Imagine a hospital where patients wear comfortable clothes from home rather than hospital gowns. Where the hallway floors look like a boardwalk and images of San Diego’s beautiful landscapes and landmarks fill the walls and rooms. Imagine you are staying in the La Jolla, or perhaps, the Coronado Room instead of patient room 615.

Welcome to the new Advanced Spine & Joint Institute at Alvarado Hospital, which is unlike any other in San Diego. Not only does the patient unit incorporate healing design, but everything from patient education to clothing to rehabilitation to reunion lunches are created to ensure optimal outcomes for patients undergoing spine surgery or joint reconstruction.

“From the moment patients visit the orthopedist office until they attend a follow-up reunion lunch a few months post-surgery, they are undergoing a defined process that has proven to have superior recovery results and high patient satisfaction scores,” said Robin Gomez, Alvarado Hospital administrator. “Our new program is modeled after the nationally renowned Marshall Steele program and is the only Marshall Steele spine and joint program in San Diego.”

More than 20 years ago, Dr. Marshall Steele created a spine and joint replacement program on the East Coast that was patient- and family-friendly and focused on the patient experience across all touch points, as well as create a continuum of care that overhauled the traditional model of care delivery.

“This game-changing care model, ultimately, leads to sustainable superior results,” said Dr. Choll Kim, Spine Institute co-medical director. “As part of the program, hospitals that utilize the Marshall Steele program measure and openly share outcomes so patients can be fully informed. “This care model allows community hospitals to compete with large academic medical centers’ spine and joint programs.”

The Advanced Spine & Joint Institute offers the latest advances in surgery, including laser and other minimally invasive procedures for spine, as well as traditional surgery. The spine surgeons also utilize the O-Arm technology, which provides real-time 3D images of patients’ internal anatomy. For joint reconstruction, Alvarado Hospital orthopedists have access to robotic-assisted technology and state-of-the-art knee implants, including custom-made implants.

Another popular component of the program is the focus on wellness, which encourages patients to wear clothes from home and to identify a family member to be a coach throughout the experience. The coach attends the educational sessions, rehabilitation, group gourmet meals and can spend the night if convenient—all to provide emotional support to the patient to enhance recovery.

Also unique to the program are comprehensive education and nurse coordinators. The patients receive a proprietary guidebook that provides extensive pre- and post-operative education to help ensure the best possible outcome. A nurse coordinator helps each patient navigate through the process of choosing an orthopedic surgeon, getting ready for surgery, in-hospital support and follow-up.

“This program is changing the way we practice medicine and treat our patients—it is an approach that will expand and soon change the entire way the hospital practices medicine and serves patients,” said James Bates, Joint Institute medical director.

“Patient-reported outcomes, latest surgical techniques, early mobility, enhanced patient experience and dedicated unit all drive performance improvement, advances the art of medicine, and offers San Diegans a program unlike any other in the region,” added Ramin Raiszadeh, Spine Institute co-medical director.

Alvarado Hospital is ranked among America's 100 Best Hospitals for Orthopedic Surgery and Spine Surgery, as well as the only San Diego hospital to be in the top 5% in the nation for Clinical Excellence and Patient Safety Excellence in 2015.

The Advanced Spine & Joint Institute at Alvarado Hospital opens officially at Alvarado Hospital on July 23. For more information about the program, visit or call (619) 229-4548. For a physician referral, call (800) 258-2723. Most insurance plans are accepted.

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