Coordinated Care a One-Stop Health Shop

By Heinrichs, Allison M. | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 30, 2006 | Go to article overview

Coordinated Care a One-Stop Health Shop


Heinrichs, Allison M., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Since the mid-1970s, Ann Nigro has made appointments and visited numerous specialists in an attempt to heal a palm-sized sore on her right ankle caused by over-radiation to treat cancerous tumors. Thirty years later, the sore is still there.

She finally has hope that a "team approach" at Allegheny General Hospital might heal the wound before New Year's Day.

"This is special," Nigro, 83, of Lower Burrell, Westmoreland County, said of the North Side hospital's Advanced Wound Healing and Lymphedema Center. "There isn't one person here who isn't in on my care. They all work together."

Centers that bring together specialists -- from vascular surgeons to nutritionists -- to treat chronic health problems are popping up in hospitals throughout Western Pennsylvania and nationwide. "Comprehensive" care is more efficient and especially useful in treating complicated conditions often found among the elderly, doctors say.

"There's two aspects to it," said Gloria Bazzoli, a health administration professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and a consultant for the Washington-based Center for Studying Health System Change. "One is to create this coordinated service ... but it's also wonderful marketing -- you've got all these people together and you can advertise that."

Last month, Allegheny General opened a cardiovascular institute to combine specialties into one location; the Excela Health system, which has three hospitals in Westmoreland County, plans to open a stroke center this spring; and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recently received an $83.5 million federal grant to increase its multi-disciplinary approach to health care.

"I think that medicine has changed from being very physician- focused and system-focused to trying to be more patient-focused," said Dr. Stephen Conti, medical director of Allegheny General's three-year-old Wound Center. "When I started 15 years ago, the physicians would set up their schedules, and the patients would have to accommodate that. We've now learned that patients come first, partly for their care and partly for business."

The centers work by having patients go to one central location. …

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