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CRISP Launches Statewide Health Information Exchange

The Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP) has launched its statewide health information exchange (HIE). HIE is the infrastructure that supports the private and secure flow of health information among physician practices, hospitals, labs, radiology centers, and other healthcare institutions.

The information exchange is a major step towards the ubiquitous delivery of the right health information to the right place at the right time providing safer, more timely, efficient, patient-centered care. 

Healthcare organizations currently participating in the HIE include: Holy Cross Hospital, Suburban Hospital, Montgomery General Hospital, Community Radiology (a RadNet partner), Advanced Radiology (a RadNet partner), American Radiology Services, Quest Diagnostics, Laboratory Corporation of America. Several more organizations will connect in the next few weeks

All 48 Maryland hospitals have recently committed to sharing data with the statewide HIE. This commitment covers 11,175 in-patient beds, from Garrett County to the Eastern Shore.

"We at Holy Cross Hospital believe a statewide health information exchange can help make care safer and more efficient for Marylanders," says Kevin J. Sexton, president and CEO of Holy Cross Hospital. "We are delighted to join CRISP, state government and other healthcare providers in getting Maryland to this important milestone."

Other hospitals, physician practices, and clinics will be coming online before the end of the year, including many of the state's federally qualified health clinics, which predominantly serve Medicaid, uninsured and other underserved patients. CRISP will also be expanding the kinds of data the HIE is able to exchange as participation grows, from today's hospital discharge summaries, lab results and radiology results to medical documents that contain more complete medical information, sometimes referred to as continuity of care documents, or "CCDs."

This summer, Lt. Gov. Brown joined Gov. Martin O'Malley to convene a roundtable forum of industry leaders and experts, including medical system presidents, hospital CEOs, state officials and other stakeholders to discuss health care reform and innovation in Maryland. The governor has set a goal for the state to become a national leader in health information technology by 2010 by developing a safe and secure statewide HIE and promoting the adoption of electronic medical records among providers. Maryland is well on its way to achieving that goal.

"This is a major step in developing an electronic system that protects individual privacy while improving the quality of health care and controlling costs," says Lt. Gov. Brown. "Soon, every Marylander will be able to enjoy the benefits of having their critical medical information delivered with speed and accuracy to the point of care, avoiding medical mistakes especially in case of an emergency."

Source: CRISP
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Bmore Team Takes Home Philly's Gigabit Genius Grant

Bmore Fiber, a group of business leaders and residents working to bring super high-speed broadband access to Baltimore, has won the $10,000 Gigabit Genius Award, created and funded by Philadelphia's startup and technology communities to encourage gigabit innovation worldwide. A panel of expert judges selected by Philadelphia's Division of Technology were instructed to choose the most promising projects from anywhere in the world.

The winning projects were chosen from among 20 finalists by a panel of expert judges drawn from Philadelphia's technology, civic, academic, and entrepreneurial leadership.

The projects were chosen for their potential to transform lives using ultra high-speed Internet connectivity known as gigabit. Gigabit technology would make the Internet up to 100 times faster than it is today, a difference in speed similar to the transition from dial-up modems to broadband Internet connections.

Bmore Fiber was awarded the bulk of the prize, $7,500, to begin developing teleradiology technology that will enable specialists to transmit and review radiology scans in real-time, making the experience identical whether the specialists are in the next room or the next continent.

"We are going to meet to consider our next steps. This is a big topic. One question is whether the funds should go to enabling the gigabit technology and then seek a path for the teleradiology work, or whether we should start work on the teleradiology project right away. In my mind the two are inextricably linked, so we'll have to see what makes sense," says David Troy, a Baltimore-based entrepreneur and spokesperson for Bmore Fiber.

The team will also start looking for partners from among Baltimore's robust technology and healthcare sectors.

"We have a broad range of volunteers here in the community, but we don't have anyone specifically lined up for the teleradiology project yet. Here in Baltimore, though, it would seem that with Hopkins and UMD medicine so strong here, we should not have trouble finding willing partners," says Troy.

The remainder of the prize, $2,500, was awarded to Israeli entrepreneur Daniel Dobroszklanka for a remote education project that would enable students anywhere in the world to participate in a world-class live classroom experience.

Source: Dave Troy, Bmore Fiber
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Two Baltimore Community Health Centers Receive $500K Gift from GE Foundation

Chase Brexton Health Services and People's Community Health Centers, Inc., two Baltimore-based community health centers, have been awared a total of $500,000 from the GE Foundation - the philanthropic organization of GE. The funds, distributed as part of the organization's Developing Health program, are part of an effort to help increase access to quality healthcare across the United States.

Developing Health is a three-year, $25 million GE program that aims to improve access to primary care in targeted under-served communities across the United States. The program aligns with GE's healthymagination initiative, a commitment to reduce costs, improve quality, and increase access in healthcare.

