UPMC

About 400,000 coronary artery bypass graft surgeries are performed in the U.S. each year, and roughly one in five patients goes on to experience clinical depression. But all that could change because of a telephone.

According to University of Pittsburgh researchers, monitoring patient depression and administering a nurse-led intervention via a phone call bi-weekly not only improves quality of life and mood, but it’s also cost-effective and cost-saving.

Charlee Song / 90.5 WESA News

Hand washing, floor scrubbing, sterilizing instruments--all standard techniques to thwart hospital-acquired infections.  Now UPMC hospitals are evaluating new technology to help prevent infections.  At Passavant Hospital, staff is using a robot to help sanitize a room with ultraviolet-C rays.  Fittingly, the robot’s name is “Violet”.

Dr. Joseph Romano, chairman of the Passavant Hospital Infection Prevention and Control Committee, said "Violet" is turned on after a room has been disinfected in the usual way. 

UPMC and Highmark, A Confusing Truce

Jul 1, 2014
Life Mental Health / Flickr

The announcement of a five-year consent decree brokered by state officials seems to be bringing a truce between Highmark and UPMC. What exactly will the agreement mean for policy holders? State Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine highlights some of the major aspects of the decree to policyholders who may be experiencing some confusion with these “out of network” hospitals.

Some of UPMC’s most prominent hospitals are not in the network, included Magee Women’s Hospital. Commissioner Consedine says the largest issues surrounding the agreement are not which specialty hospitals will remain open in the network, but rather contingency of those already being treated by UPMC doctors, oncology care, and emergency services.

A blueprint for what Pennsylvania officials hope will be a smooth transition for Highmark Insurance customers currently using UPMC doctors has been agreed to by both non profit organizations but the details have yet to be reached. 

“This as really been a bipartisan approach,” said Highmark CEO David Holmberg who just two weeks ago did not think such a deal was possible.  “This has been about everybody putting their swords down and doing the right things.”

Health care costs continue to rise in the US and part of the reason is inefficiencies throughout the system. That’s according to Everette James, J.D., M.D., director of the Pitt Health Policy Institute and former Pennsylvania Secretary of Health. One of the main topics of discussion at the “All Together Better Health VII” Conference in Pittsburgh is how to increase efficiencies in health care.

UPMC St. Margaret used to use alcohol caps for central lines, and with those had a very low infection rates. The use of the caps was discontinued and a disturbing trend emerged.

“When that happened we saw almost a double of our infection rates,” said Jenny  Bender, infection preventionist, now at UPMC Presbyterian, formerly with St. Margaret, “they still weren’t awful but they were way higher than what we were used to seeing, which was zero.”

Gov. Tom Corbett is calling on UPMC and Highmark to put their patients first.

The contract between UPMC and Highmark is set to expire by December 31st, 2014.

UPMC said that it does not intend to extend the contract, which means that Highmark patients will not receive in-network rates for UPMC services.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says federal investigators now believe all 62,000 of the hospital network's employees have had their personal information accessed by identity thieves who have used information from about 800 workers to file bogus federal tax returns.

UPMC last month believed only 27,000 workers were affected, but the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Friday that a memo to employees says "the scope may be larger than originally thought, potentially affecting every employee."

Between 2006 and 2010, the number of emergency department visits for traumatic brain injury (TBI) rose by nearly 30 percent throughout the United States. That’s according to a study from Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

While there was an increase, researchers are unclear of exactly why.

Allegheny County employees no longer have to wonder about their health care options for 2015.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced Tuesday that the county will exclusively retain Highmark for health care coverage through December 31st, 2015 - even if Highmark and UPMC are unable to reach an agreement.

Can depression lead to asthma? How about over-medicating?

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and UPMC are trying to answer these questions with a new computer program that has the ability to track 112 clinical variables for 398 people who do and do not have asthma.

This program can identify various subtypes of the disease such as asthma related to allergies, sinuses or environmental factors.

Wei Wu, an associate professor at CMU’s Lane Center for Computational Biology, said they want to help clinicians better define “asthma.”

Chaney Lewis had lunch Friday, but plans to not take another bite for the next 168 hours.

UPMC workers, faith leaders and community activists gathered in front of the US Steel Building Friday to begin a week-long fast in protest of UPMC’s treatment of it’s workers.

Two UPMC employees will fast the entire week while protesting outside of UPMC’s downtown headquarters on Grant Street as a part of what they are calling Fast For Our Future.

Last week, the trauma center at UPMC Presbyterian began a medical trial using critically injured gunshot and knife wound patients. It’s similar to suspended animation, but surgeons are calling it Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation.

The patients will not quite be alive, but they also won't quite be dead.

UPMC Website

When the National Diabetes Education Program gathers for its annual meeting this summer it will install a Pittsburgher in its top elected position.  University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute Executive Director Linda Siminerio was elected as chair earlier this year.

The federally-funded program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Siminerio refers to the nation’s struggle with type II diabetes as an epidemic but warns that it is already a pandemic in other parts of the world.

An ongoing federal investigation involving Pittsburgh's former mayor and the city's lawsuit challenging the nonprofit status of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have intersected — at the ex-mayor's computer.

Former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl took the computer with him for about 10 days after leaving office in January, but has since returned it. Now UPMC's attorneys want to know if he did anything with the device that might impact the city's ongoing lawsuit over its nonprofit status.

Mayor Bill Peduto said in a press conference Tuesday that he is beginning talks with UPMC and SEIU, in attempt to resolve the ongoing labor dispute at the non-profit healthcare organization.  

