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Standing Up for UConn

UConn Health faculty and staff attend a public hearing over state funding for UConn. (Photo provided by Andrea Keilty)

UConn Health faculty and staff attend a public hearing over state funding for UConn. (Photo provided by Andrea Keilty)

Last night in a show of solidarity against millions of dollars in proposed state budget cuts facing UConn and UConn Health, nearly 100 students, doctors, faculty and staff attended the Appropriations Committee hearings at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

UConn had several diverse panels of speakers sharing their personal perspectives with legislators about the detrimental impact any potential budget cuts could have on their education, research or care of patients.

UConn is currently facing up to $28 million in budget cuts while UConn Health is facing $13.2 million.

UConn Health’s five-person panel discussion was kicked-off by Evan Woodford, a second-year student in the UConn School of Dental Medicine. He told the committee, “I worry what message will be sent to future students if that vital support needed to continue to provide their educations…is withdrawn. I urge you to minimize the amount of the proposed budget cuts in order to maintain our excellent progress.”

Bayan Abunar, a second-year student in the UConn School of Medicine, testified, “It is through the state funds to UConn Health and your regular investments to our School of Medicine and Dental Medicine that have made it an affordable and accessible place for students of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds, including myself, to learn to be compassionate health care providers. I urge you to continue to invest in these entities by restoring funding to the FY16-17 level which provide tremendous benefit for the students, patients and Connecticut’s economy.”

Michel Gueret of Canton, a stage IV lung cancer survivor, also spoke about the cutting-edge and lifesaving immunotherapy clinical trial he had access to at UConn Health’s Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“My survival, literally against all odds, is the real testimony,” Gueret said. “It is evidence of what a research-driven UConn Health can and will continue to deliver to the people of Connecticut with your continued unwavering support. I thank each member of the committee for standing up to safeguard UConn Health. With your support–one day in the future–they will be there to save your life or that of your loved one in need, just like they saved my life.”

Mark Driscoll, a biotech entrepreneur who started the company Shoreline Biome at UConn’s Technology Incubation Program (TIP) in 2015, told the lamwakers, “UConn and UConn Health are vital components of the foundation of a robust ecosystem that is needed for the high tech life science businesses and industries of today to be successful. I urge you to consider that continued strong investment in UConn and UConn Health as part of our economic growth plan should remain a high priority as we look for long term solutions to our budget problems in Connecticut.”

UConn Health researcher Caroline Dealy spoke about the various ways she serves the state as a UConn alumnus, UConn Health scientist, entrepreneur, business owner and educator of students.

“UConn needs resources for research so that scientists like me and others who are speaking tonight can continue to bring new knowledge into the world, while engaging in the process of discovery, the next generation of change-makers: UConn’s students,” Dealy said. “I urge you, please don’t cut UConn’s resources. It’s just too important.”

Earlier in the day UConn leadership, including President Susan Herbst and Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, UConn Health CEO and executive vice president for health affairs, also shared in-person testimony with the Committee.

“I ask for your support to protect the viability of your public academic health system and to do what you can to minimize cuts to UConn Health so that we can continue to deliver on the investments and provide Connecticut and its people with excellent service,” shared Agwunobi.

Engaging and Educating Patients While They Wait

The Pulmonary Department waiting room where a new TV monitor has been installed in partnership with AccentHealth, a healthcare media company that provides healthy living video programming. (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

The Pulmonary Department waiting room where a new TV monitor has been installed in partnership with AccentHealth, a healthcare media company that provides healthy living video programming. (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

If you have ever spent time in your doctor’s waiting room, you may have read some well-worn magazines or watched reality TV to pass the time. This is no longer the case at UConn Health.

Recently, new TV monitors were installed in many of the waiting rooms in the Outpatient Pavilion and the Cardiology, Pulmonary and Nephrology waiting rooms in the main building. In partnership with AccentHealth, a healthcare media company that provides a patient engagement solution for physician waiting and exam rooms, UConn Health patients are being educated and empowered to live healthy lives by receiving credible health information.

“The patients in our waiting rooms are watching a television network that provides exclusive programming produced by CNN and co-hosted by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and HLN Morning News Anchor Robin Meade. AccentHealth also delivers specialty networks that are produced in partnership with the American Cancer Society, Harvard Medical School, and the American Heart Association,” says Vice President of Ambulatory Services Anne Horbatuck. Segments include health news, living well, fitness, nutrition, medical breakthroughs, safety tips, and healthy recipes. In addition to the network programming, patients also view UConn Health produced videos and messaging.

