Dr. Eric Stahl is a retired orthopaedic surgeon and serves as Aspen Valley Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer. Prior to joining the AVH team in 2013, he was a physician leader with the Panorama Orthopedic Group and OrthoColorado Hospital in Lakewood, Colorado. Dr. Stahl is originally from France, where he spent time in Aspen’s Sister City, Chamonix, and was a member of the French National Ski Team. Dr. Stahl brings extensive leadership, physician and hospital governance experience to his roles serving on the AVH Executive Team and to supervising employed and contracted physicians. His role is integral to assisting staff in fulfilling their responsibilities for the provision of quality care.
Can you talk a little about your current role at Aspen Valley Hospital?
I’m a retired orthopaedic surgeon, so I don’t perform surgery any more. But I work with the Executive Team here at Aspen Valley Hospital. I supervise physicians who work at the Hospital and also help with our relationship with community physicians in private practice.
As such, I began to help with the affiliation with The Steadman Clinic once we entertained the idea about a year ago. I think it was quite helpful to have an orthopaedic surgeon in the Administration to help foster the relationship and help with the transition of our orthopaedic services with The Steadman Clinic. I’m currently part of the steering committee which is composed of both Steadman and AVH folks. We determine the strategy for the orthopaedic service line for the community, which includes seeing patients in the office, surgery or no surgery, other medical treatments and inpatient care.
The Steadman Clinic opened its doors at Aspen Valley Hospital on December 1, 2020. How are things going?
It’s going fantastic. After only a few months [since opening], it has actually surpassed our expectations. The intent of the affiliation or partnership was to bring the highest standard of orthopaedic care to the community, and we are well on our way to achieving this goal.
The five physicians who are full-time here in Aspen are excellent. The Steadman Clinic has also brought research and education. Education is very important. Not only are surgeons teaching fellows and students, but the reverse is true as well. When you have students and fellows working with you as a physician, it really challenges you. It creates this very dynamic environment where knowledge is advanced every day. We see that constantly.
We are now able to participate in the Grand Rounds of The Steadman Clinic, which occur on a weekly basis, where national speakers talk about different topics for patient care. We are going to be involved in research and education [with the Steadman Philippon Research Institute]. The beauty of the research as an orthopaedic surgeon is you can be in the operating room or seeing patients and recognize there are some problems to be either fixed or improved upon. And The Steadman Clinic with their research foundation, can say OK, let’s figure out how to do this better, let’s do a research project and try to improve the care. They can take it from the operating room to research, and then have the evidence on how to best treat the patients. That’s crucial in advancing the care of patients and orthopaedic services in the valley.
How is care different for patients because of the new partnership? Are all the services here in Aspen comparable to Vail?
We have five full-time physicians here in Aspen. We have one physiatrist and four orthopaedic surgeons. Then, we have a rotating cadre of subspecialist surgeons from Vail who are coming here to deliver care. I’ll give a couple of examples. One would be hand surgery, which we’ve not had here previously, but now have two specialists rotating on a regular basis. We also now have Dr. Marc Philippon and Dr. Peter Millett who are world experts in their fields—one in hip arthroscopy and the other in shoulder reconstruction. Spine surgery will be offered as well, and maybe more physiatry.
I think what’s important is that all the physicians practice evidence-based medicine, where they talk to the patient, render individualized care and only do what it takes to have the patient reach their goal—whether that’s going back to their particular sport, back to work or another goal.
Is Aspen going to be comparable to the Vail clinic? I would venture to say it will compare very favorably. The reason for that is we have physicians who are leading the field of orthopaedic surgery and orthopaedic care, but you’ll have them in the AVH environment of care. The patient satisfaction surveys for AVH inpatient care is at the 96th percentile of patient satisfaction in the country—for all Press Ganey hospitals. So, you combine the expertise of the Vail doctors and the Aspen doctors with Aspen Valley Hospital’s environment of care, and I believe that’s a big winning proposition for the community.
How has the team worked to transition patients during this time and ensure continuity of care?
Here in Aspen, as we’ve talked about, we have five physicians that are locally based and live here. They are part of our community. And we have a few physicians who will rotate in and out, both in the office and in surgery. As for the transition for patients who were receiving care before The Steadman Clinic partnered with AVH, the local physicians who are here full time will see everybody. They can cover all the orthopaedic care the community might need with a few exceptions, and that’s where some of the subspecialty physicians at Steadman will come to help. That’s actually happened in quite a few instances, where some of the Vail surgeons [with particular subspecialties] have come to work with the doctors and patients here.
The local physicians will take care of all our patients and the community, no matter what their [insurance] payer is. We take Medicare, for example. If you’re hurt, we will see you and take care of your injury appropriately.
As an orthopaedic surgeon, what do you find most exciting about the partnership?
It’s exciting for me as an orthopaedic surgeon seeing The Steadman Clinic coming to Aspen. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a personal experience with The Steadman Clinic in my practice on the Front Range where we hired Steadman physicians from their fellowships. I’ve been privy to the culture, its excellence and to the character of individuals who The Steadman Clinic trains. It’s pretty amazing.
What’s really exciting to have in Aspen is the research, the excellence of the physicians and their character. Excellence in not just the beautiful surgeries we will provide, but also in taking care of the whole patient experience. That’s the culture they bring. It’s not just about being a good clinician, which is relatively easy to do. It’s about catering to the patient and the athletes to see what they need, and doing just what they need without overdoing it in order to get the patient back to what they want to do.
What changes can physicians and patients expect when the Willits location in Basalt opens in early 2022?
So, when the Willits facility opens in 2022, there definitely will be some change in the market and in patient care in the valley. The Willits facility will give easy access to orthopaedic patients for all of their needs—maybe not all needs, which is why Aspen Valley Hospital will still continue to play an important role—but everything they need will be in one spot with easy access. There will be patient care offices; imaging, MRI and x-rays; surgical suites where outpatient surgery will be performed; rehabilitation services; research. It will be like very few facilities in Colorado or in the country, where the patient has only one place they need to go for their care.
Aspen Valley Hospital remains a strong partner in the venture, and there will [at times] be a need for a hospital. Most of the surgeries can be done as an outpatient surgery, which will be done in the Willits facility. Many surgeries cannot be done in an outpatient facility, either for technical reasons or medical safety issues. So, we have a huge role to play at AVH in this strategic partnership with The Steadman Clinic, and we look forward to it.
Any final thoughts?
As the Chief Medical Officer at Aspen Valley Hospital, I want to assure you that we have put together the best orthopaedic care team for your needs. We thank you for your support and your trust as your community hospital.