"We are pleased to partner and engage with Chase Brexton Health Services and People's Community Health Centers to help drive community access to quality healthcare in Baltimore," says Bob Corcoran, president, GE Foundation. "A staggering number of 47 million people in the United States are uninsured or lack access to basic healthcare, and we are committed to providing services to the uninsured and underserved through grants and GE volunteering in the communities. Both Chase Brexton Health Services and People's Community Health Centers are well equipped to provide the necessary services and make a difference in their communities."

"Over the last 30 years at Chase Brexton, we've endeavored to create programs and services that enable us to provide comprehensive, affordable healthcare to our patients. This grant from the GE Foundation will help us expand our existing services and support our efforts to improve health outcomes for the people we serve," says David H. Shippee, CEO of Chase Brexton Health Services.

The grants will expand access to primary care for residents in the area. "We pride ourselves in providing medical care to those who cannot afford it, regardless of their income or their insurance status," says Patricia Cassatt, CEO of People's Community Health Centers, Inc. "We are honored to be recognized by the GE Foundation for our efforts, and are excited about the prospect of providing increased access to care with the help of the Developing Health program."

Developing Health is a partnership between GE Corporate Citizenship and the GE Corporate Diversity Council. Modeled after GE's successful philanthropic program Developing Health Globally, the program was launched in New York City in October 2009, and has since expanded to Milwaukee, Houston, Cincinnati, Louisville and New Orleans.

Source: GE Foundation
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Medifast makes Fortune's 100 Fast growing companies list

Medifast, a Baltimore-based portion-controlled weight-loss program, ranked 29th on the Fortune Magazine's 2010 "100 Fastest-Growing Companies" list.

According to Fortune's Managing Editor Andy Serwer, "The troubled economy is on all of our minds these days, but sometimes we forget that even in the long slog we seem to be in, entrepreneurs are hard at work creating the next Cisco or Amgen or Starbucks."

"We are extremely proud to be recognized by Fortune as one of the 100 Fastest-Growing Companies," says Michael S. McDevitt, Medifast's CEO. "Everyone at Medifast continues to work tirelessly toward our long-term goal of helping Americans regain control of their health. Medifast is committed to providing clinically proven, innovative and superior quality products to support our multi-platform distribution channels."

"Our business model is demonstrating tremendous results by addressing each individual client's weight-loss and weight-maintenance needs. We look forward to building on this success over the next several years," he continues.

Medifast has been recommended by over 20,000 doctors since 1980. Clients can expect to lose up to two to five pounds per week on the Medifast 5 & 1 Plan, which consists of eating five Medifast Meals and one Lean & Green Meal per day. Medifast provides customers over 70 different menu options, as well as a variety of support options to assist customers on their weight-loss journey.

To qualify for Fortune's 100 Fastest-Growing Companies, foreign or domestic companies had to meet the following criteria: be trading on a major U.S. stock exchange; file quarterly reports with the SEC; have a minimum market capitalization of $250 million and a stock price of at least $5 on June 30, 2010; and have been trading continuously since June 30, 2007. The company must also have revenue and net income of at least $50 million and $10 million, respectively, for the four quarters ended on or before April 30, 2010. Finally, the company must have posted an annualized growth in revenue and earnings per share of at least 15% annually over the three years ended on or before April 30, 2010.

Companies that meet the above criteria were ranked by revenue growth rate, EPS growth rate, and three-year annualized total return for the period ended June 30, 2010. (To compute the revenue and EPS growth rates, FORTUNE uses a trailing four quarters log linear least square regression fit.) The overall rank was based on the sum of the three ranks. Once the 100 companies were identified, they were then re-ranked within the 100, using the three equally weighted variables. If there is a tie, the company with the larger four-quarter revenue receives the higher rank.

Hopkins teams with GBMC, Arundel Medical Health System to form research network

The Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR), in collaboration with Anne Arundel Health System (AAHS) and the Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC), has established a new network of academic and community-based clinical researchers, the Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network (JHCRN). The JHCRN, which will provide new opportunities for research collaborations, is designed to accelerate the transfer of new diagnostic, treatment, and disease-prevention advances from the research arena to patient care.

The JHCRN creates a bridge for research between Hopkins and community-based medical centers by linking physician-scientists and staff from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions with community-based medical centers in the region. The network, which will ultimately have additional member institutions, will serve several purposes, the most important of which is to make clinical trials available to patients who may not ordinarily have access to them.

"This strategy started four years ago when the newly ICTR wanted to expand its capacity for doing research and to take advantage of the potential collaboration of physicians both at GBMC and Anne Arundel who wanted to collaborate with us to do joint trials, but we didn't have a mechanism for at that time," says Dr. Charles Balch, Deputy Director for Clinical Trials and Outcomes Research, JH Institute for Clinical and Translational Research Director, Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network.

