UnityPoint Health receives top honor

UnityPoint Health has been honored by the American Health Association for its trendsetting palliative care program. The Iowa-based health care giant is one of eight organizations nationally to be designated recipients of the prestigious Circle of Life Award.

This award – now in its 14th year – recognizes innovation and accomplishment in palliative and end-of-life care.

“This year’s Circle of Life honorees exemplify the best in health care – providing compassionate care and helping patients and families facing complex health challenges,” said AHA President and Chief Executive Officer Rich Umbdenstock in a statement announcing the award recipients. “These innovative programs address critical needs so that patients can manage their health and live as fully as possible. They also reflect the different needs of their communities as they provide the best care possible for those they serve.”

The palliative care program operated locally by Trinity Regional Medical Center is led by Dr. Timothy Ihrig. It is one of the most advanced components of UnityPoint Health’s palliative care system according to officials at the Fort Dodge hospital.

“UnityPoint Health – Fort Dodge is proud to receive the Circle of Life Award in recognition of innovation in palliative care,” said Sue Thompson, president and CEO of Trinity Health Systems. “Providing the type of care, comfort and support that helps seriously ill people achieve their best possible quality of life is important and noble work, and we applaud our palliative care providers and team members for their commitment to excellence.”

In an interview with Fort Dodge Business Review in 2012, Ihrig stressed that palliative care is a multidisciplinary approach. He said a team of professionals develop a customized plan of care that maximizes the patient’s ability to obtain care in the manner and setting most in harmony with the individual’s life situation. The goal is to allow the person to address health care needs and whatever limitations the ailment they have presents while preserving as much of the lifestyle that individual values as possible.

“It’s almost practicing medicine based on the values of the patients,” Ihrig said. “One of the unique things about palliative care is that it is so malleable. The service is one that adapts to the patient’s needs.”

According to a statement released Wednesday by UnityPoint Health, it has developed an integrated palliative care program across its multi-regional health system in Iowa and Illinois.

“By creating a unified palliative care program we are better able to coordinate care at the right time and in the right place, relieving the symptoms and stress caused by a serious illness and helping patients and families achieve their goals of care,” said Lori Bishop, executive director of palliative care and hospice services at UnityPoint Health. “This system approach has improved patient outcomes and the overall care experience.”

The 2013 Circle of Life awards are supported, in part, by the California HealthCare Foundation, based in Oakland, Calif., and Cambia Health Foundation. Major sponsors of the 2013 awards are the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association, and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization & National Hospice Foundation. The awards are co-sponsored by the Alliance for Excellence in Hospice and Palliative Nursing, the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and the National Association of Social Workers. The Circle of Life Award is a program administered by the AHA’s Health Research & Educational Trust.

The selection committee for these awards is made up of leaders from medicine, nursing, social work, ethics and health administration.

About UnityPoint Health

Two decades ago, what is now UnityPoint Health was launched in Des Moines with the merger of Iowa Methodist and Iowa Lutheran hospitals. It now encompasses eight major geographic regions in Iowa and Illinois. Each of the regions has its own leadership including local boards of directors.

The eight regions within UnityPoint Health, focusing on the largest metropolitan area within that region, are Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Fort Dodge, Peoria, the Quad Cities, Sioux City and Waterloo.

According to information provided by UnityPoint Health, it has 24,000 employees in Iowa and Illinois and relationships with 900 physicians and providers who deliver care through 280 UnityPoint Clinics and 29 hospitals as well as in homes. UnityPoint Health’s annual revenues are about $2.7 billion. UnityPoint Health is the nation’s 15th largest nonprofit health system and the fifth largest nondenominational health system in America.

UnityPoint Health – Fort Dodge has more than 1,000 employees and 100 physicians providing care to patients throughout northwest central Iowa. In 2012, UnityPoint Health – Trinity delivered more than 530 babies, admitted 4,100 patients and had more than 21,700 emergency visits, according to information released by the medical center.