“Patients used to sit down and either check their phones or read a magazine. Now they spend their time in the waiting room learning about health-related topics or getting wellness tips,” says practice manager Kelly Clarke. “The patient feedback has been so positive that we have increased the time the programming is available in our waiting room,” adds Clarke.

Last Call for 2016 HEP Compliance

A screenshot from the Health Enhancement Program online portal.

A screenshot from the Health Enhancement Program online portal.

Following is a message from Anne Horbatuck, vice president of ambulatory services, Anne Diamond, UConn John Dempsey Hospital chief executive officer, and Dr. Steven Lepowsky, UConn School of Dental Medicine senior associate dean for education and patient care:

Call for Your HEP Appointment Today

Now is the time to schedule all your preventive health visits and screenings required through the state Health Enhancement Program (HEP). The deadline to complete all your visits and screenings is Dec. 31.

UConn Health can schedule HEP appointments for all state employees and their dependents (if applicable). Appointments are available Monday through Friday at UConn Health locations throughout the state including Canton, East Hartford, Farmington, Putnam, Plainville, Simsbury, Southington, Storrs, and West Hartford. Here are the dedicated numbers to call:

All medical/preventive appointments: call 1.844.577.7055

For appointments at the Storrs office: 860.487.9200

For mammography appointments: 860.679.2784

  • UConn Health can help you fulfill all your HEP requirements including yearly physicals, cholesterol screening, vision screening (ophthalmology), mammography, women’s health, colon cancer screening, colonoscopy, blood draw, and more.
  • Calls are answered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Please feel free to leave a message after hours.

 For Dental cleaning appointments: call 860.679.3170

  • This applies to the necessary dental cleanings.
  • Calls are answered Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Please feel free to leave a message after hours.

To make sure you are scheduling all required appointments for your age group, please log onto the HEP portal at www.CTHEP.com. If you prefer to access this information by phone, you can contact Care Management Solutions toll free at 877.687.1448.


Successful Surge Drill for ED

  • UConn Health employees participate in a surge drill in the emergency department at UConn John Dempsey Hospital Nov. 29, 2016.
UConn John Dempsey Hospital successfully conducted a realistic drill assessing its emergency preparedness and communications in the case of an external disaster, a Code Yellow, on Nov. 29. The 9 a.m. drill’s mock scenario tested the hospital’s response to a surge of 18 patients arriving to its Emergency Department after a multiple trauma bus accident occurred on I-84. The hospital’s emergency response was immediate with swift communication and activation of the Hospital Incident Command Center led by Nursing Director, Caryl Ryan. As Incident Commander, Ryan directed the team’s real-time response and communications of all personnel, hospital units, phone, and Everbridge System alerts via phone messages, emails and text alerts. UConn Health thanks the ED, Command Center, Fire Department and EMS, doctors, nurses and staff, including employees who played injured patients, for their drill participation and quick responsive actions in the role-play to help uncover any improvements necessary to put in place for a future, real-life situation.

UConn Health Configuring Its New EMR System

Roberta Luby and Dean Moroniti from UConn Health's HealthONE team (Photo by Chris DeFrancesco)

Roberta Luby and Dean Moroniti from UConn Health’s HealthONE team (Photo by Chris DeFrancesco)

In less than a year and a half, UConn Health will be using a new integrated electronic medical records system that will enable patient information to seamlessly and securely follow patients wherever they go, both within and outside of UConn Health.

Informally known as “Epic,” which is the name of the vendor, UConn Health has adopted the name “HealthONE” for this suite of applications designed to make the delivery of health care safer and more efficient.

A team of 100 specially trained employees and consultants has been working on the intricate 23-month undertaking to program HealthONE for UConn Health since May. The project is in the “adoption and build” phase, which is nearing the end of its second wave next month. Here is where a lot of the configuration takes place.

“In the scheduled Dec. 13 through 15 Adoption 2 session, we will be pulling in managers and subject matter experts from across the clinical and financial organizations to look at the dashboards that will help them manage our patient care, quality measures, and financial results,” says Roberta Luby, assistant vice president for HealthONE. “We will also discuss the reports that will be available out of the system, and determine which reports they are going to need to manage their day when we go live.”

UConn Health One badgeFor example, a dashboard tool could aggregate data on admitted patients that today may take several hours a day to identify and analyze. The time saved then can be spent on caring for patients, ensuring safety and improving outcomes.

“We’re going to show them what that dashboard might look like, where that information might show up, and what quality measures are available, and let them decide what kind of data they need to see, how often, and when,” Luby says.

