There’s been a lot of excitement building around the future of health care in northwest Pennsylvania — and for good reason.
Thanks to a $140 million investment by Highmark Health, the parent of Highmark Inc., and Allegheny Health Network, there has been a dramatic transformation
in Erie’s health-care infrastructure and in the AHN Saint Vincent campus and supporting facilities in the northwest Pennsylvania region and Westfield, New York. Counted among these recent investments are revisions to Chautauqua Clinic and Westfield Memorial Hospital, the new Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Eastside Health + Wellness Pavilion, the new AHN Women and Infants Center, the new Saint Vincent Emergency Department and operating rooms suite building — scheduled to open in October — and the hospital’s highly anticipated AHN Cancer Center, which is set to open in November 2019.
“It’s very important for Highmark to be investing in this community,” explains Highmark Regional Vice President Jim Teed. “Through these investments, we are better able to keep care in the community and make the patient experience and the member experience a remarkable one.”
According to Saint Vincent Hospital President Chris Clark, DO, MHA, “All of these projects mean so much to the patients and the communities that we serve, and how they relate to improving care delivery for our patients and the people from northwestern Pennsylvania, western New York and northeastern Ohio.”
“It is a renaissance that we’re going through,” he continues. “It incorporates the facilities and locations of care for our patients, but there’s also a transformation going on among our team here at Saint Vincent. All the employees are re-energized around our mission, and their focus is squarely aimed at putting the patient in the center of everything that we do.”
For Highmark and AHN Saint Vincent, 2019 has, indeed, been a banner year of ribbon cuttings in the Erie area, beginning this past spring. In April, officials officially opened the doors of the new AHN Eastside + Wellness Pavilion at 4950 Buffalo Road in Harborcreek Township to better serve the patient population on the city’s eastside — a mirror to its highly utilized westside pavilion location in Millcreek Township.
The 32,000-square-foot Eastside Pavilion provides outpatient services, including primary care — with seven providers and 24 patient exam rooms — urgent care, rehabilitation services, occupational medicine, laboratory services and specialty care services. Advanced diagnostic imaging services are also offered at the new facility, such as 3D digital tomosynthesis mammography, state-of the-art CT, general and orthopaedic X-rays, DEXA scanning for bone density testing, and general, cardiac and vascular ultrasound.
“In years past, patients would have to go well outside the region to access the world-class technologies and services that Saint Vincent is now making available in close to home settings across the region,” says Teed.
Saint Vincent is also enhancing many existing facilities and programs at its West 25th Street hospital campus, including the new, $9.5 million AHN Women and Infants Center, which houses labor and delivery, postpartum, gynecologic, breast, infant and neonatal intensive care services on the hospital’s fifth floor.
The new Center features three new private patient triage rooms, which are all designed for patient assessment, observation and comfort. The hospital also added five new ante-partum rooms for high-risk patients needing hospitalization prior to their child’s delivery, as well as deluxe Labor and Delivery Suites. The Women and Infants Center also has been equipped with an advanced security system to assure the safety of women and their babies at all times while receiving care.
“Our goal is to redefine women’s health care at Saint Vincent by offering unsurpassed accommodations, clinical expertise and technologic sophistication,” states Clark.
Since becoming part of Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network in 2013, Saint Vincent has been committed to enhancing its delivery of care for patients in every setting, from primary and specialty care, to urgent and emer- gency care.The hospital is nearing completion of its new, greatly expanded, 104,000-square foot Emergency Department (ED) to treat the 65,000 patients who seek emergency care at the Erie hospital each year. The facility will also house the hospital’s new state-of-the-art operating room suites.
The new operating room suite features four rooms that accommodate the advanced surgical technologies Saint Vincent provides, including its exclusive in the region MAKO robotic system for minimally invasive hip and knee replacement and its da Vinci minimally invasive robotic surgical system.
“There’s a really strong correlation with everything that we’re doing to better deliver on both value and on exceeding our patients’ expectations at every touchpoint, with the goal of helping them achieve the best possible outcomes,” Clark says.
Construction of Saint Vincent’s new $25 million, 36,474 square-feet AHN Cancer Center is also expected to be done by this November. “Specialists associated with all aspects of cancer care will be on our campus to provide patients with a one-stop experience for their complete cancer care needs, including specialist in medical, radiation and surgical oncology,” states Clark.