"What's unique about it is that it's intended to facilitate collaborations of physicians in any specialty, although we've started initially in cancer because that's the most mature area of clinical trials in many facilities. We're moving quickly into other areas such as diabetes, heart disease, vascular disease and so forth," he continues.

The JHCRN directly addresses the many complexities of conducting multisite and multi-institutional trials by providing investigators with a larger patient pool and a seamless platform that uses common research protocols. The goal of the network is to speed the approval of new trials while ensuring careful oversight of patient safety. Rapid start-up and timely completion of research studies, aided by widespread access to the clinical trials, will make promising therapies available for patient use more quickly.

The network was established through an initial agreement with charter affiliate AAHS in early 2009. This early collaboration was instrumental in clearing many of the organizational and legal barriers to shared research, a process that continues with the inclusion of newer affiliate GBMC. The initial focus of the JHCRN will be on expanding cancer-related clinical trials (including medical, surgical, and radiation therapy aspects of cancer treatment) and diabetes and surgical studies. Future collaborations will include a wide range of research areas, including intensive care; cardiovascular, neuropsychiatric, brain, and spine diseases; and radiology and nuclear medicine studies.

The JHCRN is a program of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR), which is a part of a national consortium aimed at transforming how clinical and translational research is conducted at academic health centers around the country.

Network researchers from participating hospitals will use a centralized data system to coordinate information from diverse information technology and electronic medical records sources. Clinical research methodologies, data management, research reporting documentation, patient consent forms, and quality- and safety-control criteria will be standardized. With this uniformity, network hospitals can better develop and coordinate their own clinical research activities or joint clinical trials with other JHCRN institutions.

Source: Dr. Charles Balch, Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Baltimore Medical Systems new headquarters receives LEED-Platinum certification

Baltimore Medical System's (BMS) new Highlandtown Healthy Living Center officially received LEED-Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council last week.

The Highlandtown Healthy Living Center is the first Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in the country to receive LEED-Platinum Certification. The award was presented by Peter Templeton, President of the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

BMS had not initially planned to build a green building, says Jay Wolvovsky, president and CEO. Once the healthcare organization decided to build an entirely new building, The Knott Foundation, an early funder, challenged BMS to think about building an environmentally-friendly facility that met LEED standards.

"We didn't know anything about it at all and had to do a fair amount of investigation. As we learned more, we were able to draw our own conclusions about the linkage between environmental factors and our patients' health. What is the environment of an inner city neighborhood? What are the environmental factors associated with a neighborhood that doesn't have a lot of green in it? What's the impact on water and air quality, or of lead in paint on houses? What's the environmental impact of not having enough parkland in the area so people can get exercise, keep their weight down and deal with their diabetes, obesity and heart disease," he explains.

As BMS leaders continued to weigh these factors, they began setting the bar higher and higher until finally the decision was made to go for LEED-Platinum. "It became a mission and a passion that this building would stand for more than just being the best space for us to deliver our healthcare services in. It was going to be a standard bearer for the organization, making a statement about ourselves and what we believe in and what we think is the next frontier for healthcare – dealing with public health issues, including the environment, diversity, and healthcare disparities."

The building delivers comprehensive primary care to more than 22,000 patients from over 50 countries each year. Baltimore Medical System is the largest provider of primary health care to medically underserved communities in Maryland. BMS provides special services to help uninsured, non-English speaking and other high need patient groups access care. Over 48,000 people each year receive medical services and education at BMS's six health centers throughout Baltimore City and County and six City school-based locations.

Source: Jay Wolvovsky, Baltimore Medical System
Writer: Walaika Haskins

It's jobs, jobs and more jobs in Baltimore and around Maryland

While the economy -- both nationally and across Maryland -- continues to slowly regain momentum, there are some bright spots to report according to recent reports released by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. 

Maryland continues to see modest job gains In June, despite a tepid national labor market, the agency repors. The state economy added 1,600 seasonally adjusted jobs, 1500 in the private sector,  for a 0.1 percent monthly growth, while, nationally the US lost 125,000 jobs for a 0.1 percent monthly loss. Maryland's total employment was up compared to year-ago levels (not seasonally adjusted) for the first time in two years. June marks the fourth month in a row that Maryland has added jobs in the private sector.

While the pace of job generation slowed considerably in June, just over 40,000 jobs have been restored to Maryland's business base since January.

Maryland leisure and hospitality employment grew by 5,800 seasonally adjusted jobs in June, more than any other major sector, driven by accommodation/food services job growth, according to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. During the first half of the year, this sector added 21,900 jobs, ranking it best in the country with 9.7 percent growth. At the year's halfway point, the sector accounted for over 60% of total Maryland job creation and over 80 percent of private job creation Nationwide hospitality accounted for 14 percent of job gains.

