Among Aspen Valley Hospital’s many goals for 2019: A new state-of-the-art satellite clinic in Building 8 of the Base Village development in Snowmass Village to replace the current facility in the Snowmass Village Mall.
CEO Dave Ressler spoke of that project, and others, in a recent wide-ranging interview with the Aspen Daily News about the hospital’s plans for the coming year. By the end of the year, AVH wants to relocate its after-hours facility on Cody Lane in Basalt to its midvalley campus near Highway 82 and Original Road, which already is the site of two hospital buildings with numerous outpatient services.
The hospital also is looking to complete a $60 million fundraising campaign for the smallest and final phase of its longtime expansion project at its main building off Castle Creek Road in Aspen. For that effort, about $14 million more is needed, Ressler said.
Those first two items – the Snowmass Village and Basalt clinics – fall under the category of “population health innovation,” one of four areas outlined in the hospital’s strategic plan for 2019, Ressler said.
“We’re transforming our organization to be much more than a hospital,” he said, adding that “population health innovation” involves creating a lower-cost system of care that addresses the needs of the total population served by the hospital, including residents who live outside of the city of Aspen.
Make no mistake, it also includes Aspenites who are looking for lower-cost options to services offered at the main facility. And everyone in the mid- and upper portions of the Roaring Fork Valley stands to benefit from the hospital’s desire to enhance its system of early intervention, which means detecting those who are at risk of having serious medical issues in the future and working with them to maintain a healthier lifestyle, Ressler said.
It’s all part of what he calls the “accountable care” model. Nationally and statewide, the health care industry is in crisis, but by being innovative and changing its focus at the local level, the hospital can make a difference not only to its bottom line but also in helping to create a healthier community, Ressler said.
“If you only treat people when they’re sick, and if the system is all about making money by doing things to people through services like tests and surgeries … that’s the way the system works now. It’s based on volume. The whole health care industry is based on that,” he said.
“What we’re going to is a delivery system [that’s] accountable for maintaining the health of a population, and providing quality while keeping the costs down,” Ressler continued. “The healthier you keep the population, the less health care they’re going to require, and the lower the costs overall. That’s the essence of accountable care.”
He used the example of patients with early diabetes. Following initial treatment for an early diabetes-related issue, the hospital and its physicians can work with patients to help them maintain healthier lifestyles as a way of preventing more serious problems in later years.
“You surround primary care doctors with ‘care coordinators,’ a person who gets to know the patient and finds out their challenges and needs,” Ressler said. “It’s been proven to be effective across the country in accountable care organizations.”
Ressler noted that he was involved in starting two accountable care organizations after leaving Aspen Valley Hospital in 2013. He returned to AVH, and the CEO position, in 2016.
New clinic locations
The existing clinic in the Snowmass Village Mall has been a seasonal operation. Ressler said the new clinic in Base Village, which is expected to open at the start of the 2019-20 ski season in late November, will be more of a year-round facility.
“We’ll have the same great staff, but in a modern, up-to-date facility,” he said.
It will be located in a 5,500-square-foot space in Building 8 of Base Village, accessible to both the parking garage and the ski slopes. Services there will include basic medical care, imaging and physical therapy, Ressler said.
The hospital is partnering with developer East West Partners and Aspen Skiing Co. on the project. Ressler also credited the Snowmass Village Town Council for having the foresight to recognize the need for a newer health care facility in the area.
“The council had a vision [regarding] space in Base Village for a modern clinic,” Ressler said. “We will provide medical care as necessary to meet the year-round needs of that population.”
The clinic will be open seven days a week during ski seasons. Operating days for other times of year have yet to be determined, Ressler said.
The hospital’s $3 million build-out of the space will begin sometime in the next few months, depending on when the building itself is ready, he said.
“We’re excited to serve the needs of the Snowmass Village community and to keep pace with its growth,” Ressler said.
The relocation of the hospital’s after-hours care clinic on Cody Lane is expected to occur before the end of 2019, as has been previously reported. It will be located in first-floor space at the Midvalley Health Institute, 1460 E. Valley Road near Willits. It’s in an area the hospital calls its “midvalley campus,” which also includes AVH’s Midvalley Surgery Center.
The pending move was accommodated by the relocation of Mountain Family Health Centers clinic in Basalt. AVH has been sharing space with Mountain Family in a building leased on Cody Lane, with Mountain Family generally operating on weekdays and AVH working there on weeknights and weekends.
With Mountain Family partnering with Pitkin County, AVH and Eagle County on a recently opened clinic off Emma Road next door to Ho Palace restaurant, the hospital is now freed up to move forward with its own relocation plans, Ressler said.
Ressler has said that the midvalley campus can handle many of the same outpatient surgeries and procedures that are conducted at the Aspen hospital, usually at a much cheaper rate.
“We can price it much lower than the hospital because we don’t have to maintain a 24/7 operation,” he said during an Aspen Business Luncheon presentation earlier this month. “It never mattered that much to people before. Now it matters a lot.”
A goal for 2019 will be to make the public more aware of the midvalley campus and its myriad offerings.
Relationships and other projects
Also during the interview last week, Ressler spoke of continuing to maintain AVH’s relationship with Glenwood Springs-based Valley View Hospital, which also has midvalley facilities.
“We work hard with Valley View Hospital to look at total needs of health care in the valley and avoid duplication with one another,” he said. While the two health-care organizations do provide some of the same services in the midvalley, “What we are trying to avoid by working together is over-saturation.”
Ressler said construction of Phase 4 at the Aspen hospital probably won’t begin this year. It’s the older, middle section of AVH’s main building. When completed, the new phase will serve a new admissions area and space for outpatient clinics.