Surgery Department builds bridge to the community

A new web resource shrinks the distance between campus and community providers
Jan. 27, 2017

Say you’re a physician or advanced practice provider serving patients on the plains of eastern Colorado. You occasionally see patients with relatively rare cancers or complex burns. You’d like to learn more about these and other conditions from colleagues with frequent experience treating them. What are your options?

You could jump in your car and head to where many of them practice: the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, home of the CU School of Medicine and two academic medical centers, University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado. There you might mingle with colleagues, eat a meal and take in a continuing medical education course. Or you might wait for one of those specialists to jump in his or her car and drive out to meet you.

Problem is, valuable hours are lost either way. The solution? Use technology to eliminate the geographic separation and make information available 24/7. That’s the idea behind a recently launched website, Physician Resource, a joint effort between UCHealth’s Physician Relations team and CU School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery. It’s hosted by Farmington, Conn.-based BroadcastMed, which maintains a network of hospitals delivering digital content.

Across the miles

Physician Resource is a portal for professionals that includes discussions on a wide variety of surgical topics, current research, a directory of Department of Surgery faculty by specialty, and the first of its CME courses, on pelvic trauma. It also features video lectures on selected topics (see box) and contact information for UCHealth’s transfer and consult services, DocLine.

It’s all available at the touch of a finger rather than the turn of an ignition key or punch of a phone pad, said Richard Schulick, MD, chairman of CU’s Department of Surgery.

“This allows community providers better access to all of the things going on at this campus,” Schulick said. “We’ve been evolving during the past several years to be more user-friendly and service-oriented. What’s a better way than making us accessible with a couple of clicks on a computer?”

Department of Surgery chairman Richard Schulick, MD
Department of Surgery chairman Richard Schulick, MD, sees the site as an opportunity for the School of Medicine and UCHealth to build referrals and stronger relationships with community providers.

Schulick said he’d seen several examples of “high-performing” departments of surgery – he cited the University of Wisconsin as a prime example – that provide web-based resources for those interested in their services. After surfing sites, he said, “I was struck by how obvious it is that we should be creating a site for practitioners who can benefit from our education, clinical care and research.”

More than referrals

The site offers UCH surgical specialists another potential source for referrals, Schulick acknowledged. But he added that increasing the number of referrals is only part of a broader aim of strengthening the ties between the hospital and School of Medicine and physicians in the state and region – long a challenge for an academic medical center that some in the wider community view as difficult to access.

“Referrals are important, but the most important thing is that the site is well-used and beneficial,” he said. “We’re becoming a resource for community providers in their areas of interest, including our clinical care, our availability, and our outcomes.”

“The site is a resource for physicians whether they send us patients or not,” agreed Tina Littleton, director of Physician Relations for UCHealth. She noted, for example, that while DocLine and PathLine are designed to streamline patient transfers from other hospitals, they also connect community physicians with UCHealth specialists for consultations.

Physician Resource is a supplement, not a substitute, for face-to-face interaction with physicians around the state and region, Littleton added. She and her team make frequent trips with School of Medicine faculty to communities outside the Denver area to deliver educational talks on topics of interest and materials like laminated cards listing contact numbers for the dozens of specialty clinics at UCH.

“We talk with physicians about what their needs are and how we can help by matching them with resources,” Littleton said. “We’re representing ourselves as a one-stop shop.”

For now, the site content is confined to general surgery, but Littleton said her team hopes to expand it in the future.

“This is the starting point, but we hope to cover many more services,” she said. “Many physicians don’t have the time they used to. This is an opportunity to bring education to them.”

Film room

The Physician Resource site currently offers videos on four topics, each led by a Department of Surgery faculty member:

  • Evolving immunotherapies for solid organs, Martin McCarter, MD
  • Pancreas and biliary cancer: Richard Schulick, MD
  • Acute burn care: Anne Wagner, MD
  • Treatment for lungs and breathing: Todd Bull, MD

About the author

Tyler Smith has been a health care writer, with a focus on hospitals, since 1996. He served as a writer and editor for the Marketing and Communications team at University of Colorado Hospital and UCHealth from 2007 to 2017. More recently, he has reported for and contributed stories to the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the Colorado School of Public Health and the Colorado Bioscience Association.