UPMC Physician Resources

Pitt Public Health Analysis Provides Guidance on Hospital Community Benefit Programs

PITTSBURGH, March 3, 2014 – A new analysis led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health offers insights for nonprofit hospitals in implementing community health improvement programs.

In a special issue of the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved that focuses on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a multidisciplinary team of Pitt researchers explore published research on existing community benefit programs at U.S. hospitals and explain how rigorous implementation of such programs could help hospitals both meet federal requirements and improve the health of the populations they serve.

“Hospitals have long provided uncompensated care to people who could not otherwise afford it, and this in part has justified their nonprofit status. One goal of the ACA is to provide health insurance to more individuals, thereby potentially reducing  uncompensated care,” said lead author Jessica Burke, Ph.D., M.H.S., associate professor of community and behavioral health sciences at Pitt Public Health. “By working with public health professionals, hospitals can design and implement effective community benefit programs, such as preventative care outreach, that will improve the health of people in their service area and ultimately support continued nonprofit status.”

Dr. Burke and her colleagues note that “community health needs assessments,” which are required by the ACA and rely on large surveys and input from community stakeholders, including minorities and underserved populations, can provide information to help guide the development of community benefit programs, as well as provide data needed to assess their impact.

By evaluating 106 scientific articles detailing hospital-based community benefit programs, Dr. Burke and her colleagues were able to categorize the programs into those based in the hospital and those administered at a community facility, finding that the programs were split almost evenly.

Hospital-based programs typically included preventative screenings or health education. Outside the hospitals, the programs included hospital after-care and benefits and coverage counseling, but were largely community-based programs, either with or without a community partner organization, such as a local school or community center.

“More than 80 percent of the community-based programs included a community partner, which can facilitate greater reach into a community,” said Dr. Burke. “The more you can engage the community in the benefit programs you are trying to provide, the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome.”

The analysis reinforces the value hospitals and health systems can derive from partnering with public health professionals to design their community health needs assessments and determine the best community benefit programs to address those needs, said senior author Everette James, J.D., M.B.A., professor of health policy and management in Pitt Public Health and director of Pitt’s Health Policy Institute.

“Public health researchers add methodological rigor and experience with a range of evidence-based interventions to hospital community health implementation strategies,” said Mr. James, who recently served as the 25th Pennsylvania Secretary of Health. “Our study is intended to strengthen this link between hospital programs and population health, and to provide useful information for hospitals and their public health partners as they comply with new ACA requirements.”

UPMC worked with Dr. Burke and her colleagues at Pitt Public Health and Pitt’s Health Policy Institute to conduct community health needs assessments for 13 of its hospitals, which the health system then used to guide its community benefit programs and set community health improvement goals.

Additional authors on this research include Sandra Truong, M.P.H., and Steve Albert, Ph.D., M.P.H., both of Pitt Public Health; Johanna Steenrod, M.S.G.F.A., and Christine Gibert, M.P.H., both of Pitt’s Health Policy Institute; and Barbara Folb, M.M., M.L.S., M.P.H., and Ahlam Saleh, M.L.S., both of Pitt’s Health Sciences Library System.

Funding for this research was provided by Pitt’s Health Policy Institute.

Second Annual Update on the Multidisciplinary Management of Pituitary Tumors

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 27, 2014 – The Second Annual Update on the Multidisciplinary Management of Pituitary Tumors will be held at UPMC Shadyside in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Friday, April 4, 2014.

This conference will cover the most recent advances in the diagnosis and treatment of pituitary tumors, including functioning and nonfunctioning tumors, hypopituitarism, and pituitary adenomas. The role of and advances in surgical and medical therapies for pituitary tumors, and perioperative management of pituitary tumors will also be discussed.

Who Should Attend
This conference is designed for physicians, physicians’ assistants, nurses, and other health care professionals practicing in the areas of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Family Medicine, General Internal Medicine, and Neurosurgery.

Location
UPMC Shadyside, West Wing Auditorium – First Floor, 5230 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA, 15232

Course Directors
Paul A. Gardner, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Co-Director, Center for Cranial Base Surgery, UPMC

Sue M. Challinor, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

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

Continuing Medical Education
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 6.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Other health care professionals are awarded 0.6 continuing education units (CEUs) which are equal to 6.2 contact hours.

