URMC and RGH Announce Neuromedicine Partnership

July 19, 2007

URMC CEO Brad Berk, M.D., Ph.D. and ViaHealth CEO Mark Clement announcing their organizations' neuromedicine partnership

Rochester’s two largest health systems today announced an agreement that will improve access and quality of care for individuals with neurological disorders.  The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and Rochester General Hospital (RGH) have formed a partnership that makes Rochester General an affiliate of URMC’s Neuromedicine program. 

“This agreement is not only good for patients, it’s a victory for Rochester,” said Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Center CEO.  “The affiliation will enhance the delivery of care for the area’s residents and I see this as the first step in an effort to discover new ways to collaborate on care and research.  It’s part of URMC’s overall regional strategy to partner with others in leveraging our Centers of Excellence to draw more patients to our community’s hospitals.”

“Both hospitals – Rochester General and Strong Memorial -  have well-deserved regional and national reputations for excellence and we believe the combined strengths of our physicians and staffs will result in a higher level of care and access for neurology patients in the greater Rochester area,” said Mark Clement, president of Rochester General Hospital and president and CEO of ViaHealth. “At Rochester General we approach this opportunity with the same determination and commitment that has resulted in national recognition of our cardiac, cancer, orthopedic and other clinical services.” 

Under the affiliation agreement, URMC neurologists will be located on-site at Rochester General, providing additional staff to the hospital’s Stroke Center and general neurological care.  URMC will recruit eight new full-time faculty neurologists to serve at Rochester General.  The plan also calls for collaboration between the two health systems on community and professional education as well as neurological research projects

The partnership will create the opportunity to develop a regional approach to neurological care. For example, the joint stroke program – which will be one of the largest in the country – will work to establish best practices, track and improve medical outcomes, and conduct coordinated public education campaigns.  

Rochester General and Strong Memorial’s stroke care units have both been awarded Certification from the Joint Commission, a designation based on compliance with consensus-based national standards, effective use of established clinical practice guidelines to manage and optimize care and performance measurement and improvement activities. Both hospitals have also been designated by the state of New York as official Stroke Centers.

Both sides say that affiliation also represents an important step in a community-wide effort to prepare for the inevitable growth in neurological disorders that accompany an aging population.  In fact, Alzheimer's disease and stroke will soon eclipse cancer and heart disease as the leading cause of death and disability in the country.  At the same time, the number of practicing neurologists and neurosurgeons has declined, creating serious shortages in many communities. 

“From a recruiting standpoint, this provides exceptional leverage for both RGH and the University to attract highly qualified physicians,” said Richard Gangemi, M.D., senior vice president for Medical and Academic Affairs for RGH.  “The tremendous access to both research and practice this partnership offers will help our region attract and retain the best and the brightest.”

“This collaborative relationship provides an exceptional opportunity for clinicians at both institutions,” said Joshua Hollander, M.D., past chief of Neurology at Rochester General.  “There is no doubt that is will be of great benefit to patients.”

Building on Success

This agreement builds upon an existing community-wide clinical alliance in neurosurgery.  Since 2003, Rochester Neurosurgery Partners (RNP), spearheaded by the University of Rochester’s Department of Neurosurgery, has been providing neurosurgical care at Rochester’s four acute-care hospitals, including Rochester General Hospital.  The group includes 25 physicians and support staff who provide a wide range of neurosurgical procedures.  RNP recently received a grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to begin tracking neurosurgical outcomes and is working to reduce costs and drive improvements in care. 

“The experience with the Rochester Neurosurgery Partners has demonstrated the enormous potential of community-wide collaboration in this field,” said Webster H. Pilcher, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the URMC Department of Neurosurgery. “The partnership has been a model of cost effective and cooperative health care delivery and is indicative of what could be achieved on a larger scale.”

Both health systems expect that the neurology component, when added to the surgical partnership, will yield opportunities to create nationally recognized Centers of Excellence in the field and make Rochester a preferred destination for neurological care.

A Solid Base of Research

The URMC Neuromedicine program integrates medical and surgical care for patients with neurological disorders, care that’s informed by some of the most progressive research programs in the field.   

URMC is home to one of the nation’s premier centers for neurological research and care.  The University of Rochester is consistently among the top five universities in the nation in NIH funding for neurological research and has leveraged this strength in research to develop several leading clinical programs.  URMC neurologists are international leaders in the treatment of muscular dystrophy and have even discovered previously unknown forms of the disease. The University has pioneered a psychosocial approach to the treatment of seizure disorders such as epilepsy and is now one of the leading centers in the country employing a unique multidisciplinary team of neurologists, neurosurgeons, social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists.

URMC also houses some of the largest clinical trials for Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases, including a program devoted to rare neurological disorders, which attracts patients from around the world.  In addition, Rochester physicians have helped test virtually every new Alzheimer’s medication developed in the past 20 years.

While the partnership between URMC and Rochester General Hospital will initially be limited to stroke and general neurological care, both sides envision the creation of joint clinical, research and educational programs in the future, including the development of selected neurological subspecialty programs at Rochester General in areas such as neuromuscular diseases, epilepsy, and movement disorders. 

“The goal is to build an environment in which both health systems can work collaboratively to advance our knowledge of these diseases and provide the highest level of neurological care,” said Robert C. Griggs, M.D., chair of the URMC Department of Neurology.  “This agreement will enable us to create a city-wide program that expands services within a community that is dramatically underserved in terms of practicing neurologists and neurosurgeons and, in doing so, we will be able to offer more patients access to cutting edge therapies.”  

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