Dr. Kevin Black says he has witnessed a “paradigm shift” in health care nationally — and here in Centre County.
Black is the vice dean of the regional medical campus with Penn State-Hershey.
The focus is becoming, Black said, “how do we treat the overall health of the communities we serve?”
That ideology is personified in Penn State Hershey’s newly accredited family medicine residency program, a collaboration with Mount Nittany Medical Center. We took readers inside that program on Saturday.
You can also find evidence of that shift in the expanded Geisinger Grays Woods medical center, which was featured on our front page Friday. The facility has doubled in size, and will offer more treatment programs and surgery options right here.
And you can read about the new world of health care in a special section included with today’s editions of the CDT. Business Matters is our annual look at the economy of our region, and for 2014 we focused on health care.
Medical systems and hospitals are shifting away from reacting to our physical problems toward helping us better avoid the problems in the first place, or at least manage the symptoms better — once trouble shows itself.
That was a theme of the health care portion of Business Matters, which includes a look at the growth of Penn State’s nursing program, which has become a college unto itself. Penn State will be offering four-year and graduate learning opportunities to meet the demand in our communities and in the health care field.
Eugene Marsh, associate dean for academic affairs with the regional campus of the Penn State College of Medicine, said the change in health care was needed.
A neurologist, Marsh said up to 80 percent of strokes, heart attacks and cancers can be avoided if the risk factors are addressed early, “rather than having us focus on treatment of situations that could have been prevented along the way.”
The program’s leaders say the Mount Nittany-Penn State residency collaboration will have a direct impact on Centre County and other areas across the state. They foresee a shortage of family practitioners looming.
They’ll start with six residents, and hope all of them settle here or elsewhere, working with patients who will be asked to take more responsibility for managing their own health.
For this modern vision of health care to work, it will need the contributions of family medicine providers, they said.
“I believe there will be communities in this country that will not have good access to good primary care,” Mount Nittany President and CEO Steve Brown said. “I believe we’re investing in making sure that doesn’t happen here.”
This is an exciting model and our region is fortunate to have in its midst a hospital that offers its own services and also has relationships with other respected institutions, such as Hershey, Geisinger and HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Hospital.
As you’ll read in Business Matters, this is a time of mergers and power struggles in the health care world.
Many long-independent local hospitals are finding they can no longer go it alone, and are turning to larger systems for financial protection as well as greater efficiencies and access to technology.
Amid the uncertainty and adjustments, it is reassuring to hear that medical students are embracing the value of community-based, prevention-focused care.
That the motivation for a family practice residency program goes beyond supply and demand.
Joseph Wiedemer, residency program director, said a doctor who trains in a community often chooses to settle there and build a practice.
Here, Wiedemer said, “or a community like this.”
He called the effort an example of the health industry’s attempt to “grow our own.”
And provide professionals to carry out the mission of serving communities, and keeping people healthier.
“It’s not just about the pipeline,” Black said. “It’s also about how they’re taught and what they’re taught.”