Peduto said he will begin by meeting with both sides individually to see where they are at, before bringing all parties to the table.

“Right now, this is the most pressing issue that I have, because it affects not only our economy, but our peace,” Peduto said. “It hits on all the different things we talk about when we build a next Pittsburgh.”

Update 12:07 p.m.

Hundreds of protesters organized by the Service Employees International Union have left the area outside the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's offices downtown, after Mayor Bill Peduto issued a statement asking them to "disband" and "return home."

Peduto's statement indicates he's cutting short a Washington, D.C. trip to return to Pittsburgh Tuesday and hopes to "resolve these conflicts."

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds of UPMC workers, community organizers, faith leaders, elected officials and concerned citizens descended on downtown Pittsburgh for a day of action Monday.

Protesters dealt with frigid temperatures and slushy streets to demand that UPMC recognize a workers union, pay higher wages, decrease healthcare premiums and pay taxes on the land that they own in the city of Pittsburgh.

Representatives of several organizations are set to gather outside of UPMC headquarters today to lobby in support of wage increases—and they might have some economic ammunition.

According to a report by the activist organization Pittsburgh United, raising wages to $15 an hour for UPMC service workers could benefit the region’s economy.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

An officer warned the Rev. Rodney Adam Lyde that he would be arrested again if he took part in the rally at the U.S. Steel Building Thursday.

Lyde – who had already been arrested last week – politely thanked him for his concern, but he had every intention of staying.

By the end of the protest, he had been arrested with several other faith leaders for trying to enter the building to speak with UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff.

The rally was part of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network’s new campaign called Love Thy Neighbor.

James Myers / SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania

Registered nurses at UPMC Altoona stepped off the job for a one-day strike on Tuesday.

Tammy Morgan, a nurse in the Behavioral Health Inpatient Unit, said many of the hospital’s 750 nurses are on the picket line today.

“We don’t know exactly how many, but there’s hundreds of people out there,” Morgan said. “We have lots of community people going by honking. We have other people in the community standing with us. Everybody’s riled up, chanting, marching up and down the sidewalks.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle joined UPMC workers and community activists for a rally outside the federal building in downtown Pittsburgh Monday.

Doyle told the assembled crowd of about 75 people that he recently had the honor of accompanying President Barack Obama on his trip to Pittsburgh last week, and that the two discussed the president’s comments during his State of the Union address.

“One of the things he said that really stuck with me is … 'No one in this country should be working full time and living in poverty,’” said Doyle.

Over the next three years, researchers across Pennsylvania will be examining two different methods of mental health treatment, to determine which has the better outcomes. One of those is the Person-Centered approach.

“That’s focusing on the person who has a behavioral health condition getting support and information from a peer, someone who also has the experience, to prepare for the meetings with their doctors,” said

Kim MacDonald-Wilson is with the UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care.

Even though Pittsburgh didn’t have the most extreme temperatures in the polar vortex, the mercury did go below zero. And as a result, hospital emergency departments saw an uptick in visits, including UPMC, which saw 12 cases following the worst of the cold.

At the end of next year, the contract between the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Highmark Health Plan will expire, and many Western Pennsylvanians are worried about losing access to the doctors and hospitals they have patronized for years.

In October, a pair of Pennsylvania House representatives introduced legislation that would impose new rules on nonprofit integrated delivery networks, like UPMC, which offer both healthcare and health insurance.

A week before the Pennsylvania House Health Committee holds a hearing on legislation to force all not-for-profit health care insurers and care providers to open their services to all insurance holders, not just their own, UPMC launched a campaign to defeat the measures.

Mailers were sent to at least three legislative districts in western Pennsylvania and robocalls were received across the state asking recipients to urge their lawmakers to reject the legislation.

UPMC is alerting nearly 1,300 people treated at various UPMC locations over the past year that their records were viewed inappropriately. The now former employee at UPMC McKeesport was not involved in the care of the patients and therefore should not have been looking at their information.

“Another employee called it to the attention to the management of the hospital,” said UPMC spokeswoman Wendy Zellner. “Thus, we took the action we did to terminate this employee.”

pittsburghpa.gov

The race for the District 7 Pittsburgh City Council seat looks to be wide open heading into the election Tuesday.  Five candidates are vying for the spot vacated by Patrick Dowd in July.  Politically, the candidates are as diverse as the district.

A Democrat, a Libertarian, and a handful of independents all want to represent District 7, which runs from the Strip District to Highland Park and includes Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Polish Hill, Friendship, Morningside, and Stanton Heights.  

Strip District Redevelopment

ThyroSeq, a new way of genetically testing thyroid nodules for cancer, could save patients an extra procedure.

Developed at the University of Pittsburgh, ThyroSeq is a genetic sequencing test that allows researchers to accurately diagnose a thyroid growth for cancer.

Dr. Yuri Nikiforov, director of thyroid molecular diagnostics at the Pitt School of Medicine, said thyroid nodules typically appear as a lump on the neck close to the “Adam’s apple.” He said they are more common in women and the elderly.

The University of Pittsburgh and UPMC are taking part in the second phase of a national project to improve battlefield medicine.

The Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) is a consortium of 30 academic centers led by the Wake Forest Institute for Generative Medicine and McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a joint effort of Pitt and UPMC.

Over a five-year period, AFIRM will have $75 million from the Department of Defense and five years to research how to best heal skin burns, arm and hand wounds, and transplant faces and hands of those wounded.

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