Leading Causes of Death
NHRMC’s cancer program has been nationally designated as an Academic Comprehensive Cancer Program by the American College of Surgeon’s Commission on Cancer. Its Zimmer Cancer Center includes medical, radiation, surgical and gynecologic oncologists, an infusion unit for chemotherapy, and a linear accelerator for external beam radiation therapy.
NHRMC has made expansion and further development of its regional cancer program a top priority to improve access to high quality cancer care in the communities it serves, including the following specific initiatives:
- Recognizing the high mortality rate associated with lung cancer, NHRMC has implemented a CT Lung Screening Program to promote earlier detection of lung cancer, as well as a formal Lung Cancer Program. The Lung Cancer Program is a multi-disciplinary program designed to improve outcomes by shortening the time from diagnosis to primary treatment by coordinating the various specialties involved in lung cancer care.
- Recognizing the high mortality rate associated with colorectal cancer, NHRMC has increased focus within its physician network on access and availability of colorectal screening to promote earlier detection of colorectal cancer.
- Though the mortality rate of breast cancer is not as high as some other cancers, the incidence rate of breast cancer in the region keeps it a priority. The Pink Ribbon Project, sponsored by the NHRMC Foundation, has since 1998 brought screening and diagnostic services to patients who otherwise would not have had access to them. The proceeds from Pink Ribbon provide funding for those who meet the financial criteria to receive screening and diagnostic mammograms and other breast procedures at New Hanover Regional. In 2016, the Pink Ribbon program partnered with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to expand its ability to provide services for uninsured women. The Pink Ribbon Project typically services more than 1,000 people, most of them women, with screening services. The Pink Ribbon Project also provides bags filled with comfort items to women in the community who are diagnosed with any type of cancer. The incredible success of the Pink Ribbon project has not only provided early diagnosis and comfort to thousands of area women, but has helped raise community awareness on the issue of women and cancer.
- To improve access, NHRMC has initiated efforts to better coordinate care delivery and to ensure care is available to all community members regardless of ability to pay. The largest private oncology group in the community has joined NHRMC’s physician network, and will relocate to the expanded Zimmer Cancer Center in 2017, upon completion of construction and renovations. NHRMC has recruited two new medical oncologists to join the group, and a third is expected to start practice in 2017. NHRMC and Cape Fear Cancer Specialists are also working to expand services in Brunswick County in 2017.
- In addition to doubling clinical and treatment space, the expanded Zimmer Cancer Center will include nearly 2,000 square feet dedicated to patient and family support resources, including financial counseling and assistance, dietary and nutrition support, healing arts, support groups, and connections with community resources.
- NHRMC has developed and continues to grow exceptional surgical and gynecological oncology practices within its physician network.
- NHRMC and community radiation oncologists are actively engaged in a project that will improve access and convenience of radiation therapy in our service area.
Patients with cancer also benefit from an extensive support system that includes patient navigation, nutrition counseling, pharmacy, social care and complementary therapies – all programs that will be expanded in the coming years to support the growing needs of the communities NHRMC serves. The inpatient care unit features large private rooms and laundry and kitchen areas to help patients and families cope with extended stays. As oncology services have grown at NHRMC, fewer and fewer patients have had to leave the area for treatment.
NHRMC has the area’s only open-heart surgery program. The NHRMC Heart Center houses a 16-bed Coronary Care Unit and a 14-bed Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, as well as cardiac catheterization, electrophysiology, and cardiovascular labs. It employs Artic Sun technology to cool down patients whose hearts have been restarted.
In 2014, the medical center’s cardiology practice, Cape Fear Heart Associates, moved into a new site, consolidating the practitioners as well as the Cardiac Rehabilitation program, one of the state’s oldest and most robust. NHRMC has also redesigned its campus to create a separate Heart Center entrance for inpatient and other cardiology services.
A key focus for the Heart Center is reducing 30-day readmissions and preparing to be paid for “bundled” care by Medicare for certain cardiac services, such as heart attack. For both initiatives, the emphasis is on standardizing best practices in cardiac care to improve clinical outcomes and better prepare and educate patients for the transition to home – all while reducing costs.
As part of these initiatives, and as part of an overall five-year plan to better serve the cardiac needs of Southeastern N.C., NHRMC has established a coordinator/navigator to help patients with Congestive Heart Failure or who have suffered a heart attack learn to manage their care, both during their inpatient stay and after discharge. The medical center has brought in Dr. John Rommel, a heart failure specialist, to lead a CHF Clinic at Cape Fear Heart Associates, which will allow patients to be seen quickly and efficiently after discharge to assist their transition to the home setting.
In the region, NHRMC has set up an office in Jacksonville and staffs the Brunswick Novant facility with its cardiologists. The medical center is looking to partner with Dosher Hospital in Southport in the near future.
NHRMC, in coordination with its own Emergency Medical Services, physician staff, clinical staff and partners in the region, has also worked diligently on reducing the time from a cardiac arrest call to getting that patient into a cardiac catheterization suite and unblocking the artery. That time is now an average of 65.5 minutes, much less than the national average. NHRMC’s cardiac outreach staff has worked on teaching and expanding the “Code STEMI” protocols into the region, helping create a unified system of cardiac best practices and response. The medical center’s AirLink air ambulance service has added a second helicopter to improve response times and patient outcomes in the region.
