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UPMC Clinicians Win Beckwith Institute Grants to Engage Patients, Improve Care

PITTSBURGH, July 25, 2014 –To experiment with changes big and small that might better engage patients and improve health care, The Beckwith Institute recently awarded 11 new grants to UPMC clinicians and other staff.

The wide-ranging projects include an effort to develop a shared decision-making tool for family members of patients in intensive care units (ICUs) and the creation of an interactive, Web-based “thermometer” to monitor the mood and energy of adolescents with bipolar disorder.

Supported by UPMC Chairman G. Nicholas Beckwith and his wife, Dotty, with matching funds from UPMC, the Beckwith Institute annually provides grants to improve clinical outcomes by empowering both clinicians and patients to explore innovative ways of transforming health care.

“Through the inspiring leadership and generous financial assistance of Nick and Dotty Beckwith, we are able to empower clinicians and other staff to experiment with new methods for transforming care delivery,” said Tami Minnier, UPMC chief quality officer. “At the heart of every project chosen for this program is an emphasis on engaging and educating patients and families so that they can play a meaningful role in the health care decisions that affect them.”

The grants are administered through two complementary efforts: The Frontline Innovation Program, which focuses on improving the patient bedside experience, and the Clinical Transformation Program, which supports comprehensive redesign of processes to put the involvement of the patient and their loved ones at the core.

The projects awarded 2014-2015 grants include:

  • a novel “mood and energy” tracking application for patients with pediatric bipolar disorder
  • a mobile application that allows patients to track and navigate the complex organ transplant process
  • a Web-based communication and decision support tool to improve the quality of shared decision-making in the ICU and to prepare family members for the role of surrogate decision maker
  • use of personal health monitoring devices for elderly patients with heart disease to promote patient engagement and prevent complications
  • an effort to assess patients for readmission risk and to ensure appropriate outreach after hospital discharge
  • resources to engage pediatric patients in diabetes care
  • standardization of sexual assault care at UPMC facilities
  • an asthma education program for children that includes a nurse hotline and online patient portal
  • a decision-making tool to help patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease make informed treatment decisions
  • development of a protocol that can be used to safely identify and discharge blunt trauma patients who have sustained no significant injury
  • a multidisciplinary effort to reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions for patients with complex health needs

UPMC Named to U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of ‘Best Hospitals’ for 15th Time

UPMC Ranks #1 in Pennsylvania, #1 in Pittsburgh for Clinical Excellence

PITTSBURGH, July 15, 2014 UPMC has once again received national recognition for its clinical expertise, earning 12th position on the annual U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of America’s “Best Hospitals.” UPMC is the highest-ranked medical center in both Pennsylvania and in Pittsburgh.

“While we’re very proud that UPMC was recognized for the 15th year, it is our patients who are the ultimate winners. Our exceptionally skilled and devoted health care professionals do what they do best every day — provide the finest health care in the state and in the region,” said Leslie C. Davis, president, UPMC Hospital and Community Services Division.

“We are honored to receive this national distinction, which recognizes UPMC’s unique combination of high-quality medical care, a top health insurance plan, and close affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh, one of the best medical schools in the country,” added Steven Shapiro, M.D., executive vice president and chief medical and scientific officer at UPMC. “Furthermore, it emphasizes UPMC’s commitment to our patients and showcases how we are leading the way in the development of new technologies and methods of care.”

Nationally, UPMC is ranked for excellence in 15 of 16 specialty areas, and is among the top 10 hospitals in six specialties: ear, nose and throat; gastroenterology; gynecology; psychiatry; pulmonology; and rheumatology.

U.S. News analyzed 4,743 medical centers in the nation, but only those that achieved high scores in six or more specialties were included in the distinguished Honor Roll group. Scores were based on a variety of factors including hospital volume, patient safety, outcomes and reputation for delivering high-quality care.

Last month, U.S. News named its 2014 Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals, recognizing Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC as 9th in the country.