UPMC Leaders Honored by Healthcare IT News

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 26, 2014 – Andrew Watson, M.D., medical director of the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM), and Pamela Peele, Ph.D., chief analytics officer for UPMC Health Plan, were honored by Healthcare IT News as winners of the 2014 H.I.T. Men and Women Awards.

The awards, which honor “the game changers and trailblazers in healthcare IT (information technology),” were presented this week at the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS) annual conference and exhibition in Orlando, Fla.

In addition to his duties for the Center for Connected Medicine, Dr. Watson also is a practicing surgeon and medical director for telemedicine for UPMC, as well as chief medical information officer for UPMC’s International and Commercial Services Division. He was voted by the readers of Healthcare IT News as one of three winners in the “Shapers and Influencers” category.

Dr. Watson is a fourth-generation surgeon and a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh. Considered one of the leading forces in the advancement of mHealth (mobile health) in clinical settings, nearly a third of his practice involves using telemedicine to increase access and convenience for patients. He serves on the board of the American Telemedicine Association.

The Pittsburgh-based CCM is the world’s first collaborative health care executive briefing center. It serves as a resource for innovative, patient-centered and population health models. UPMC is one of five founding partners of CCM.

Dr. Peele is responsible for data analytics activities, economic modeling, predictive modeling, statistical analysis, and machine learning for the UPMC Insurance Services Division. She has overseen advancements in the area of predicting patients who are at high risk of hospital readmission. She was chosen as one of three winners in the “Innovators, Up and Coming,” category by Healthcare IT News voters.

Dr. Peele’s work focuses on the application of economic and statistical models to improve the health and welfare of populations. Dr. Peele’s analytics team supports robust health care strategies for nearly 2.3 million UPMC Health Plan members to improve their clinical outcomes, while also keeping health insurance costs affordable.

Dr. Peele’s analytics team supports the work of the UPMC Insurance Services Division’s Center for High Value Health Care which has recently been awarded two prestigious federal contracts through the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) established through the Affordable Care Act, which focus on improving outcomes that are important to patients with chronic conditions.

In all, nine winners from three categories were voted as the 2014 H.I.T. Men and Women for “their vision, talent and perseverance” in advancing the adoption of technology to improve the effectiveness of health care.

Second-Most Common Breast Cancer Subtype May Benefit From Personalized Treatment Approach, UPCI Finds

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 26, 2014 – The second-most common type of breast cancer is a very different disease than the most common and appears to be a good candidate for a personalized approach to treatment, according to a multidisciplinary team led by University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) scientists.

Invasive lobular carcinoma, which is characterized by a unique growth pattern in breast tissue that fails to form a lump, has distinct genetic markers that indicate there may be benefits from drug therapies beyond those typically prescribed for the more common invasive ductal carcinoma. The results will be published in the March 1 issue of the journal Cancer Research.

Patients with invasive lobular carcinoma are typically treated through surgical removal of the cancer, followed by chemotherapy or hormone therapy or both, usually with the estrogen-mimicking drug tamoxifen or estrogen-lowering aromatase inhibitors, the same as patients with invasive ductal carcinoma.

“However, recent analyses have shown that a subset of patients with lobular carcinoma receive less benefit from adjuvant tamoxifen than patients with ductal carcinoma,” said senior author Steffi Oesterreich, Ph.D., professor at UPCI, a partner with UPMC CancerCenter, and director of education at the Women’s Cancer Research Center. “Our study, the largest of its kind, indicates an issue with the estrogen receptors inside lobular carcinoma cells and points to a potential target for drug therapy in future clinical trials, which we are developing.”

The UPCI study, funded by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense, included collaborations across multiple disciplines, ranging from biostatistics and biomedical informatics to pathology and human genetics, in order to produce results with the potential for rapid translation into clinical therapies.

“In addition to its potential clinical implications, the study highlights the need for more and better models mimicking invasive lobular cancer that can be used for laboratory studies,” said lead author Matthew Sikora, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate at UPCI.

