RGH’s Lipson Cancer Center patients can receive counseling as part of care

Lori Cartwright

Lori Cartwright is more than her cancer. She’s a mother and grandmother; a partner; an employee; a friend.

From a holistic perspective, treating Cartwright’s cancer meant doing more than attacking the rogue cells. The approach to her ovarian cancer first diagnosed in 2018 required addressing her anxiety and depression that has been exacting its own toll.

“Cancer will break you,” Cartwright said. “It will break you down … If you let your mental (health) go down … you’re just going to be worthless.”

In May 2021, Rochester Regional Health’s Lipson Cancer Center began its Collaborative Care Therapy program to provide support for people with depression or anxiety that may be exacerbated as part of their cancer care. Licensed master’s level social workers are onsite to counsel patients on their diagnoses and provide coping strategies for other troubling aspects of their lives.[1]

Cartwright joined the program last year when she found out that, after three years of remission, her cancer had spread to her colon.

“We all need somebody to talk to,” Cartwright said. “You know sometimes talking to your significant other or your friend just doesn’t do it. They don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to do because they love you.”

Lauren Burling

That’s why, Cartwright said, it has been a relief to work with Lauren Burling, supervisor of the program. Cartwright said that having Burling to talk to has taken the burden off her family and lets her six grandkids know her simply as “Yia-yia,” which is the Greek term for grandmother.

“Just knowing that I have her there — she’s like in my back pocket. She’s somebody that I can talk to about literally anything and she finds different ways for you to deal with things to cope.”

The Collaborative Care model was developed in the 1990s at the University of Washington as a way for primary care practices to provide services to patients living with anxiety and depression.

Much of the research on the program’s effectiveness has been done in primary care settings. However, a study from 2008-2011 of 500 patients with depression and cancer at three cancer centers in Scotland showed that more than 60% improved in the collaborative care arm, compared to 17% in usual care. Patients in Collaborative Care also reported less fatigue, pain, anxiety, and better quality of life.[2]

The New York state Office of Mental Health, along with the AIMS Center at the University of Washington, has funded a project to help primary care residents learn team-based care to treat mental health conditions.[3]

According to Rochester Regional, it the first cancer center in the area to use the University of Washington model. However, other centers could be employing some type of holistic approach to address the emotional needs of patients undergoing treatment.

RRH has enrolled 753 cancer patients in the approximately 18 months it has offered collaborative care. The program began as a way for the cancer center to offer behavioral health services. The services are billed through insurance and patients are charged a monthly copay, which covers multiple visits during that time.

Patients are assessed for their risk of depression or anxiety in the context of their cancer care, Burling said. The screening tool identifies the difference between patients adjusting within norms to their diagnosis as opposed to individuals who are having difficulty managing their day-to-day activities because their cancer diagnosis is compounded by anxiety or depression.

“Somebody either expresses that they’re struggling and they want to get into a counseling program, a provider notices they’re struggling and refers them or we are able to identify through some of these screening measures in our cancer setting, who may be at a higher risk for depression or anxiety,” she said.

Robin Reid

Dr. Robin Reid has worked as a medical oncologist/hematologist with RRH for several years but was not part of Cartwright’s team. She said she enthusiastically supported the Collaborative Care Therapy program.

“We see our patients struggling with their diagnosis and struggling with the treatment and the existential effects of it,” she said. “As a physician, we try to treat the whole patient in front of us, and this is another tool that I think is very useful to support them through their treatment. Not only treating the cancer and then treating the physical side effects of the chemotherapy, but also to try to support them through the mental health portion of it.”

Reid said most patients have been receptive to seeing a counselor. Those who hesitated may have believed they were showing a weakness. “With further discussion, they’re like, yeah, this might be good to learn more about.”

Patients are accepted for year, during which time they can have in-person, video or phone visits.

“Behavioral health access is incredibly limited in our country everywhere, and Rochester isn’t an exception,” Burling said. “The most important thing for someone who’s experiencing a mood concern like depression or anxiety in the context of a cancer diagnosis is to get them support without them needing to go to a new location, a new clinic, a new provider.

Cartwright’s cancer journey began when her mother was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. Cartwright learned from genetic testing that she had a mutation that increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer. She learned she had ovarian cancer from a biopsy taken during her preventive hysterectomy.

A couple years later, blood work showed an increase in a marker for cancer, and Cartwright went to an oncologist in Clifton Springs. She filled out a screening form to gauge her anxiety and depression and said by the time she was in her car driving home, Burling was on the phone.

“I kind of knew it because I have anxiety and I’ve been dealing with a lot of depression, so I knew what was coming,” Cartwright said. “She’s like, ‘you don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to.’ I thought to myself, ‘if you don’t take it, you’re going to be in a really big mess. You know yourself, so just accept into your life,’ and I did.”

Cartwright said Burling has figuratively been a life saver.

“I’ve got to say that she saved a lot of days to where I wasn’t being mean to other people. I actually could put a smile on my face just knowing that she was there because I can’t say that everything is going to be OK because ain’t nothing going to be OK when you’re fighting cancer. She just made it easier.”

Patti Singer is a freelance writer in Rochester. Contact her at [email protected]

[1] www.rochesterregional.org/services/cancer/collaborative-care-and-behavioral-health-services

[2] aims.uw.edu/sites/default/files/1%20Evidence%20Base_Foundational.pdf

[3] aims.uw.edu/new-york-state-collaborative-care-initiative

Local health care careers highlighted at job fair this week

Bryant & Stratton College will partner with some of the Rochester area’s largest healthcare employers for its annual Wellness & Healthcare Career Fair. 

Bryant and Stratton hosts health care job fairThe event will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Bryant & Stratton’s Greece campus on Long Pond Road.  

Attendees can learn more about careers in healthcare and receive information about general health and wellness.  Flu shots will also be available with proof of insurance.

Representatives from Bryant & Stratton College, Rochester Regional Health, the University of Rochester, Fidelis Care, Breast Cancer Coalition, Wilmot Cancer Institute and other healthcare employers and community organizations will attend.  

The event coincides with Medical Assistants Recognition Week. The Medical Assistant Associate degree is one of the largest programs at the college.   

[email protected] / (585) 653-4021 

New frontier: Telemedicine is here to stay

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-sitting-on-the-couch-8376286/
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

If you need an indicator that health care at home is here to stay, look no further than Cole Nardi’s title: Director of Telemedicine at Rochester Regional Health.

Telemedicine – or telehealth – allows health care providers care for patients without an in-person office visit via technology tools like video visits.

The American Medical Association estimates that before the COVID-19 pandemic’s widespread arrival in March 2020. telehealth represented less than 1% of the total health care volume in the United States. In March 2022, 22% of Americans had utilized some type of telehealth services in the past four weeks, according to U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey data.

Telehealth boomed during the pandemic out of necessity, but today local health care providers and the technology experts who support them are seeing the service continue due to a myriad of factors including better comfort with the technology and increased benefits for patients, providers and support staff alike.

Rochester Regional Health: More patient-led technologies

At Rochester Regional Health, Nardi leads the team that makes the technology of telemedicine possible for its patients and providers, like on-demand video visits.

Cole Nardi

The large health system began piloting on-demand video visits before the pandemic to employees and their families, but in March 2020 quickly amped up and broadened its video visit reach. By the close of 2020 Rochester Regional Health had logged over 230,000 video visits between patients and providers, Nardi said.

This March Rochester Regional Health launched a new service called Express Care, which offers patient-initiated on-demand video visits for non-emergency issues. The service is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Anyone with the HIPPA-compliant app MyCare through Rochester Regional Health can utilize Express Care.

The way it works: You open your app, choose “On Demand Video Visit – RRH Express Care” from the menu and wait in the queue for an available local provider from Rochester Regional Health. You can choose between a general video visit or a TytoCare video visit.

TytoCare is a small, handheld digital device with attachments – like an otoscope – that lets health care providers guide patients through medical exams remotely. It can capture heart sounds, lung sounds, body temperature, heart rate and videos and images of the inner ears, skin and throat. These high-quality readings, sounds and images are immediately sent to the provider on the other end of the screen for evaluation.

