TriStar StoneCrest November 06, 2015

TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center is changing the way patients and their families think and experience spine surgery with the introduction of its new Spine Surgery Institute. The Ribbon Cutting and Grand Opening Celebrations were held on the 4th floor at TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center.

"This is not your typical hospital program or hospital stay," said James Fish, D.O., orthopaedic spine surgeon at TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center. "This program was developed to improve outcomes and provide a superior experience for individuals having spine surgery."

"First and foremost, we do not see our patients as being sick," Juris Shibayama, M.D. explained. "Instead, we see our patients as healthy individuals who are coming to the hospital because they have back pain, and want to live a better quality of life by having spine surgery." This fundamental concept of wellness is executed throughout the entire program. "Our goal is to provide seamless, coordinated care, and get patients back to their favorite activities as soon as possible," he said.

The Spine Surgery Institute Experience

The Spine Surgery Institute experience actually begins in the physician’s office. Once someone decides to have spine surgery, they are provided with a comprehensive guidebook that explains their upcoming surgery and a list of pre-operative exercises that they need to do before surgery. According to Jeff Johnson, director of physical medicine at TriStar StoneCrest, "Setting expectations with our patients is a key component to our spine surgery program." The guide-book also serves as a clinical diary that is brought to a pre-operative class, to all appointments, and to the hospital.

Another important aspect of the program - individuals choosing elective surgery are considered students, not patients. Each student chooses a coach, usually a family member or loved one, who is an active participant in their loved one’s care before, during and after discharge from the hospital. Both student and coach are required to attend a pre-operative class one-two weeks prior to surgery where they will meet some of their Spine Surgery Institute care team, in addition to learning in detail about the procedure, what to expect in the hospital, and how to care for oneself after discharge. Coaches, who wear a special coach’s button, learn the program right along with their loved one, and provide encouragement and support every step of the way.

Sarah Hewitt, spine care coordinator, oversees the student’s entire stay and is their resource before, during and after discharge. All staff at the Spine Surgery Institute receives special training and are chosen to work on the unit because of their expertise, positive and upbeat nature, and high motivational skills. The fundamental concept of wellness is also executed throughout an individual’s stay in the hospital. Students do not wear hospital gowns, but rather are expected to bring comfortable clothes — t-shirts, shorts, etc. — which they wear during the day.

"We begin each day getting the student out of bed and eating breakfast," said Hewitt. "Students then receive a daily newsletter letting them know what is on their agenda for the day, along with tips on how to care for themselves." Two therapy sessions and one occupational therapy session are held daily. All progress is tracked on an incentive pathway. This tracker provides visual reinforcement of goals needed to be met prior to discharge.

Care doesn’t end after discharge or graduation. Graduates receive calls from the spine care coordinator within a week of discharge. Reunions for the Spine Surgery Institute graduates and their coaches are held two months after the student has been discharged from the hospital and are visited by the surgeon and the Spine Surgery Institute staff that cared for them.

The End Result: Superior Outcomes

According to national best practice studies, the results of this new approach to spine surgery are less pain, quicker recovery, and superior outcomes. "We evaluate each patient on multiple clinical, functional and patient satisfaction criteria," explained Lou Caputo, chief executive officer of TriStar StoneCrest. "These outcomes are then analyzed during monthly performance improvement team meetings and enable TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center to become masters of teamwork. So, when we say we offer superior outcomes, we have the data to prove it."

For patients like Elizabeth Brannon, spine surgery at TriStar StoneCrest provided superior outcomes. "This surgery has given me the life I’ve never had because my back has been a lifelong problem. "said Brannon, "I have a new found freedom."

For more information on spine surgery services at TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center, visit or register for a free informational seminar at