Delivering patient-centered quality care is at the heart of most healthcare conversations these days ... whether the discussion is about outcomes measures, value-based reimbursement, new technology and techniques or patient engagement. While every surgeon strives to attain quality outcomes, Patrick Ryan, MD, FACS, founder of Nashville Vascular and Vein Institute (NVAVI), has made the quest for quality the cornerstone of his practice.
"I launched NVAVI because I had some very strong ideas about how I wanted a vascular surgery practice to be run," he said. "I really want to be a trailblazer in the delivery of quality vascular care."
Ryan continued, "There were specific things I wanted to do ... and have done: 1) join the Vascular Quality Initiative (VQI), which is the only quality metric used and approved by the Society for Vascular Surgery, and 2) approach the care of vascular patients from more than just a surgical standpoint."
NVAVI, which opened its doors in February 2014, is the only vascular practice in Middle Tennessee fully participating in the VQI, said Ryan, who was recently appointed to the national Quality Performance and Metrics Committee for the Society for Vascular Surgery. While participation adds to the daily workload, Ryan said the information gained is invaluable.
"The stereotype of the surgeon is someone with a big ego so you're going to assume you are doing great," Ryan said with a grin. "But if you're not truly looking at your quality and comparing it to others, you don't really know ... you just don't."
He continued, "I want someone - VQI - looking over my shoulder and saying, 'Okay Patrick, you think you do a good leg bypass, but let's just see how you compare.' In order to be the vest vascular surgeon I can be, I feel like I have to have an objective measurement of my results and be able to compare my results to my peers regionally and nationally." Ryan added, "The VQI has reinforced my concepts of how you provide care to your vascular patients."
With an aging population and increases in obesity and diabetes, Ryan said there is more and more disease for vascular surgeons to address. Taking a multi-prong approach, NVAVI offers free nutrition seminars and education on lifestyle modifications and smoking cessation in small group settings. "Vascular patients almost all have other complex problems," Ryan noted. "We just try to help them improve their lifestyle, which I believe is a critically undermet need among all patients."
Ryan's interest in medicine began by watching his father, a general practitioner, care for patients. Born in Canada, Ryan moved around the United States as a child. His family had settled in South Carolina by the time he was in high school, and Ryan discovered how much he enjoyed science, particularly the human sciences. Although the interest in medicine was already there, Ryan spent some time waiting tables in Charleston while he earned money and figured out exactly what career path to take.
"My best friend's father was a general surgeon," Ryan recalled of getting the opportunity to scrub in with him and shadow the surgeon. "When I was done with that day, that was it for me. I was hooked," Ryan said. "I told him, 'If I could do what you do every day, I'd die a happy man.' He said, 'You can.' And that was that."
After completing his undergraduate degree at the College of Charleston, Ryan attended the Medical University of South Carolina. While he was open to all specialties, Ryan knew he wanted to be a surgeon. He completed his internship and general surgery residency at Carilion Health System (now Carilion Clinic) where he began to hone in on his specific surgical interest. In 2002, he completed his vascular surgery fellowship at the University of Kansas and is double board certified in both general and vascular surgery.
Until recently, Ryan thought he was the only one of his siblings to follow his father into medicine ... he also thought he was the youngest of six. Turns out he was wrong on both counts.
Interested in genealogy, Ryan discovered a half brother who was born in England and now lives in Australia. "It turns out he's a famous textbook author and an ophthalmologist," he said. Ryan and two of his siblings traveled to England over Christmas to spend the holidays with their newly discovered brother. "He and I look exactly alike," Ryan marveled, adding the expanded family plans to continue to stay in contact.
Closer to home, making time for family is equally important to Ryan. He met his wife Susan while waiting tables in Charleston. "I've known her for 25 years, and we've been married almost 20," he said. Parents to twin daughters who are freshmen at Christ Presbyterian Academy, the couple stays busy cheering the girls on in their many endeavors.
For Ryan, that feeling of family also extends to his staff. His work philosophy is that the most important goal is providing high quality care to patients, but the second most important thing is to provide an inviting, respectful work environment.
"We have a tremendously warm, collegial atmosphere in our office, and I'm very proud of that," he said. "If I let my employees know how much they are loved, how important they are, and that their voice is always heard, then that takes us back to #1, which is providing the best possible experience for our patients."
His philosophy seems to be working as he is actively looking to hire another surgeon as the practice continues to grow. "I'm looking forward to helping change how vascular surgery is delivered in Nashville. I know I'm just a small part, but I'm trying to make a difference," he concluded.