Rochester Regional Health has begun giving TytoCare medical exam kits to select, qualifying patients from some of its pediatric, primary care and internal medicine practices, along with a quick start guide and materials to help them learn to use the device. The kits are also available for purchase on the Rochester Regional Health website and are Health Savings Account / Flexible Spending Account eligible.


“It’s a pretty intuitive tool,” said Ryan Peterson, a physician assistant with Rochester Regional Health, who notes the biggest challenge of TytoCare is convincing some patients it actually does what it’s touted to do. Some patients have a hard time believing such technology actually exists and is accurate but are amazed once they trust it.

Peterson says that the ability to use TytoCare opens up more opportunities for patients to access care without barriers like finding childcare, inclement weather and other obstacles for those that may have a hard time leaving the home.

Leslie Dintruff MD

Leslie A. Dintruff, a family nurse practitioner with Rochester Regional Health, is one of the providers whose primary patient care role is telemedicine via Express Care. She calls the program “pretty unique” in this region and views it as an excellent way to streamline care for patients with providers from this area (as opposed to some telemedicine apps which are staffed with providers outside of the area who do not have access to patients’ medical records.)

Finger Lakes Health: Asynchronous care amps up

In July 2019 Lifecare Medical Associates in Seneca Falls – part of Finger Lakes Health – began trialing video appointments for their patients who range in age from newborn to over 100.

“At first people were skeptical,” said Dr. Elizabeth Osborn, MD, a family medicine physician at the practice. “Once the pandemic hit, the uptick in users was really fast and people were very grateful it was an option.”

Now, people expect the technology to be there, Osborn said, and a good number of her patients prefer video visits when they need to be seen outside of their annual in-person wellness check due to the flexibility and ease of access.

Elizabeth Osborn MD

“It’s the way healthcare is going and we have to adapt, be proactive and innovative to offer the best healthcare we can to our patients,” Osborn said. “A lot of concerns can be handled on a video call. It’s actually amazing how much information you can get from a video visit.”

Another way the practice uses technology to enhance the patient experience is via asynchronous care, which Osborn says has “become a bigger part of our practice in the past two years.” The term refers to self-service abilities for patients that are not real-time with their health care providers, such as sending a message and photo with a non-urgent question within the patient portal.

Online pre-check-in for an appointment is another example. Not only can it decrease the amount of time a patient needs to spend filling out forms in the office waiting room, but it has helped considerably with the workflow for office staff, Osborn notes.

Trillium Health: Technology increases access

At Trillium Health — a Community Health Center that provides equitable, judgment-free and affordable care for all people — the ability to use telehealth has greatly reduced barriers to healthcare, like childcare, transportation and geographic distance, according to Dr. Sarah Bolduc, the organization’s chief medical officer.

Trillium operates five sites throughout Rochester, offering services that include: a Transgender Center of Excellence, primary care, pediatrics, gynecology and harm reduction.

Some patients at Trillium’s Transgender Center of Excellence live up to two and a half hours away or are at colleges out of state and the ability to check in with their healthcare providers virtually removes the travel barrier.

Other patients may live close by, but don’t want to use their paid time off to drive to Trillium, be seen and then drive home or back to work – preferring instead for a quick virtual visit during their lunch break.

Bolduc notes that some patients accessing mental health services with Trillium seem to do better with video visits and find it easier to connect with their providers by screen.

“A big part of what we do is meet patients where they’re at,” Bolduc explained and technology helps them do that.

Overall, Bolduc says telehealth can often lead to greater access for all patients.

“If it’s done well it’s a lot more efficient for everyone including the providers and the office staff,” she said. “Increasing efficiency can increase access because you’re saving time and can connect with more people.”

Caurie Putnam is a Rochester-based freelance writer.

Machine learning helps doctors practice art of medicine

Say you bang your toe badly enough that you need to see a doctor.

Before anyone looks at the bruise, you are asked to answer a bunch of questions about how you feel in general, your living arrangements and other aspects of your life.