Professional/business services added 2,800 jobs in June for a 0.7 percent monthly growth rate. Within this sector, professional, scientific & technical (PST) services employment grew by 2,000, for 0.9 percent monthly growth (sixth best in the nation). During the first half of 2010, PST added 7,100 jobs in Maryland, for 3.1 percent growth and third best in the country.

Construction added 1,300 jobs in June for 0.9 percent monthly growth and added jobs for four straight months (seasonally adjusted) for the first time in about three years. During the first half of the year Maryland construction added 6,600 jobs, good for 4.6 percent growth, sixth best in the country.

In more good news, Gallup's Job Creation Index for the first half of 2010 ranks Maryland No. 7 among the Best Job Markets.  During the first half of 2010, 32 percent of employed Marylanders said that their employers were expanding their workforce. This was the fourth highest positive response among states. Conversely, 21 percent said their employers were shedding payrolls. The Index is calculated as the difference between the former and latter poll result. Based on these polling results, Maryland's 2009 Job Creation Index was 11, tying for seventh best among states.

And as if that wasn't enough positive job news,  another just released report from the Center on Education and The Workforce at Georgetown University has found that the share of jobs in the U.S. economy which required postsecondary education increased from 28 percent in 1973 to 59 percent in 2008. That's good for Maryland because by 2018, 66 percent of jobs in the state -- some 2 million -- will require some postsecondary education. That will put D.C., Massachusetts and Maryland in the lead nationwide,  with the three regions sharing total jobs requiring a graduate degree, according to report.

Source: Deparment of Business and Economic Development
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Amerigroup Foundation gives $8K grant to Maryland DHMH Center for Maternal and Child Health

The Amerigroup Foundation has awarded an $8,000 grant to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene-Center for Maternal and Child Health (DHMH). The contribution will be used to help improve access to prenatal care in Baltimore City and Prince George's County by providing prenatal vitamins for those who register for prenatal care.

"Nutrition plays a critical role in pregnancy, and with Amerigroup's help, we will be able to provide prenatal vitamins to pregnant women, one step on the road to a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, as a part of Baltimore's strategic plan for improving birth outcomes," says DHMH Medical Director Dr. Lee Woods. "We are very pleased to receive this support from Amerigroup for our efforts to improve the health of mothers and babies in Baltimore."

The award is part of the Amerigroup Foundation's program that recognizes outstanding public advocacy efforts by government and community leaders to improve the health and well-being of children nationwide. This grant will reach almost 5,000 women and infants, according to the foundation.

"Baltimore City and the 44th Legislative District, in particular, have the highest infant mortality rate in the state," Maryland Delegate Keith Haynes explains. "It is incumbent upon all of us to do everything possible to decrease and ultimately eliminate infant mortality.

"As vice-chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, I see firsthand the need for the resources to address this issue, and I applaud Amerigroup's financial contribution and commitment in this effort," he adds. "It will literally have a tremendous impact on not only saving lives but providing a future to our children."

This initiative is part of a comprehensive strategy in both Baltimore City and Prince George's County to reduce infant mortality 10 percent by 2012. It is Goal No. 14 of the Governor's Delivery Unit's 15 Strategic Policy Goals is to reduce the rate to 7.2 percent in the next two years, which would be the lowest rate in Maryland's history.

Source: Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene-Center for Maternal and Child Health
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Sheppard Pratt gets more than $8M for job training

Sheppard Pratt has received $725,000 from the federal government to administer a three-year statewide initiative to provide job training and support services to a total of 1500 low-income, mentally ill Marylanders.

The Workforce Development Initiative for the Mentally Ill uses evidenced-based practices to give individuals with mental illness the knowledge and skills they need to increase employment and decrease symptoms of mental illness. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of individuals with severe mental illness are employed, even though data suggests that 60 to 70 percent of those individuals want to work. Research shows that when these individuals receive evidence-based supported employment services 60 percent become competitively employed.

The federal monies complete the public-privat partnership launched to fund the initiative, which will also receive $6.4 million in funding from the State of Maryland and $1.7 million from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. The Weinberg grant was conditioned upon securing the final 8 percent, or $725,000, in funding from another source.

"For a number of years, I have known about the good work of Mosaic Community Services and our Sheppard Pratt Health System and what they have done for those with mental and intellectual challenges to have a way to a better life," says Senator Mikulski, who played a significant role in opening up the fed's wallet. "Now this cutting-edge workforce initiative will help people move into the workplace and find success there. The result is good for individuals receiving these services, good for employers and good for Maryland's economy."

Simply having a job has been shown to be an effective form of treatment, producing greater stability and decreasing mental illness symptoms among these individuals. This, in turn, helps reduce the need for more expensive publicly-funded mental health care, netting substantial savings for taxpayers. The workforce initiative also includes technical assistance to state and private healthcare agencies with the goal of project replication in other areas of the state and across the country.

