GRAND RAPIDS — The expansion of an inpatient unit to monitor epilepsy patients at Butterworth Hospital is part of a broader, long-range plan by Spectrum Health to growth medical services in the neurosciences.
Citing growing patients volumes in recent years that are projected to continue to increase, Spectrum Health is planning significant expansions in its capacity to treat patients with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, dementia, stroke, brain and spinal cord injuries, and other neurological disorders.
Dr. James Tucci, president of the Spectrum Health Medical Group, likens what’s ahead in neurosciences to the growth in medical services in heart care over the past several decades.
“During the second half of the last century, we saw tremendous advance in our understanding of the functioning of the heart and mechanisms of health ailments, as well as many new highly effective evaluation and treatment approaches,” Tucci said. “Many believe that the next era of medicine will be ‘the century of the brain’ — a time of intense research in which we will unlock many of the mysteries of how the brain works, the nature of the diseases afflicting it, and approaches to successful treatment.”
At Butterworth Hospital, the remodeled eight-bed inpatient epilepsy unit enables medical staff to continuously monitor patients to determine the type of seizures they’re having and decide on a treatment. Patients typically stay there for five to seven days.
Spectrum Health also runs a six-bed pediatric epilepsy unit at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, and Saint Mary’s Health Care has a unit at the Hauenstein Center that has seen its patient volumes double in seven years to more than 200 annually.
Saint Mary’s also experienced a near doubling of neurosciences cases in four years. Between the 2009 fiscal year and FY 2012 that ended June 30, outpatient visits at the Hauenstein Center grew to 28,000 from 15,000.
For the future, Spectrum Health plans to grow medical services in five disciplines of neurosciences: psychiatry, neurology, neurosurgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and comprehensive pain.
“We have a significant five-year plan for development here for neurosciences,” said Dr. Brien Smith, co-chair of clinical neurosciences and chief neurology division at the Spectrum Health Medical Group.
“We have a lot of recruitment and development going on,” Smith said.
The epilepsy team alone has doubled in the last year, Smith said. In addition to the expansion to the monitoring unit, Spectrum Health just formed a comprehensive spine program and has been working on deep-brain stimulation surgery for Parkinson’s patients, neurological oncology and expanding treatment for dementia and stroke, he said.
The Medical Group at one point lacked a neurosurgeon and has since recruited five, said Smith, who joined Spectrum Health two years ago from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. When he came to Grand Rapids, Smith found a market that he believes was underserved for neurosciences — especially in specialty and subspecialty areas — at a time when an aging population is driving up the incidence rates of neurological disorders, he said.
“There’s plenty of business that has not gotten addressed,” Smith said.
Spectrum Health plans to house a “significant portion” of the neurosciences program at a new medical office building planned at East Beltline Avenue and Three Mile Road. The 100,000-square-foot Spectrum Health Northeast Beltline Facility, targeted to open in mid-2014, would house neuroscience, women’s health, urgent care and primary care offices and consolidate six leased offices that are nearby.
Editor’s note: This story has changed from its original format. James Tucci’s title was incorrect in a previous version.