Westchester Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Pavilion: A New Era in Outpatient Care for the Hudson Valley

By Thomas Crocker
Monday, January 6, 2020

Long known as the Hudson Valley’s premier provider of tertiary and quaternary care, Westchester Medical Center — the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) — is raising the bar for outpatient services in the region with its new Ambulatory Care Pavilion in Valhalla.

Located adjacent to Westchester Medical Center at 100 Woods Road in Valhalla, the Ambulatory Care Pavilion opened earlier this year. The eight-story Ambulatory Care Pavilion is the crown jewel of a $230 million, 280,000-square-foot expansion project on the Westchester Medical Center campus, which includes 260,000 square feet for the Ambulatory Care Pavilion and the addition of 20,000 square feet of private inpatient rooms to Westchester Medical Center’s main tower.

The biggest healthcare construction project in Westchester County since the 1977 opening of the main tower of Westchester Medical Center and the 2004 opening of WMCHealth’s Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, the Ambulatory Care Pavilion epitomizes WMCHealth’s commitment to meeting the Hudson Valley’s changing healthcare needs. Chief among those needs is comprehensive outpatient care — including same-day surgery — in one convenient, patient-centered location. The Ambulatory Care Pavilion currently houses the WMCHealth Heart and Vascular Institute and the Advanced Imaging Center, as well as Westchester Medical Center’s outpatient Surgery Center. In late summer, physician offices for gastroenterology, under the leadership of Edward Lebovics, MD, Chief of Gastroenterology, and transplant services, under the direction of Thomas Diflo, MD, Chief of Intra-Abdominal Organ Transplantation, were added to the new facility, along with the anesthesiology program led by Peter Panzica, MD, Chief of Anesthesiology.

“Westchester Medical Center has a long history of handling the most complex clinical scenarios, including caring for patients with major trauma and performing heart transplantation,” says Julio Panza, MD, Chief of Cardiology at Westchester Medical Center. “The Ambulatory Care Pavilion is a statement that we are also a destination for patients before they get to the point where they need advanced therapies.”

Zvi Lefkovitz, MD, FACR, Director of Radiology at Westchester Medical Center, and Jacquelyn Gargano, radiology technologist, prepare a patient for imaging in the Ambulatory Care Pavilion’s spectral detector-based CT machine.

A Healing Environment

Ambient lighting and calming images projected on the walls and ceiling add to the healing, patient-centered experience of the Ambulatory Care Pavilion as Bindhu Mathew, RN, speaks with a patient prior to a scan in the spectral detector-based CT machine.

A hallmark of the Ambulatory Care Pavilion is the marriage of state-of-the-art technology and patient-centered design to create an environment of care that values privacy, comfort and healing. Nowhere is that environment more evident than in the Advanced Imaging Center and WMCHealth Heart and Vascular Institute spaces on the first and second floors. Staff members converse with patients in private spaces, and natural light floods large, high-ceilinged lounges.

For Zvi Lefkovitz, MD, FACR, Director of Radiology at Westchester Medical Center, privacy for imaging patients was so important he made a point of discussing it with the Ambulatory Care Pavilion’s architect.

“Once patients change into a gown for CT, MRI or X-ray, they should be provided a private room,” Dr. Lefkovitz says. “In my career, I’ve seen mixed-gown waiting rooms, which are almost always an uncomfortable environment for patients. It was a goal of mine for the Ambulatory Care Pavilion to have private waiting rooms for radiology to ensure the most comfortable experience possible for our patients.”

In the Advanced Imaging Center, generously sized private rooms have lockers for patients to store valuables. Individuals awaiting a CT or MRI study have a TV in their rooms, and those requiring an IV start prior to their exams receive it at a private nursing station.

Rifat Latifi, MD, FACS, FICS, Director of the Department of Surgery and Chief of General Surgery at Westchester Medical Center, prepares for surgery.

Patient comfort is an important aspect of the Ambulatory Care Pavilion’s enhanced environment of care. Patients benefit from the Ambulatory Care Pavilion’s ambient experience, an immersive, customizable blend of dynamic lighting, wall projection and sound by Philips, a medical technology partner of WMCHealth. Prior to an MRI, for example, patients select a theme — such as plants, animals or landscapes — on a tablet. Lighting, wall projection and sound correlating with that theme fill the room. The resulting atmosphere soothes and distracts patients during the test. While a patient’s MRI is in progress, a video displayed on a mirror provides distraction and important information, such as instructions for the test and updates about duration. The ambient experience reduces the need for rescans by increasing patient relaxation and minimizing patient movement during exams.

“Undergoing a cardiac MRI can be stressful, even if the time in the scanner is relatively short,” Dr. Panza says. “Likewise, a cardiac catheterization can provoke anxiety, even with local anesthesia. With the new technology in our new facility, our goal isn’t just to obtain the best images and provide clinicians with necessary information — it’s also to create a soothing experience for patients.”