NHRMC’s cardiac services have been recognized multiple times with awards and other recognitions. The American Heart Association awarded a 2016 Mission: Lifeline Gold Plus Quality award to NHRMC, and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association awarded it a Get with the Guidelines Stroke Silver Plus Achievement Award in 2015.
To combat diseases stemming from blood vessel flow to the brain, NHRMC provides a variety of inpatient, outpatient and preventive services. NHRMC treats 950 strokes a year, one of the highest totals in the state.
The hospital has a 21-bed inpatient Neuroscience Unit for patients who require surgery or medical treatment for stroke and other associated disorders, and a 12-bed stroke inpatient unit. The hospital is nationally certified by the Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center.
NHRMC has developed some targeted strategies specifically to address stroke treatment. The hospital has implemented a Code Stroke process, a multi-disciplinary effort to identify patients who would benefit from clot-busting drugs and administer them within 60 minutes. In 2008, two patients fit that descriptions, but now the number exceeds 90 on an annual basis, with a treatment time of 35 minutes from patient arrival. These improvements are made by standardizing and preparing order sets, portals and pathways, and by developing and ensuring that patients are seen by staff specifically trained in stroke treatment, including the Emergency Department team, a neurologist, pharmacist and stroke nurse. NHRMC also employs a tele-neurology program to assist with after-hours coverage.
In the community, the stroke team collaborates with referring Emergency Departments and EMS agencies in nearby counties to standardize stroke care by sharing protocols and addressing education and awareness.
High blood pressure, a common underlying cause of cerebrovascular disease, is treated throughout the organization’s physician network at the primary care level. To this end, NHRMC’s investment in additional primary care sites in Pender County, Duplin County and Brunswick County, as well as its ongoing partnership with Cape Fear HealthNet serving uninsured patients in three counties, is helping address and treat high blood pressure at an early stage.
The medical center has worked to helped educate the community on the “FAST” program to recognize stroke, which refers to looking for changes in Face, Arm and Speech, which means it’s Time to call 911.
Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease
To decrease the mortality rate due to chronic lower respiratory disease in the community, New Hanover Regional Medical provides a 21-bed Pulmonary Unit dedicated to meeting the special needs of patients requiring hospitalization with pulmonary conditions. The unit includes a family lounge with activities for children, a television, puzzles and games, and a kitchen next to it.
Outpatient services are also offered to patients of the Pulmonary Unit to ensure their complete recovery. The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is an education and exercise program that is intended to improve the quality of life for patients living with pulmonary diseases such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, or other debilitating lung diseases. This program provides individuals with knowledge of how to most effectively manage their condition, and works towards building the patient’s strength, endurance and self-confidence.
NHRMC recently expanded the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program to create more access, and the program has moved with the Cardiac Rehabilitation program to a new consolidated home at the Heart Center Outpatient Services building at 1415 Physicians Drive. A program that opened in 1994 with four patients now offers multiple class times per week with more than 50 patients, and works with more than 80 “maintenance” patients who have graduated from the program.
NHRMC is a state-designated Level II Trauma Center, reflecting its ability to provide comprehensive emergency services to patients suffering from the life-threatening illness or injury, 24 hours a day. The organization also staffs Emergency Departments at NHRMC, NHRMC Orthopedic Hospital, NHRMC ED-North (near Scotts Hill in northern New Hanover County) and Pender Memorial Hospital.
NHRMC has also assumed responsibility for emergency medical response in New Hanover County through New Hanover Regional EMS, one of three hospital systems in the state providing their home county’s emergency response. The level of care provided by New Hanover Regional EMS, the state’s first system to be recognized as a “model system,” is widely recognized as being among the best in the state. In 2016, the EMS system was named “National Service of the Year” by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and EMS World.
AirLink, the air ambulance service, provides emergency coverage throughout the region and into South Carolina and has added a second helicopter to better serve the region. For people who have medical questions that don't need to be answered in a doctor's office or the emergency department, NHRMC provides VitaLine, a free 24-hour call system staffed by trained medical personnel.
To help patients recover from unintentional injuries, NHRMC provides Rehabilitation Hospital and Services, with the centerpiece the 60-bed NHRMC Rehabilitation Hospital, accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. The service provides physical, occupational and speech therapies to help patients, both inside and outside the hospital, restore function limited by illness or injury.
Outpatient locations at Independence Rehabilitation, Oleander Rehabilitation and Pender Health & Diagnostics in Rocky Point provide services that include therapy for patients with orthopedic, musculoskeletal and neurological conditions, as well as children with developmental delays.
NHRMC has a dedicated Trauma Services Program which collaborates to promote injury prevention with many community organizations, such as the YMCA, law enforcement, fire departments and schools. In the spring at several health fairs, more than 700 free life jackets are given to children and during the fall more than 700 free bicycle helmets are given away. Kohl’s has been a leading resource to enable not only these safety devices are given away free to children but also to fund many public education activities to reach out to children and citizens.
The Trauma Services Program is working the with YMCA to promote balance for the elderly to prevent falls and potential injuries. Together with the StreetSAFE program, NHRMC has provided teens with an opportunity to understand and feel what it is like to be “out of control” behind the wheel of a vehicle.
The Trauma Services Program has also partnered with the Wilmington Police Department and Cape Fear Community College to educate children, especially those at risk, about the dangers of gun violence and gang membership and the resulting consequences.