Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

A new study out of the University of Pittsburgh found that a text message program that aimed to help young adults cut down on binge drinking worked six months after the program ended.

The study is in the journal PLOS ONE.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

The newly-dubbed UPMC Rooney Sports Complex will house the Pittsburgh Steelers practice facility for 15 more years as it undergoes an additional $10 million expansion this summer, UPMC and Steelers officials announced Tuesday.

“And of course the major piece of the puzzle will be the expansion of the training facility on the first floor, which will include an expanded weight room and conditioning room,” said current franchise President Art Rooney II.

Francis Southwick

Frances Southwick wanted to be a doctor for as long as she could remember.

As a kid, she collected old popsicle sticks to use as tongue depressors, volunteered in medical facilities and eventually ended up in medical school in West Virginia. Southwick did her residency at UPMC Shadyside including stints at a number of Pittsburgh hospitals.

hobvias sudoneighm

Skin lesions are a heath concern that many will face in their lifetimes, with 76,000 Americans being diagnosed every year with skin cancer. New research, blending technology and medicine, hopes to make the detection process easier and more accurate.

In collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, scientists at Pitt and UPMC have created a computer program that can scan photos of skin lesions and assess whether or not they will require further treatment.

Dispute Arises Over UPMC Mold Claims

Oct 1, 2015
Jon B / flickr

Last month, UPMC broke the news that it temporarily halted its transplant program following the discovery of mold and the sickening of several patients.

Tribune Review reporter Ben Schmitt wrote the original story on the incident, and says he has received incredible feedback from readers.  The question on everyone’s mind seems to be: are UPMC facilities not completely sterile?

UPMC Stops Transplants Following Mold Outbreak

Sep 23, 2015
Dr. Amesh Adalja / trackingzebra.com

Following a mold outbreak last week that infected four transplant patients at UPMC Presbyterian and Montefiore, the hospital system has temporarily halted their transplant program. Three of the four patients have since died, although it’s not been confirmed whether the infections were the culprit.  Pittsburgh-based infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja explained to Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer that mold is particularly difficult to contain because it’s so easy to spread.

Next time a weird rash, mole or freckle appears, you may be able to snap a picture of it, upload it and get a dermatologist to tell you what it is and if you should be worried.

Dermatologists at UPMC have developed a platform that lets people submit their symptoms and photos. Within 72 hours, they’ll receive a diagnosis and treatment and medication plan – or orders to come in and see a doctor.

The service will cost up to $49.

The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) has been rated “outstanding” by the National Cancer Institute and has been designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Each five years we have to go through a process of self-assessment and an evaluation by outside colleagues and we’re really please this year we were labeled as ‘outstanding’ among the most elite, and of course we’re extremely excited about the funding that this brings to help to support our important research and care missions,” said Dr. Nancy E. Davidson, director of UPCI and UPMC Cancer Center.

A Pittsburgh federal grand jury has indicted a man living in Venezuela on charges of filing fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities from hundreds of UPMC employees.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Western Pennsylvania, David Hickton, said Friday he believes the indictment will frustrate the hacking conspiracy group. Yoandy Perez Llanes, 31, has been charged with 21 counts of money laundering, conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.

The Allegheny County Health Department will be conducting a survey with the help of the University of Pittsburgh in the next few weeks to gauge the overall health of the county.

The 25-minute survey will be conducted by phone with about 9,000 county residents in an effort to fill in some big blank spots in the data.

Flickr user jrgcastro

After stating last month that it would not accept Highmark Medicare patients due to Highmark's cancer treatment "mark-ups," UPMC has been ordered by Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pelligrini to continue to see the 182,000 seniors they currently serve through Highmark. UPMC has already vowed to appeal the court order under a scheduled arbitration to resolve the differences between the two providers. Pittsburgh Business Times health care reporter Kris Mamula joins us in studio. (starts at 15:13) 

Mamula explains Pelligrini's ambitious hopes for the on-going dispute between UPMC and Highmark: 

"He wants all of the contractual issues between Highmark and UPMC resolved by September 30th, which is an ambitious deadline given everything that has happened. ... He wants those things that divide them to be resolved." -Kris Mamula

Also, Acting State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown fielded questions from state Senators at his nomination hearing. Emily Prevetti has the details. And we'll preview this year's Three Rivers Arts Festival with director Veronica Corpuz, and finally, Elaine Labalme has special travel plans to help celebrate dad. 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

There are approximately 8,500 people waiting for an organ transplant in Pennsylvania, and about 123,000 across the U.S. The problem, according to the UPMC transplant program, is that demand far outweighs the number of available organs.

To try and increase awareness, “crossing guards” from UPMC and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) stopped pedestrians in several downtown areas Wednesday. The goal was to get more people to sign up as organ donors.

To Pittsburghers concerned about the latest uptick in data breaches, health care giant UPMC has a singular message: the information they collect is safe.

UPMC keeps electronic data on every patient that comes through the system — more than seven million patient files. 

Highmark has agreed to pay the approximately 30,000 outstanding medical claims filed by UPMC providers and facilities since January 1.

Gov. Tom Wolf called it a “major win” for patients. 

“My focus is protecting consumers caught in the dispute between Highmark and UPMC, and I have urged both companies to do the same,” Wolf said.

