Monday, January 25, 2010 2:31 PM

Clovis bariatrics awarded another mark of excellence

Patients looking for weight-loss surgery are definitely checking first for top ratings and certifications from outside reviewers, said bariatric surgeon Edward L. Felix – or at least they should be. “The difference in morbidity and mortality between a Center of Excellence hospital and one that’s not, is significant. Most insurance carriers and Medicare won’t even pay for people who don’t go to a Center of Excellence.”

Clovis Community Medical Center just received another three-year accreditation from the American College of Surgeons as a Center of Excellence. That’s a designation reserved for only the best programs in the United States, said Dr. Felix, medical director of the hospital’s bariatric program. In 2007 and 2008 Clovis Community was recognized as the top bariatric surgery center in all of California.

As part of its review, the American College of Surgeons examined every bariatric surgery case Clovis Community has done in the past three years, analyzing patients’ weight loss and how surgery resolved other problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and joint pain.

“The accreditation process looks at outcomes of patients, as well as the facility and whether you have all the equipment you need for bariatric patients – those ancillary things like scanners and ED and intensive care,” said Dr. Felix. For instance, the hospital’s new 128-slice CT scanner is the latest technology, able to capture a three-dimensional image of a beating heart, but it was purchased mainly because its larger size can accommodate bariatric patients.

Preparation for the rigorous re-accreditation review started in March, said Denise Helgeson, clinical coordinator of the bariatrics program. Helgeson said the hospital spent more time digging into patient satisfaction and preparing patients for discharge to ensure the best possible outcomes.

As part of that focus on patient experience in the hospital, Helgeson spent more time talking to patients in their rooms and then making sure nurses and doctors were more quickly connected to patients’ needs. She also worked with hospital leadership to make sure they understood the unique needs of bariatric patients.

“When someone has a great experience in the hospital, that goes a long ways to healing and toward telling family and friends,” Helgeson said.

The American College of Surgeons was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical education and practice and to improve patient care. The ACS accreditation assures that hospitals have the optimal resources to care for morbidly obese patients, as well as the support needed before and after surgery. Medicare coverage has been limited to procedures performed in facilities certified by the American College of Surgeons or the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery.