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The Madison Region’s Health Care Systems Are Among the Nation’s Best

Health care is a key component of the Madison Region’s economy, with more than 1,500 establishments that employ over 70,000 workers.

By Val Hunt Beerbower on September 9, 2021

UW Health’s University of Wisconsin Hospital has been ranked the number one hospital in the state for nine consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report, and Newsweek ranks the hospital 28th in the world. Mercy Health, SSM Health, UnityPoint Health – Meriter and UW Health also have highly regarded hospitals in the Region. UW Health’s American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison is known nationally as a leader among children’s hospitals for their outstanding care and research.

Specialized Care

The Region’s health providers offer a full range of specialty care and treatments. One unique example is UW Health’s Performing Arts Medicine program. Dedicated to the care of performing artists, the program can coordinate care and provide access to the full range of specialties available through UW Health.

Dr. Charles N. Ford, emeritus professor of surgery, was part of the founding group that helped launch the comprehensive program. The goal for the treatment team is to prevent re-injury and provide performance artists with education on body mechanics and posture.

“A performing artist coming to see me with voice problems might have other issues they’re dealing with,” Ford says. “We have specialists who can deal with multiple aspects of performing arts: physical, mental, emotional. I can treat them with one aspect affecting their performance, and once I get them beyond my area of expertise, I can connect them with someone who has a specialty in another area.”

Ford stresses some similarities in how UW Health Performing Arts Medicine treats patients like sports medicine programs might treat professional athletes.

“There’s a difference in how you treat (anyone) with vocal strain and a singer who might need vocal rest,” Ford says. “When you’re being paid to perform and have contractual obligations, we can do more to expedite the process to ensure they can still work during treatment.” The performing arts community has enthusiastically received the program, which addresses voice disorders, muscle and joint problems, difficulty breathing, movement problems and performance anxiety.

Working Together

Community collaboration plays an important role for SSM Health, which is in the midst of a $75 million, multidecade redevelopment that will eventually be the biggest project ever on Madison’s south side.

Dr. Mark Thompson, SSM Health Wisconsin Regional President of Medical Groups, says this tradition started when Dr. Joe Dean first began caring for Madison residents in 1904.

“We hope and believe that by listening to the community’s concerns we were able to deepen and strengthen our relationship with our neighbors,” he says.

When SSM Health first explored sites for its new clinic building where a grocery store currently operates, the neighborhood expressed a strong response around maintaining access to a full-service food retailer in the South Park Street corridor. To work through these issues, SSM Health partnered with the city of Madison and the alderpersons who represent the South Madison area in holding a series of community updates and conversations.

Through surveys, community forums and other public commentary, concerns around the original location were made clear and an alternative site was selected.

“We believe that this type of public conversation around our project was productive and encourages other organizations to use similar methods of community engagement,” Thompson says.

The project’s new home along Fish Hatchery Road is slated to open in spring 2022.

The community feedback loop is a well to which SSM plans to return for future endeavors. “We learned a lot about the community’s needs beyond just the health care services we provide in South Madison,” Thompson says. “We learned about their concerns surrounding food access, overall economic development opportunities and how we can better partner with our neighbors – which benefits everyone. It also led us to create specific economic opportunities and goals around the diversity of the workforce building our new clinic.”

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