Pitt Researchers Receive $2.1 Million to Study Prevention of Deadly Lung Injury

PITTSBURGH, July 10, 2014 – University of Pittsburgh researchers have received $2.17 million from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, to study the prevention and early treatment of acute lung injury. Also known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), acute lung injury is a deadly condition that causes the lung to fail in critically ill patients either directly through injury to the lung, such as pneumonia, or indirectly related to another illness.

“Many serious illnesses harm the lung, even when that illness starts elsewhere in the body. A trauma patient may develop ARDS as a result of blood loss or treatments. Severe infection, even outside of the lung, is also a major trigger for ARDS,” said Donald. M. Yealy, M.D., professor and chair of Pitt’s Department of Emergency Medicine. Pitt and UPMC investigators recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine a landmark study that brought new insights into early treatment of sepsis, a deadly form of infection. Dr. Yealy and co-lead investigator Derek C. Angus, M.D., M.P.H., Distinguished Professor and Mitchell P. Fink Chair, Department of Critical Care Medicine at Pitt, are members of the steering committee for the Pennsylvania region of the multi-center Prevention and Early Treatment of Acute Lung injury (PETAL) network.

The network, which includes a unique combination of emergency physicians and critical care specialists, will conduct clinical trials to prevent, treat and improve the outcome of patients with ARDS.

“Once lung injury is embedded, it often causes death or long-term damage. Our goal is to recognize the onset of ARDS and treat it before it can do serious harm to the lung,” Dr. Angus said.

Other collaborating and clinical PETAL centers include Penn State University-Hershey Medical Center, University of Colorado, University of California-San Francisco, Harvard University, Tufts University, University of Washington-Seattle, University of Utah-Intermountain Health Center, Wake Forest University, Vanderbilt University, Mount Sinai Medical Center, University of Michigan, Cleveland Clinic and Ohio State University.

The PETAL network is funded by NIH grant #1U01HL123020-01.

UPMC Patient First in U.S. Implanted with Hemolung Before Lifesaving Double Lung Transplant

PITTSBURGH, July 2, 2014 – Suffering from cystic fibrosis and rejecting the transplanted lungs he had gotten just two years ago, Jon Sacker, 33, came to UPMC from his hometown in Moore, Oklahoma, as a last resort. But when his carbon dioxide levels spiked, making him too sick for another transplant, his family feared the worst.

“I thought I had brought my husband here to die,” said Mr. Sacker’s wife, Sallie.

Instead, UPMC clinicians turned to a Pittsburgh-made device called the Hemolung Respiratory Assist System (RAS) that would filter out harmful carbon dioxide and provide healthy oxygen to his blood, giving Mr. Sacker a chance to gain enough strength to undergo a lifesaving transplant. In February, he became the first person in the U.S. to be implanted with the Hemolung RAS; in March, he underwent a double lung transplant and today is on the road to recovery.

“The entire series of events that led to this transplant and Jon’s recovery have been amazing,” said Christian Bermudez, M.D., chief of UPMC’s Division of Cardiothoracic Transplantation. “Jon had previously been very active and fit, and we knew we had to do whatever it took to help him.”

“Jon was in very critical condition when he came to Pittsburgh, and the Hemolung was a lifesaver for him while waiting for his second lung transplant. We are very proud of his good recovery,” said Mr. Sacker’s pulmonologist, Maria Crespo, M.D., associate medical director of UPMC’s Lung Transplant Program.

Many patients waiting for lungs or a heart use mechanical devices as a bridge to transplant. But doctors said Mr. Sacker was too sick for the traditional extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO. However, UPMC doctors knew about the Hemolung RAS, which removes carbon dioxide and delivers oxygen directly to the blood, allowing a patient’s lungs to rest and heal.

Several years before, William Federspiel, Ph.D., director of the Medical Devices Laboratory at the joint UPMC- and University of Pittsburgh-run McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, along with a designer fabricator and a bioengineering doctoral student, developed what was known as the Paracorporeal Respiratory Assist Lung. The device underwent product development and was commercialized by ALung Technologies as the renamed Hemolung RAS. ALung was founded by Dr. Federspiel and UPMC’s former chief of lung transplant, Brack G. Hattler, M.D.

“We had seen the Hemolung RAS used in other countries and wanted to do whatever we could to help this patient,” said Peter M. DeComo, chairman and chief executive of ALung Technologies.

