Bridges to Health

Health--it's what we all have in common:  whether we're trying to maintain our health through good habits or improve our failing health.  "Bridges to Health" is 90.5 WESA's health care reporting initiative examining everything from unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act to transparency in health care costs; from a lack of access to quality care for minority members of our society to confronting the opioid crisis in our region. It's about our individual health and the well-being of our community.

Health care coverage on 90.5 WESA is made possible in part by a grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

WITF

In a decision that is expected to reshape the health care world in the midstate, a federal court has blocked a merger between Penn State Health and PinnacleHealth.

The ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals caps a saga that stretched more than two years, when two of the largest health systems in the region first announced their plans to unite.

How One Composer's Hearing Damage Inspired A Concert Series

Sep 29, 2016
Ben Tran

  In 2008, composer Daniel Fishkin's ears started ringing, and they never stopped. Doctors offered no solace besides, "You get used to it." In the absence of a medical cure, Fishkin vowed to find a creative solution. 

"I do not want to get used to my hearing damage — I want to use it."

Carolyn Kaster / AP

 

A federal appeals court has reversed an earlier ruling clearing the way for a proposed merger between PinnacleHealth System and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction sought by the Federal Trade Commission and Pennsylvania attorney general's office.

Hershey and Pinnacle said in a joint statement Tuesday that they were disappointed and would carefully review the decision.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

The Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center offers free medical and dental services to some of Pittsburgh’s poorest uninsured and underinsured residents. 

Volunteer Medical Director Dr. Edward Kelly helped launch the clinic nine years ago. The retired orthopedic surgeon spends at least three days a week seeing patients, filling out paperwork and organizing other teams of volunteers who make the services possible.

Alan Diaz / AP

Most mental and behavioral health patients first get help through their primary care doctor.  In fact, more prescriptions for antidepressants drugs are written by primary care physicians than by mental health doctors. 

Flickr user Simon

Up to a quarter of American women will experience mental illness during pregnancy or after childbirth, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, yet health care providers are not required to screen for these conditions.

Dan Burda / Studio Raw Facebook

Morgan Yoney’s hospital room at UPMC Presbyterian was dim, even though it was the middle of a sunny day in Pittsburgh. Still, the walls were covered in colorful cards sent by some of the more than 17,000 followers of “Morgan’s Army.” Morgan is currently in the hospital, waiting for a new set of lungs.

“Morgan was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at 9 months old,” said her mother, Tammy Yoney.

This story is part of our NPR Ed series on mental health in schools.

In the waning days of summer vacation, Sydney and Laney are enjoying their final moments of freedom flipping over a high bar at a playground close by their house in Spartanburg, S.C.

"You've got to pull your hips into the bar," says their mom, Selena, motioning to the girls, "you've got to kick up like that!"

"I tried to kick!" Laney says indignantly. "I did this – you told me not to stick out!"

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Landon DePaulo’s manniversary is Dec. 27, 2012.

That’s when he injected his first $100 shot of testosterone. It's a steep cost to look like himself, he said.

Jessica Stefonik is grinning. She's got a bounce in her step. Her cheeks are a little puffy and her speech is a bit thick.

"It feels weird right now, but I'll get used to it," she says.

What she's trying to get used to is the feeling of having teeth.

On the day we met, Stefonik, a mom of three from Mosinee, Wis., got a set of dentures to replace all of her upper teeth, which she lost over many years to disease and decay.

Stefonik is just 31 years old.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

In addition to bringing a baby into the world, many of The Midwife Center’s birth stories share a common anecdote – one of the mother-to-be going in and out of the building while their partner or family member searches for parking. 

Keepingtime_CA / flickr

Watson, the computer known for beating Ken Jennings at Jeopardy, is now branching into health care.

Last month, IBM Watson Health partnered with UPMC to launch a new company called Pensiamo, with the goal of saving health care providers money by better utilizing supplies and services.

“The concept of Pensiamo was to provide some cognitive analytics or some artificial intelligence to help hospitals and health system better utilize the products that the patients need,” said Pensiamo Executive Vice President of Cognitive Solutions Mary Beth Lang.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

A small group of activists delivered five cardboard boxes containing what they said were the signatures of more than 700,000 “outraged citizens” to Mylan Pharmaceuticals Tuesday morning.

Flickr user Peter Lynch

Pennsylvania is still more than a year away from having its medical marijuana system up and running, but local physicians are already thinking about how they will prescribe the drug.

Pennsylvania Internet News Service

 

Pennsylvania has officially joined nearly every other state in the U.S. by setting up a program to track prescriptions of powerful drugs like oxycodone and methadone.

It's considered a big step forward to address the addiction crisis.

Doctors, physician assistants and other prescribers can now check the database to see when a patient last received the drugs.

Researchers at Penn State's Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences are taking 3D printing from a novelty to an orthopedic tool. The team is developing a method of 3D printing with cartilage cells to create implants for joints such as the knee and elbow.

On a visit to his lab, Associate Professor of engineering Ibrahim Ozbolat showed several of his lab's bioprinters to physicians from Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

St. Clair Hospital

 

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. is known for employing doctors with highly refined subspecialties, and now St. Clair Hospital doctors can tap into that expertise.

An agreement between the two hospitals, finalized this week, will allow St. Clair doctors to access eTumor Boards – a virtual version of tumor board reviews, in which multiple doctors brainstorm ways to treat an individual patient.

National Cancer Institute

 

new study finds a link between the racial makeup of Philadelphia neighborhoods and the number of primary care doctors who work there.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Christiana Care Health System, the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, and the French Institute for Agricultural Research, measures primary care doctors per resident in Philadelphia's census tracts.

Courtesy UPMC

More than 400 people died from drug overdoses in Allegheny County last year. According to the Health Department, many of them were due to opioids, specifically heroin.

As public health officials continue to battle the opioid epidemic, health care professionals are looking for new ways to help patients transition from drug addiction to recovery.

A computer may soon be able to offer highly personalized treatment suggestions for cancer patients based on the specifics of their cases and the full sweep of the most relevant scientific research.

IBM and the New York Genome Center, a consortium of medical research institutions in New York City, are collaborating on a project to speed up cancer diagnoses and treatment.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The needle is in and out in a second. I let my breath return to its normal pace, and I’m given a Tweety Bird bandage as a reward for my maturity.

Many medical studies involving children never end up being put to use because scientists frequently don't publish the results of their work, according to an analysis published online Thursday.

The findings raise both scientific and ethical issues regarding research on this vulnerable population.

HealthCare.gov

Open enrollment for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act begins in a few months. And for many, navigating the provider exchange can be a daunting task.

Backers of ColoradoCare — the state ballot initiative that would establish universal health care in Colorado — think they have the perfect job for former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.

As he takes the stage Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine is firmly in Hillary Clinton's camp — and his party's — on the big health care issues. Now a U.S. senator from Virginia, Kaine supports the Affordable Care Act and pushed its Medicaid expansion. He also worked to overhaul the mental health system when he was governor of Virginia.

Here are highlights and a few flashpoints of controversy from Kaine's health policy record:

Mental health

The Justice Department calls it the largest criminal health care fraud case ever brought against individual suspects: Three people are accused of orchestrating a massive fraud involving a number of Miami-based health care providers.

The three facing charges are all from Florida's Miami-Dade County; they include Philip Esformes, 47, owner of more than 30 Miami-area nursing and assisted living facilities; hospital administrator Odette Barcha, 49; and physician assistant Arnaldo Carmouze, 56, the Justice Department says.

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