After enduring several months of bad publicity and heightened regulatory scrutiny, the Seattle-based healthcare provider Swedish this week announced plans to significantly curtail the practice of overlapping surgeries in their hospitals.  

“We have established more specific parameters around attending surgeon presence during surgical procedures,” the organization explained in a press release. “We have also enhanced monitoring, centralized scheduling, and revised patient-consent communications.”

The Seattle Times reports that surgeons at Swedish-run facilities must now be in the OR for the “substantial majority” of all procedures, with limited clearance to step away during more mundane tasks at the beginning and end, such as closing the surgical incision.

Despite industry pushback — accompanied by extensive research — insisting that the practice of overlapping surgeries is safe, public skepticism is giving headaches to administrators. Even when detailing the revised guidelines, Swedish Health Services CEO R. Guy Hudson, MD, noted there was no indication the previous policy allowing for overlapping surgeries was compromising patient care.       

(Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

“These changes are reflective of our desire to lead the way and to listen to our patients and caregivers,” Hudson said, according to The Seattle Times. “Why? Because we believe patients come first.”

Hudson was elevated to CEO when Tony Armada resigned the post in February, following a Seattle Times investigation into the high prevalence of overlapping surgeries in the neuroscience unit of Cherrry Hill, a hospital operated by Swedish. The newspaper article helped revive an Oregon Department of Health probe into Cherry Hill operations and spur a simultaneous investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office. Both efforts are ongoing.

Johnny Delashaw, MD, who was chair of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, has also faced significant repercussions following the Seattle Times article. Specifically fingered as the leader who drove the extensive adoption of overlapping surgeries, Delashaw has since exited the hospital and had his state medical license suspended. Delashaw appealed the suspension, maintaining complaints against him were inspired by staff members harboring personal grievances.       

Swedish operates five hospitals and multiple other facilities in and around Seattle, making them the metropolitan area’s largest nonprofit provider of health services. The new policies regarding overlapping surgeries were implemented immediately.