As he works to expand world-class health care in Irvine, Hoag President and CEO Robert Braithwaite is deploying a strategy inspired by Irvine’s Master Plan.
“The Irvine framework really did help,” Braithwaite said in a recent interview to discuss Hoag’s $1 billion expansion on Sand Canyon Avenue. “We looked at how Irvine is configured and structured and asked: ‘What’s the analogue for health care?’ ”
The answer involves a departure from the prevalent “general hospital” model, with different specialties on different floors of a single towering building, and subspecialties, such as radiation and diagnostic services, located elsewhere.
Instead, Hoag planners have designed a series of dedicated health care centers that Braithwaite compares to Irvine’s self-sufficient 22 villages. Among other benefits of the three planned new centers – to treat cancer and complex digestive illnesses and offer reproductive care – is that patients with complicated problems requiring varied types of expertise can find all of the services they need for a particular problem within a single health care “village.”
Less travel, more tech
“It’s better for patients, and we know it’s also better for physicians,” Braithwaite said. “We can already see the results in our recruitment. We can say to people working in the best institutions in the world: ‘Come look at what we’re building, where you have this full array of experts, all the latest tech and everything housed in one village,’ and it’s very appealing.”
Equally, if not more, important for Irvine residents, patients who currently need to travel outside the city for scarce types of care will find more expert help close to home.
“Right now, for instance, there aren’t enough maternity services within the city, but with the expansion we’ll be able to take care of all the families that want to receive care locally,” he said. The same goes for complex digestive problems for which many patients now travel to Los Angeles.
“We can say to people working in the best institutions in the world: ‘Come look at what we’re building, where you have this full array of experts, all the latest tech and everything housed in one village,’ and it’s very appealing.” – Hoag CEO Robert Braithwaite
The specialty-focused “village” model remains rare, Braithwaite said, because it’s more expensive to build. But Hoag has the advantage of strong institutional backers and local philanthropists who have already contributed more than half of the $300 million expected to be raised from community donations.
The expansion will create a new Sun Family Campus, its name a tribute to a $50 million gift by Diana and David Sun, co-founder of Kingston Technology Co. It will add 120,000 square feet of new outpatient space, six new buildings and 155 new inpatient beds, to be completed in phases by 2026, Braithwaite said. Still under review are plans for an additional $50 million building dedicated to developing new medical technologies.
A winning formula
Hoag first moved into Irvine in 2010, creating an “orthopedic institute” that Braithwaite said now attracts patients from all over the West Coast.
“We tested the concept that way and saw better patient satisfaction and better physician recruitment,” Braithwaite said. “So we said, ‘Let’s apply the same principle and create an outpatient village on Sand Canyon,’ and that has been a home run, so we said, ‘Gosh, this model has a lot of appeal and potency; let’s continue the notion of building these villages.’ ”
Braithwaite, 56, a San Clemente resident and father of five, said Hoag’s Newport Beach facility was his family’s hospital when he was a child. What was then a small hospital, established in 1952, is now part of a health care system that treats more than 30,000 inpatients and nearly half a million outpatients annually in two acute-care hospitals, nine health centers and 14 urgent care centers.
Hoag employs more than 1,900 staff physicians and has helped pioneer advanced technologies, including robot-assisted surgery and a surgical theater system that adapts MRIs to 3D virtual reality images to educate patients and help doctors prepare for operations.
For the past six years, U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals” ranking has distinguished Hoag as the best in Orange County and the ninth-best in California. Hoag is also among the top hospitals in the nation for select specialties, including orthopedics and obstetrics and gynecology, the magazine reports.
Irvine named America’s third-healthiest city
Top health care providers like Hoag are one reason Irvine was ranked the third-healthiest city in America in a recent national study.
The “2023 Healthiest Places to Live in America” report by review site Niche.com also took into account residents’ physical fitness, diet and access to recreation and fitness facilities.
Irvine consistently ranks among the healthiest U.S. cities, according to several studies, which credit residents’ good health to the city’s master-planned park system and access to quality health care – from Hoag to Kaiser Permanente to UCI Health to City of Hope.