Drs. Bermudez and Crespo worked with Diana Zaldonis, M.P.H., B.S.N., in the Division of Cardiac Surgery, to notify Food and Drug Administration officials of the intent to use the Hemolung RAS, which isn’t approved for use in the U.S., and to get emergency approval from the local hospital officials. Meanwhile, Mr. DeComo drove with another ALung official in the middle of the night to Toronto, where the closest Hemolung RAS was available.

“Jon’s story is a tremendous example of the depth of the work we do here every day. Most hospitals across the country couldn’t handle a situation as complex as Jon’s, but we can because of our collective experience and an extensive team that includes transplant surgeons, pulmonologists, nurses and so many more,” said James D. Luketich, M.D., chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery. “

Mr. Sacker will remain in Pittsburgh for several months during his recovery, with his wife splitting her time between here and their hometown in Oklahoma. He said he’s looking forward to getting back home, where he had been a runner and public speaker spreading the word about the importance of organ donation after writing the book “Imperfect Perfection.”

“Out of all of the transplant centers we could have come to, we came here to Pittsburgh,” he said. “It’s a miracle that’s just not explainable. You just have to thank God.”

News Directors: Video is available of Mr. Sacker on the Hemolung RAS device at http://youtu.be/Uwe1-LN8P-4.

UPMC, Pitt Honors and Presentations Among Highlights at ATS Annual Meeting

PITTSBURGH, May 29, 2014 – Several UPMC and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine experts were honored at the recent American Thoracic Society (ATS) annual meeting in San Diego. For the second year in a row, a study involving UPMC has been published by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in conjunction with a presentation at ATS.

Research on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which included work by Frank Sciurba, MD, Division of Pulmonology, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine (PACCM), was featured in NEJM and the study’s findings were highlighted during a late-breaking abstracts session at ATS. Under a grant from the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute (NHLBI), researchers from the United States and Canada found that a therapy of cholesterol-lowering statins fails to improve the health of patients with COPD or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

A second study was published in NEJM and discussed at an ATS news conference. Derek Angus, MD, MPH, Department of Critical Care Medicine, was one of five authors on the study, which found sepsis contributes to as many as half of all U.S. hospital deaths.

During ATS, Recognition Awards for Scientific Accomplishment were presented to Rama Mallampalli, MD, professor of medicine and director, Acute Lung Injury Center at the University of Pittsburgh, and Juan Celedón, MD, chief,  Division of Pediatric Pulmonology, Allergy and Immunology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Dr. Mallampalli was recognized by ATS for his “groundbreaking discoveries in pulmonary cell and molecular biology” and Dr. Celedón for “research on childhood asthma and health disparities in asthma.”

Several other UPMC physicians and researchers served as facilitators, moderators, presenters, or panelists at ATS, including:

For more information about this year’s presentations and awards, visit the ATS conference page.

Pitt, UPMC to Serve as the First U.S. Host of Global Health Conference

PITTSBURGH, April 22, 2014 – The biennial All Together Better Health conference will hold its first U.S. meeting in Pittsburgh this June to highlight the latest research on interprofessionalism and team-based health care delivery. The international conference serves as a forum for health system executives, educational leaders and policy makers to share new studies and shape the future of the health care workforce.

More than 500 research projects from 27 countries will be presented on the topics of interprofessional practice and education, an evolving concept in health care that uses a team approach to efficiently provide the best and most cost-effective care to each patient. UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences are at the forefront of developing and implementing new models of interprofessional care.

“Teamwork is emerging as a critical strategy to improve outcomes and lower health care costs in the U.S. and around the globe,” said Everette James, J.D., M.B.A., director of Pitt’s Health Policy Institute. “We are pleased to serve as host for this important event, where participants will take stock of the latest research on new models of interprofessional care.”

Co-hosted by Pitt and The National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education from June 6 to 8 on and around the University of Pittsburgh campus, this will be the seventh All Together Better Health conference. Past conferences have been held in Sydney, Vancouver and London, among others.

