Dr. Ramaswamy with patient

After a year of monumental clinical growth across the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is even better prepared to meet the growing demand for expert ear, nose and throat (ENT) care.

Not only did the department expand to two new locations in the second half of 2021, but it also hired new physicians specializing in allergy, laryngology, otology and rhinology.

These changes make it easier for local patients to find high-quality general otolaryngology and allergy care. They also ensure that patients with rare or complex conditions have timely access to care.

Multiple factors driving patient demand

As the Columbus market continues to grow, and the general population continues to age, the need for otolaryngology care in central Ohio – and beyond – is greater than ever.

“We’re seeing more people with non-urgent conditions like hearing loss, intractable balance problems and sleep disordered breathing,” says neurotologist Oliver Adunka, MD, MBA, FACS, the department’s vice chair of Clinical Operations. “And the treatment options for many of these conditions, such as hearing implants and sleep apnea implant devices, have improved substantially in recent years. All of this leads to more people looking for help.”

Arick Forrest, MD, MBA, medical director of Ambulatory Services and vice dean of Clinical Affairs at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, says there was also a lot of pent-up demand because people weren’t seeking care during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Just like other health systems across the country, our business was impacted by COVID-19 for a solid year,” he says. “We started to see a rebound last summer among patients needing treatment for things like allergies, chronic sinusitis and head and neck cancer. And we’ve seen growth across the board ever since.”

In the last 12 months, patient volumes have gone up in nearly every division. This includes a:

  • 19% increase in the Division of General Otolaryngology
  • 26% boost in the Division of Allergy and Immunology
  • 36% jump in the Division of Laryngology

The recent addition of new faculty and clinics helps ensure that wait times for ENT appointments don’t increase along with demand. Despite this recent growth, otolaryngologists at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center still see most patients within 14 days.

Caring for patients at a local, regional and national level

Experts in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery also see patients referred by providers from beyond central Ohio.

“Part of the reason we’re ranked the No. 8 ENT department in the nation by U.S. News is because we’ve created unique destination programs that aren’t available in many communities,” says Mark Inman, the department’s administrator and chief operating officer. “We’ve also built strong relationships with many physicians who know we’ll take really good care of their patients.”

Some of these advanced destination services include:

  • Acoustic neuroma surgery
  • Cochlear implantation
  • Head and neck cancer care
  • Skull-base surgery
  • Treatment for voice and swallowing disorders

Dr. Adunka notes that as more people turn to the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center for otolaryngology care, the increased volume also drives new clinical research opportunities – helping the team push the field forward even further.

“Our ability to lead clinical trials and other research activities relies on patient enrollment,” he says. “Our recent clinical growth gives more patients a chance to participate in promising research and, in some cases, try game-changing treatments they wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.”

Building for the future

In the coming months and years, the department will continue its efforts to offer leading-edge services to more local patients.

In August 2022, it will expand to another new location in the city of Dublin. This facility will offer general otolaryngology and allergy care, as well as outpatient otolaryngology surgery in a standalone surgery center.

“While we’re continuing our tradition of having strong subspecialty programs, we’re also making sure we offer the full breadth of otolaryngology care in our own communities,” Dr. Forrest says. “We’re making it easier for our patients to get routine ENT care closer to where they live and work. And should they need more advanced treatment, they have prompt access to nationally ranked subspecialists, right here in Columbus.”

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