Looking at the brief history of Orlando Health Horizon West Hospital through the eyes of Veronica Acosta, MD, gives you a sense of the pace of change in this part of Central Florida and of the growing need for high quality medical services.
Acosta has led the internal medicine program at Horizon West since doors first opened a year ago. Members of her team are the hospitalists: the doctors who take charge of a patient’s overall care. Hospitalists fill a vital niche of modern medicine that many people outside of healthcare might not even be fully aware of. However, the specialty is now an essential part of treatment.
“We are like the quarterback on a football team,” Acosta said. “We’re usually the first physician you see in the emergency department,” she said. “If you are so sick that you are going to spend the night – or longer – that's what we are really good at.”
The hospitalist becomes the patient’s primary care physician during their hospital stay. This physician develops an understanding of what the patient needs, and then coordinates the patient’s care among the various specialists and professionals.
Most patients are in a hospital for less than a week, so most full-time hospitalists work a seven-day-on/seven-day-off schedule. This allows patients to be cared for by the same hospitalists throughout their stay. “This continuity of care is proven to produce better outcomes for the patients,” said Acosta.
This is Acosta’s first leadership role, and you can tell she loves it.
“The people you work with are your colleagues,” she said. “So, leadership is about empowering them to be their own boss and to ensure they have the support they need. Brian Wetzel (Horizon West Hospital president) is focused on us supporting each other. Brian’s superpower is that he’s the nicest guy, ever.”
That sense of collegiality is one of the defining characteristics of Horizon West Hospital, she said. We are a small hospital that is driven to serve our patients.
Small it may be, but Horizon West Hospital is also growing fast, and it has the full support of the Orlando Health system, giving patients access to highly trained professionals and technology. Conceived more than 20 years ago, the idea behind the 40-acre Orlando Health Horizon West medical campus was to be prepared to grow along with this West Orange County community.
Although the hospital has been open only one year, Acosta notes that “We’ve been saving lives in the community for four years.” It was 2018 when the Orlando Health Emergency Room and Medical Pavilion – Horizon West opened to the community. The 78,000-square-foot emergency department and medical pavilion features 24 patient beds plus an added six observation beds, while the medical pavilion supplied much-needed healthcare services, including primary care, family medicine, OB/GYN, general surgery, a diagnostics laboratory, orthopedics, neurology, urology, cardiology, a pharmacy, outpatient rehabilitation and a center for health improvement.
Now, patients from the emergency department who need longer care can transfer seamlessly into Horizon West Hospital. In fact, about 90 percent of hospital admissions come through the emergency department.
“We treat an average of 30 patients per day,” said Acosta. “And I am really proud of the care they are receiving here.
She then rattled off a list of key performance indicators to prove her point.
“We had 2,000 admissions last year. Of those, 800 were for surgeries, and we had zero... that’s ZERO... hospital-acquired infections.”
Later this spring, the hospital will add 30 more beds. Eventually the 214,000-square-foot hospital will have a capacity of 120 patient beds.
The attitude among the professionals goes beyond key performance statistics, Acosta said. It includes seeing the whole person and not just the patient. This can manifest itself in unexpected ways. For example, staff makes sure that patients who want to on the third floor of Horizon West, can look out the windows at 9 p.m. and see the fireworks display at Walt Disney World.
Acosta came to her profession after having begun her career as a chiropractor. “I like treating the patient as a whole,” she said. “And that’s what we were doing in chiropractic care. But I kept feeling that there was more that I could be doing, and that led me to become a medical doctor.”
Like many of the people near Winter Garden and the Horizon West community, quality of life was a significant factor in Acosta’s decision to move from Chicago to Orlando.
She and her three-year-old daughter Olympia are still getting to know the community. Olympia is a ‘total rascal’ who loves the weekend farmer’s market, her Barbie ‘motorcycle,’ and has just begun to take swimming lessons and is learning to play soccer.
“Orlando Health has been so welcoming to me and my family,” Acosta said. “They really celebrate diversity and celebrate the whole family. And that shows in how we care for our patients.”