Northside Hospital July 20, 2017

Northside Hospital has wrapped up the first phase of an initiative to convert all its patient rooms to private rooms, with the completion of work on its Spine & Orthopedic Institute.

The $20 million project included creating 16 private suites for orthopedic patients, as well as acquiring specialized equipment for orthopedic procedures and developing a hybrid operating room that allows surgeons to perform a higher volume of complex, minimally invasive orthopedic procedures.

Orthopedics is a growth area in medicine, driven largely by two distinct trends — an aging population and a rise in sports injuries.

At Northside, physicians who work closely with the hospital also influenced the expansion decision, said Dia Nichols, CEO.

“Our orthopedic surgeons came to us and said as we get busier in our office, we need a place that we’re going to be able to put these patients that’s specifically focused on them, their care and their needs,” Nichols said.

Orthopedics has always been a strong service line at the St. Petersburg hospital, although it’s better known for its cardiac program and neuroscience capabilities, said Nichols, a veteran of the hospital’s parent company, HCA Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HCA) before he came to Northside in 2013.

“You’ve got a mid-size community hospital licensed for 288 beds but even four years ago we were doing things at this hospital that you only find at larger academic medical centers," Nichols said. In addition to the orthopedic suites, there’s a separate $10 million surgical improvement program underway, the first real updates, other than cosmetic ones, to the operating rooms since the hospital opened 40 years ago, Nichols said.

The new hybrid OR is 1,960 square feet — nearly three times the size of a traditional 700-square-foot OR — and it will house a newly purchased Mazor robot, paving the way for procedures that previously could not be performed at Northside.

Northside is one of the first hospitals in the area to get the technology from Mazor Robotics (NASDAQ: MZOR), joining Largo Medical Center and Morton Plant Hospital, Nichols said. The hospital also is enhancing its joint and spine “boot camp” — a patient education program focused on what to expect before, during and after surgery.

“It’s the well-rounded approach. What we do here is take care of patients, we have clinical accolades to talk about our data and our outcomes. But taking care of patients when they are on the operating table or in the bed is only one aspect of it. It’s also engaging them in their own care,” Nichols said. That’s why boot camp participants are required to bring a “coach” — someone who will make sure they are taking their medications and following discharge instructions once they are at home.

Margie Manning is Finance Editor of the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She covers the Money beat.