“Because lobular carcinomas account for only 10 to 15 percent of breast cancers, while ductal carcinomas make up nearly 80 percent, lobular carcinomas are a less attractive option for laboratory study,” said Dr. Sikora. “However, 30,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with lobular carcinoma every year, so there is a great need for further study of this disease.”

Additional co-authors of this study include Kristine L. Cooper, M.S., Amir Bahreini, B.S., Soumya Luthra, M.S., Uma Chandran, Ph.D., M.S.I.S., Nancy E. Davidson, M.D., and David J. Dabbs, M.D., all of Pitt; and Guoying Wang, M.S., and Alana L. Welm, Ph.D., both of the University of Utah.

This research was supported by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Noreen Fraser Foundation, Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program fellowship and Era of Hope Scholar Award, and Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Cancer Research at Children’s Focused on Limiting Tumor Growth

Recent research within the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has focused on inhibiting the growth of tumors by using drugs that prevent them from developing a blood supply, thus starving the tumor and limiting its growth. This approach rests on the assumption that the blood vessel supply of tumors originates from normal cells, termed endothelial cells.

However, research conducted in the lab of Edward Prochownik, MD, PhD, director of oncology research in the Division, has shown that human cancer cells themselves can, under certain conditions, transform into these endothelial cells and contribute to the tumor vasculature. Like the tumor cells, and unlike normal endothelial cells, the “tumor-derived endothelial cells” readily acquire resistance to therapies aimed at inhibiting their growth. This finding may explain why therapies aimed at inhibiting tumor blood vessel growth have failed to meet expectations.

Dr. Prochownik is also The Paul C. Gaffney Professor of Pediatrics, and Professor of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Pitt Scientists Receive $3.5 Million for Brain Research from DSF Charitable Foundation

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 24, 2014 – With $1.75 million in support from the DSF Charitable Foundation, University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute (UPBI) researchers will begin to establish a NeuroDiscovery Center, akin to a Bell Labs for neuroscience, and hunt for new drugs for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease. Thanks to another $1.8 million DSF gift, another team of neuroscientists and clinicians will explore the application of a new imaging technology to traumatic brain injury, particularly in wounded veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

University officials recently announced the inception of the Brain Institute, which will enable investigators to perform high-risk, high-impact neuroscience with the aim of transforming lives. Scientific director Peter Strick, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and chair, Department of Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will use a $750,000 gift from the DSF Charitable Foundation to create the NeuroDiscovery Center’s pilot fund that will support especially innovative basic and translational research.

“Often, it is an investigator with the boldest idea who holds the key to the next great discovery,” Dr. Strick said. “DSF Charitable Foundation’s generosity will make it possible for UPBI researchers to freely explore challenging scientific questions that can lead to important discoveries and lay the foundation for the therapeutic advances of the future.”

He noted that Bell Laboratories provided a unique research environment in which a diverse group of scientists were brought together and given the resources to “think outside the box,” leading to landmark successes, including the development of radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, information theory, several new computer languages and seven Nobel Prizes.

“Many of the world’s renowned neuroscientists are here at Pitt, and the Brain Institute will foster their ability to collaborate with experts across disciplines, including computer science, mathematics and bioengineering as well as medicine and neurobiology,” Dr. Strick said. “This wealth of knowledge and experience presents a rare opportunity to conduct powerful, influential science.”

Dr. Strick, who recently was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, holds the Endowed Chair in Systems Neuroscience, is co-director of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition and the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh, and is a Senior Research Career Scientist at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

A three-year, $1 million gift from the DSF Charitable Foundation will fund another project in the Brain Institute’s NeuroDiscovery Center. Principal investigators Robert Friedlander, M.D., professor and chair, Department of Neurological Surgery, and J. Timothy Greenamyre, M.D., Ph.D., professor, Department of Neurology, and director of the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, will look for drugs that can affect the function of mitochondria, the so-called powerhouses of cells.

“Research conducted here and elsewhere has shown us that mitochondria are key regulators of programmed cell death, which is a critical factor in neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS,” Dr. Friedlander said. “If we can protect mitochondria, we might be able to delay symptom progression and extend life just as we have done in animal models of ALS, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease.”

