Center of It All
At Penn Medicine’s new Musculoskeletal Center at 3737 Market Street, patients benefit from a revolutionary leap in health care
by Daniel Sean Kaye

Penn Medicine University City is Penn Presbyterian Medical Center’s newest facility. It is more than just a beautiful new 13-story building, however; it is a revolutionary leap into the future of health care, expanding outpatient services in ways most hospitals can only dream about. From kiosks that allow for quick and easy check-ins, to concierge services, to same-day orthopaedics appointments, patients will find providers from a wide variety of services onsite, including outpatient pharmacy and radiology services. Here, a patient can experience truly one-stop care.

The building, which opened in August, houses more than 100 exam rooms, nearly half of which are part of the Penn Musculoskeletal Center, a facility that offers an innovative and unique multidisciplinary approach to treating musculoskeletal disorders, injuries and other conditions of the joints, bones or muscles. Available clinical specialties include orthopaedic surgery, rheumatology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, internal and pain medicine, and therapy services. In the center’s six state-of-the-art operating rooms, 62 outpatient surgeries were performed at Penn Therapy & Fitness Center at University City, in the facility’s first week of operation alone. During that same time, more than 850 patients visited the new therapy and fitness center. In the fall, the center—already the main site for Penn Presbyterian Medical Center’s ambulatory care—will also see the opening of the Penn Center for Human Performance, a facility outfitted with state-of-the-art biomechanical, physiological, medical and kinematic testing equipment for studying human performance as well as diagnosing gait issues and more.

“When the Penn system started talking about this, looking at facilities at Penn Presbyterian, we had to focus on where we felt growth would be greatest, and that was outpatient services,” says Michele Volpe, executive director of Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. “Where we are located, we are constrained from the ability to grow. We decided to co-locate specialty services that do a fair amount of referral, to put them together or close in one building. That would make it easier for the patient; they wouldn’t have to travel. We also took the opportunity to take ideas and incorporate them into new areas, and to upgrade both the facility and the experience for patients and families. All of us in health care know that the experience can be stressful. People know they have to see a physician and that’s hard. Reducing stress is part of the healing process.”

A Clear Path

Upon arrival at the Penn Musculoskeletal Center, a concierge escorts the patient to one of several small waiting rooms, where the patient is grouped with other patients according to specific conditions. In order to provide a more engaged and personalized experience, there are check-in kiosks, iPads with educational information and exam rooms with large flat-screen TVs so that clinicians can more easily explain X-rays or MRI results, or show informational videos while the patient gets ready for the next step. In fact, patients can complete their office visit and get an X-ray on the same floor. Surgical and other treatment options can be performed onsite as well, just a few floors below.

A dedicated care coordinator serves as a single point of contact, connecting with the patient even before the initial visit. An innovative role in the health care landscape, the coordinator will ensure continuity of care, scheduling follow-up appointments, referrals and testing. Studies prove that these dedicated care coordinators dramatically improve the chances that patients will remain actively engaged in their care and treatment.

“This is absolutely a first-class operation and physical plant. It’s futuristic,” extols L. Scott Levin, M.D., FACS, chair of orthopaedic surgeries at Penn Medicine. Dr. Levin was integral in the development of patient engagement and the design of the care-delivery model.

“Its plan is very collaborative, and the medical center is the integrative center of musculoskeletal care,” Dr. Levin says. Therapists, allied health workers, nurses and many others all work together in providing state-of-the-art musculoskeletal care. This illustrates the crux of this new way of providing care, which features best practices developed by industry leaders in customer service, combined with patient feedback. In all, the model was designed to make the experience as easy as possible for the patient.

Dr. Levin explains that an incredible amount of time went into improving delivery of services at every level. “It is about the patient experience and we wanted to change the paradigm. We spent years asking, ‘What can we do better?’ For example, just because I’m an orthopaedic surgeon, that doesn’t mean everyone needs surgery. Maybe that isn’t their best course of action. So we have the patient talk to all disciplines to better select the best provider. That way of thinking is unparalleled,” he says.

The Revolution Is Here

“The first step in the plan must be engagement,” says Dr. Levin. “The patient gets instant access. They are seen that day. The idea of same-day orthopaedics appointments is unique.”

The second step is concierge medicine. He says, “When you have that person assigned to you, they literally walk you through the center, step by step. It’s like having a personal shopper for your health care.”

Dr. Levin is a big believer in an integrated approach. “We guide patients through our center, from diagnosis to the best treatment plan for them. This is not only great for the patient but for their families, too. It’s happening now and we’re seeing it. The excitement is palpable,” he says.

“This is about the expectation of experience,” adds Alyson Cole, assistant executive director of Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. “We’ve all been patients, and we know what we like, and what we don’t. Here we cater to what patients want, from convenient parking, to a beautiful café, to office visits where [a patient] can get blood work.”

Cole says the impetus for Penn Medicine University City was the Ruth and Raymond Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, an outpatient facility adjacent to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania that is dedicated to patient-focused care and collaboration among health care professionals. “I think of [the new building] as ‘Version 2.0,’ improving upon the positive experience model. This is new for Presbyterian and we fully expect others will follow,” she says. “We use the digital age from start to finish. We constructed space … instead of retrofitting. Patients will benefit from this improved experience on every level.”

Cole believes one of the building’s most outstanding features is its use of natural light, as it can have a positive effect on the healing process. Natural light also helps patients’ families feel comfortable, allowing them to become more involved in the care model and process.

“There are so many wonderful components we’re really proud of,” says Volpe. “We created distinct workout areas, such as when patients have hand-disability issues but need to return to work. We have a pool because there is such a benefit from aquatic rehab, especially for people with joint problems. We have space incorporated in the recovery area for post-surgery. There are very nice windowed rooms of substantial size [that are] very comfortable.

“The reactions have been extremely positive,” she continues. “Most of our patients are return visits, so they have been able to see the before and after. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

Penn Musculoskeletal Center at Penn Medicine University City
3737 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
800-789-PENN (7366)

Photography by Rob Press/Penn Medicine