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Inside Penn’s transfer center | Philly Health Insider

Also, hospital safety grades and gene editing in kids

The Transfer Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2024.
The Transfer Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2024.Read moreTom Gralish / Staff Photographer

This week, we explore how Penn is drawing more sick patients to its Philly flagship hospitals — and why that’s good for business.

We also look at Leapfrog’s most recent hospital safety grades, the latest gene-editing success (the stuff of sci-fi dreams), and the American Cancer Society’s new connection to a retail empire best known for home shopping shows.

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— Abraham Gutman and Aubrey Whelan, Inquirer health reporters, @abrahamgutman and @aubreywhelan.

When Betty Hayes had a stroke at a Lansdale church in March, the ambulance took her to Grand View Hospital. But the community hospital could only stabilize her. Two hours later, the 71-year-old was in the OR at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Hayes was one of more than 5,800 patients transferred to Penn’s three Philadelphia hospitals in the nine months ending on March 31, according to Penn. That’s a 16% increase from the year before.

The transfers get patients to specialized care that can save lives, our colleague Harold Brubaker explains. Penn also benefits from a more lucrative business. The sicker the patient, the higher the reimbursement (generally speaking).

Consider this: Medicare would pay nearly $64K for a valve replacement performed by a cardiologist and following a hospital stay of up to five days. A hospital would bring in $13K for a nonsurgical cardiac patient who stays in the hospital for eight days.

“America pays you more for advanced medicine,” said Kevin Mahoney, Penn Medicine’s CEO.

The top service lines that receive transfers at Penn are heart and vascular (33%), gastrointestinal and general surgery (15%), neuroscience (11%), and oncology/hematology (9%).

How does Penn get the transfers? About one in four come from Penn-owned hospitals outside the city (Princeton, Chester County, Lancaster). Another 40% comes from affiliates like Grand View, Virtua, and Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic.

Read more in Harold’s story, which takes you inside the Penn transfer command center.

The latest news to pay attention to

  1. Weight loss and diabetes drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro have been exploding in popularity. But dozens of patients all over the country blame them for severe gastric side effects. Their lawsuits against the drugs’ manufacturers will play out in Philadelphia federal court. We explain the legal case, and how it ended up here.

  2. What’s Mayor Cherelle L. Parker’s vision to tackle the opioid crisis? Last week, we got a hint, as the city expanded capacity at a homeless shelter in Fairmount, saying it wants to create a citywide addiction treatment ”ecosystem.” Today, the city plans to move people in active addiction out of an encampment in Kensington, where some who use drugs are reporting an uptick in “pervasive harassment” from police.

  3. In other opioid news, the consequences from the crisis continue for Malvern pharmaceutical company Endo, which was ordered to pay more than $1.5 billion in penalties over its role — but expects to end up paying much less.

  4. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions goes through ... the operating room?! Philly-area hospitals are moving away from desflurane, a common anesthesia gas, which hangs out in the atmosphere for 14 years. Penn is joining CHOP and Virtua in phasing it out.

Fewer than half of Philly-area hospitals are acing crucial tests in patient safety.

The most recent hospital safety grades from the Leapfrog Group gave 20 regional hospitals an A grade.

No hospitals in the metro area earned an F, and two got a D score in the spring 2024 report: Crozer-Chester Medical Center and Taylor Hospital, both owned by Crozer Health.

To be fair, these type of ratings have their critics, and can yield conflicting grades from different groups. With that in mind, we looked at how hospitals compared to this time last year.

Four hospitals were downgraded from an A to a C: Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey; Jefferson Frankford and Jefferson Torresdale (both owned by Jefferson Health); and Penn’s Pennsylvania Hospital.

Roxborough Memorial Hospital had the greatest improvement: a C to an A.

And notably, the Lehigh Valley area had the nation’s highest percent of hospitals with A grades — 73%. (We will add that Lehigh Valley is where the Phillies Triple-A team plays. The order of things should be that Philly is on top, not the other way around )

Check out the grades that Leapfrog assigned every hospital in the area.

State inspectors who visited Montgomery County’s Holy Redeemer Hospital for inspections between September 2023 and February 2024 found no safety problems.

Cayaba Care, a venture-capital-backed Philadelphia company, is trying to help underserved communities navigate maternity care. It has supported nearly 2,000 births since 2021, deploying doulas as “maternity navigators” to assist people with private and Medicaid insurance through Independence Blue Cross companies.

Adaeze Enekwechi, Cayaba’s new CEO, discussed a business model designed to help people through their pregnancy journey.

Talk about a career change: the former president of HSN (formerly the Home Shopping Network) and QVC alum took a gig at the American Cancer Society. Based in Philly, Rob Muller began his tenure as the first-ever chief business transformation officer for the organization. He wants to reimagine how the ACS thinks about bringing in revenue.

Plus, Thomas Jefferson University has a new leader: interim president Susan Aldridge, a higher-ed consultant previously in leadership roles at Drexel and the University of Maryland, will become the school’s permanent president. She is the first woman to fill the role.

Injecting something into a cell to change its DNA sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie.

CHOP physicians restored eyesight in two kids who had a genetic defect in their retina. The study — a collab between hospitals in five cities — focused on the safety of the procedure, but it also found the treatment could work. The results were published in NEJM earlier this week.

The study is another step for the use of CRISPR in vivo, aka without having to take the cells out of the body for the editing.

That’s it for us this week! Abraham got to spend some time with TowerDIRECT paramedics, which made him nostalgic for his past life as an EMS worker. It made us curious about your past jobs. Email us: Were you always on the path to work in health care or did you take detours?

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