September 10, 1999

New centers set to focus on occupational health

Featured Image

Dr. Roy DeHart directs the newly created Vanderbilt Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
(photo by Anne Rayner)

New centers set to focus on occupational health

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is joining forces with Concentra Health Services, the nation's leading provider of primary care occupational medicine services, to open a network of Nashville-area centers devoted to the growing field of occupational health care.

The first center is set to open this fall in the Hickory Hollow area, officials said. The site of the second center has not yet been determined.

As part of the venture, VUMC has also signed an agreement with Focus Healthcare Inc., one of the country's largest workers' compensation preferred provider organization (PPO) networks. This wholly owned subsidiary of Concentra Managed Care Inc. currently manages 34 percent of the Nashville area's workers' compensation market, which totals in excess of $100 million per year.

"These agreements are significant for many reasons," said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs. "It's the culmination of a great deal of effort by a great many people at both Vanderbilt and Concentra, and it marks the creation of a new resource for Nashville-area employers. Concentra has long been known for its compassionate, effective care and efficient response, and these centers will serve as the entry points to a health system capable of meeting any employers' occupational medicine needs."

The agreement represents the results of many months of hard work and intense preparation by representatives of both Concentra and VUMC's office of Corporate Health Services, Jacobson said.

The joint venture agreement with Concentra is expected to significantly enhance the support provided by Vanderbilt Medical Group and Vanderbilt University Hospital to business and industry.

The effort also supports the growth and evolution of the new Vanderbilt Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine (VCOEM), created to coordinate systems and services from across the medical center.

"Our goal, with the new Concentra/Vanderbilt centers and with the VUMC Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, is to optimize the return to work," said Dr. Roy L. DeHart, professor of Medicine and director of the VCOEM. "This is accomplished by creating and maintaining the infrastructure needed to provide the seamless delivery of care and expertise."

Since he came to VUMC earlier in the year, that's what DeHart — nationally recognized as a leader in the field of occupational and environmental medicine — has done.

"We've worked with the Emergency Department, Neurology, Radiology, Surgery, Orthopaedics and a multitude of other departments and divisions to create a system through which patients can move quickly and be managed appropriately, while at the same time ensuring that communications with employers and insurance companies are optimized," DeHart said.

The joint venture between Vanderbilt and Concentra was deemed a win-win situation for both parties — Concentra receives the value of the Vanderbilt affiliation and reputation in the region and access to VMG specialty care and the expert services assembled by VCOEM while Vanderbilt receives a focused partner that will increase market share growth and obtains access to Concentra's national patient database, useful for research purposes.

"The VCOEM involves some new services, but I see it primarily in a role of integrating existing services," DeHart said.

These existing VUMC services include the Vanderbilt Center for Clinical Toxicology, rehabilitation services, emergency services, orthopaedics and wellness programs of the Dayani Center for Human Performance and Corporate Health Services, Vanderbilt's centralized employer sales and workers' compensation care coordination program.

New services created by VCOEM will include assessments of workplace conditions and case-by-case consults with employers regarding modification of job duties to allow early return to work. DeHart is working with other professionals — industrial hygienists, safety professionals, toxicologists, occupational health nurses and others — to develop the center.

The first fruit of the Vanderbilt-Concentra tree will ripen this fall, when the initial occupational health center opens. Its location at Hickory Hollow in southeast Nashville will put it near large employers in the Smyrna and LaVergne area as well as the proposed Dell Computer facility on Murfreesboro Road.

As it happens, Vanderbilt and Concentra already have a Dell connection. DeHart — in concert with team members from Corporate Health Services and Nashville Healthcare Group at Hickory Hollow — have been performing pre-placement medical examinations on potential future Dell employees. Similarly, the team is prepared to provide consultation to any employer on everything from the layout of a proposed manufacturing facility to the ergonomics of individual work stations, all in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of occupational medicine — preventing work-related injuries from occurring in the first place.

"We're working with employers on the front-end to reduce injuries, but when they do happen, we're here to return workers to the workplace as quickly as possible," DeHart said. "It is recognized that approximately 50 percent of workers' compensation cost is related to lost time and lost productivity, not simply to medical costs."

Though it is now pushing into the region's occupational medicine market, Vanderbilt has a great deal of experience in the discipline. As the city's largest private employer, Vanderbilt has long maintained its own office of Occupational Health. Dr. Mary I. Yarbrough, assistant professor of Medicine and medical director of Employee Health Services, is director both of Occupational Health and Health Plus, the university’s staff and faculty health and wellness program.