Major milestones achieved to date include completion of the direction phase, where current and potential future workflows were reviewed, and the certification of 80 members of the HealthONE team.

Next after the adoption and building phase is the testing phase, an eight-month period starting next May that involves running thousands of scenarios to make sure the system is designed and operating as intended. During that time, a team of trainers also will be working to prepare the training materials and plan the training logistics.

The timeline calls for end-user training to start in early 2018, two-to-three-months before HealthONE goes live in April 2018.

“This system will establish one patient record whether the individual is coming to the ED, an outpatient clinic, or has an admission in the hospital,” Luby says. “It’s going to allow us to see everything that occurred on that patient and have one view into his or her allergies, medications, procedures and immunizations, allowing safe, efficient care regardless of where that patient is in our care environment.”

HealthONE also will allow the exchange of patient information with other EMR, enabling UConn Health to send and receive data from other hospitals and practices that may be using a different system.

“We’ll be able to assemble all the data needed for a patient to enable a provider to care for that patient safely,” Luby says.


Recognizing Medical Assistants and Respiratory Therapists

  • Terri Seelig, Betty Karas and Nancy McLellan are respiratory therapists in the pulmonary medicine clinic (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

October includes weeks dedicated to the recognition of two important, albeit often overlooked, health care disciplines.

This week is Respiratory Care Week. UConn Health employs 20 respiratory therapists in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Respiratory therapy is the assessment of patients with both acute and chronic dysfunction of the cardiopulmonary system.

“Today’s respiratory therapists have demanding responsibilities related to patient care and serve as vital members of the health care team,” says respiratory therapy supervisor Janet Annesi. “Respiratory therapists must have a broad knowledge of the pathophysiology of the cardiopulmonary system and the complex procedures required to properly diagnose and treat patients, from the very young to the very old.”

Respiratory therapists are trained advanced airway management and restore pulmonary function and support life by administering medically prescribed therapy.

“Outside facilities look to our department and will send patients here,” says respiratory therapist Terri Seelig of UConn Health’s pulmonary medicine clinic, which offers complex and diagnostic and treatment options not common in community outpatient offices.

Meantime, the American Association of Medical Assistants designates the third full week in October to be Medical Assistants Recognition Week.

“Our MAs are at the core of our staffing model in the delivery of care to our patients,” says Caryl Ryan, director of inpatient nursing services at UConn John Dempsey Hospital. “They are caring, loyal, possess a strong work ethic and always perform their duties within the best interests of our patients.”

UConn Health employs 199 medical assistants in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

“Our MAs are always available to lend a hand, consistently going above and beyond to promote the delivery of the highest quality of care, all the while keeping the patient as safe as possible,” says Elizabeth Brookshire, a UConn John Dempsey Hospital nurse manager.

Says UConn Health Emergency Department nurse manager Eileen Scully, “Our ED MAs provide excellent care to our patients each and every day.  They are essential to the operation of our department. We appreciate their hard work and dedication.”

And from the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, assistant nurse manager Beth Pisarsky says, “Our MAs are compassionate and empathetic to all patients across the continuum of cancer care. They provide holistic support, not only to the patients, but to the entire interdisciplinary team. They are a valued member of our health care teams and provide exceptional and safe patient care.”


Time to Get a Flu Shot (Or Report That You’re Not)

UConn nursing student Emilie Kasper (left) administers a flu shot at an Employee Health Services flu clinic at the UConn School of Medicine. (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

UConn nursing student Emilie Kasper (left) administers a flu shot at an Employee Health Services flu clinic at the UConn School of Medicine. (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

Employee Health Services is holding a series of flu clinics over the next several weeks, at which free flu shots will be available to staff, students, residents, volunteers and vendors.

While some clinical institutions require all employees be vaccinated against influenza every year, UConn Health does not. But UConn Health is required to report the flu vaccine status of its employees to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Those who attend an Employee Health flu clinic can receive a flu shot, report that they are declining it altogether, or report that they either have received or will receive it somewhere else.

Once recorded in a password-protected database, the information is reported in aggregate to CMS. It remains confidential. An employee’s flu vaccine status is protected health information and cannot be used against him or her.

Click image to view/download UConn Health Influenza Program brochure.

Click image to view/download UConn Health Influenza Program brochure.

“Your cooperation goes a long way in helping us be in compliance,” says Cheryl Marenick, the nurse who oversees the Employee Health flu vaccine program. “Even if you don’t get a flu shot, we need you to report that to us. If you choose to get a flu shot, even better—we’re happy to do that for you. It’s the best way to protect yourself, your family, and our patients from influenza.”