“We will also have the latest state-of-the-art cancer fighting technologies such as CAT and PET scans, the latest radiation therapy system and an expanded infusion bay suite to care to better accommodate the chemotherapy needs of our patients. ”
Delivery of Care
As the only physician-led hospital in the region, Saint Vincent’s transformation in the delivery of care extends well beyond bricks and mortar. Hospital
staff have been intimately involved in the design of new facilities and in programmatic innovations that have enhanced or will enhance the delivery of optimal care for their patients.
“One of the best examples is in our new Emergency Department, which has private areas for patient triage — the first assessment, which determines the level of acuity for a patient visiting to our ER,” says Clark. “The Emergency Department care team used evidence based practices to show that this triage would help patients to be seen and treated faster. Showing how physician-led integration can align with facility development, working together to enhance patient care.”
Saint Vincent’s transformation has also resulted in a significant growth of clinical expertise available to patients in the community. The hospital presently has more than 400 care providers on its medical team and has recently added 70 new nurses and 30 new doctors to its physician organization, including specialists in orthopedics, bariatrics, neurosurgery, colorectal, cardiovascular and general surgery.
The current care team at Saint Vincent has physicians who have trained at leading facilities including Duke, Harvard and the Cleveland Clinic, bringing their unique knowledge, cutting edge training, and highly recognized experience to our community.
As Clark explains, investment in such capabilities reflect Saint Vincent’s and AHN’s commitment to delivering high-quality, high value care. “We are all about focusing on ways that we can spend the health-care dollar more wisely and steer patients to the right test, the right procedure and the right location.”
Along with its infrastructure and programmatic investments at Saint Vincent, Highmark Health and Saint Vincent’s partnership has focused on continuous quality improvement through initiatives such as its True Performance reim- bursement model and the rollout of various patient management programs.
True Performance is a value-based reimbursement program for Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) focused on maximizing the affordability and quality of care for Highmark members. The program evaluates PCPs’ ability to deliver the right care at the right time and in the most appropriate setting, helping physicians to lower costs through better utilization of services. So far, it has been critical to reducing health-care costs overall.
“Emergency room visits among patients of PCPs that participated in the True Performance program declined by 16 percent,” explains Teed. “That means instead of a $400 emergency department visit, a patient was more appropriately treated in a less costly urgent care setting or the PCP’s office. This helped to lower unnecessary emergency department costs, providing $26 million in cost savings to patients last year.
For patients with non-emergency health needs, Saint Vincent offers same-day primary care appointments (814-SAME DAY). The hospital also has established its Primary Care Transformation Care Team to provide additional support for patients and the hospital’s primary care offices. This support network includes social workers, pharmacists, care managers and health coaches who can connect with high-risk patients, including those with chronic diseases, to help better manage their conditions, preempt complications and reduce the number of unnecessary ER visits and hospital admissions.
Additionally, Saint Vincent has established a new, mobile health program known as Community Paramedicine for high-risk patients who come into the ER more frequently. The goal is to determine what the patient’s needs are — such as getting a primary care doctor or reviewing medication usage — to determine how they can best be helped. It also includes patient follow-up care, whether at home or another facility to help ensure the patient can follow their care plan and is meeting their health goals. It is the first of its kind in this region and is already seeing positive results.
Saint Vincent officials say the biggest opportunity for reducing care costs is to maximize preventive health efforts, including health screenings. Saint Vincent’s Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) is providing greater support to local employers and their employees by offering biometric screenings onsite. Workers don’t have to take time to schedule doctor appointments and can have screenings done in 15 to 20 minutes. The MMU is also an important tool in delivering occupational health services to hundreds of businesses and manufacturers in the region.
For those who need further medical care, Highmark members are always welcome to talk to an insurance representative to find their best options for local providers and services. “We have a team in Erie that will sit down with a member one-on-one and help them find that new physician or find that specialist,” says Teed. “It’s six employees that have lived in Erie for 20 plus years, so they know the area and they will educate the member as to the different services available and how to transfer records if necessary.”
Clark and Teed say the health of patients and members are Saint Vincent’s and Highmark’s highest priority.
“We’re already looking ahead to 2020 and 2021 to determine what else we can do to improve access to care in our community and to make the experience of our patients exceptional at every level,” says Clark. “Being part of one of the country’s premier integrated delivery and financing systems provides us with a unique window into the true health needs of our community so that we can make the right investments that will make a difference in the lives of those who live here.”