Julio Panza, MD, Chief of Cardiology at Westchester Medical Center, and Gabrielle Fried, RN, Vice President, Cardiovascular Services, discuss a patient case in one of the Ambulatory Care Pavilion’s new, state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization labs.

Technology-Driven Imaging Services

In late May, radiology services became the first to relocate to the Ambulatory Care Pavilion, although Advanced Imaging retains a significant presence at the nearby 19 Bradhurst Avenue building in Hawthorne, which features breast imaging, PET/CT, MRI, X-ray and ultrasound. Located on the first floor of the Ambulatory Care Pavilion, the Advanced Imaging Center offers:

  • CT
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray

The Advanced Imaging staff in the Ambulatory Care Pavilion includes six nurses, at least two technologists each for CT, ultrasound and X-ray, and four technologists for MRI. The radiology area features a six-workstation reading room where a radiologist is always available to the technologists and for consultation with referring physicians.

A defining feature of the Advanced Imaging Center is world-class technology. One such piece of equipment is the Philips Ingenia Elition 3.0T MRI machine, which enhances the quality of image studies of multiple organs and systems, including the brain and the musculoskeletal system, according to Dr. Lefkovitz. The machine can perform scans up to 50% faster than other devices.

“The Ingenia Elition 3.0T has significant applications for vascular imaging and is uniquely suited for prostate imaging,” Dr. Lefkovitz says. “All of our prostate imaging patients are scheduled on this machine because it allows us to perform prostate imaging in a noninvasive manner. Formerly, patients needed placement of an endorectal coil as part of prostate imaging. That was uncomfortable and lasted about 30 minutes. With the 3.0T machine, the coil is not necessary, and imaging is completely noninvasive. That makes patients far less hesitant to have these exams.”

Dr. Lefkovitz in the Ambulatory Care Pavilion’s Vascular Interventional Radiology lab

The Ingenia Elition 3.0T is not the only leading-edge MRI scanner at the Ambulatory Care Pavilion. Its sister machine, the Philips Ingenia Ambition 1.5T — only the second of its kind to be installed in the United States — improves safety and performance by using less than half of 1% of the typical 1,500 liters of liquid helium used to cool similar machines during operation. The fully sealed magnet keeps helium from escaping, which boosts operator safety and prevents the machine from being taken out of service to replace lost helium.

“Helium is expensive, and it’s not always readily available,” Dr. Lefkovitz says. “With only 7 liters of helium encased in a magnet, the Ingenia Ambition 1.5T is much safer to install and operate. One doesn’t have to worry about the potential of inhaling evaporated helium. This machine is remarkably advanced.”

Like the Ingenia Elition 3.0T, the Ingenia Ambition 1.5T can perform scans that are up to 50% faster than other machines. It can also reduce patient breath-hold time by up to 40% and produces images of musculoskeletal structures with up to 60% higher resolution than other devices.

The Advanced Imaging Center’s commitment to using the latest technology extends to CT as well. Using the Philips IQon — one of North America’s first spectral detector-based CT machines — radiologists can obtain spectral imaging studies on demand.

“With other spectral CT units, you need to know in advance that you want to do spectral imaging,” Dr. Lefkovitz says. “With the Philips IQon, because it’s detector-based, you don’t have to design the test to get spectral imaging — you can get it anytime. That’s crucial because spectral imaging allows for the use of color to characterize the material content of structures. You can differentiate calcium from contrast or contrast from blood, which is a critically important differentiation that may not be possible without spectral imaging.”

The IQon allows radiologists to spot inconspicuous lesions and use far less intravenous contrast, which reduces the potential for kidney harm, Dr. Lefkovitz adds.

Advanced Imaging also has a presence on the Ambulatory Care Pavilion’s second floor with its vascular interventional radiology lab. There, interventional radiologists perform a variety of procedures, including:

  • Biopsies of organs or suspicious masses
  • Dialysis interventions
  • Liver chemoembolization
  • Biliary procedures
  • Genitourinary procedures
  • Geniculate artery embolizations to treat moderate knee pain
  • Placements of central line and tunneled catheters
  • Prostate embolizations
  • Uterine fibroid embolizations

“In the Ambulatory Care Pavilion, patients benefit from the most advanced technology on the planet,” Dr. Lefkovitz says. “Everything they need is here, in Westchester County, in a unique environment designed for patient comfort and safety.”

