More distinctions for Community Regional's total joint program

Community Regional Medical Center’s total joint replacement program received its latest vote of confidence with the designation by UnitedHealth as a “Premium Total Joint Replacement Specialty Center.”

To earn the specialty center designation from UnitedHealth, Community had to exceed a rigorous set of criteria based on nationally recognized medical standards developed by a scientific advisory board of orthopedic surgeons.

“It’s been my feeling for many years that many people feel that they’re experts at what they do,” said Dr. Kevin Lester. “By applying objective measurement criteria, we find out who the best is. It turns out [Community Regional] is the best. It’s a tribute to the hospital’s backing of what we do.”

That’s one of the reasons why doctors from all over the world come to see Dr. Lester perform surgery, especially when he performs the mini-incision technique, which uses a single three-inch small incision and, according to Dr. Lester, has an average recovery period of three days, about half-that of the national average.

“Mini-incision, which started in Fresno, changed the way hip surgeries are performed all around the world,” Dr. Lester said.

“We get people from all over the world, people from places like Germany, where they don’t think it can be done,” Dr. Lester said.

“They come to see the whole experience, and when they leave, they know it can be done.”

Included in the criteria to become a specialty center were Community’s presence of orthopedic training, advanced surgical technology and patient outcomes, including recovery time and infection rate.

“We are trying to create a center of excellence,” said Gloria Lovering, manager of the total joint program.

Lovering said she knows of only one other total joint facility with the center of excellence title, making it a truly unique distinction. She said she expects it could happen for Community as early as this year.

Community employs a hand-picked team strictly dedicated to the program, one that according to Dr. Lester, performs like the cast of a Broadway show.

“I like to look at it as if we were on Broadway,” Dr. Lester said. “We all know our roles, we know our lines and we work so well together. The team is very demanding of itself.”

The total joint designation adds to the program’s previous honor, a five-star rating for total hip replacement given to Community Regional for the third year in a row by HealthGrades, an independent health care ratings organization.

HealthGrades also awarded Community a five-star rating for hip fracture repair. A five-star rating is the highest available from the organization, and is reserved for only the top 10% to 15% of hospitals nationwide.

The nationally acclaimed joint replacement program uses minimally invasive surgical techniques for partial and complete joint replacements, reducing the size of the incision and time needed to complete the procedure. Patients can also expect a faster recovery time and fewer infections through these minimally invasive techniques.

“Some of our patients are up walking on the first day,” Lovering said. “We are working on some rapid health recovery procedures where patients could possibly go home the same day.”

This story was reported by Darrell Copeland . He can be reached at