Scott Zeller, MD, Vice President of Acute Psychiatry at Vituity, a leading physician-owned healthcare delivery organization, was awarded the 2019 Ritz E. Heerman Memorial Award from the California Hospital Association (CHA). This award, named in honor of CHA’s first president, is granted for a specific outstanding contribution to the improvement of patient care in California. Dr. Zeller was awarded this distinction for his design and development of customized programs to help hospitals and health systems transform the treatment protocols and raise the standard of care for behavioral health patients.
Dr. Zeller has pioneered and refined an innovative delivery model to address psychiatric emergencies – known as EmPATH Unit (Emergency Psychiatry Assessment, Treatment, and Healing). Using the EmPATH approach, emergency and psychiatric care teams stabilize and treat high-acuity emergency patients, including those on involuntary status or considered dangerous to themselves or others, in a less stressful and restrictive setting.
At Vituity, Zeller’s EmPATH model has resulted in a 75-80% decrease in the need for inpatient hospitalizations and has dramatically lowered the number of hours patients wait in the general ED while increasing cost margins by freeing up beds to care for medical patients. Dr. Zeller has helped to implement EmPATH Units in multiple states in a variety of setting such as big cities like Los Angeles or a small rural hospital in Indiana, from academic hospitals to community facilities.
“Dr. Zeller is one of our country’s leading experts and voices for positive change in acute behavioral healthcare,” says Vituity’s President, Theo Koury, MD. “His work and advocacy have transformed traditional methods involving often inhumane containment and forcible medications, to patient-centric, compassionate approaches utilizing calming techniques and environment redesign . These methods have proven to be more effective and safer overall while improving patient satisfaction and treatment outcomes.”
Dr. Zeller’s impact on education for emergency psychiatric care is also substantial. “Zeller’s Six Goals for Emergency Psychiatric Care" are ubiquitously quoted in medical literature, and are considered the core tenets for designing emergency mental health systems worldwide. He co-authored the textbook “Emergency Psychiatry: Principles and Practice,” which is known as the cornerstone for emergency psychiatry education and training. His 2017 book, "The Diagnosis and Management of Agitation,” is the only textbook ever written focused solely on the care of agitated individuals. Dr. Zeller has also been a prominent advocate nationally in suicide prevention efforts and the movement to reduce stigma in behavioral healthcare.
The National Council for Behavioral Health, representing over 800,000 professionals, recognized Dr. Zeller’s overall impact by naming him their USA Doctor of the Year in 2015.
As a practicing emergency psychiatrist, healthcare executive, patient advocate, policy and change advocate, pioneer, innovator, and researcher, Dr. Scott Zeller’s leadership has resulted in a much higher standard of care for acute psychiatric patients nationwide and worldwide.
As a physician-led and -owned, multispecialty partnership, Vituity has driven positive change in the business and practice of healthcare for nearly 50 years. Our more than 3,500 doctors and clinicians provide compassionate, integrated acute care nationwide, serving over 6.4 million patients annually.