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The COVID-19 pandemic caused many ups and downs in the health care community this past year. But even amongst the negatives of the pandemic, Inspira Health found success. In June, we celebrated one year of bariatric surgery at Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill.
Hundreds of patients have been referred and evaluated by the program and the bariatric team at Mullica Hill has helped patients lose over 1,800 pounds in the past year. “I’ve never seen this kind of growth at a practice before. Even during a global pandemic, we’ve managed to help so many patients reach their goals,” said Keith Kreitz, M.D., F.A.C.S., director of Bariatric Surgery at Inspira Health.
Practicing During a Pandemic
It wasn’t an easy year for the bariatric team at Mullica Hill. Dr. Kreitz joined the team in March 2020, and was only able to see patients for a week and a half before the state was shut down because of COVID-19. “There were about two months where I couldn’t perform surgery,” said Dr. Kreitz. “Although we would prefer to be treating patients, we used the time to work on our processes and workflows so we could provide the best possible patient experience upon reopening.”
Thankfully, the rise of telehealth provided a way for Dr. Kreitz and his team to begin seeing patients virtually for consultations at the end of April. Dr. Kreitz shared that the benefit of telehealth is being able to see patients who don’t need physical exams in the comfort of their own home.
In June 2020, the team at Mullica Hill finally treated their first two patients, both of whom received sleeve gastrectomies. These patients have respectively lost 140 pounds and 83 pounds to date. “Dr. Kreitz and his team took great care in making sure that I understood what was the next step, what to expect and made sure that everything fell into place. The day of the surgery, from the moment that I stepped into the hospital, I was greeted with a warm smile and made at ease immediately,” said Anna Ferker, one of the first bariatric patients at Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill.
A Comprehensive Approach to Care
One thing that sets the Mullica Hill bariatric team apart is their longitudinal, multidisciplinary approach to patient care. Patients interested in weight loss surgery go through an initial 90-day comprehensive education and evaluation process to prepare them for what comes next. They will meet with the surgeon, cardiologist, pulmonologist, behavioral health specialist, dietitian and obesity medicine doctor—all of whom collaborate to provide the most well-rounded approach to bariatric care.
“The process of educating our patients and collaborating on care allows patients to get the most out of their surgery and treatment, as well as giving us, as providers, a clear picture of their specific health needs and desires,” said Dr. Kreitz.
In addition to pre-operative care, the bariatric team puts an emphasis on life after surgery, seeing patients regularly for follow-up appointments. “There’s a two-year period where our patients are still continuing to lose weight, and we want them to keep this weight off throughout the rest of their lives,” said Dr. Kreitz. In addition to individual follow-ups, there is a support group for bariatric patients at Inspira. This monthly meeting is available for patients to stay connected not only with their care team, but also with other patients who have similar experiences adjusting to and engaging with a new healthy lifestyle.
Referring Patients for Weight Management
Dr. Kreitz’s team is open and willing to see any patient struggling with weight loss. “We have an open door policy. Whatever degree of weight loss patients are struggling with, we can help them. We don’t just offer bariatric surgery but also medical weight loss options and everything in between,” said Dr. Kreitz. “Even if your patients are just interested in learning about their options and talking to a dietitian, send them our way.”
Providers can refer patients to Mullica Hill by calling the office or submitting an electronic request. Patients have the option of scheduling a consultation via phone or online, and can also attend information sessions and support groups for more information about medical weight loss and bariatric surgery at Inspira Health.