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CEO Column

RalphUPHS is a broad but tightly connected health system.

One of the things that unites us is an emphasis on making good use of shrinking health-care resources through programs and research that improve care, lower readmissions, and save dollars.

For example, our transitions-in-care initiative keeps patients out of the hospital by making sure that they’re linked to primary care physicians, have the right medications, and in general, know what to do after discharge.

Recently, four exciting UPHS projects that also aim to make patients healthier while saving money have been selected for funding by the federal government.

The first two are Health Care Innovation Award winners selected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. One, led by David Asch, MD, MBA, and Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, will use remote monitoring and a visual and audible reminder system to improve medication-compliance among discharged heart-attack patients in our area. It will also train social workers to provide additional monitoring -- as well as offer incentives to the patients for compliance and enlist the support of family members and friends to help keep patients on their regimens. This project builds on Dr. Asch’s and Dr. Volpp’s impressive work applying insights from behavioral economics to improve patient health.

The second, led by David Casarett, MD, chief medical officer for Penn Wissahickon Hospice and a member of our Department of Medicine, will test a full set of home-care services for Medicare and Medicaid recipients with advanced cancer but who are not yet eligible for hospice care. The project will provide symptom management, general care, and emotional and spiritual assistance to patients, enabling them to remain in their homes and avoid costly hospitalizations. It will enable Dr. Casarett and Penn Home Care & Hospice Services, where the initiative will be based, to play a leading part in shaping the future of home-based care.

Next, our Center for Evidence-based Practice, in partnership with the ECRI Institute, has been selected by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) as one of its 11 new Evidence-based Practice Centers. This major accomplishment means that Penn clinicians and researchers can bid for contracts through AHRQ and other funding organizations to review and synthesize literature on therapeutic and diagnostic  interventions to assess which are most beneficial to patients. The findings can be used as the basis for health-care-related decisions by the federal government, states, and national medical societies as well as serve as the basis for future policy and clinical measures, insurance coverage, quality standards, and educational materials.

And the US Department of Health and Human Services has selected HUP as one of five hospitals that will take part in a nationwide initiative to train more nurses at a higher level. The four-year project, funded under the Affordable Care Act, will enable HUP to increase training opportunities for advanced practice registered nurses -- nurses with post-graduate training -- to diagnose illnesses, prescribe medication and treatment regimens, and perform certain medical procedures. The goal is to strengthen the nation's primary care work force by placing more such nurses into practice and help fill gaps in non-hospital community-based settings, including in underserved areas. Training will take place at over 200 training sites throughout southeastern Pennsylvania. The project, which will help offset the costs of clinical education of advanced-practice nurses, features a consortium that includes Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Pennsylvania Hospital, CPUP, CCA, and CHOP, as well as Penn’s School of Nursing and eight other area nursing schools.

I know you join me in congratulating everyone involved in developing these important projects and in offering best wishes for success in carrying them out. Together they reinforce our system-wide commitment to creating new approaches that bring hope to patients and their families while keeping a keen eye on the need to rein in costs, thus ensuring that our nation’s health care dollars go farther and with greater effect. This is indeed the Penn way.

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