Just across the interstate from Hamilton Town Center, IU Health Saxony Hospital is now open for business with a local anesthesiologist at the helm. Dr. Philip Dulberger, or “Dr. Phil” as his friends and colleagues refer to him, shared an idea six years ago that took him from the operating room to the second floor administrative offices at Fishers’ first specialty hospital with services focused on cardiovascular, orthopedic, spine care and emergency services.
In October 2005, Dulberger was in between surgeries when he decided to call IU Health (then called Clarian Health) CEO Dan Evans.
“I have an idea about a different approach to deliver health care,” Dulberger told Evans. “Hospitals traditionally wait for people to get sick and come in. I propose that we should establish a campus that focuses on helping people live a healthier lifestyle and keeping them well, so that when patients do become sick, we have developed that relationship with the patient, and they choose IU Health as their partner.”
Evans listened, agreed, and discussions continued for about six months with others within IU Health. After Dulberger returned from a spring break vacation in 2006, the decision was made to move forward with the plan. Dulberger traded his lab coat for a hardhat and wound down his anesthesiology practice.
Being a doctor, Dulberger brought a unique perspective to the planning process. He believes that the future of health care will be based on two things: Patient quality outcomes and service experience. Dulberger, with a team of architects and designers, created a hospital centered around the healing forces of nature. Everything from the natural stone and walking paths outside to the 11-by-24 foot mural in the lobby entitled “Hope Around the Bend” creates an atmosphere that feels more like a resort than a hospital.
Upon entering the hospital, what’s most impressive is what you don’t see. Borrowing Disney theme park concepts, patient support and custodial services are all conducted “off stage”, out of view from patients or visitors in the hallways. Patient rooms feel like a deluxe suite at the Conrad, complete with oak cabinetry designed to hide all the hoses, gauges, and monitors that can intimidate anyone.
“My goal is to have people walk out of here and say ‘that didn’t feel like a hospital’.”
Dulberger will be the first to admit that form follows function throughout the design, but he adds that the most important element is the staff.
“Doctors are generally trained as individual care givers, not as teams. The only way to a successful facility is not through any one person, but through the team.”
To that end, Dulberger dons his lab coat and makes his rounds like any other doctor, checking in on his staff. Greeting each employee by name with a smile, Dulberger exemplifies the team spirit he feels is so important to patient care. As for the patients he checks in on, he refers to them internally as “guests,” citing “it gives us a different mindset and keeps us in touch with the experience.”
While the doors are now open on the hospital, construction continues. Dulberger still hopes that some day a future expansion will include a fitness facility-medical office building complex to fulfill the original vision of connecting health care and prevention. “Imagine treating a patient with borderline diabetes and high-blood pressure with a weight-loss program jointly developed by physicians and health trainers. Rather than the traditional prescription as a treatment, we would engage patients in a healthier lifestyle.” Dulberger plans to return to his anesthesia practice at least one day per week now that the hospital has opened to “keep you in touch” with his fellow team members.
Now that the stress of opening the facility has passed, Dulberger looks forward to spending more time with his Carmel High School sweetheart and wife, Carolyn, and his two children Lauren and Josh. Active members of the New Hope Presbyterian Church, Dulberger and his wife enjoy a glass of wine and their patio in the summer months at their Hamilton Proper home. You also might spot them at their favorite restaurant across I-69, Stone Creek Dining Company. This summer, they plan to take their family on a train trip out west to San Francisco to see the country as he did when he was a child.
“We did this trip when I was a kid and I’ve always wanted to do this with mine.”
The train trip out west and the experience Dulberger strives to deliver throughout the IU Health Saxony Hospital have a lot in common. While the destination can often times seem far away, the journey and outcomes can have a lasting impression.