“The Ambulatory Care Pavilion is a prime environment in which physicians and other providers can do their best work for patients. It’s a superb place to perform a procedure and to have one.”
— Rifat Latifi, MD, FACS, FICS, Director of the Department of Surgery and Chief of General Surgery at Westchester Medical Center

Dr. Latifi in one of the Ambulatory Care Pavilion’s eight dedicated outpatient operating rooms

Outpatient Cardiovascular Services

Joining the Advanced Imaging Center on the first and second floors of the Ambulatory Care Pavilion is the WMCHealth Heart and Vascular Institute, which brings more than 30 cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and vascular surgeons to the new facility. The WMCHealth Heart and Vascular Institute’s clinic spaces are on the first floor of the Ambulatory Care Pavilion, along with noninvasive cardiovascular imaging and testing, including:

  • Cardiac CT
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Echocardiography
  • Nuclear studies
  • Stress testing

The WMCHealth Heart and Vascular Institute began performing noninvasive tests in the Ambulatory Care Pavilion in June.

“Our nuclear camera is state-of-the-art,” Dr. Panza says. “It significantly increases sensitivity, exposing patients to much less radiation. The amount of nuclear material given to the patient is minimized by the camera’s greater sensitivity. That’s a unique feature of our cardiac imaging capabilities in the Ambulatory Care Pavilion.”

In early July, WMCHealth Heart and Vascular Institute physicians began performing diagnostic and non-emergent therapeutic cardiac catheterizations in the Ambulatory Care Pavilion’s two cardiac catheterization laboratories on the second floor. That brings the total number of cardiac cath labs on the Westchester Medical Center campus to eight, with opportunities to expand in the future, as patient volume dictates.

“We have Philips technology in the cardiac catheterization labs, and the equipment is the best in the world,” Dr. Panza says. “It allows us to reduce radiation exposure during procedures.”

Sharing the second floor with the cardiac cath labs and the WMCHealth Heart and Vascular Institute’s transesophageal echocardiogram procedure room are eight new operating rooms, dedicated to outpatient procedures. That proximity is an advantage for surgeons and other physicians.

“Being on the same floor as the ORs allows our teams to have fluid exchanges of expertise with the anesthesiologists and nurses who are involved in the pre- and post-operative treatment of patients undergoing surgery and cardiac catheterization,” Dr. Panza says. “That makes collaboration much more seamless.”

In the coming months, Dr. Panza envisions the Ambulatory Care Pavilion becoming a hub not just for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, but also for prevention. He and his colleagues will soon unveil a cardiovascular disease prevention program that will be based in the Ambulatory Care Pavilion and will serve as a resource to educate the public about heart health.

“This program will allow us to expand beyond secondary prevention — when an individual has cardiovascular disease and wants to prevent it from getting worse — to be much more focused on primary prevention,” Dr. Panza says. “My vision is for the Ambulatory Care Pavilion to be the headquarters for that effort.”

“The Ambulatory Care Pavilion is not just an investment in steel and glass, but a true investment by Westchester Medical Center in the physical and mental health of Hudson Valley residents, putting Westchester County and the entire Hudson Valley at the forefront of healthcare delivery.”
— Michael D. Israel, WMCHealth President and CEO

Dr. Panza in the WMCHealth Heart and Vascular Institute with Noemi Mercado, PA (left), Practice Manager Danielle Maxwell (standing, center) and medical assistant Ericka Francomano

A Regional Destination for Ambulatory Surgery

One of WMCHealth’s most important goals for the Ambulatory Care Pavilion project was to create a centralized, state-of-the-art home for outpatient surgery on the Westchester Medical Center campus, and that is exactly what the ambulatory surgery program achieved at the new Surgery Center. The first floor includes a pre-procedure testing area and soon will welcome a retail pharmacy. The second floor features the eight ambulatory surgery ORs (expandable to 10), equipped with the latest technology, as well as more than 30 private, spacious pre- and post-procedure bays.

“The ORs are truly exceptional,” says Rifat Latifi, MD, FACS, FICS, Director of the Department of Surgery and Chief of General Surgery at Westchester Medical Center. “They have every element of technology possible that the surgeon may need. We have immediate access to imaging and other studies, and we can consult immediately with other specialists.”

Dr. Latifi and his colleagues have the capabilities to perform the full gamut of ambulatory operations in the Ambulatory Care Pavilion — essentially, any surgery possible, he says.

“As a tertiary and quaternary care center, Westchester Medical Center handles the most complex surgical procedures,” Dr. Latifi says. “Surgeons can perform any procedure in the ORs at the Ambulatory Care Pavilion. These ORs are patient- and provider-centered, and are truly a great place to work.”

Dr. Latifi invites Hudson Valley physicians to witness the capabilities of this “quite amazing institution” in person.

“Physicians from across the region should visit us at the Ambulatory Care Pavilion,” he says. “We would love to show them the facility. Anyone who sees it leaves with a smile on their face.”

For additional information about the Ambulatory Care Pavilion, visit westchestermedicalcenter.com/ambulatory-care-pavilion.