The DSF Charitable Foundation also is providing $1.8 million over three years to support the study of an innovative brain imaging technology called high-definition fiber tracking (HDFT) for veterans of the U.S. military who have sustained traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

The HDFT project, led by Walter Schneider, Ph.D., professor of psychology, neurological surgery and radiology, and a senior scientist at Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center, and David Okonkwo, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurological surgery and director of the Brain Trauma Program, aims to reveal damage to the fiber tracts, or cables, of the brain just as X-rays indicate broken bones.

“Conventional imaging techniques are not able to show these injuries, so it’s harder to diagnose, treat or monitor them,” Dr. Okonkwo said. “HDFT has the potential to identify TBI quickly and accurately, which could in turn influence therapy and recovery.”

In addition to HDFT scans, participants in the research project will receive a toolkit that includes material to carry out targeted therapies, mobile technology to support ongoing monitoring and other treatment aids.

The DSF Charitable Foundation also made a gift of $100,000 to the Mark A. Nordenberg Scholarship Fund.

“We wanted to contribute to the fund in recognition of Chancellor Nordenberg’s exceptional stewardship of the University,” said David Scaife, chairman of the Foundation. “As evidenced by Pitt’s remarkable progress as an academic institution over the course of his tenure, Mark’s leadership has been nothing less than transformative. Witnessing that has been exhilarating.”

Physicians in India Access UPMC Medical Expertise through Telemedicine

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 21, 2014 – With the latest expansion of its global telemedicine efforts, UPMC is now offering physicians in India access to its world-renowned medical expertise to improve care for patients. Through advanced, web-based technology, UPMC physicians specializing in oncology, pulmonology, colorectal surgery and other specialties are providing second opinions to physicians in the world’s second-most populous nation.

Through a new agreement with TeleChikitsa Ventures, a private company based in Bangalore that assists Indian physicians seeking second opinions from other qualified physicians, UPMC’s doctors are providing direct, physician-to-physician consultations. Using secure telemedicine applications, developed in part at UPMC’s Technology Development Center, the physicians can share patient records and images and provide a consult to their Indian counterparts within 48 hours.

“UPMC’s leadership in medicine and technology enables us to improve access to world-class care for patients throughout India,” said Puneet Gurnani, president and chief executive of TeleChikitsa. “With just six doctors for every 10,000 people in India, innovative partnerships like this—which take advantage of rapidly spreading mobile networks—will be critical to ensuring a strong and healthy population in the years to come.”

“Through advances in telemedicine, UPMC physicians—without leaving their offices—can share their life-saving expertise with people almost anywhere in the world, regardless of time or distance,” added Andrew Watson, M.D., chief medical information officer for UPMC’s International and Commercial Services Division. “The result is a better, more efficient and more convenient health care system that better serves patients, no matter where they live.”

This is UPMC’s second agreement in India, where it already has assisted Citizens Hospital in Hyderabad with the creation of a clinical pathology laboratory. UPMC is helping Citizens to expand its advanced pathology capabilities, with the facility expected to become a reference lab serving patients throughout the Middle East.

Starting in western Pennsylvania more than a decade ago, UPMC’s telemedicine program today encompasses more than 40 specialties and provides access to advanced care to hundreds of patients each year. UPMC telemedicine services are available in China, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Colombia, Mexico, Ireland and Italy, as well as western Pennsylvania, and are a vital part of UPMC Global Care, a program that helps international patients access UPMC’s world-class care.

Pitt’s Neuromuscular Research Lab Begins Work with a Third Branch of U.S. Special Forces: Air Force

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 19, 2014 – Marking the fifth ongoing research site at a Department of Defense installation, the University of Pittsburgh recently launched a Warrior Human Performance Research Center to conduct performance-optimization and injury-prevention research at Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) at Hurlburt Field, Fla., as part of a three-year, $3 million study.

The new site brings this 8-year-old program to a third branch of the United States military, the Air Force, with ongoing sites at three Naval Special Warfare SEALs bases (Little Creek, Va.; Stennis Space Center, Miss.; and Coronado, Calif.) and one Army Special Operations post (Fort Bragg, N.C.).

