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Two of the Nation’s Top Hospitals for Spinal Cord Injury and Brain Injury Rehabilitation Partner to Improve Patient Care and Access

June 26, 2014

New Center of Excellence Alliance will offer best practices and aim to reduce patients’ medical complications.

Shepherd Center and Craig Hospital – two of the nation’s leading specialized rehabilitation hospitals for people with brain injury and spinal cord injury – announced today they have agreed to establish an alliance to create a first-of-its-kind “center of excellence” for catastrophic injury rehabilitation, long-term acute care and medical care.

This alliance between the two hospitals – the only two in the nation that specialize primarily in the treatment of spinal cord and brain injury – opens new opportunities to advance patient care, improve patient access to top-tier rehabilitation services and share best practices with a wide array of healthcare partners.

The alliance was spurred in part by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has prompted realignment of networks and the post-acute continuum of care to focus on preventing hospital readmissions.

“We want to ensure patients have access to the highest quality of care if they sustain these types of acute injuries,” said Gary Ulicny, Ph.D., Shepherd Center’s president and CEO. “This alliance gives us broader geographic coverage and a more national focus. From a business standpoint, it also helps create better linkages with employers and their health plans, national health plans, workers’ compensation carriers, hospital networks and clinically integrated networks seeking post-acute care partnerships. ”

Many emerging health networks are not equipped to provide, or cannot afford to develop, this type of specialized rehabilitation care, Dr. Ulicny said. Designated centers of excellences can provide intensive, specialized care.

“Of the roughly 1,200 rehabilitation hospitals in the United States, Shepherd Center and Craig Hospital treat some of the most complex cases of acute spinal cord and brain injury. These cases represent a relatively narrow niche of patients,” Dr. Ulicny added.

A central part of the joint effort will build on strategies to engage and educate patients and families throughout the entire rehabilitation process so they are better equipped with the skills and knowledge to identify and handle problems at home after discharge.

“These are lifelong conditions,” said Mike Fordyce, president and CEO of Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo. “This approach can ultimately help prevent re-hospitalizations and give patients and families greater confidence when returning home.”

The alliance will utilize existing resources – for example, Craig Hospital’s Nurse Advice Line call center and Shepherd Center’s Transition Support Program – and create new portable resources (via mobile apps and web-based access) to keep patients and families connected. As centers of excellence, Craig Hospital and Shepherd Center plan to create new affiliations with other providers to strengthen the continuum of care, reduce complications, and help patients find primary and specialty outpatient care in their own communities, as needed.

“Craig Hospital and Shepherd Center have always had close ties,” Fordyce said. “This new alliance is focused on enhancing patient outcomes and capturing operational efficiencies that will assist us in continuing to set the bar for rehabilitation for those affected by catastrophic spinal cord and brain injuries.”

Moreover, the alliance will provide research opportunities and launch an integrated education program to train providers within trauma centers, other rehabilitation facilities, long-term acute care hospitals, home health agencies, health plans and workers’ compensation programs on best practices for spinal cord and brain injury recovery.

“The goal is to become the providers of choice for brain and spinal cord injury care,” Fordyce said.

While Craig Hospital and Shepherd Center remain independent, freestanding institutions, the new alliance will allow these nationally recognized hospitals to provide standardized care and remain competitive within a changing healthcare environment, Fordyce said.

Both hospitals have been consistently ranked among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.


About Shepherd Center: Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Ga., is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury or braininjury. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation and is a 152-bed facility. Last year, Shepherd Center had 992 admissions to its inpatient programs and 571 to its day patient programs. In addition, Shepherd Center sees more than 7,600 people annually on an outpatient basis. Shepherd Center is accredited by The Joint Commission and CARF, and is a recipient of the NDNQI® Award for Nursing Quality. Shepherd Center is designated by the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation and Research (NIDRR) as a Model System Center. For more information, visit Shepherd Center online at

About Craig Hospital: Craig Hospital in Denver, Colo., is world-renowned for the specialty rehabilitation and research for patients with spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. Craig is a 93-bed, private, not-for-profit, free-standing rehabilitation and long-term acute care hospital that provides a comprehensive system of inpatient and outpatient medical care, rehabilitation, neurosurgical rehabilitative care, and long-term follow-up services. Craig is designated by the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation and Research (NIDRR) as a Model System Center for both spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. Craig is the NIDRR National Statistical TBI database for the other 16 Model System Centers in the U.S. Craig received the prestigious Magnet Recognition® for quality in nursing, in 2005-2010 and 2011-2015 and the Magnet Prize® Award in 2012. Craig Hospital has received the NDNQI® award as the nation’s top rehab hospital by the American Nurses, three out of the past four years. Craig has been ranked as a Top Ten rehabilitation center by U.S. News and World Report for 25 consecutive years, since the rankings began.