Sir David Nicholson, who stepped down March 31 as chief executive officer of England’s National Health Service, the world’s largest publicly funded health care system, will give the keynote address, providing his view on interprofessional care from both the payer and provider perspectives.

Steven Shapiro, M.D., UPMC’s chief medical and scientific officer; Mark A. Wagner, M.D., executive dean of education at Mayo Clinic; and Barbara Brandt, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education at the University of Minnesota, will give the opening plenary session on advancing interprofessionalism in the U.S.

Pitt and UPMC were recently selected as a joint innovation incubator site for the National Center for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice. The center is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and charged with identifying ways to improve health, enhance patient care and control costs through interprofessional practice and education.

“As we transition from a payment system based on volume to value-based reimbursement under the Affordable Care Act, optimizing our health care workforce will be essential to improving access and controlling health costs,” said Mr. James, who served as 25th Pennsylvania secretary of health and is professor of health policy and management in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health. “To achieve this goal, providers are innovating at a furious pace to develop approaches that allow all health professionals to practice to the full extent of their training and education. With expansion of electronic health records and other new technologies, care teams – including doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physical therapists and others – have new tools to enhance collaboration.”

“In the rapidly changing practice environment, we need to ensure that research and evaluation of new interprofessional models is being fed back to health sciences schools to inform our curriculum. This feedback loop will help educational institutions train a collaboration-ready health care workforce,” said Susan Meyer, Ph.D., associate dean for education and professor in Pitt’s School of Pharmacy, and chair of the Pitt Working Group on Interprofessional Education.

Discounted rates for early registration to All Together Better Health VII are available through Friday, April 25.

UPMC Performs 100 Lung Transplants for Eighth Consecutive Year

In 2013, the UPMC Lung Transplantation Program performed 100 lung transplants, an achievement that has set apart the program for eight consecutive years. This number exceeds many other transplant centers, making UPMC one of the most experienced lung transplantation programs in the country, with outcomes that continue to meet national standards.

The UPMC Lung Transplantation Program works within the UPMC Comprehensive Lung Center to provide exceptional care for patients with life-threatening lung diseases.

For more information, download the UPMC Lung Transplantation Program Referral Guide here.

Lung Lesions of TB Variable, Independent Whether Infection is Active or Latent, Says Pitt Study

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 15, 2013 – The lung lesions in an individual infected with tuberculosis (TB) are surprisingly variable and independent of each other, despite whether the patient has clinically active or latent disease, according to a new animal study led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The findings, published online today in Nature Medicine, could point the way to new vaccines to prevent the hard-to-treat infection.

More than 30 percent of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, yet only 5 to 10 percent of those infected develop active, contagious disease with symptoms of coughing, chest pain, night sweats and weight loss. Most have asymptomatic, or “latent,” infections that are not contagious, but could become active years later.

When the lungs become infected with M. tuberculosis, the body’s immune system walls off the bacteria into lesions called granulomas, explained co-senior investigator JoAnne Flynn, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, Pitt School of Medicine.

“It’s long been thought that the patient with a weakened immune system or some other immune vulnerability was more likely to develop active disease,” Dr. Flynn said. “But to our surprise, our study showed that every infected individual has a collection of granulomas, some containing live bacteria and some that are sterile because the immune system has killed all the bacteria. So in this sense, there’s no such thing as a latent or active granuloma.”

For the study, the research team infected monkeys with TB and then carefully tracked the granulomas that developed in the lungs. They determined that each granuloma starts with only one bacterium, and that bacterial replication continued for about four weeks before the body counters with an adaptive immune response to kill off the invaders.

“This response was sufficient to kill all the bacteria and sterilize some granulomas, but bacteria persisted in others and spread to create new granulomas,” Dr. Flynn said. “You need only one granuloma to ‘go bad’ in order to get active TB.”

Even when an animal had a severe, active infection, some of their granulomas were sterile, indicating the immune system was capable of killing bacteria, the researchers found.

“We don’t know yet why the immune response produced different results in different lesions,” Dr. Flynn said. “When we develop a deeper understanding of why the immune response produced different results in different lesions, we will be closer to harnessing the right mechanisms to develop effective vaccines to prevent TB.”

