UK HealthCare, Cincinnati Children's Sign Letter of Intent for Potential Pediatric Heart Care Partnership

UK HealthCare and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center have signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to move toward a significant partnership to provide pediatric heart care services in the region.

The partnership combines the strengths of the region's leading provider of advanced subspecialty care in UK HealthCare with one of the country's undisputed leaders in children's health care, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The collaboration will enable more Kentucky children to receive care closer to home.

"In partnering with Cincinnati Children's we will be teaming-up with one of the top three children's hospitals in the country and a Top 10 pediatric heart care program," said Dr. Bernard Boulanger, UK HealthCare chief medical officer, who led a review of UK's program and has helped lead discussions with Cincinnati Children's.

Under the terms of the proposal, a heart surgeon will be jointly recruited and have a primary appointment at Cincinnati Children's in a "two sites, one program" model; the surgeon will be based in Lexington and perform services at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

In addition, a director of the pediatric heart program will be recruited immediately to oversee the program and drive its development.

The program director position also will be based in Lexington and serve as program liaison for both sites. The director will be employed by UK HealthCare, report to UK HealthCare's chief medical officer and will also have reporting responsibilities to Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute leadership team.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with UK HealthCare to serve pediatric cardiac patients and their families in the Commonwealth,” Dr. Andrew Redington, executive co-director of the Heart Institute and chief of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology at Cincinnati Children’s, said.  “Our collaboration will be a comprehensive, multidisciplinary, team-based approached focused on quality and safety in cardiac care.”

Initial joint negotiations began earlier this year and led to the LOI being signed. Details of the program are to be finalized during the next few months. Once the program is operational, a clinical team of physicians from both hospitals may direct regional patients needing care to Kentucky Children's Hospital or Cincinnati Children's according to the complexity of their case. Initially, more complex cases will be sent to Cincinnati Children's. Over time as the Lexington site program matures, more complex cases may be performed at UK. 

Although details are still being worked out, the first surgical procedure at UK would be targeted for late 2016 or early 2017. UK HealthCare will also work toward having cardiac subspecialists performing diagnostics and therapeutic interventions at Kentucky Children's Hospital with the support of Cincinnati Children’s subspecialists when necessary.

"Overall, it is the aim to keep patient care local and close to home, when clinically appropriate. This will include post-surgical care and pediatric cardiology subspecialty care that will be available in Lexington even for patients who travel to Cincinnati for complex surgical procedures," said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs.

Training, support, infrastructure development and reactivation of on-site surgery at Kentucky Children's Hospital will be done in a manner to ensure sustained outstanding outcomes as measured by national registries and reporting mechanisms, he said.

This includes developing and implementing shared and common clinical standards for environment, design, equipment, operations, staffing and personnel. Additionally, training will be provided at Cincinnati Children's initially and on an ongoing basis for Kentucky Children's Hospital personnel.

UK HealthCare's pediatric cardiothoracic surgical program was temporarily suspended after questions were raised internally about how best to improve the program.

"When we voluntarily suspended Kentucky Children's pediatric cardiothoracic (CT) program in October 2012, we said we would only re-open the program when we were ready to provide the best care for our patients and their families.  We are confident that this collaborative arrangement meets that mark with the highest quality surgical and clinical care, education and research in pediatric cardiovascular services for patients of Kentucky and their families," Karpf said.

A task force was formed in 2013 and charged with providing recommendations regarding the future of the Kentucky Children's Hospital Pediatric Heart Program including program scope, resource planning, strategy for launch and a post-launch monitoring and oversight plan. 

At the time of the release of the task force's findings in October 2013, Boulanger said the commitment was to re-open the program as soon as possible, but only after the resources and process improvements are in place to ensure the delivery of high quality, safe and compassionate cardiac care for the children of Kentucky and beyond.

"There is also a firm commitment to transparency and as we iron out the details and development of this program, we are committed to fully reporting our data and measures that detail our performance for everyone to see," he said.

The plan is to establish a transparent data-driven quality and safety program with outcomes reported jointly to the Society for Thoracic Surgeons (STS) as well as other regional and national programs that monitor surgical and clinical outcomes.

 "Already, the majority of Kentucky Children's Hospital pediatric CT surgery patient families who need clinical referrals for care are choosing Cincinnati Children’s," Boulanger said. "This new two site, one program model will provide an even more seamless process for these patients and families as well as the new patients and families needing these services each year throughout the Commonwealth."