Michael Hasselberg

“A lot of patients will question, ‘Why am I getting asked about my mood when I’m here for a toenail injury?’” said Dr. Michael Hasselberg, Chief Digital Health Officer at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

A week, a month, a year from now, you may have a more serious injury or illness. Information that once seemed irrelevant suddenly will matter.

“The reason we’re asking you questions … that don’t always seem completely pertinent to why you’re seeing your doctor today is because it will help us help your doctors keep you healthier and could even save your life,” said Dr. Gregg Nicandri, Chief Medical Information Officer and professor of Orthopedic Surgery at URMC.

Using information collected from individuals and populations in order to gauge when a patient may be at risk for an acute illness or worsening of a chronic condition is not a new idea.

Predictive analytics may date back to when Hippocrates had his fourth patient and compared the ailments in that person to those he had seen in his previous three; but tracking trends just by taking notes is cumbersome and inefficient.

Modern predictive analytics uses machine learning – artificial intelligence – to synthesize massive amounts of data into information that guides health care professionals in diagnosing, treating and managing illness.

Balazs Zsenits

Medical personnel use predictive analytics to support clinical decision-making by getting “the right information to the right provider in the right context at the right time, in the right format,” said Dr. Balazs Zsenits, Chief Medical Information Officer at Rochester Regional Health.

The algorithms produce results that are akin to “tapping the clinician on the shoulder and saying, “Hey, there’s a better way to look at this,’” said Dr. David Krusch, vice president, IT Applications at RRH.

David Krusch MD

In an outpatient setting, predictive analytics make sure patients are up-to-date on screenings and vaccinations based on age and risk, and to guide counseling on disease management.

Predictive analytics also help specializations such as radiology, dermatology and ophthalmology, all of which use images in the clinical setting. Predictive analytics among inpatients can help the care team assess an individual’s risks during and after procedures.

URMC built a machine-learning model based on the global characteristics of people who were likely to go to a nursing home for rehabilitation.

“What we found was the biggest kind of predictor of patients going into a nursing home after surgery was their level of social support,” Hasselberg said. “Did they have family connected to them; did they have visiting nurse services set up?”

How a patient answered questions about social, emotional and physical health at previous appointments help doctors assess your risk for a poor post-surgical outcome.

Hasselberg said the information helps surgeons make better decisions about who is ready for surgery and who needs to be delayed so social supports can be put in place.

Gregg Nicandri

Predictive models can also synthesize data from monitors to flag patients at risk for sepsis eight hours before clinicians can spot potential problems. “That actually converts into lives saved,” Nicandri said.

Hospitals face penalties if the same patient has to be admitted again in that time for any reason, so they use algorithms to predict who is at risk for hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge.

To show how the model can be proactive, RRH’s Krusch gave an example of a person who has congestive heart failure, a cause of frequent hospitalization.

“That’s because their condition hasn’t been optimized,” he said. “If we can say, ‘You have an issue with fluid retention, we’re going to start your care management on the day of admission and we’re going to put into place a plan where maybe we can send someone out to your home and give you a diuretic to help reduce fluid retention,’ that patient is not only not going to be readmitted, but that patient is going to have a better outcome.”

The model has helped RRH identify patients most at risk and allowed care teams to focus resources on those individuals.

“These allow us to be preventive rather than fixative,” he said.

But algorithms go only so far. If the computer becomes the one that dictates care, doctors are just robots.

Jason Feinberg MD CMO

“I’ve always said, ‘I wonder when the day is when people pull up to a drive-thru and a computer,’ and you enter your name and … you just select what the recommendations are,” Dr. Jason Feinberg said. “You’re due for a colonoscopy: ‘accept’ or ‘decline.’Ind You press the button and they schedule you or don’t schedule you. But everything really needs to be synthesized and discussed.”

Feinberg said medicine is still an art, and the data can drive “artful discussions.” He says, “The data that gets run through formulas that are predictive are only as good as the discussion at the bedside or in the doctor’s office.”

He gives an analogy of analytics as red, yellow or green lights to counsel patients in making lifestyle changes to manage illness.

