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Report highlights how medical center benefits surrounding communities

- By Diane Rogers

The Stanford University Medical Center is widely recognized for pioneering life-saving treatments and providing state-of-the-art health care, but less noticed is its role in sustaining the well-being of its surrounding communities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area.

A new report, published Nov. 3, underscores how thousands of area residents depend on Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital for emergency as well as inpatient and outpatient care, while noting that such services are only a portion of the benefits that the local communities receive from these institutions. It details a vast array of programs, ranging from a health library to community clinics, that the hospitals provide to the region.

And the report offers an estimate of the hospitals' economic contribution to the area that is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

'We, of course, have two hospitals that care for patients from the community,' said Andy Coe, chief government and community relations officer for Stanford Hospital & Clinics. 'But we're also making investments in the community, beyond the walls of the hospitals, that demonstrate our concern for the well-being of our neighbors.'

The fuller story is told in the Fall 2008 Community Benefits Summary that was distributed this week to Palo Alto City Council members and city staff. The 11-page report reminds readers why the local benefits of the medical center extend beyond the top U.S. News & World Report rankings of the two institutions, with Stanford Hospital No. 16 in the United States in 2008, and Packard Hospital No. 12 in the nation, and No. 1 for pediatric programs in the Bay Area.

For starters, Stanford Hospital had about 14,580, or 63 percent, of its in-patient admissions in 2007 from Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda counties, according to the report. Some 86,000 outpatient visits to the Stanford clinics came solely from Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.

Based on the 2007 data, more than half of Packard Children's Hospital inpatients, roughly 7,000 cases excluding normal newborns, were from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. What's more, 90 percent of Packard Children's Hospital patients needing obstetric care were from these two counties, resulting in 4,902 births for that year.

The report notes that one of every five of the 44,078 patients seen in the Emergency Department came specifically from Palo Alto or East Palo Alto.

The report also shows how the majority of the 2,000 or so patients treated last year at the medical center's level-1 trauma center were from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and how that treatment, encompassing care from surgeons, anesthesiologists, specialized nurses and technicians, is known to increase a seriously injured patient's chances of survival by 20 to 25 percent.

But the statistics about inpatient, outpatient and emergency care don't convey the breadth of the benefits the two hospitals and School of Medicine provide to their surrounding communities. The report highlights the many partnerships the medical center has with its neighbors and shows how the hospitals and school are woven into the very fabric of the community, providing special services for troubled youth and the elderly, as well as the disadvantaged and the chronically ill. Among the efforts the report describes are:

  • The Teen Van, sponsored by Packard Children's Hospital, which travels throughout the region with an adolescent medicine specialist, nurse practitioner, medical assistant, social worker and dietician, providing care to homeless and uninsured youth.
  • The Farewell to Falls program, sponsored by Stanford Hospital, in which occupational therapists visit the homes of older adults to eliminate risk factors for falling and to verify that the seniors are taking their medications, serving nearly 200 older adults.
  • The Arbor Free Clinic in Menlo Park and the Pacific Free Clinic in East San Jose, which served at no cost more than 700 and 450 patients, respectively, last year, including recent immigrants, low-income earners and the homeless.
  • The Stanford Health Library, which offers free medical information, classes and speakers' programs through its Web site (healthlibrary.stanford.edu) and its three branches, located at Stanford Shopping Center, the Cancer Center and the main hospital.
  • Planning for earthquakes, pandemics, terrorist attacks and other disasters with the city of Palo Alto and regional agencies to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive response.

In addition to these partnerships, Stanford Hospital and Packard Children's Hospital spent $444 million in 2006 within the local economies of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

With charity-care policies that are among the most generous in the state, the two hospitals have established income guidelines beyond those recommended by the California Hospital Association. Instead of a discount payment policy for any patient whose family income is at or below 350 percent of the federal poverty level, the two hospitals have set the guideline at 400 percent. In 2008, that income level was $84,800 for a family of four.

And the report notes other instances in which the medical center contributes financially to local health-care needs. Stanford Hospital, for example, contributed $540,000 to nonprofit organizations for purchases of medical equipment and supplies, as well as support of program activities. And over the past four years, Packard Children's Hospital has given more than $811,000 to pay the premiums for children who qualify for the Healthy Kids Insurance Programs in the two counties.

'Packard sees its role as trying to keep children and pregnant women healthy,' said Sherri Sager, the hospital's chief government relations officer. 'Within the walls, we provide the highest quality, most appropriate care, from complex diagnoses to normal, healthy births. Beyond that, we want to keep children and expectant mothers healthy, so they don't need to come to the hospital.'

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at http://mednews.stanford.edu.

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