Jefferson assumes ownership of Wills Eye inpatient, residency programs

Philadelphia-Changes in the way ophthalmology is practiced have led Wills Eye Hospital to transfer its inpatient and ophthalmology residency programs to Thomas Jefferson University and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

With the move, which was effective July 1, Wills Eye Hospital has gained access to the basic research infrastructure at Jefferson and will continue to provide outpatient care. Jefferson has furthered its commitment to education and patient care by taking responsibility for the oldest ophthalmology residency program in the country and a well-regarded, high-volume inpatient program, according to officials from the institutions.

The latest agreement is "just a natural course of events to try to find a partner to help us compete in today's health-care market," said James Mulvihill, chief executive officer, Wills Eye Hospital.

"It's clear, across the board, that ophthalmology now is an outpatient specialty, and it's rare when patients have to stay in the hospital, so we didn't feel that it was necessary for us to remain in the inpatient hospital business," said William S. Tasman, MD, chairman of the department of ophthalmology at Jefferson Medical College and ophthalmologist-in-chief at Wills Eye Hospital. "If we divest ourselves of the inpatient business and concentrate on outpatient, we can devote all our resources to that."

Mulvihill said the institution's main facility currently has about 40,000 outpatient visits per year.

"As an independent institution, we didn't have the infrastructure to do that kind of work," he said. "Jefferson has a very active basic research department, which will afford us an opportunity to utilize some of that for help in our projects."

Mulvihill and Dr. Tasman said they hope that adding basic research to its repertoire will increase Wills Eye Hospital's momentum in U.S. News & World Report's ranking of best hospitals to number one from its current number three position. In addition, Wills Eye Hospital was ranked number five overall, and its clinical program was ranked number three, in the 2005 Ophthalmology Times Best Programs survey of ophthalmology department chairmen and residency program directors.

Diversifying decades ago, Mulvihill said that Wills Eye Hospital inpatients started dwindling 10 years ago.