“And the funding is in place to begin working soon with the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command  in Camp Lejeune, N.C.,” said Scott Lephart, Ph.D., director of the Neuromuscular Research Lab overseeing this program and distinguished professor, and chair of the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition at the Pitt School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS). “This final piece is very important because it completes our support to all four Special Operations Forces Components and enables us to fully support the needs of the U.S. Special Operations Command’s priority operation called the ‘Preservation of the Force and Families Task Force’.”

The Warrior Human Performance Research Centers help to design physical-training programs to improve individual performance and reduce injury, said Timothy Sell, Ph.D., the principal investigator on the AFSOC research with the Department of Defense. They have shown significant relevance and  success in: limiting training, combat and recreation injuries; enhancing force readiness by maximizing the effects of training to reduce fatigue and optimize performance; and prolonging the operation life as well as enhancing the quality of life after service. For instance, the inaugural center, at Fort Campbell, Ky., with the 101st Airborne, implemented a specific training program that reduced overuse injuries by 25.4 percent, lower-extremity injuries by 17.5 percent, and acute injuries by 15.9 percent.

“The lab at Hurlburt is functionally identical to our other labs,” said Dr. Sell, an associate professor in the SHRS Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition “The research model is the same, too. What’s different is the Operator, and our research model has adaptability to be specific to each military group and each group of Operators.”

There are four different Operators at AFSOC versus, say, a Navy SEAL, although the Navy SEAL has duties in different areas. The AFSOC Operators are: pararescue, combat controllers, combat weathermen and Tactical Air Control Party. These are battlefield airmen from helicopters and planes, yet they also carry out various ground duties such as counterterrorism deployment and remote airfield/air-traffic control—a function they performed in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there. Pilots are not part of this Human Performance Warrior study, which focuses on the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron.

“But each research project is unique,” Sell added, referring to the wide ranges of what they call task- and demand-analysis studies in these various Special Forces. “We go out in the field, observe the different Operators, monitor them and observe the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal demands, and that tells us about each group. At Pitt, you can observe the wrestler, the volleyball player, the basketball player, the runner, and they have different musculoskeletal demands. For instance, the cross-country runner wouldn’t have shoulder injuries. The wrestler could get a whole litany of injuries.” This research, Sell continued, “hones in on the specific needs” of each military segment of Special Forces and informs officials how to better train and prevent injuries among those groups.

The program all began in 2005 under the concept of bringing Sports Medicine research and expertise to the military, and the Special Operations components have embraced these projects. One assistant professor and two research associates at each base lead research into regular demands on these soldiers. The three Pitt employees assigned to the Hurlburt Field site are: assistant professor Meleesa Wohleber, M.S., a Pittsburgh native and former athletic trainer at a U.S. Coast Guard Training Center; research associate Deirdre McFate, M.S., a Delmont, Pa., native who completed her master’s degree in the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition in 2011; and research associate Andrew Simonson, M.S., who completed both his bachelor’s in 2012 and master’s in 2013 at Pitt and previously worked for the UPMC Centers for Rehab Services.

Each project in the Warrior Human Performance program is in a different phase of the research model, primarily because each phase lasts roughly one year. The program hit the ground on a military base barely 6 ½ years ago, with the 101st Army Airborne at Fort Campbell. Its epidemiological studies consistently demonstrate that the majority of musculoskeletal injuries occur during physical training, and that a sizeable percentage of those injuries are preventable through targeted, musculoskeletal-specific training programs.

“We’ll be approaching that phase of research with Navy SEALs in the near feature,” Sell added.

The Department of Defense designated $7.2 million in total grants to Pitt and SHRS for projects for fiscal year 2013 and similar funding for 2014. In addition to the Air Force project and others still in the works, this summer the U.S. Special Operations Command formally invited Pitt and the Neuromuscular Research Lab to become its applied scientific partner in support of Preservation of the Force and Families Task Force. This partnership is in the final stages of execution.

