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An interview with Susan Maxwell, RN, vice president, Digestive Health

In October 2019, Yale New Haven Health launched the Digestive Health service line, which will provide comprehensive care for a wide variety of conditions. While other service lines started at Yale New Haven Hospital and expanded throughout YNHHS, Digestive Health is the first to be conceptualized as a health system service line.

Why did YNHHS decide to create the Digestive Health service line?

The health system conducted a yearlong study to assess digestive health services currently available in the region, which includes parts of New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The study showed opportunities to expand and advance digestive health care – everything from prevention and primary care to state-of-the art treatments and research.

What types of services will YNHHS Digestive Health provide?

Diagnostic, medical, surgical and supportive services will be divided into three general categories. The first is preventive care, which will include screenings such as colonoscopy and endoscopy, along with primary care and wellness services. The second category is essential care for conditions such as esophageal disorders, irritable bowel disease, hernia, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), liver and pancreas diseases and others. Weight-loss services will also be a priority area. The third category is destination care for complex conditions that affect multiple organs and systems and would involve multidisciplinary teams, including those from other service lines.

How will YNHHS Digestive Health differ from other healthcare organizations’ programs?

Our goal is to create “medical homes” where patients can receive diagnostic, medical and surgical care, nutrition, counseling, physical therapy, pharmacy and other services in a central location. To do this, we will bring many services that are currently scattered among different sites into multidisciplinary digestive health centers in New Haven, lower Fairfield County and central Connecticut. Certain services will also be available in additional locations so patients can easily access them.

Where are we in the process of developing the Digestive Health service line?

Last November, we held a kickoff retreat with 110 people, including Yale Medicine, Northeast Medical Group and community physicians. Community physician practices take excellent care of patients and are integral to a creating a cohesive Digestive Health service line. We have a strategic plan and work plan and are developing priority components of the service line, recruiting physicians and finding appropriate locations for these services across the region.

What are you most excited about with this new service line?

Developing a service line with a people-centered focus is top priority. Of course, that means creating an outstanding experience for our patients and their families, but it also applies to members of the care team. We know that highly engaged teams provide the best care. I am also excited about aligning and building upon the excellent work physicians are already doing in the digestive health field, as well as incorporating new knowledge, thanks to advances in clinical research and in technology. Building this service line gives all of us the opportunity to improve people’s health, and their lives, for years to come.