The Stuff Medical Dreams are Made Of
In December 1974, Aurora Community Hospital first opened its doors in Aurora, Colorado. It was built to serve the medical needs of local residents in what was a growing community outside of Denver. According to cardiologist Dennis Battock, MD, "In those early days sometimes more doctors roamed the halls than we had patients to treat."
At the time, all heart cases that involved catheterizations or surgery went to downtown Denver hospitals due to the limitations of the small community hospital. This weighed heavily on Battock who knew there was more that he and his fellow cardiologists could offer the Aurora community.
In 1985, Dr. Battock took a sabbatical to learn 2D echo in Switzerland and London. At a meeting in Geneva, he had the opportunity to discuss new types of medical services with Dr. Philip Serlin, a cardiologist from Tucson. Serlin knew of a Cardiologist, Dr. John Carroll, who had opened a successful physician-owned Cath lab in Arizona. At the time, this was a new and novel idea.
Still believing patients needed access to full cardiology services at the Aurora hospital, Battock approached Jeff Holland, the hospital administrator at the time. While Holland agreed with the need, he suggested that if the cardiologists' wanted a lab that bad, they should consider building it themselves.
At the time, physicians did not typically own cardiac catheterization laboratories. In fact, there was nothing of its kind in Colorado. Turning to guidance from John Carroll, Dr. Carroll's son in Tucson (and their business manager), Battock spent two years learning the process and figuring out how to make the lab work. The result was the opening of the Colorado Heart Institute in November 1987. Seven cardiologists and 15 primary care doctors invested in the opportunity to serve patients at the Cath Lab based at The Medical Center of Aurora. In addition, cardiac surgery began in Aurora one year later.
"We didn't know if it would be successful,” stated Battock, “but it turned out to be much better than we projected. We got referrals from around the city and the state," Battock stated. In fact, the lab became one of the busiest cath labs in the state. From 1987 – 2007, one lab grew to four with more than 55,000 procedures being performed during that time.
Starting a physician owned lab was a first in Colorado and a very proud moment for Battock. As he explained, "It was a great thing to start and own the lab. We had our own employees. If we wanted equipment, we got it. We were financially responsible, but we made our own decisions. We were receptive to physician needs. Employees loved working for us. We had a great business model. The hospital was happy, patients were happy, and we were happy."
History In the Making
When Battock first began as a cardiologist, there was very little physicians could do for major cardiac events. Surgeons could replace heart valves and do bypass surgery, but everything was high risk. "We prescribed medications but couldn't really fix anything," he stated. For Battock, the golden age of cardiology was in the 1980's and 1990's when interventional cardiology came along. They began placing stents and inserting balloons, using defibrillators, performing advanced electrophysiology procedures, and replacing valves via catheters through Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR. "When all of this could be done in the same lab, in our cath lab -- everything changed," he says.
Those changes revolutionized cardiac care. Drs. John Haas and Barry Molk performed the first successful coronary angioplasty in Colorado, with the Aurora Denver Cardiology team in 1982. In 2001, under the leadership and direction of Dr. Nelson Prager, The Medical Center of Aurora collaborated with physicians and EMS to develop the Cardiac AlertTM program. Now, the program is the national standard of care for treating patients who are experiencing a ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI).
Dr. Battock had an idea more than 30 years ago. An idea that he wanted better medical support in the Aurora community. He believed with better medical support he and a team of physicians could help save more lives. His idea has grown into a nationally recognized institution. No longer is The Medical Center of Aurora a small community hospital. Today, a cardiac care tower stands to serve and care for the cardiac patients in the community and those that come from around the state and surrounding states to receive care at The Medical Center of Aurora.
It is very rare to be at the forefront of starting a hospital and watch it grow. "It is like watching your child grow up," Battock stated. He watched The Medical Center of Aurora go through several name changes and administrators, yet, according to Battock, the doctors, the patients and the staff are all "steady." This is what makes it possible to create the quality team approach for which The Medical Center of Aurora is known. No one person makes a hospital great, the team does, and when a team works together for a long time, they get better at their jobs. This is why he believes The Medical Center of Aurora has won so many awards for quality including Magnet® Recognition for nursing excellence, a Leapfrog Top General Hospital designation two years in a row, US News & World Report’s Best Regional Hospital award, and many more.
Battock explained how over the years, The Medical Center of Aurora stepped up in virtually all areas of specialized patient care including but not limited to radiology, women’s services, oncology, orthopedics and spine surgery. A new cardiac care tower opened in 2009, and the hospital continues dedicating resources in order to make positive improvements in all patient care areas. In fact, today the lab has grown to provide every type of cardiology procedure from diagnostic to therapeutic. Now wholly owned by the hospital, capital improvements continue in order to increase and maintain the quality of services provided.
The Medical Center of Aurora is nearing half a century in operation. Many physicians made the hospital what it is today – through their quality work, exceptional patient care, research and determination, they helped the hospital grow and change from a community hospital to a nationally recognized world-class medical center. Specifically, because of the inspiration and determination of Dr. Battock in the area of cardiovascular services, the hospital has now established The Dennis J. Battock, M.D. Cardiovascular Center.