"This project is the best example of a public-private partnership in the interest of helping individuals with disabilities become productive citizens," says Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein, president and CEO of Sheppard Pratt Health System. "Sheppard Pratt, the State of Maryland, the Weinberg Foundation and now the Federal government have joined together in this state wide effort which will impact families, businesses and individuals and promote recovery from mental illness. Sheppard Pratt, a not-for profit comprehensive behavioral health care system, is proud to lead this initiative."

Source: Senator Barbara Mikulski
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Hopkins researchers find new "twist" in breast cancer detection

Working with mice, scientists at Johns Hopkins have shown that a protein made by a gene called "Twist" may be the warning sign that can accurately distinguish stem cells that drive aggressive, metastatic breast cancer from other breast cancer cells.

Building on recent work suggesting that it is a relatively rare subgroup of stem cells in breast tumors that drives breast cancer, scientists have surmised that this subgroup of cells must have some very distinctive qualities and characteristics.

In experiments designed to identify those special qualities, the Hopkins team focused on the gene "Twist" (or TWIST1) – named for its winding shape – because of its known role as the producer of a so-called transcription factor, or protein that switches on or off other genes. Twist is an oncogene, one of many genes we are born with that have the potential to turn normal cells into malignant ones.

"Our experiments show that Twist is a driving force among a lot of other players in causing some forms of breast cancer," says Venu Raman, Ph.D., associate professor of radiology and oncology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "The protein it makes is one of a growing collection of markers that, when present, flag a tumor cell as a breast cancer stem cell."

Previous stem cell research identified a Twist-promoted process known as epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, or EMT, as an important marker denoting the special subgroup of breast cancer stem cells. EMT essentially gets cells to detach from a primary tumor and metastasize. The new Hopkins research shows that the presence of Twist, along with changes in two other biomarkers – CD 24 and CD44 – even without EMT, announces the presence of this critical sub-group of stem cells.

"The conventional thinking is that the EMT is crucial for recognizing the breast cancer cell as stem cells, and the potential for metastasis, but our studies show that when Twist shows up in excess or even at all, it can work independently of EMT," says Farhad Vesuna, Ph.D., an instructor of radiology in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "EMT is not mandatory for identifying a breast cancer stem cell."

Working with human breast cancer cells transplanted into mice, all of which had the oncogene Twist, the scientists tagged cell surface markers CD24 and CD44 with fluorescent chemicals. Following isolation of the subpopulation containing high CD44 and low CD24 by flow cytometry, they counted 20 of these putative breast cancer stem cells. They then injected these cells into the breast tissue of 12 mice. All developed cancerous tumors.

"Normally, it takes approximately a million cells to grow a xenograft, or transplanted tumor," Vesuna says. "And here we're talking just 20 cells. There is something about these cells – something different compared to the whole bulk of the tumor cell – that makes them potent. That's the acid test – if you can take a very small number of purified "stem cells" and grow a cancerous tumor, this means you have a pure population."

Previously, the team showed that 65 percent of aggressive breast cancers have more Twist compared to lower-grade breast cancers, and that Twist-expressing cells are more resistant to radiation.

Twist is what scientists refer to as an oncogene, one that if expressed when and where it's not supposed to be expressed, causes oncogenesis or cancer because the molecules and pathways that once regulated it and kept it in check are gone.

This finding – that Twist is integral to the breast cancer stem cell phenotype – has fundamental implications for early detection, treatment and prevention, Raman says. Some cancer treatments may kill ordinary tumor cells while sparing the rare cancer stem cell population, sabotaging treatment efforts. More effective cancer therapies likely require drugs that kill this important stem cell population.

This study was supported by the Maryland Stem Cell Research Foundation. In addition to Vesuna and Raman, authors of the paper include Ala Lisok and Brian Kimble, also of Johns Hopkins.

Source: Johns Hopkins University
Writer: Walaika Haskins

UMMC gets top honors for safety, quality

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) has been named one of the nation's best hospitals for patient safety and quality of care. It is the fourth year in a row that the Leapfrog Group has honored UMMC with the designation. Only 45 hospitals nationwide have earned this important and prestigious recognition for 2009.

UMMC is the only hospital in Maryland to be on the 2009 Top Hospitals list and is one of only three hospitals nationwide to have met Leapfrog's criteria each year since 2006.

The Leapfrog survey is the only national, public comparison of hospitals on key issues including mortality rates for certain common procedures, infection rates, safety practices, and measures of efficiency. The Leapfrog Group was founded by the Business Roundtable to initiate breakthrough improvements – or "leaps" – in health care safety, quality and affordability.

