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.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

If your primary care physician says you need a test or procedure, and he suggests a location to get it done, what do you do?

“There is data that shows that patients do what their doctor says,” said Mark Roberts, chair of the department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “When your doctor tells you, ‘I want you to see a cardiologist and I want you to see this cardiologist,’ that’s who you go see.”

Diagnosing And Treating A Pulmonary Embolism

Mar 4, 2016
Yale Rosen / flickr

Pulmonary embolism is the third leading cause of cardiovascular death in the United States after heart attack and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But “PE” is also treatable and preventable, so why does the mortality rate continue to climb?

Every morning since I arrived in Brazil to cover the Zika outbreak, the first thing I do is douse myself with insect repellent before venturing outside.

I know the chances I'll catch Zika are pretty low, and the disease tends to be relatively mild for most healthy adult males. But with all the alarm about the virus, it's hard not to start to get a little paranoid about catching Zika from a mosquito.

Legislation that was intended to require more people who work with children to get criminal background checks might have actually created a loophole for doctors and other hospital personnel.

“Something just got lost” when the bill was crafted, said state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, an Allegheny County Republican.

The bill was one of 20 approved over the last three years to update the Child Protective Services Law in the wake of the child molestation scandal involving former Pennsylvania State University Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky.

stclair.org

St. Clair Hospital in the South Hills is making at least one portion of the health care system a little more transparent. 

The hospital has just rolled out an online tool that allows potential patients to find out what the hospital will charge them for more than 150 procedures.

Jennifer Morrow / Flickr

  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill to increase the penalty for attacking a health care practitioner.

Under House Bill 1219, the legal charges in such assault cases would be elevated from misdemeanors to felonies.

Pennsylvania Medical Society President Scott Shapiro said health care workers face a disproportionate amount of violence in the workplace.

University of Essex / Flickr

About three years ago, Laura Offutt was between medical consulting projects and looking for something new to try. Around the same time, she noticed that her teenage children and their friends were not happy with the way health information was being presented in school. 

Additionally, Offutt said the teens seemed to have picked up bad information while attempting to fill in the gaps in knowledge from their school presentations. That’s how she started a teen health blog, now a website, called Real Talk with Dr. Offutt.

Alex / Flickr

Replacing sitting with light housework or a stroll may be the new recommendation for severely obese adults looking to reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

That’s what a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health-led team found after a week long study tracking 927 patients before their weight-loss surgery.

As Senior Centers Dwindle, Virtual Options Become Reality

Jan 4, 2016
Selfhelp Community Services / 90.5 WESA

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation allocated $240,000 over the next two years to bring a Virtual Senior Center to Pittsburgh through a computer-based program expected to teach live interactive history classes, gin rummy games, yoga and more.

The center will help seniors learn, build their social networks and have fun through technology, especially as the volume of traditional centers continue to decline, said foundation COO/Chief Program Officer Nancy Zionts.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

 

Gov. Tom Wolf says the 500,000 Pennsylvanians who have signed up for health care under the Medicaid expansion are part of keeping a campaign promise he made in last year's election campaign.

Wolf joined state Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas and health care advocates to mark the milestone Thursday at a news conference at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Wolf, a Democrat who expanded Medicaid eligibility under the federal Affordable Health Care Act soon after he took office in January, says he hopes the number of enrollments will continue to grow.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council’s Wage Review Committee, spearheaded by Councilman Ricky Burgess, is recommending some of the region’s biggest employers increase their minimum wage.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / Flickr

  The Pennsylvania Department of Health  and the Department of Education announced Thursday a joint proposal to revise immunization regulations for school children.

Health Secretary Karen Murphy and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said this week they want to better protect students’ health by requiring students to finish all immunizations within the first five days of school. If guardians fail to complete that schedule, a written note from a doctor outlining the plan to immunize the student must be submitted to school officials within the first five days of class.  Currently families have up to eight months to make sure school children have their vaccinations.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Anchored at the corner of Fifth Avenue and McKee Place in Oakland, Hieber’s Pharmacy sports a glass block window that reads, “We Create Medicine For Your Family.” Inside, white cabinets hold powdered chemicals and a rainbow assortment of empty capsules waiting to be filled.

Hieber's is a compounding pharmacy.

jakebwotha

Many dread visiting the doctor, but in Pennsylvania, that isn't because of a lack of access.