“You don’t run through red lights on (Routes) 5 and 20,” he said. “You probably get through some of them, but it’s a high risk.” Using the analytics helps doctors and patients turn red lights to green, “to prove those predictive models wrong. That’s where the art is,” he said.

The personalized approach also is used by insurers to understand the needs of subscribers and their likelihoods of developing certain conditions.

At Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, the insurer analyzes claims data so it can send healthcare information to a subscriber who is newly diagnosed; have a clinical professional contact a subscriber at risk for a chronic condition; support subscribers who have severe illnesses and promote wellness through reminders about preventive care, according to Joy Auch, director of communications.

URMC’s Hasselberg and Nicandri compare how the health data sets create profiles of patients to the way Amazon uses its own algorithms to predict what you want to buy before you know you want it. The model is based on people who share some of your characteristics, but it also relies on your own traits.

But not everyone likes seeing ads pop up for products they have never bought. At the same time, many people willingly allow their cell phones to track their every move. Consumers may be willing to trade privacy for convenience when it comes to calling an Uber, but will they feel the same with their health information?

“Obviously, with medicine, you have to be very careful,” Nicandri said. “Patient privacy and trust have to be absolutely paramount in terms of protecting the data and protecting and establishing that trusted relationship.”

“It will be interesting over the next decade (to see) how this evolves and what society will tolerate,” particularly as big data companies get more into health care, Hasselberg said.  He said medical systems are more likely to lobby the federal government to protect data and ensure it is used to further science.

“Technology is opening up amazing opportunities for improving healthcare. When you think about big data and predictive analytics and machine learning, there are like diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, and we actually may actually have the right data to have a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. We just haven’t had the computing power, the data in one place to find that cure. It may be right in front of our faces, and the computer can help us do that.”

Patti Singer is a freelance writer in Rochester. Contact her at [email protected]

Rochester Regional Health opens new medical campus in Geneseo

Rochester Regional Health on Oct. 4 opened a new medical campus in Geneseo. (provided)

A long-awaited Rochester Regional Health medical campus has opened in Geneseo. The new campus is billed as a one-stop facility that offers nearly one dozen new and existing specialty services.

“We’re proud to play a larger role in serving Geneseo and the surrounding communities, creating a more convenient pathway for residents in the Southern Tier to access medical care all under one roof,” said RRH President and CEO Eric Bieber M.D. “By integrating primary and specialty practices in one location, patients will receive purpose-built health care where and when they need it.”

Effective Oct. 4, the facility will offer endocrinology, general surgery, radiology, neurosurgery, pain management, orthopedics and vascular surgery. Officials noted that the outpatient setting is where RRH’s patients receive the majority of their health care services, and previously, many rural patients faced long drives to find care.

The facility will offer endocrinology, general surgery, radiology, neurosurgery, pain management, orthopedics and vascular surgery. (provided)

In addition to the new specialty services, patients can visit the facility for primary care, cardiology, dermatology and lab work.

“What this means to patients is easy, local access to both high-quality primary care and top specialists. It’s our one-stop answer to bringing the best of care close to home for all of our patients,” said Bridgette Wiefling, executive vice president and chief physician enterprise officer of Rochester Regional Health.

The new medical campus is located at 4302 Gateway Drive in Geneseo.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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New campaign aims to reduce carbon footprint

On Thursday, Sept. 23, Causewave Community Partners will unveil a new campaign to promote the use of carbon-free electricity to power the region’s buildings and vehicles.

AMPED, an initiative that was developed by a number of community partners including Climate Solutions Accelerator, Greater Rochester Clean Cities, New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, the city of Rochester and several others, will launch Thursday with a program at Imaginarium at I-Square in Irondequoit.

Event speakers include:
• Todd Butler, president and CEO, Causewave Community Partners
• Abby McHugh-Grifa, executive director, Climate Solutions Accelerator
• David Keefe, coordinator, Greater Rochester Clean Cities
• Tamara Mayberry, director of intergovernmental affairs, Empire State Development
• Scott Ensign, VP client solutions, Butler/Till
• Donna VonDerLinn, creative director, Butler/Till
• David Belaskas, director of engineering and facilities management, Regional Transit Service
• Michael Waller, director of sustainability, Rochester Regional Health
• Adrienne Pettinelli, director, Henrietta Public Library

The event also will include networking.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

RRH urology department receives $5 million donation

Rochester Regional Health’s Urology Department has received a $5 million gift to establish the Di Francesco Urology Institute. The donation came from Olindo and Filomena Di Francesco.

