Medical Center fiscal year highlighted by continued clinical growth, innovation

Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center continued a trend of positive financial performance during fiscal year 2012-13, in a year highlighted by clinical growth, new or expanded health system collaborations, innovative approaches to research support and the opening of the freestanding home of Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, reported Dr. Harold L. Paz, chief executive officer of Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Health System, Penn State’s senior vice president for health affairs and dean of the Penn State College of Medicine.

Paz told faculty, staff and community members at today’s annual public board of directors meeting that during fiscal year 2013, outpatient visits increased by 2 percent from the previous year to more than 911,000. Surgical cases were more than 27,700, up 0.5 percent and following a national, industry-wide trend of many surgical procedures moving to the outpatient setting. Overall hospital admissions were more than 27,700, up 2.4 percent from the previous year and Emergency Department visits increased by 4.2 percent to more than 67,000.

Yet this success comes amid a vastly changing landscape of increasing competition and health system integration, reduced National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for research and health care reform. Paz also introduced elements of the organization’s new five-year strategic plan to ensure its continued success amid these changes, a vision he said centers on the innovative spirit of all 9,000 Penn State Hershey employees.

“Our success over the past several years has been due in large part to the dedication and hard work of our faculty and staff,” Paz said. “However, our landscape is changing rapidly and we must change with it. We need to tap into the creativity and innovation of our people in order to remain strong, provide patient care of the highest quality and value, conduct inspired research, and produce a new generation of health and science professionals prepared to meet the health care needs of the future.”

The new strategic plan is built around five “strategic imperatives”:

-- Achieve the highest level of quality, safety and value

-- Educate and invest in our people for personal and professional success

-- Create an extraordinary patient experience

-- Create innovation through research

-- Develop and differentiate our regional integrated academic health care system

In June, Penn State Hershey launched the new Center for Enterprise Innovation to help departments, institutes and outpatient practices increase efficiency, improve patient access, find cost savings, generate new revenue and increase the value the organization provides across its services.

Paz outlined a plan to generate $125 million over the next three years through more efficient delivery of patient care across its health system, increased clinical productivity, more efficient staffing practices, decreased supply chain costs and market growth. Paz described the goal as critical to helping the organization maintain success across all of its missions in the face of health care reform, a changing health care marketplace and reduced government support for research and education.

During the meeting Paz highlighted several examples of change projects driven by physicians and staff, including:

-- The neurology department established an innovative patient access team to evaluate new patients and get them in for appointments more quickly. The result was a big drop in average wait times for a new appointment – from 299 days to just nine days. 

-- A unit that treats trauma, emergency surgery and bariatric patients put new processes in place to reduce pressure ulcers, a painful and potentially serious complication. The simple steps they took reduced the number of pressure ulcers from nine (in a two-year period) to zero in 2013. This effort not only improved the quality of care and patient outcomes but resulted in a savings estimated to be more than $600,000 in health care costs.

In February, the new 263,000-square-foot home of Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital opened to patients, signaling a new era of comprehensive patient- and family-centered care for children in central Pennsylvania. The Children’s Hospital also earned its place among the nation’s best this year for the third year in a row, earning recognition in five specialties from U.S. News and World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals rankings.

For another example of an exciting clinical initiative from the past fiscal year, watch this video:

Inspired to Innovate: Could "liver dialysis" be a future treatment for liver failure?

When someone suffers from acute liver failure, there usually isn't much medical personnel can do. Liver transplant may be an option for some patients, but not for everyone. What if there was a way to filter out the toxins from the liver so that it had a chance to heal itself? Specialists in the mechanical circulatory support program at Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute are studying a new therapy called "MARS" for the potential to do just that—giving patients with critical liver disease another possible option for recovery.


Like most research institutions, Penn State Hershey felt the effects of federal budget sequestration during the past fiscal year. Investigators brought in 516 new grant awards for a total of $81.6 million in external research support, including more than $46 million from the NIH. Some of the important grants received this past year include:

-- A $3.6 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to Dr. Xuemei Huang for the use of MRI to study markers of Parkinson’s disease;

-- A $2.9 million grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research to Drs. Michael Green and Benjamin Levi to study the role of caregivers in end-of-life decision-making;

-- A $1.3 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to Dr. Douglas Leslie to study the effects of state and federal insurance policies on quality of care for autism.

