One visit to the Hershey campus of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine is all it takes to recognize the organization is undergoing transformational change.
It is a campus under construction to alleviate critical capacity issues by creating additional specialized space for its leading edge patient care, research and training opportunities that are in demand. It’s a hospital that continues to be nationally recognized for performance in safety and quality of care, as well as for model policies that guide respectful patient, staff and student interactions. It’s a teaching hospital whose affiliated school of medicine continues leading the evolution of medical education with dynamic, personalized learning methods designed to produce collaborative, compassionate and competent clinicians and scientists with the skills to navigate the modern health care environment.
All of this is Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center today, as presented by Dr. A. Craig Hillemeier, dean of Penn State College of Medicine, chief executive officer for Penn State Health and Penn State’s senior vice president for health affairs, to the Medical Center’s Board of Directors, faculty, staff, students and others.
Many of the highlights Hillemeier shared during the annual public Board of Directors meeting demonstrate how Hershey Medical Center and the College of Medicine are helping Penn State Health address today’s health care challenges with a reenergized commitment to the health of people and communities in central Pennsylvania.
“Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine are the academic hub of our growing health system—many of our innovations in patient care, research and education take root here,” Hillemeier said. “What I find most exciting, as Penn State Health experiences unprecedented growth, is that patients in communities across the region can access these innovations as we partner with skilled community providers to enhance primary and specialty care close to patients’ homes and families.”
As Penn State Health pursues partnerships with other health care providers in the region to ensure no one must travel to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh or Baltimore to gain access to the high-quality care they need, investments in expansion of or additions to the at-capacity clinical facilities on the Hershey Medical Center campus are underway.
A three-story addition to Penn State Children’s Hospital will enable a move of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and women’s health services into the Children’s Hospital, which will then allow the adult hospital to use the vacated space for other services.
A project to significantly expand the Medical Center’s Emergency Department—expected to be complete in 2019—will create more efficient treatment and registration space and improve patient and family flow through the department, as well as providing additional space for three new operating rooms and clinical and research staff work areas in the adjacent Penn State Cancer Institute.
In addition to building improvements, the Medical Center and College of Medicine have focused on key leadership recruitment to better enable the organizations to meet the needs of the increasingly diverse student and patient populations they serve. In August, Penn State Health announced that Deborah Berini, formerly of the University of Texas Medical Branch Health System, will become the Medical Center’s next president. Dr. Thomas Ma joined the organization as chair of the Department of Medicine on Jan. 1, and the College of Medicine announced Bernice Hausman will chair the Department of Humanities starting Nov. 12.
Hershey Medical Center is always seeking to improve in the quality and safety of its care, and continued focus and commitment in the past year has demonstrated better overall outcomes and higher patient satisfaction, as well as recognition of those programs, including:
- S. News and World Report 2018 “Best Hospitals” rankings in three specialties for Penn State Children’s Hospital and two specialties for the Medical Center.
- Another prestigious three-star rating from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons for the congenital heart surgery program at Penn State Children’s Hospital.
- The American College of Surgeons named Penn State Children’s Hospital as one of the nation’s first Level 1 Children’s Surgery Centers.
In 2018, the Medical Center and its affiliated outpatient practices sites across the region launched, CareConnect, as part of Penn State Health’s most ambitious endeavors to date. This new electronic health record (EHR) and connected billing system is an upgrade to and extension of the Medical Center’s previous system, which was one of the first integrated EHR and clinical provider order-entry systems in the U.S. CareConnect gives patients enhanced access to their health information and their care teams no matter where they are based within the Penn State Health network. It will also enable Penn State Health to provide patients with financial clearance and more accurate cost estimates before they receive care and a single, easier to understand billing statement after care is delivered.
During fiscal year 2018, clinical activity remained strong. Outpatient visits totaled more than 1.1 million, and the medical center performed nearly 32,500 surgeries. Overall admissions were nearly identical to last year, at just over 29,000. The organization finished the year with a total margin of 9.5 percent, and provided more than $76 million to support the academic mission of the College of Medicine.
External support in 2018 played a significant role in the organization’s success.
In April, the Medical Center’s regional leadership in comprehensive cancer services got a bump of support when Highmark Health presented a $25 million grant to Penn State Health to support cancer care, research and recruitment at Penn State Cancer Institute. Four Diamonds Mini-THON raised more than $7 million in 2017-18 to fight childhood cancer. Ahold USA, owner of Giant supermarkets, made a gift of $280,000 to fund 3D heart printing at the Children’s Hospital.
Medical Center and College of Medicine researchers earned more than $90 million in external research funding in fiscal year 2018. This money supports efforts of faculty and staff to do meaningful scientific studies into the causes, treatments, cures and prevention of disease. Examples of the lifesaving research underway supported by those dollars include:
- A grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command is supporting development of a quick-acting foam for treating and sealing wounds quickly – on the battlefield, in rural areas, or in other isolated locations away from hospitals.
- Creating high-resolution, 3D maps of the blood vessels in both young and aging brains to learn more about how problems – like strokes or Alzheimer’s disease – develop over time, supported by a grant from the National Institute of Health Blueprint for Neuroscience Research.
- A grant from the Wolf Administration aimed at combating the opioid epidemic across the commonwealth that enabled Penn State Health to establish a medication-assisted opioid treatment program at the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute.
College of Medicine leaders were proud and excited to learn in July that the college had earned an eight-year reaccreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). The college continues to grow its recognition as a national leader in driving health care and health sciences education, including:
- Implementation of a full, four-year curriculum at University Park, developed by student design partners.
- A new doctoral program in epidemiology.
- A range of joint degree offerings, including MD/PhD, MD/MPH and MD/MBA, with plans to launch an MD/MEd program soon.
- Accelerated degree programs in four disciplines: Family and Community Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Neurosurgery and Orthopedics.
- A growing presence with medical schools and health care providers around the world that lets providers share expertise and offers students unique training perspectives.
These programs will be further supported by construction of the Innovation Pavilion, a modern addition to the original Medical Center and College of Medicine buildings designed to better integrate research and education by fostering greater collaboration, supporting an innovative education model of team-based learning and providing the infrastructure necessary to power new breakthroughs in science. The project will be among the most significant capital investments at any Penn State campus and provide nearly 300,000 square feet of more flexible training space, new research labs, and shared research equipment and systems that will lower costs by avoiding duplication and encourage greater collaboration.
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