Chuck LeClaire

This Saturday is the Pittsburgh marathon. In addition to thousands of adults running and walking many children will be running their “final mile” as part of the 2015 Kids of Steel Program. Promoting healthy exercise and nutrition habits in younger runners are Patrice Matamoros, CEO of the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, and Michele Nichols, program director for Kids of Steel. (Starts at 20:20)

Matamoros explains that Kids of Steel grew out of the Pittsburgh Marathon's desire to see kids grow up with an early discovery of running as a sport:

"The American Medical Association was starting to say that kids of this generation were going to have a shorter life span than their parents...We certainly didn't want to leave them out and watch their parents and their guardians getting healthier and watching the kids' health not making improvements." -Patrice Matamoros

Also on the program, Dr. Ron Roth, Pittsburgh Marathon medical director and emergency medicine physician joins Dr. Kelley Anderson, overseer of elite runners, to instruct marathon runners on how to stay healthy in Sunday's predicted high heat. Emily Gordon is a biochemistry major at UCLA who won her very first marathon and has already qualified for the 2016 Olympic trials. 

The state of Pennsylvania has filed a motion in Commonwealth Court that would force UPMC and Highmark to enter into arbitration to settle a dispute that could force some 180,000 Medicare Advantage recipients to look for new doctors or new coverage options.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is threatening to terminate its Medicare contract with rival Highmark, which could cause about 180,000 seniors in western Pennsylvania to lose in-network access to UPMC hospitals and doctors next year.

UPMC says Highmark has refused to pay contracted rates for cancer treatment at the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside.

Spokesman Paul Wood said Highmark owes UPMC about $143 million.

On Thursday UPMC announced they would be acquiring Family Hospice and Palliative Care, Pennsylvania’s largest nonprofit hospice service into its health care system.

Family Hospice will be part of UPMC Community Provider Services. That means all 250 employees will become UPMC employees, although Family Hospice will continue to operate under the Family Hospice name. The acquisition also includes Presbyterian Senior Care.

Family Hospice and UPMC have worked together for the past 15 years. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

University of Pittsburgh chancellor Patrick Gallagher calls the volume of healthcare data in the United States “staggering.”

“(It is) fast approaching a zettabyte,” Gallagher said, referencing the equivalent of one trillion gigabytes. “Even the terminology doesn’t make sense to many of us.”

Gallagher made the comments Monday at a joint news conference with Carnegie Mellon University and UPMC. The three institutions have announced a multi-million dollar collaborative initiative to harness vast amounts of health care data to “revolutionize healthcare and wellness.”

Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration want to assure healthcare consumers that they intend to enforce the consent decrees signed by Highmark and UPMC in June 2014.

According to the administration, both of the healthcare providers have made statements that have led to confusion.

Teresa Miller, the Acting Insurance Commissioner, as well as Karen Murphy, the Acting Health Secretary, announced that they will make sure patients with Highmark plans are able to receive care from UPMC providers as outlined  in the decrees.

Flickr User, Creative Commons

With blood loss as the leading cause of death in trauma victims, blood transfusions are a vital part of emergency medicine.

For more than 20 years, MedEvac helicopter teams at UPMC have given trauma patients transfusions before reaching the hospital, but the life–saving effects of this procedure have not been confirmed until now.

The University of Pittsburgh and UPMC have signed an agreement to streamline the commercialization of medical research technologies and techniques.

The arrangement skips the negotiation process by pre-setting the terms of licensing, royalties and new company equity, allowing technology to get out of the lab and into the hospital between 60 and 90 days sooner, according to Marc Malandro, director of Pitt’s Innovation Institute.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Poison Center is located about halfway up “Cardiac Hill” within the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center complex. It’s an unassuming place: a reception desk, a few offices, a conference room and a call center.

Jess Lasky / 90.5 WESA

In honor of National Wear Red Day, UPMC offered screenings for the nation's number one killer: heart disease. 

For the past 5 years UPMC has been screening people’s risk for heart disease for free through their Community Outreach and Cardio Vascular Health (COACH) program.

At a Friday screening in downtown Pittsburgh, COACH used a fallen piano to highlight that while your chances of being crushed by a piano are one in 250 million, the chances of dying from heart disease is one in three.

Hoping to increase the number of successful liver transplants, a new organ preservation system is being tested which uses what’s called a “machine perfusion” technique.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine say the new system pumps cooled, oxygen-rich fluid into donor livers. This keeps the organs in excellent condition for up to nine hours before transplantation.

A new study indicates that adding head and neck cancer screenings to lung cancer screenings could help with patient outcomes. Analysis conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and UPMC Cancer Center shows that head and neck cancer screenings given at the same time as a lung cancer screening may help detect early stages of cancer and with treatment, lead to higher survival rates.  Dr.

Susan Steel ignored a mole in 2005.

The Chicago resident and mother of two said she put it off but eventually went to her dermatologist only when the mole began to bleed. The first visit confirmed she had melanoma and the growth needed to be surgically removed.

“You go into surgery very quickly and then the surgeon comes out and looks desperate and tells you that you have less than a year to live,” she said.

At that time there were no effective treatments, some options had a “high” 6 percent chance of survival, Steel says.

When it comes to protecting those most vulnerable to influenza, a high-dose flu vaccine may be most effective.

That’s according to the findings of a study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine which found that giving a high-dose vaccine to elderly people in long-term care facilities helped build immunity. Each year in the U.S. there are 3,000 to 49,000 influenza-related deaths.

Tom Wolf / Flickr

Carnegie Mellon University Health Law professor Gary Kaplan joins us to talk about how Pennsylvania’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act could change under the Wolf administration.

Professor Kaplan represents private employers in advising them on health care plan options. So what do employers need to know about the UPMC and Highmark contract in 2015?

Kaplan explains that Wolf is interested in going with a different plan for the implementation of the Medicaid expansion than what Tom Corbett had planned. 

The state is launching a website to help consumers through the impending termination of a contract between a Western Pennsylvania insurer and the region's dominant hospital and outpatient network.

Officials said they're posting information to stayInformed.pa.gov about changes taking effect Jan. 1 when most Highmark subscribers lose in-network access to UPMC doctors and hospitals. This change has raised many questions, and they have been fielded through the PA Department of Insurance.