"Our inclusion on the Leapfrog Group's list of top hospitals four years in a row demonstrates that our entire staff—including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, therapists and support staff –is focused on providing the best patient care," says Jeffrey A. Rivest, president and chief executive officer of the UMMC.

"The Leapfrog survey is a comprehensive, objective and up-to-date assessment of hospital performance in terms of quality and safety. It gives health care consumers an important resource when they are choosing a hospital for care," says Rivest.

The Leapfrog survey uses such criteria as patient care outcomes, use of best practices and patient safety initiatives. The criteria also include the number of specific high-risk procedures that are performed. Each year, Leapfrog adds new performance measures and expands the criteria for hospitals to meet its stringent standards.

One of Leapfrog's key criteria is whether a hospital uses computerized physician order entry, which means that medications, lab tests and imaging studies are ordered by physicians electronically, to reduce errors. UMMC completed full implementation of computerized order entry, known as CPOE, two years ago. As an added measure for 2009, Leapfrog looked not only at whether a hospital implemented CPOE, but also how effectively it used the system to prevent medication errors. The medical center met Leapfrog's rigorous standards on the CPOE evaluation tool.

Leapfrog also reviews hospital performance in a variety of common and high-risk procedures, as well as at the volume of high-risk procedures. A high number of procedures indicates more experience and usually represents better outcomes.

The medical center performed 133 aortic valve replacements in the past year, while the Leapfrog standard was 120. There were 778 percutaneous coronary interventions (such as balloon angioplasty) at the medical center, while the Leapfrog standard was 400. In addition, the medical center's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit cared for 123 very low birth weight babies, significantly exceeding the Leapfrog standard of 50.

Also important to the Leapfrog Group is whether hospital intensive care units are staffed with physicians who have specialized training in intensive or critical care. Such specialists are known as intensivists. "All ten of our Intensive Care Units, including the surgical, medical, neurological, cardiac surgery, multi-trauma and pediatric ICUs, are staffed by doctors who are specially trained in intensive and critical care," says Dr. Gottlieb.

UMMC also scored well on many of the safe practices selected by Leapfrog, such as nurse staffing, quality and leadership, hand hygiene, medication reconciliation, communication of critical information to patients and having leadership structure and systems in place to provide patient safety.

The hospital was among 1,206 hospitals that submitted data and documentation for the 2009 Leapfrog Hospital Quality and Safety Survey.

Source: The University of Maryland Medical Center
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Baltimore Co. gets $1M from Feds for workforce development

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded a $1 million grant to the Baltimore County Department of Workforce Development (BCOWD). The grant will enable BCOWD and its partners to increase high-growth, high-demand healthcare careers in the Baltimore region with the expansion of the Baltimore Alliance of Careers in Healthcare (BACH) into Baltimore County.

The Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BACH) is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to eliminating the critical shortage of qualified healthcare workers in Baltimore. BACH works with local agencies, healthcare institutions and other organizations to create opportunities for healthcare employees to pursue higher careers in health professions. BACH's core business is providing Career Coaches in area hospitals to serve as a resource for entry-level employees for training opportunities to advance their healthcare careers.

"Healthcare has become an increasingly essential part of our economy. It is one sector that is always listed in the top growth fields for employment. It is important Baltimore County continues its commitment to expand and support a workforce that will provide the high quality of healthcare necessary to serve the people of Baltimore County," says Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith.

BACH's ultimate, long-term objective is to reverse the healthcare worker shortage in Baltimore by developing and promoting a system for preparing healthcare employees for skilled positions in healthcare professions with the most serious shortages.

The Department of Labor awarded BCOWD the grant "Maturity Works: Tapping Older Workers for High-Growth Healthcare Careers, " that specifically targets people ages 55 and older who are in entry-level healthcare positions.

"Baltimore County understands the value of our older citizens. This grant will fund training for them necessary to improve their skill sets and to earn important certifications for better financial security while providing better healthcare to their patients," says Baltimore County Council Chair Joseph Bartenfelder.

The three-year grant will allow BCOWD and its partners to broaden participation of mature workers in high-growth, high-demand healthcare careers in the Baltimore region. The partnership will adopt a two-pronged approach: (1) strengthen the pipeline of entry-level mature workers in healthcare and (2) retain experienced technical and professional healthcare personnel after retirement age. The grant will pay for the training costs and a portion of the Career Coaches salaries. The Community College of Baltimore County will serve as the primary training provider.

This initiative will increase employment and training opportunities for older individuals targeting the following in demand occupations: sterile processing technician, surgical technician, nurse assistant and nurse extender.

"Our Workforce Development Council has been looking forward to welcoming the Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare to Baltimore County. Thanks especially to the Healthcare Careers Committee of the Council, that day is a reality. Thanks also to the support of the Jim Smith Administration, we are moving forward to help address the employment picture through the training that will be provided to healthcare workers," says Baltimore County Office of Workforce Development Barry Williams.

