Washington state officials investigate Swedish Neuroscience Institute's patient care practices

The Washington State Department of Health has launched an investigation into the surgical practices of neurosurgeons at Swedish Cherry Hill Campus in Seattle, according to the Seattle Times.

The state health department decided to investigate Cherry Hill's Swedish Neuroscience Institute after the Seattle Times published a report that uncovered patient care concerns mostly stemming from an alleged "aggressive pursuit" for increased patient volumes.

Among the findings from the paper's investigation:

  • Neurosurgeons at the institute are compensated by volume
  • Surgeons are using a "concurrent surgery" model to see more patients
  • Swedish promoted Johnny Delashaw, MD, to a top leadership position even though the physician had allegations of high complication rates
  • Increased patient volume has left intensive care unit and OR nurses with high caseloads

In a statement following the first Seattle Times report, Anthony Armada, the CEO of Swedish Health Services, disputed the findings.

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"It was implied that our priorities are misplaced," he said. "Our number one priority is quality care and patient safety, and caring for all patients who need us." Mr. Armada also said the Cherry Hill neurosurgery center "outperforms" others for patient survival and readmissions from neurosurgical procedures.

Addressing the increased volumes, Mr. Armada said, "The number of patients receiving care at SNI has increased over the past few years due to a number of reasons, including the Affordable Care Act providing greater access to care, the addition of new physicians, new highly specialized procedures, our reputation and overall high level of quality."

In addition to the state health department investigation, the state medical commission is investigating complaints filed against Dr. Delashaw, the chairman of neurosurgery at SNI, according to the Seattle Times.

"Dr. Delashaw was selected to join SNI because of his strong record of providing excellent care to his patients," Mr. Armada said in the Feb. 10 statement.

Dr. Delashaw also issued statements to the Seattle Times, reading, in part, "In the last three years SNI has undergone remarkable growth. This growth has led to a change in culture. Not all individuals working at Swedish wanted the culture to change. Some have become disgruntled and some of these healthcare providers have left. In addition to growth, we have improved are evaluation of outcome data including morbidity and mortality to be sure we are providing great care."

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