Employee Health has scheduled several walk-in flu clinics, with reminders and updates to come in Lifeline and The Pulse:

  • Monday, Oct. 24, 12:30 to 4 p.m., Onyiuke Dining Room
  • Thursday, Oct. 27, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Onyiuke Dining Room
  • Thursday, Nov. 10, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Munson Training Room
  • Monday, Nov. 14, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., ARB Large Conference Room
  • Monday, Nov. 21, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Outpatient Pavilion 7th floor large conference room

A UConn Health ID badge or employee number is required.

Individual flu shot appointments also can be made by calling Employee Health Services at x2893. Those who get the flu shot elsewhere or decline it altogether can report by email to Louisa Pickett.


Pediatrics is Joining Connecticut Children’s

Dr. Larry Scherzer

Dr. Larry Scherzer

In just a couple of days, our pediatric practice at UConn Health will transition to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.  There are a lot of benefits to this including greater coordination between our primary care and specialty physicians at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center which will result in superior care for our patients.

Although the practice is changing ‘affiliations’, we (the physicians) are not changing, nor are our office locations. We remain at 800 Connecticut Boulevard, East Hartford and 65 Kane Street, West Hartford.   Importantly, we will remain on the staff of UConn John Dempsey Hospital and continue to provide all of clinical services at the Well Baby Nursery.  We will also continue to serve as teachers to our medical students and residents and to serve as full-time members of the Department of Pediatrics.

Our phone number will change. To reach pediatrics after October 1, to establish care or make an appointment, call us at 860-837-7250.

Primary care pediatrics has been a part of UConn Health from its beginning, and the pediatricians wish to thank the UConn Health community for its support over the years.  We look forward to continuing to serve our community and to enjoy many future collaborations under our new hospital affiliation.

Larry Scherzer, MD, MPH

Our People Make Possible Happen

Food and Nutrition Services prepared a special meal on white china for the Dixon's 60th wedding anniversary.Thursday, August 11 was the 60th wedding anniversary for Mr. and Mrs. Dixon…but the couple thought a celebration did not look possible and would have to wait because Mr. Dixon was a “visitor” here.

Then came the staff of the University Tower’s 5th floor. They got busy, called in help, and the party was on.

Food and Nutrition Services delivered individually made meals on white china  and wine glasses for their sodas. Sounds of their wedding song – “Sunrise, Sunset” by Perry Como – filled the room.

A magical anniversary for the Dixon’s brought a tear to everyone’s eye….including the newlyweds.

Mr. and Mrs. Dixon had a special 60th wedding anniversary celebration thanks to the 5th floor staff of University Tower.

Mr. and Mrs. Dixon had a special 60th wedding anniversary celebration thanks to the 5th floor staff of University Tower.

Interactive Resource for Patients Coming Soon

Users of the Patient and Family Education Center kiosks in the Outpatient Pavilion will see a welcome screen like this.

Users of the Patient and Family Education Center kiosks in the Outpatient Pavilion will see a welcome screen like this.

The first of two kiosks to go with the UConn Health Auxiliary Patient and Family Education Center in the Outpatient Pavilion has arrived.

The kiosks will enable patients and visitors to access health information via L. M. Stowe Library’s HealthNet service, an outreach resource designed as a tool for them to research health questions.

Patient information kiosk

Wendy Urciuoli (left) and Irene Engel demonstrate one of the kiosks that will be available for use in the UConn Health Auxiliary Patient and Family Education Center. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health)

The Auxiliary Patient and Family Education Center is located on both the second and third floors of the Outpatient Pavilion. The second floor kiosk will go online first, likely in the coming weeks. The kiosks will have print capability and offer guided accesses to vetted health websites, community services and hospital programs.

“Providing high-quality information resources which are convenient and easy to use will help patients learn about their health conditions and empower them to become more active in managing their health care,” says HealthNet librarian Wendy Urciuoli.

A half dozen notebook computers also will be available to patients, enabling access in areas in the Outpatient Pavilion beyond the Patient and Family Education Center locations. The Auxiliary has purchased a machine that will sanitize the notebooks after each use to prevent the spread of germs.

“The doctors also will use this as a resource for patients. They’re excited about where we’re going with this,” says UConn Health Auxiliary Facilitator Irene Engel. “This is for educational purposes, so patients leave their appointments with a better understanding.”

More information about HealthNet is available by calling 860.679.4047 or emailing urciuoli@uchc.edu.