In addition to co-senior author Sarah Fortune, M.D., of Harvard University, the research team included Philana Ling Lin, M.D., of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC; M. Teresa Coleman, and Amy J. Myers, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Christopher B. Ford, Ph.D., of Harvard University and the Broad Institute; Richa Gawande, of Harvard University; and Thomas Ioerger, Ph.D., and James Sacchettini, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University.

The project was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Otis Childs Trust of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation; National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants HL106804, AI094745, DP2 0D001378 and AI076217; the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant DAIT BAA-05-10, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Physician Scientist Early Career Award, the Harvard Merit Fellowship, the Burroughs Wellcome Foundation Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Diseases Fellowship, the Robert A. Welch Foundation and the Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Associate Professorship.

UPMC Hospitals Earn Top Quality Recognition from The Joint Commission

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 4, 2013 – Six UPMC hospitals were named Top Performer on Key Quality Measures® by The Joint Commission, the leading accreditor of health care organizations in America. UPMC Bedford Memorial, UPMC Horizon, UPMC McKeesport, UPMC Mercy, UPMC Northwest and UPMC Passavant were recognized by The Joint Commission for exemplary performance in using evidence-based clinical processes that are shown to improve care for certain conditions.

There are 1,099 hospitals, or nearly half of The Joint Commission accredited hospitals in the nation, earning this distinction for attaining and sustaining excellence in accountability measures performance. The hospitals are recognized for their achievement on the following measure sets:

  • UPMC Bedford Memorial – Pneumonia, Surgical Care
  • UPMC Horizon – Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Pneumonia, Surgical Care
  • UPMC McKeesport – Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Pneumonia, Surgical Care
  • UPMC Mercy – Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Pneumonia, Surgical Care
  • UPMC Northwest – Heart Attack, Pneumonia, Surgical Care
  • UPMC Passavant – Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Pneumonia, Surgical Care

The ratings are based on an aggregation of accountability measures reported to The Joint Commission during the 2012 calendar year. Each measure represents an evidence-based practice, such as giving aspirin at arrival for heart attack patients and giving antibiotics one hour before surgery.

“Our continuing, systemwide efforts to provide our patients with the right care at the right time is reflected in this honor,” said Tami Minnier, chief quality officer at UPMC. “But more important than any award is the fact that evidence-based medicine is producing better care for patients at all of our hospitals.”

“UPMC and all the Top Performer hospitals have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to quality improvement and they should be proud of their achievement,” says Mark R. Chassin, M.D., F.A.C.P., M.P.P., M.P.H., president and chief executive officer, The Joint Commission. “We have much to celebrate this year. Nearly half of our accredited hospitals have attained or nearly attained the Top Performer distinction. This truly shows that we are approaching a tipping point in hospital quality performance that will directly contribute to better health outcomes for patients.”

University of Pittsburgh Pulmonary Experts to Present at Pa. Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Conference

The PA-IPF Advocacy Event will be held in Harrisburg, Pa., on Tuesday, October 8, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Pulmonary experts from the University of Pittsburgh Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease, Geisinger Health System, Penn State/Hershey Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania, and Temple Lung Center will present new research findings and medical advice to assist physicians in the management and treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

PRESENTERS
Kevin F. Gibson, MD
Professor of Medicine
Director, Dorothy P. and Richard P. Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease
University of Pittsburgh

Kathleen O. Lindell, PhD, RN
Research Assistant Professor
Clinical Nurse Specialist
Quality of Life Coordinator, Dorothy P. and Richard P. Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease
University of Pittsburgh

WHO SHOULD ATTEND
The target audience for this conference is primary care physicians, pulmonologists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurses.

LOCATION
Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel
4650 Lindle Road
Harrisburg, PA  17111
717-564-5511

To receive the discounted room rate for an overnight stay, please indicate that you are with the University of Pittsburgh Simmons Group when making reservations.

For more information, or to register online, visit the Center for Continuing Education in the Health Sciences page.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine designates this live activity for a maximum of 4.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s) TM.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Other health care professionals are awarded 0.4 continuing education units (CEU’s), which are equal to 4.2 contact hours.

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