Susquehanna Polling and Research conducted a study on behalf of the Pennsylvania Medical Society to find out how many Pennsylvania residents are in close proximity to primary care providers. 

Senators Hold Opiate Abuse Hearing In Pittsburgh

Oct 16, 2015

Two Pennsylvania senators convened a field hearing on opiate abuse Thursday at Allegheny General Hospital in an effort to jumpstart support for a bill filed in July.

Jeffery Smith / Flickr

The volume and complexity of health research can make it difficult for legislators to keep up.

Larry Stern, a retired health care executive, says with the growing number of interest and advocacy groups, it’s difficult to determine positions of those groups based on evidence from those based on belief.

Research by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has shown Emergency Medical Service personnel who work 12- to 24-hour shifts are more than twice as likely to be injured on the job than those who work 8-hour shifts.

Advocates are pushing a state proposal to make caregivers a more central part of a patient’s care.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA News

The Midwife Center in the Strip District expects 470 babies will be born at the center this year, almost double the births five years ago.

Executive Director Christine Haas said this increase is reflected nationally as women want more options and a holistic approach to pregnancy.

Mike Richards / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania's budget impasse has now been going for about two and a half months, and it's starting to impact some of the state's most vulnerable residents.

Allegheny County’s Human Services Department’s Area Agency on Aging (AAA) said this is coming at a time when demand for services is rising. 

AAA has a proposed budget of $51 million, but that depends on state lawmakers and the governor resolving their budget dispute.

Officials with the Pennsylvania’s eHealth Partnership Authority plan to grant about $10 million to hospitals and ambulatory providers in an effort to digitize and streamline medical services. They will be able to connect to the Pennsylvania Patient Provider Network.

This is a continuation of the grant program and effort they started last year.

Often times patients have to revisit the hospital after being discharged as part of scheduled care, but sometimes readmissions are caused by a failure of the system.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council – or PHC4 – recently released a report looking at preventable readmission rates statewide for patients with four conditions that often lead to hospitalization.

Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed Pennsylvania budget has a detractor: the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP).

The group, which represents all of the state's hospitals, takes issue with a $166.5 million reduction to hospital Medicaid payments. HAP's Vice President for Research Martin Ciccocioppo said the reduction is significant for a program that already doesn't cover the costs hospitals incur.

According to a recent poll conducted the Pennsylvania Medical Society, there have been changes in the experiences people have had accessing health care.

“It seems that most patients are able to access health care within a reasonable period of time,” said Karen Rizzo, a practicing physician and President of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.  “It seems that their out-of-pocket expense is increasing for about 37 percent of the patients surveyed.”

Of the 700 people polled, 53 percent said their out of pocket expenses were about the same, and 8 percent saw a reduction in cost.

Urgent Care Clinic Opens in Braddock

Jan 5, 2015

On Monday, nearly five years after UPMC shut down their Braddock hospital, competitor Allegheny Health Network and Highmark opened an urgent care clinic in the community.

“We believe everyone in our region should have the opportunity to live healthier, happier lives,” said Patricia Lieberman, chief operating officer of the Allegheny Health Network.

The 12-patient room facility is in a space that was once a surface parking lot for the hospital.

A commission tasked with examining the long-term care system in Pennsylvania is prepared to submit its recommendations to Gov. Tom Corbett but not before it has one more meeting.

The Long-Term Care Commission was formed in January of this year and has until Dec. 31 to report to the governor on issues including illness prevention and caregiver support, accessibility, provision of services and quality outcomes and management.

Bonnie Rose, deputy secretary for the Office of Long-Term Living, said the commission will have the report on Corbett’s desk ahead of the deadline.

New Bill to Give Doctors Protection From Lawmakers

Aug 18, 2014

Patients trust that their doctors are acting in their best interests, with opinions formed by years of experience, training, and studying. But what if that medical opinion was actually handed down by a politician?

A new bill proposed by Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Stack (D- Philadelphia) attempts to address that issue by preventing government bodies from requiring medical personnel to make decisions that are not medically supported.

More than 12,600 Pennsylvanians are at risk of losing their federal exchange health insurance this September if they do not resolve inconsistencies in their enrollment information, according to the Pennsylvania Health Access Network.

In May, more than 970,000 people were identified by the Department of Health and Human Services as missing information or having contradictory information about their citizenship or immigration status in their data.

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