BCOWD and its partner, Baltimore City Mayor's Office of Employment Development, will expand the capacity to train and prepare older individuals along the healthcare career ladder. BACH's Career Coaches will provide career awareness and guidance, including information sessions about healthcare careers; job readiness opportunities (computer and financial literacy training tailored to older adults' learning styles); and guidance on employment and training opportunities in healthcare. BACH will also collaborate with area hospitals to improve retention and advancement of older frontline workers in entry-level skilled healthcare jobs.

The ultimate purpose of this grant is to broaden the talent pool of the healthcare workforce in the region, while simultaneously advancing the knowledge of the workforce system to better serve older workers. Through this initiative, a minimum of 260 older individuals will receive healthcare certification and gain entrance into high-demand healthcare fields. Employer outreach and awareness activities will reach at least 500 employers.

Source: Baltimore County Office of Business and Economic Development
Writer: Walaika Haskins

O'Malley, Mikulski, Franchot seek $800k for MD 211 health line

U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Larry E. Walton, President and Chief Professional Officer of the United Way of Central Maryland,  have launched new federal funding efforts to support the work of Maryland 2-1-1, a 24-hour health and human services information and referral service hotline for Marylanders.

Currently operating in its pilot phase, with funding support from Gov. O'Malley's 2009 budget, and contributions from the United Way and other private and nonprofit agencies, Maryland 2-1-1 provides expert assistance for a range of health and human service problems. Open 24/7 and operating in more than 150 languages, 2-1-1 cuts through the maze of Maryland's estimated 500 toll-free and other "help" numbers for health and human services. Marylanders who've lost a job, a home, or who need to know where to get services for their aging father or who to turn to for mental health counseling can rely on 2-1-1 for information and referrals.

Sen. Mikulski has requested $800,000 in the fiscal year 2010 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill to help Maryland 2-1-1 transition from a pilot program to a permanent one. Her funding request has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

Sen. Mikulski is also an original cosponsor of federal legislation, the Calling for 2-1-1 Act, to provide matching grants to states to help them fund and expand existing 2-1-1 services. The lack of a dedicated and reliable federal funding stream currently prevents many states from expanding their 2-1-1 services.

"Maryland 2-1-1 is part of a national movement in need of a dedicated national funding source. Families today may be facing tough times: a recent lay-off, an aging father. They need to know where to turn for quick referrals, services and support. Maryland 2-1-1 is on their side," Sen. Mikulski says. "But while we're waiting for Congress to act on 2-1-1 legislation, we didn't want to wait to meet a compelling human need. I'm proud to team up with Governor O'Malley and our private and nonprofit partners to keep Maryland 2-1-1 working for Marylanders, and to keep hope and help alive this holiday season."

"In these difficult times, too many of our families are struggling to make ends meet. On this week of Thanksgiving, we want families to know that the Maryland 2-1-1 Center connects our families and most vulnerable citizens with state resources and initiatives like job assistance, heating and energy assistance, health care, and foreclosure prevention services. It's a one-stop shop which cuts back on bureaucracy so families can get the help they need in a timely, efficient matter," says Gov. O'Malley. "I want to thank Senator Mikulski for her leadership in fighting to deliver funding for 2-1-1 to our State. Our message to Maryland families is simple: help is just a phone call away."

"2-1-1 Maryland makes it easy to find help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week simply by dialing an easy-to-remember number, " says Pat Hanberry, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Frederick County, one of the four 2-1-1 Maryland call centers. "This pilot has been a great example of partnership between federal, state and local governments with corporate and nonprofit support to assist Marylanders at a time when they need help most. "

Maryland 2-1-1 provides easy to remember, no hassle access to comprehensive, up-to-date information at any time. Calls to 2-1-1 are free and completely confidential. Between April 1 and September 30 of this year, 2-1-1 call specialists have answered 114,151 requests for help, service and support.

Examples of how Maryland 2-1-1 has helped Marylanders include:

• Louise Hughes originally called 2-1-1 for assistance with tax preparation. She could no longer afford to pay for help filing and was looking for a resource. After speaking with one of the 2-1-1 call specialists about the economy and difficult times, she was told that she was eligible for assistance with utility bills and health care. She received help with both.

• A 32-year-old man was recently laid off from his job. His wife's income was not enough to support them and their young children. The 2-1-1 call specialist was able to direct the caller to his local employment resource center where he could search for job opportunities and get assistance updating his resume.

• A 32-year-old mother of three was trying to make ends meet but got a notice that her electricity was about to be cut off, and her family had no money for groceries that week. A 2-1-1 call specialist helped direct the caller to local agencies that would assist her with energy cut-off notices, and a food pantry where she could go to make sure her children didn't go hungry.