Onsite OHS Taps UPMC Expertise through Telemedicine to Care for Patients in Afghanistan

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 19, 2014 Onsite Occupational Health and Safety Inc. (Onsite OHS) announced today that it has signed an agreement with UPMC, one of the nation’s leading health care systems, to provide second opinions and medical consultations through a secure Internet link for the benefit of Onsite OHS customers. The telemedicine services initially will be offered in Afghanistan.

UPMC physicians will offer their services in dermatology, infectious disease, neurology and orthopaedics, although other service lines may be added later. Onsite OHS, which serves defense, energy, manufacturing and other customers worldwide, expects to expand UPMC’s consultations to other countries in southwest Asia and potentially to several states in the U.S.

“As one of the nation’s top 10 medical centers and a global leader in the use of telemedicine, UPMC will help us to bring world-class care to patients, regardless of time or distance,” said Kyle G. Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Onsite OHS. “Under the first agreement of its kind for Onsite OHS, these ‘virtual’ consultations will be a valuable addition to the care that we offer to our patients all over the world.”

UPMC physicians will provide their consultations starting in March to Onsite OHS physicians, and those doctors will remain responsible for patient care. Using an innovative, web-based telemedicine system developed at UPMC’s Technology Development Center, UPMC’s physicians can provide Onsite OHS with a consult within hours of notification and receipt of necessary patient medical information.

“With its focus on excellence in patient care and unparalleled responsiveness to patients and clients, Onsite OHS shares some of the same core values that drive the world-class physicians of UPMC,” said Andrew Watson, M.D., chief medical information officer for UPMC’s International and Commercial Services Division. “This collaboration will build on our extensive telemedicine efforts, part of UPMC Global Care, which provides patients worldwide with a variety of convenient ways to access our highly specialized care.”

UPMC’s rapidly expanding telemedicine program for adults and children encompasses nearly 40 service lines and serves patients in India, Singapore, Kazakhstan, China, Ireland, Italy, Colombia and Mexico. The program enables better chronic disease management, improved access to specialists for rural and remote areas, and enhanced education for health care providers.

New Webcam System at UPMC Connects Families with Newborns in Intensive Care Units at Children’s and Magee

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 18, 2014 – New parents and family members can check in on their infants hospitalized in UPMC’s neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) any time of day and from anywhere in the world thanks to a new camera system installed in the NICUs at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

Children’s Hospital and Magee-Womens Hospital are two of only three hospitals in the state to implement this password-protected webcam system called NICVIEW, which, through an internet connection, gives families a virtual connection to their newborns.

The early hours and days after having a newborn that requires intensive care are critical for the parents, the baby and the family. A newborn in the NICU causes separation and anxiety for everyone involved and can occur for many reasons – a mother may not see her newborn for a few days if she remains in the hospital after delivery, a sibling might not meet his new brother or sister, or a grandparent may be long distance. The NICVIEW system allows family and friends, who are given a unique username and password, to log in and visit the baby from anywhere in the world.

“When a baby is hospitalized in the NICU, this can be a very stressful and frightening time for families and it is even more difficult when they can’t be at the hospital with their baby,” said Beverly Brozanski, M.D., clinical director, Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “Being able to view their newborn on the camera is very reassuring and helps parents stay connected with the baby as well as the medical team.”

Thirty cameras are installed in the NICU of each hospital. The cameras are mounted above the baby’s incubator, which provides families access to a live video stream that they can watch from a computer or mobile device at six appointed times throughout the day. The cameras are turned off during change of shift and during routine care hours.

“In a NICU setting, parents are looking for any way to bond with their newborn,” said Roberta Bell, Magee-Women’s Hospital NICU clinician. “We’re also encouraging breast-feeding mothers to log on and watch their baby in real-time while pumping as a way to increase production.  We’ve received very positive feedback from women who have had this option.”

The NICVIEW system is designed to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires confidential handling of patient information.

Children’s received funding for the NICVIEW system from the Snee-Reinhardt Foundation. Magee was initially funded through a grant from the hospital’s Volunteer Service Board. The fundraising efforts of the Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation through the funds raised at the 2013 Savor Pittsburgh event will support the purchase of an additional 30 cameras this spring.

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