Mease Dunedin Hospital Stands Tall in Orthopedics

April 21, 2021
Mease Dunedin Hospital Stands Tall in Orthopedics


Every Friday at 8 a.m., the board room at Mease Dunedin Hospital is booked and buzzing. Important matters are at hand.

An interdisciplinary meeting is going on with surgeons, nurses, mid-level providers, a nurse navigator, rehab, home health care, care coordination, pharmacy, surgical services, infection control and the quality manager - all reviewing the upcoming week’s orthopedic surgery cases.

The goal is simple: to be proactive rather than reactive.

“By thinking about what we can do on the front end, to anticipate potential issues, we optimize the patient’s outcome,’’ said Gina Rowland, manager of the orthopedics service line.

It’s that commitment, that attention to detail that helps explain why Mease Dunedin Hospital, with four operating rooms and 120 beds, has established itself as a destination hospital for orthopedic surgeries.  

The size of the hospital, President Matt Novak said, is actually part of the lure.

“It’s a boutique setting for patients,’’ he said. “It’s elective surgery, so they choose where they want to go. At Mease Dunedin, it’s not the frenetic pace you’d sense and feel at larger hospitals. Here, they get very personalized care.’’

And a refined and proven process. Nurse navigator Noel Schmidt runs the Weekly Orthopedic Huddle, as it’s called. The team reviews each patient’s medical and social history, trying to create as complete a picture as possible before surgery. They’ll discuss medications and allergies, the latest lab results and X-rays, and even potential insurance hurdles. 

Doctors bounce ideas off each other. No stone is left unturned.

“Instead of everyone swimming in their own lanes, we’re all together,’’ said orthopedic surgeon David Whiddon, MD. “It improves communication and improves the outcomes.’’

The weekly huddle was first suggested by orthopedic surgeon Christopher Grayson, MD. He saw it years ago during a fellowship, and it left an impression. 

Within BayCare, the practice is not entirely unique to Mease Dunedin, but what distinguishes the hospital is its surgeon-level attendance, Noel said, and that’s what drives success. 

“Surgeons are so busy, but they’ve been really great and consistent about participating in these meetings,’’ she said. “It’s helpful to patient outcome, and it builds rapport across the board.’’

The need arose to implement this type of collaboration as the volume surged at Mease Dunedin. It was apparent communication would be essential to ensure each patient was receiving high-quality care. 

In 2017, the hospital did around 430 total joint replacements, according to John Pollard, Director of Surgical Services. Last year, even with the pause for elective surgeries during the pandemic, it performed 850. Among the BayCare hospitals, only Morton Plant did more total joint replacements with 1,700 cases. St. Anthony’s and Winter Haven each did about 600. 

The purchase of robotic surgery systems in 2018 and 2020 explains some of the growth at Mease Dunedin, but not all of it. For the same reasons the hospital is a destination for patients, it’s a great fit for surgeons, too.

“What I really like is we have the same technology and same high volume as the larger hospitals, but it’s a smaller community,’’ Dr. Grayson said. “The hospital is smaller, but there’s no sacrifice in the level of care. We have the best of both worlds.’’ 

Private rooms are a lure for community members, and the orthopedic nurse navigator plays an important role too, guiding patients through the health care process each step of the way, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond. Patients come in the door knowing what to expect.

A few weeks ago, the team completed its 1,000th robotic total knee replacement, a significant milestone. Dr. Whiddon did the honors on that surgery, but the accomplishment reflects overall team success.

It’s more than just a lofty number. Repetition hones skills, and working with the same group of people improves communication and outcomes.

BayCare has a robust orthopedic program with 11 hospitals offering a comprehensive range of services, from total joint care to spine care to sports medicine. Perhaps none is more immersed in total joint care than Mease Dunedin. Orthopedics accounts for 80 percent of the surgeries at the hospital.

“Orthopedics is incredibly important to Mease Dunedin,’’ Matt said. ‘’It’s helped give us an identity. It’s a source of pride among team members. They’re proud of the volume, the recognition and the outcomes.’’

What’s more, he said, “patients feel the pride team members have in the program and how efficient it is.’’

It’s a culture that resonates.


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