Source: Senator Barbara Mikulski
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Bravo Health to open first Advanced Care Center in Philly

Baltimore-based Bravo Health  announced Monday that the first Bravo Health Advanced Care Center  will open in Philadelphia in January 2010. The Center, an innovative, state-of-the-art outpatient physician practice designed to meet the health care needs of Bravo Health members, will be located in a new building being constructed at 1010 W. Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia.

Founded in 1996, Bravo Health provides Medicare beneficiaries access to high quality, cost-effective health care. With more than 300,000 members, Bravo Health offers Medicare Advantage health plans in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington, D.C. Additionally, the company offers Part D Prescription Drug Plans in 43 states.

An extension of the member's primary care provider (PCP), the Center is intended to complement the PCP's care in two ways. First, it will offer immediate care for patient's experiencing a non-emergent health condition when the PCP does not have an available appointment or it is after hours. It will also provide care and physician-directed case managment for patients with complex conditions requiring significant time commitments that the patients' PCPs can't meet.

"This new innovative model of care signifies Bravo Health's deep commitment to its members in the Philadelphia area," says Andrew Aronson, MD, Vice President of Physician Practice Operations for the Center. "Our goal in establishing the Center is consistent with the health care agenda across the country: to achieve better quality and value for patients through the appropriate and efficient delivery of care."

The Center will be staffed by board certified or board eligible physicians who will work hand-in-hand with the member's PCP to assure immediate and complex health needs are met in the most effective way. Bravo Health Pennsylvania serves more than 40,000 members in the Philadelphia area.

"The Bravo Health Advanced Care Center will change the way health care is delivered," said Jason Feuerman, Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Bravo Health Pennsylvania. "By assisting PCPs in closing some of the gaps to health care access, the Center is part of a well-planned continuum of health care delivery. The Center is a proactive, forward-thinking and responsive solution to our members' need for accessible, efficient health care."

There will be no co-pay, in accordance with the Bravo Health member's benefit plan, and no appointment will be necessary for immediate care services. Transportation arrangements will be available.

The company plans to open additional Centers in Bravo Health's markets. Plans are underway for another Center in West Philadelphia, as well as one in Baltimore, Maryland.

Source: Bravo Health
Writer: Walaika Haskins

St. Agnes Hospital gets kudos for cardiology

Saint Agnes Hospital has received the American College of Cardiology Foundation's NCDR ACTION Registry–GWTG Gold Performance Achievement Award for 2009. The South Baltimore hospital is 1 of only 121 hospitals nationwide to do so. The award recognizes Saint Agnes' commitment and success in implementing a higher standard of care for heart attack patients, and signifies that the hospital has set an aggressive goal of treating coronary artery disease patients with 85% compliance to core standard levels of care outlined by the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association clinical guidelines and recommendations. 

In order to receive the ACTION Registry–GWTG Gold Performance Achievement Award, Saint Agnes consistently followed the treatment guidelines in ACTION Registry–GWTG for 24 consecutive months. These include aggressive use of medications like cholesterol-lowering drugs, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, aspirin, and anticoagulants in the hospital.

"The American College of Cardiology Foundation and the American Heart Association commend Saint Agnes Hospital for its success in implementing standards of care and protocols," says Christopher Cannon, MD, ACTION Registry–GWTG Steering Committee Chairperson and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Associate Physician in the Cardiovascular Division at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"The full implementation of acute and secondary prevention guideline-recommended therapy is a critical step in saving the lives and improving outcomes of heart attack patients," adds Gregg C. Fonarow, MD, ACTION Registry- GWTG Steering Committee Vice- Chairperson and Director of Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center.

"The time is right for Saint Agnes to be focused on improving the quality of cardiovascular care by implementing ACTION Registry–GWTG. The number of acute myocardial infarction patients eligible for treatment is expected to grow over the next decade due to increasing incidence of heart disease and a large aging population," says Dr. Stephen Plantholt, Chief of Cardiology at Saint Agnes.

Created by the merger of the American College of Cardiology Foundation's NCDR ACTION Registry® and the American Heart Association's Get With The Guidelines-CAD program, ACTION Registry–GWTG combines the best of both programs into a single, unified national registry. The new registry joins the robust data collection and quality reporting features of the ACTION Registry with the collaborative models, unique tools, and quality improvement techniques of the GWTG-CAD program. With the collective strengths of these two programs, ACTION Registry–GWTG empowers health care provider teams to consistently treat heart attack patient according to the most current, science-based guidelines; and establishes a national standard for understanding and improving the quality, safety, and outcomes of care provided for patients with coronary artery disease, specifically high-risk STEMI and NSTEMI patients.

Saint Agnes Hospital is a 307-bed hospital founded by the Daughters of Charity in 1862.

Source: Dr. Stephen Plantholt, Saint Agnes
Writer: Walaika Haskins
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