In addition, Penn State Hershey also received two major awards of special note: a prestigious American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant, awarded to Dr. Wafik El-Deiry, interim director of Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute; and an NIH award that will support the creation of a new Penn State Zebrafish functional genomics core facility, led by Dr. Keith Cheng. The zebrafish is becoming a critical animal model for studying the role of genetics in many diseases, including cancer, and under Cheng’s leadership, Penn State Hershey is on the forefront of this field of study.

As federal funding sources continue to decline, Penn State Hershey is investing in other avenues of support for the important work of its basic science and clinical investigators. Last year, Penn State Hershey saw a 25-percent increase in both industry-sponsored research and philanthropic support for research. And with the support of new programs designed to make the process of commercializing intellectual property easier, licenses and royalty revenues have doubled, and four faculty startup companies formed since 2012.

Learn about an exciting partnership forged this year between ALS specialists and College of Medicine scientists that could result in new, personalized treatments for this devastating disease in this video:

Inspired to Cure: Finding new treatments for ALS

Donald Risser learned he had ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease last July. Since then, he has become an advocate for important research happening at Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine to find new treatments for this uncommon, but devastating disease. Learn how the Penn State Hershey ALS Clinic and the Penn State Hershey Institute for Personalized Medicine have partnered to use patient blood and saliva samples to study how genetics play a role in ALS.


In May, the College of Medicine graduated its 43rd class and awarded 141 medical degrees and 72 graduate degrees, including the first eight graduates of our newest degree program, the master of public health program. Of the medical class of 2013, 30 percent matched to residency programs in Pennsylvania, and 11 percent stayed at Penn State Hershey.

Penn State Hershey had been training health care professionals for more than four decades, and making sure the curriculum and programs offered prepare these professionals to meet the demands today’s and tomorrow’s health care systems will place on them is a critical focus. In 2013, Penn State College of Medicine was among only 11 medical schools in the country — and the only one in Pennsylvania — to receive a $1 million grant in support of an innovative new curriculum to prepare medical students to work within all aspects of the nation’s evolving health care system.

Watch this video about the AMA grant:

Inspired to Collaborate: Preparing tomorrow's health professionals for the modern health care system

enn State College of Medicine is among only 11 of the nation's medical schools—and the only one in Pennsylvania—to earn a $1 million grant from the American Medical Association to transform the way medical students are prepared for the health system of today. Penn State Hershey is developing a component of the medical school curriculum called Systems Based Learning, in which students starting in August 2014 will serve as patient navigators.

The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, another organization dedicated to facilitating education reform at the nation’s medical schools, selected Kelly Karpa, associate professor of pharmacology, as a Macy Faculty Scholar for 2013. Karpa was selected from a pool of 60 applicants, a prestigious honor since the foundation selects only five scholars each year.

Community outreach

Building on the success of the Farmers Market in Hershey, Penn State Hershey took the next step and partnered with the other major Hershey entities to launch the Hershey Community Garden. With support from the Foundation for Enhancing Communities, construction of the garden is under way on the western side of campus, near the Fitness Center and Life Lion hangar.

Garden plots will be available in spring 2014 to individuals and community groups including some raised bed plots to make gardening more accessible to everyone. The garden will offer increased opportunities for access to healthy produce, encourage physical activity and provide educational programming and therapeutic uses for patients. A dedication and fall festival is scheduled for Oct. 5.

During the meeting, Andy Carter, Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) president, presented Penn State Hershey with a 2013 HAP Achievement Award for Community Benefit for an initiative in the Lebanon School District. In fall 2012, 100 Penn State Hershey nurses and its PRO Wellness Center coordinated an effort to perform mandated hearing, vision, height and weight, and scoliosis screenings on all students in the school district in just two days. In previous years, the effort has taken busy school nurses months, leaving them with little time to address any issues identified with students and their parents.

Penn State Hershey staff will return to the school district again this fall to do the screenings plus a research project on hearing loss in teenagers, more advanced data capture of results and a fundraising effort with the local Lion’s Club to help supply students in need with glasses. Watch a video about this project:

Inspired to Share: Improving health through community partnerships

In fall 2012, 100 Penn State Hershey nurses and the Penn State Hershey PRO Wellness Center coordinated an effort to perform mandated hearing, vision, height and weight, and scoliosis screenings on all students in the Lebanon School District in just two days. In previous years, the effort has taken busy school nurses months, leaving them with little time to address any issues identified with students and their parents. The initiative is expanding in fall 2013 to include a research project on teen hearing loss and a fundraiser with the local Lion's Club to match students in need with eye glasses


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Last Updated September 19, 2013