A rigorous emphasis on primary and specialty care, research, and education sets Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center apart in regional healthcare delivery.
Hershey Medical Center, the only academic health center in Central Pennsylvania, blends specialty and primary care with leading-edge research tailored to the needs of patients in the area, sparing them the burden of traveling to cities such as Baltimore, Pittsburgh or Philadelphia to receive advanced care.
Extending Specialty and Primary Care Outreach
Hershey Medical Center offers comprehensive care for people of all ages through six dedicated specialty institutes and a children’s hospital. Besides the medical center, the affiliated Penn State Medical Group has 63 practices at 25 locations throughout Central Pennsylvania. The group’s newest practice opened in Mechanicsburg in April 2017.
Hershey Medical Center also offers enhanced access to specialty providers through a variety of telehealth services, including the LionNet TeleStroke Program, a dermatology telehealth initiative, a growing telepsychiatry program and an ALS telemedicine program that gives patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis the opportunity to complete office visits from home, eliminating the need to travel or transport ventilators and other medical equipment.
As part of the LionNet TeleStroke Program, Penn State Stroke Center neurologists remotely evaluate patients with stroke symptoms who present at 16 partnering community hospitals. This enables these specialists to rapidly offer lifesaving recommendations about treatment and to determine whether patients should be transferred to the Penn State Stroke Center — the region’s only Comprehensive Stroke Center — for a higher level of care. Thanks to the program, which started in 2012, more than 90 percent of stroke patients are able to remain in their community hospitals, according to Craig Hillemeier, MD, dean of Penn State College of Medicine, CEO of Penn State Health and senior vice president for health affairs for Penn State.
The telepsychiatry program, provided in collaboration with PinnacleHealth System and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute (PPI), a joint venture between Penn State Health and PinnacleHealth, helps meet Central Pennsylvania’s needs for emergency psychiatric care. According to a 2016 Five-County Regional Community Health Needs Assessment Implementation Strategy report, the number of psychiatric patients seeking mental health evaluations in the emergency department (ED) is on the rise. Through this collaboration, Penn State Health physicians located at PPI in Harrisburg electronically evaluate such patients who present at the Hershey Medical Center ED.
Informing Care through Research
Penn State Health’s research endeavors are robust — at any given time, 500 to 600 open clinical investigations are underway in multiple specialties, including cardiology and pediatric and adult oncology.
“What differentiates us is the breadth of the clinical research we perform, as well as who sponsors our research,” Dr. Hillemeier says. “Many of our studies are sponsored by the federal government, health organizations or foundations.”
In fiscal year 2015–2016, for example, Penn State College of Medicine obtained $109 million in external research funding. Some of this funding came from the National Institutes of Health, which awarded the Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute a $20 million, four-year continuation grant in 2016. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute awarded Penn State Health $2.2 million in funding to participate in a new diabetes research network and to assess the usefulness of obesity counseling.
“A great advantage of our research is that it’s often able to focus on issues that are essential to the people who live in our region, such as obesity and heart disease,” Dr. Hillemeier says. “As a case in point, we have multiple efforts addressing obesity. Some studies are focused on diabetes, while others look at the role of obesity early in life versus later in life. This allows us to examine what therapies and behavioral modifications will be effective in these populations.”