Scripps Health Reveals Top News Stories of 2023

Stories reflect leadership in patient care, research and industry issues

A groundbreaking event took place for the Lusardi Tower at Scripps Encinitas Hospital.

Local leaders celebrated the start of construction of the Lusardi Tower at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas.

Stories reflect leadership in patient care, research and industry issues

As 2023 draws to a close, Scripps Health has revealed its top news stories from the past year. 

Whether it was embarking on new research to advance patient care, upgrading its hospital facilities to meet rising demand or calling attention to important issues affecting health care delivery, Scripps made headlines in meaningful ways. Here are the top news stories from Scripps in 2023.

Spotlight on Industry Challenges

Scripps Health President and CEO Chris Van Gorder wrote multiple guest commentaries to bring attention to problems affecting hospitals and patients. One focused on the rising number of avoidable bed days, which are days when a hospitalized patient is medically stable enough to be discharged to a lower level of care, but can’t leave — sometimes for months or years — because there is no safe, appropriate place for them to go. That means there are not enough beds for other patients needing hospital admission. Van Gorder also wrote about the shortage of inpatient behavioral health beds in San Diego County, which currently has approximately half of the psychiatric beds it needs. As a result, acute-care hospitals (along with jails and prisons) have become de facto behavioral health facilities that are not equipped to provide the level of care needed for these patients. He called for greater collaboration and increased Medi-Cal reimbursement to improve access to appropriate care.

Scripps CEO Initiates Hospital Violence Task Force

Under the leadership of Van Gorder, San Diego health systems joined law enforcement officials and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office to form a new task force aimed at addressing the growing problem of violence in hospitals. As a former police officer, Van Gorder was uniquely positioned to initiate this novel community effort. The group, which meets quarterly, is focused on reducing such incidents and increasing communication among hospitals experiencing violent incidents and with the public law enforcement agencies charged with responding to them.

National Recognition as Top Health System

Scripps Health was named one of the top five medium-sized health systems in the nation by PINC AI and was the only health care provider in California to be included among a broader list covering the top 15 large, medium and small systems across the United States. Scripps was ranked No. 1 in the medium health system category, tying with HCA Mountain Division for the top spot. Hospitals included in the top 15 list achieved better patient outcomes, fewer complications and higher patient experience ratings, compared to the more than 2,600 other hospitals evaluated that did not make the list.

Lusardi Tower Breaks Ground in Encinitas

Work to expand the Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas campus took a major step forward when Scripps Health celebrated the start of construction of the $263 million acute care Lusardi Tower and Lusardi Pulmonary Institute. Scripps philanthropic supporters, Scripps leaders and local public officials gathered at the campus for a ceremony commemorating the groundbreaking for the three-story, 224,000-square-foot facility that will offer a broad range of patient care services. It is set to open before the end of 2025.

Scripps Among America’s 100 Best Companies to Work For

For the 15th time, Scripps Health was named one of the top employers in the nation by Fortune magazine. The 26th annual 100 Best Companies to Work For list ranked Scripps No. 95. It was the only San Diego County company to receive the honor. Reflecting the pressures that hospitals across the country have been facing from a wide range of ongoing issues, a number of health care providers that have been on the list historically dropped off this year, leaving only Scripps and two others.

Exploring AI for Physician-Patient Communications

Scripps began a pilot program using a generative artificial intelligence tool to create physician responses to patients’ electronic messages, through the use of a large language model. The AI tool combines the patient’s message with their clinical data such as current medications and recent results, then crafts a response that reads like natural language. The drafts are reviewed by the provider for accuracy and appropriateness. The goals of this approach are to allow clinicians to focus more time on patient care, while potentially reducing physician burnout stemming from administrative tasks.

Novel Shoulder Tendon Research

Scripps received a $2.7 million grant to explore the use of pluripotent stem cells to develop lab-grown tendon tissue for repairing rotator cuff injuries. Grant funding from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine will support the initiative’s discovery phase, in which researchers will biologically engineer tendon material in the lab and conduct tendon repair in animal models. Ultimately, the new approach aims to particularly benefit older patients with large to massive rotator cuff tears. Lead investigator Darryl D’Lima, MD, PhD, said finding novel biological approaches is critical, since the failure rate of conventional repair surgery for these patients is near 40%. The Shiley Center for Orthopaedic Research and Education (SCORE) at Scripps Clinic will lead the research.

Top Marks on Statewide Hospital Honor Rolls

Cal Hospital Compare (CHC) named Scripps Health to three statewide honor rolls for opioid stewardship, maternity care and patient safety. CHC named all four of Scripps’ hospitals to the superior tier of its Opioid Care Honor Roll, more than any other local health care system. Three Scripps hospitals were named to CHC’s Maternity Care Honor Roll, the most among local health care providers. The CHC’s Patient Safety Honor Roll included Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and Scripps Green Hospital.  

Cancer Survivor Trades in Tech Career for Volunteer Role

A self-described career woman, Kelly O’Connor of Del Sur returned to her technology job last summer after completing breast cancer treatments at Scripps Cancer Center. But soon after resuming work, she realized how much her cancer experience had transformed her outlook on life, and she took a leap of faith so she could focus on giving back to others. O’Connor resigned from her job in the prime of her career to focus on volunteering at Scripps and helping newly diagnosed patients with all types of cancers navigate their journeys. She said her decision was inspired in large part by the compassionate care she received from the Scripps infusion center staff.

Comedian Finds Humor, Health Lessons After Heart Attack

Sorrento Valley resident Mark Whitney’s long career as a stand-up comedian took a sharp turn after a brush with death from a “widow maker” heart attack that landed him in the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute under the care of Christopher Suhar, MD. Whitney almost instantly saw humor in the health crisis, which occurred on National Fried Chicken Sandwich Day. The experience inspired him to revamp his comedy show and blog to use jokes and puns to deliver a potentially life-saving message about healthy eating, exercise and heart care.

Learn more about Scripps Health, a nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego, Calif.

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Steve Carpowich

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