabilitation services? How can the mantra of “think like a patient” be adopted by other health care providers – including primary care practices? What kinds of research opportunities exist for Rhode Island to become a leader in new physical therapy modalities? What are the possibilities for Ortho RI to expand its collaboration with IlluminOss in using its innovative fracture repair system?
On Monday, March 29, the R.I. Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight will conduct a hearing to review the Prospect Medical Holdings proposal to acquire Roger Williams Medical Center and Our Lady of Fatima Hospital. The committee, chaired by Sen. Louis DiPalma, will hear from Miriam Weizenbaum, chief of the Civil Division at the R.I. Attorney General’s office, Chris Callaci, the general counsel for United Nurses and Allied Professionals [UNAP] and Jeffrey Leibman, CEO of CharterCARE Health Partners.
The hearing will serve as an early indicator to how the R.I. Senate will perform its duties of “oversight” in considering the proposed merger of Care New England, Lifespan, and Brown, consolidating those entities into one enterprise. The other regulatory factor that may come into play is how the legislature will consider the role of private equity financing of health providers in Rhode Island, particularly with the increasing trend of for-profit private equity funds buying nursing homes in the Northeast.

WARWICK – The new gleaming Ortho RI flagship campus at 300 Crossings Blvd. will officially begin to offer patient care on Monday, March 29, but the ceremony marking the opening on Thursday afternoon, March 25, was, in the vernacular of then-Vice President Joe Biden talking about the signing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, a big effing deal – even if there were no local TV cameras on the scene to record the event.

With the opening of the new 66,000-square-foot facility, Ortho RI will usher in an innovative, outpatient surgery center in Rhode Island, one that is fully independent of hospitals and health systems, with a focus on placing patients at the center of health care – a remarkable achievement of putting “patient-centered” into action.

The innovative facility will offer patients “the full spectrum of orthopedic [and musculoskeletal care] in one location,” according to Dr. Michael P. Bradley, MD, president and CEO of Ortho RI, one of the physician founders of the privately owned, physician-run group practice created in 2014.

The new building, constructed by Calspan Development & Construction in less than two years, has been designed around the concept of patient-centered workflow. It features express injury care, physical and occupational therapy, Ortho RI Biologics, and Ortho RI’s own MRI services on the first floor, allowing patients with brief appointments to come and go without needing to use the elevator or stairs.

The second floor features orthopedic and podiatric offices and exam rooms, divided into four pod areas. The third floor houses the Ortho RI Surgery Center, with eight operating rooms and two procedure rooms. The entire building design offers an abundance of natural light, outdoor walking space, terraces, and ample free parking.

The star of the ceremony and ribbon cutting on Thursday, March 25, was Mary Ellen Ashe, the executive director of Ortho RI, who was responsible for managing the process of building the new flagship campus as a vision and mantra of the physician-owned and run practice: “Think like a patient.”

Ashe exemplifies what a strong woman in a leadership position can achieve in shaping the future of health and health care in Rhode Island, a tenacious proponent of a different kind of care, unafraid to challenge the often arrogant male hierarchies of health systems in the state. The team Ashe has assembled reflects the different approach that Ortho RI has taken. [See first image above.]

In her brief talk at the opening ceremony, Ashe began by describing her experience of arriving home the night before and checking her emails in her in-box folder.

One had arrived from Becker’s Hospital Review, promoting an analysis conducted by WalletHub, naming the best and worst states to practice medicine in the U.S.

“So, go ahead, take a guess,” Ashe asked the crowd gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Which state was the best to practice medicine in?” A number in the crowd answered: Florida.

“I would think Florida, too. But it was Montana,” Ashe said. “But guess who ranked last out of all 50 states?” The crowd answered: Rhode Island.

“Really. [WalletHub] named Rhode Island the worst state in the nation to practice medicine,” Ashe said.

Ashe then pivoted in address, saying: “OK. We’re going to let Becker’s in on some big secrets – about how Ortho RI measures success and happiness in how we practice medicine in this small state of Rhode Island.”

The number-one measurement, Ashe continued, was provider recruitment. “In the first few months of 2021, we recruited 10 new providers to Ortho RI,” she said. “More than half of those providers, they didn’t come from Rhode Island. They came from other states. Why did they choose Rhode Island?”

The answer, Ashe continued, was best said by one of the providers Ortho RI recruited; she read what he wrote: “Ortho RI is going to be a big group that everyone in the country is talking about, and I want to be part of it.”

Another key measurement for Ortho RT, Ashe said, was “job creation.” As part of the consolidation, she said, moving the East Greenwich and Warwick offices into the new facility, they were moving 125 jobs over into the new building, and adding new ones, for a total of 150 jobs. “Over the next two year, we plan to add another150 jobs, including physicians, therapists, and nurses,” Ashe said.

A third key measurement, Ashe continued, was “community engagement.” She spoke about the deep community roots that many of Ortho RI’s “privately-owned, physician-owned” providers have with the Rhode Island Interscholastic League. Ortho RI is the lifetime sponsor of the ball field next door to the new facility, Ashe explained, stressing the commitment to the local community by a local business.

A fourth key measurement, Ashe said, was: “patient experience.” In designing this building, she recounted, “The mantra, from the very beginning, was ‘Think like a patient.’”

The next key measurement: “Collaboration and happiness.” According to Ashe, the sense of “joy and happiness for so many working at Ortho RI is contagious.”

Ashe concluded by saying: “Montana, they may have big skies, they may be rated number-one by WalletHub, but I think big things are happening in the small state of Rhode Island, and big things in health care.”

In a celebratory toast, Ashe said: “I promise to deliver the best patient experience in our industry!”

After the ceremony
After the ceremony, ConvergenceRI spoke with both Ashe and with Dr. Bradley, to ask them to talk more about their mantra, “Think like a patient.”

“We can’t go wrong if we use that,” Bradley said. “We have been steered correctly, almost every time, when we use “think like a patient.’ It doesn’t mean that we get every single thing right every time, but I will tell you that process improvement is a huge part of what we do. Being flexible to adapt has really made us significantly different from what we’re seeing from what other [competitors] are doing in the market.”

Ashe concurred. “I would say that ‘think like a patient’ is something we do in every business decision that we make, and what has value to the patient – from process flow to vendor purchases.”

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