Dr Richard De Villiers – Reimagining

Posted on 26 September 2019

Winelands Radiology at Mediclinic Winelands Orthopaedic Hospital is a dedicated musculoskeletal radiology unit and is the first within the Mediclinic group. Winelands Radiology has a second smaller satellite unit at the South African Sports Science Unit in Cape Town. These units are unique as only orthopaedic and sports medicine patients are seen.

Chief radiologist Dr Richard de Villiers and his team are onsite to provide the expertise necessary to service the onsite specialised orthopaedic surgeons, as well patients as referred from elsewhere.

In late 2000, Dr de Villiers and Dr Spike Erasmus met with Mediclinic to look towards the establishment of a specialist orthopaedic hospital in Stellenbosch. This initiative was partly due to an Australian visionary, Dr Jock Anderson, who had initiated a similar concept in Sydney, Australia a few years previously. Dr Anderson was the keynote speaker at the 1st South African Sports Imaging Congress, which was held in Cape Town in 1999. Both Dr de Villiers and Erasmus were speakers at this meeting, where they also became acquainted with Dr Anderson. Dr Anderson was also part of the meeting with Mediclinic, where the ideas of Drs de Villiers and Erasmus were discussed in detail.

Dr Jock Anderson was the chief radiologist at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The unit was within the Olympic village and hosted in-site X-rays, ultrasound, CT and MRI, as well as the first fully digital PACS unit in Australia. Truly groundbreaking work. This enabled the best possible treatment to injured Olympic athletes. Dr de Villiers was fortunate enough to be invited to work with Dr Anderson at the Sydney Olympic Imaging Unit. It is here that he made invaluable contacts and friends with like-minded musculoskeletal radiologists, many who had returned from top-level MSK training fellowships in the United States. The learning curve was steep, but this inspired him to try and emulate a similar level of expertise in South Africa.

Together with Dr. Mark Velleman from Pretoria, also an MSK radiologist, and a few other like-minded radiologists, the South African Musculoskeletal Imaging Group ( SAMSIG) was formed in 2005. This group’s aim was to improve and promote musculoskeletal radiology in South Africa, to be able to conform to international standards. Dr De Villiers is the present president of SAMSIG. He also serves on the South African Sports Medicine committee and is a member of the International Skeletal Society.

The aim of the radiology team at the Winelands Orthopaedic hospital is to give the best possible service to both their patients and referring physicians. The whole team is actively involved to make the visit to the unit memorable, time-efficient and cost-effective. “We would like to ensure that all the patients who visit the unit receive value, which means excellent quality as well as being cost-efficient. Teamwork between the different members is of the utmost importance,” explains Dr de Villiers.

Single focus delivers expertise

With this backdrop, it is obvious why the practice at Mediclinic Winelands Orthopaedic Hospital is a success. “I believe that we are one of the most dynamic musculoskeletal practices around,” he says, “Our patients are actively part of the decision making process. We give them feedback and provide the options for further diagnosis if needed. We want them to feel like they are receiving a service rather than simply part of a diagnosis process.”

“This has proven to be the right formula. Our relationship with doctors in the community means that when there is a specific musculoskeletal injury, patients are sent directly to us for swift diagnosis. We pride ourselves on patients not sitting endlessly waiting to be scanned,” he explains. “And as with anything in life, the more you work with a particular element of your work, the greater your accuracy and expertise becomes.”

What is apparent by the ‘wall of champions’ situated in the middle of the practice, is that many national and international sporting stars have been scanned, x-rayed and diagnosed by this team. Autographs of many well-known heroes adorn the wall – and what is also noticeable is the range of sporting codes represented.

Working alongside some of the leading specialists in their field of orthopaedics has given Dr de Villiers a chance to experience some interesting patient cases and he believes that the partnership between Mediclinic Winelands Orthopaedic Hospital and the Institute of Orthopaedics and Rheumatology (IOR), will allow for even greater research and expertise to be developed in the hospital. Many of the doctors working at the unit have published widely, as well as being speakers at national and international meetings in their respective disciplines.

“I believe that the opportunity currently exists in the healthcare industry to do things better,” he elaborates. “My exposure to Telemedicine (the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients using telecommunications technology) has definitely shown me how the rest of the world is solving problems. Subject matter experts are available with the click of the button, meaning prompt and accurate diagnosis, sharing expertise across a number of facilities while driving the productivity of available specialists and reducing costs by not duplicating skills.”

“If our common goal is excellence, I believe that patients will experience the benefits through improved care and stronger clinical outcomes,” he concludes. A strong statement for a thriving practice. In the meantime, Stellenbosch – a city renowned for its sporting culture – can rely on the expertise available locally to swiftly diagnose potential injuries.

Published in Innovation