Senior Medical Director, Gyne & Sexual Health, Specialized Programs, Medical Genetics | BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre
As an OB/GYN, Stephanie Rhone understands that women’s health goes beyond the physical. The emotional aspects of reproductive health concerns add greater urgency to providing care that truly supports a patient. Through her leadership and innovation at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, Stephanie has positively impacted countless women and people through innovative programs that centre the patient experience.
Many patients experience long wait times for gynecological surgeries due to system-wide access and coordination issues. In gynecology and other surgical fields, technology and surgical techniques have evolved to maximize minimally invasive technique and to reduce need for general anesthetic. However these surgeries continue to be performed in operating rooms due to lack of alternate facilities, with OR access limited by competing demands on hospital resources.
After looking at innovative models outside of BC, Stephanie found examples of gynecologic daycare surgeries which can be performed with only small amounts of anesthesia. These procedures are done outside of resource-intensive operating rooms, are less invasive and feature faster recovery times for patients. Stephanie then developed a model which provides more appropriate care for patients, ensures efficient use of hospital resources, provide surgeons with the opportunity to learn a new sedation technique required by the surgeries (called procedural sedation) and free up operating rooms for more complex surgery.
Once she had engaged colleagues and patients to ensure the new model would work for them, Stephanie led a pilot in September 2017 to implement the shift to procedural sedation. In total, 178 women had outpatient procedures during the pilot, which was found to improve the patient experience and decrease the average wait from 56 days to just 20.
Following its success, the pilot expanded regionally in 2018 and further in 2021 with the opening of the new Procedural Sedation Care Unit. Gynecology Daycare Surgery at BC Women’s is up 50% in 2021 over 2020 even with the challenges presented by COVID-19. Surgeons and medical residents have been trained in procedural sedation, and the health care system has benefited from decreased demand on operating rooms: more than 175 days of OR time were freed up in the Lower Mainland, decreasing surgical wait times for complex cases.
Another example of Stephanie’s leadership in improving complex systems of care is the hospital’s Early Pregnancy Assessment Clinic. Until Stephanie led the establishment of the clinic in 2011, patients experiencing miscarriages in the first trimester of pregnancy received fragmented care from their family doctor or emergency departments. Although there is no treatment to prevent an early miscarriage, it’s a traumatic experience made worse by the lack of timely and supportive services. The clinic provides rapid access to compassionate care, which improves the experience for patients and ultimately eases the burden on emergency rooms and reduces out of hours surgery. It cares for seven women each day, and its model has been replicated at Surrey Memorial Hospital with support from BCWH.
Through these initiatives and others across her portfolio, and her passion for improving women’s health, Stephanie has strengthened the ability of the health care system to respond to the needs of women and people who are navigating reproductive health challenges. Her work honours the emotional aspects of care, by ensuring that is timely and respectful of each patient’s unique experience.
In the words of one colleague, “Stephanie inspires and mentors physicians to look at the environment we work in, critically analyze it and then find pathways for improvement. Her openness and availability create a space where leaders can both thrive and support their own leadership growth without ever feeling unsupported.” Her efforts have led to system-wide improvements that benefit patients across BC but is felt most deeply by the patients who navigate their complex journeys with greater ease and support, thanks to her leadership.