Patients, partners laud partnership between Vail Health, Children’s Hospital |

Patients, partners laud partnership between Vail Health, Children’s Hospital

What’s a ‘hospitalist’?

Hospitalists specialize in in-patient care. At Vail Health, they coordinate and ensure continuity of care for patients from admission to discharge, 24 hours a day.

Source: Vail Health

VAIL — When Colleen Davis and her family moved to the valley, they were concerned about the care their daughter could get from the local hospital. These days, the family is thankful for the level of care available.

The Davises moved to the valley when their daughter was 6 months old. She’s 3 now. Because of a fairly rare condition, Davis’ little girl is in the hospital several times a year, for two or three days at a time.

When word came late last summer that Vail Health Hospital had entered into a partnership with Denver-based Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colleen Davis said she was worried. Under the former system, in which Vail Health had on-staff pediatricians, all the staff knew the family.

“I was quite concerned,” about the change, Davis said. “I was pleasantly surprised how it’s worked out.”

Dr. David Scudamore is the medical director of network inpatient care at Children’s Hospital Colorado. In that role, Scudamore manages partnerships between Children’s Hospital and several smaller hospitals, most of which are on the Front Range.

Scudamore said Children’s Hospital model provides doctors, physicians assistants and nurse practitioners to the outlying hospitals. A core group rotates in and out of each hospital. All the providers are on the staff of the physicians’ group that practices at Children’s Hospital.

Learning local culture

“Things have gone very well,” Scudamore said. “There’s been some learning that’s gone on (in Vail) for the first 10 months.”

While partnerships with smaller facilities are common, Scudamore said every hospital is different. The first months of each partnership include learning how things are done in those places and adapting to those different cultures.

“I understand the reticence for change … from community members as well as providers invested in Vail Health,” Scudamore said. “We needed to make sure this was going to work out.”

After nearly a year, Scudamore said he believes “we’ve won over the trust of the community.”

That’s the case with the Davis family.

“We were concerned we’d lose some of the things we had before,” Davis said. “But the rest of the staff really picked up. … We’ve not felt any lapse in care.”

With the amount of time Davis’ daughter spends in the hospital, it’s important that those trips are close to home whenever possible. That’s important for Scudamore and the Children’s Hospital practitioners, too.

An increasing number of patients are able to receive their care here, Scudamore said. That follows a general trend in health care of identifying patients who, with proper care, can be managed on an outpatient basis.

“Families are happier; they’re less stressed,” he said.

While Vail is the smallest hospital that has a partnership with Children’s Hospital, Scudamore said that facility is remarkably well-equipped.

“The information we can get up here is not typical for a hospital of this size,” he said.

The partnership with Children’s Hospital can help patients with rare or unusual conditions. The Denver-based facility simply has more expertise with those conditions.

But, Scudamore said, most of the patients Children’s Hospital professionals see in Vail have conditions including viral respiratory diseases and urinary tract infections, as well orthopedic cases.

For all those cases, the professionals rotating in and out of Vail Health have quick access to specialists at Children’s Hospital. And, Scudamore said, having personal relationships with specialists is helpful for quick responses.

More experience

While practitioners rotate in and out of Vail, Scudamore said those people get far more experience on the Front Range.

“The volumes up here in Vail are really low,” Scudamore said. “To maintain our own skill sets, that means spending the majority of time in a (Front Range) setting where we see more patients in a day than we do (in Vail) in a month.”

Cassie Dirks has been a nurse at Vail Health for more than four years, working everywhere from general patient care to intensive care to the cardiac catheterization lab. She said the staff at the hospital has been “really fortunate” to work with the team from Children’s Hospital.

There are new educational opportunities, she said, including the chance to work on established best practices in pediatric care.

Those best practices are adopted not just from Children’s Hospital, but also from the physicians’ practice from the University of Colorado.

Scudamore and the other practitioners have been “amazing to work with,” Dirks said, adding that the breadth of experience they bring to Vail is something that wouldn’t happen otherwise.

Davis said her family had a “great relationship” with the former staff pediatricians at Vail Health. And, she added, it would be nice if her daughter could see the same practitioner every time.

Still, she said, the practitioners who come to Vail know the specialists at Children’s Hospital.

“We’re comfortable with the protocol,” Davis said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

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