“Money doesn’t mean anything if you can’t do things to help others,” said Olindo Di Francesco. “Dr. John Valvo saved my life, and I wanted to do anything I could to give back to Rochester Regional Health.”

The institute will feature new state-of-the-art technology that will improve the quality of life for patients for decades to come, officials said. It will provide patients with new treatment options for prostate conditions and kidney stones using the Olympus Solitive SuperPulsed Laser System.

“Olindo and Filomena’s generosity will ensure a lasting legacy for their family and the impact of their donation can already be felt for patients at the Di Francesco Urology Institute,” said John Valvo M.D., chief of robotic surgery at Rochester Regional Health.

Known in the community for their Italian supermarket and philanthropic donations to Saint Padre Pio Chapel, the Di Francescos will now also be known for giving Rochester Regional Health patients access to a state of the art outpatient urologic operating room equipped with the first major breakthrough in urology laser technology in two decades.

“More than half a million Americans seek medical treatment for kidney stone problems every year and this new laser system will allow us to deliver faster and more efficient care to our patients, breaking the stones in less than half the time it would typically take,” said Louis Eichel, chief of urology. “This gets patients back on their feet faster.”

Other patient care investments the health system is making because of the Di Francesco’s donation include the Olympus Plasma technology and Narrow Band Imaging technologies.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Collaborative helps keep children on track

Children’s Institute, Causewave Community Partners and a collaborative of child-serving organizations this week announced a new community campaign to ensure families are aware of the benefits and availability of free developmental checks for young children.

Organizers noted that just 20 to 30 percent of children with health, behavioral and development problems are identified and receive appropriate interventions prior to entering school. The Get Ready to GROW collaborative, led by Children’s Institute, features screenings designed to support a child’s doctor by providing complementary information that they would not get during a typical well visit.

In addition to height, weight, vision and hearing, the development checks will look at movement, dental, speech and language, thinking and reasoning and more.

“This campaign helps parents know about Get Ready to GROW’s comprehensive, convenient and fun checks – with trusted follow-up and support. Every parent should have as many people as possible in their corner and help at their fingertips, as growth is rapid during childhood and a worry can rise quickly,” said Children’s Institute Executive Director Ann Marie White.

Regional advertising agency Mower donated time and talent totaling more than $90,000 to develop the Let Their Greatness GROW campaign. The initiative is designed to raise awareness and educate parents about the screenings. The advertising acknowledges that parents often see things in their child’s behavior they are unsure of or think will go away with time. With the help of a screening they can uncover their child’s strengths and if a need is identified take action to ensure their development is on track. Additional pro bono production support for the campaign was donated by PushMP and dPost.

“This was a complex challenge as parents have a lot on their plates, and it can be scary to think about your child needing help in order to thrive,” said Causewave President and CEO Todd Butler. “We needed the team at Mower to come up with a messaging strategy that was clear, focused, optimistic and empowers parents to take action for their child. They really delivered.”

The Get Ready to GROW comprehensive screening model is more than just a one-time check. A GROW navigator partners with the family, school, child care providers and physicians to better understand a child’s developmental path. Navigators will assist parents and work with the support network to help ensure the child is prepared for success in school.

“Get Ready to GROW screenings are more comprehensive than what I would normally be able to do in the office and provide links to services and navigation support not typically available,” said Sarah Collins-McGowan M.D., a pediatrician with Rochester Regional Health at Genesee Pediatrics and the Center for Refugee Health. “It’s so easy to work with the GROW team as a provider. They figured out what our office needed and personalized processes for maximum efficiency and value.”

Initial funding came from Rochester’s Child, Rochester Area Community Foundation, Greater Rochester Health Foundation, United Way of Greater Rochester Inc., the city of Rochester, New York State Education Department and Rochester City School District to launch the development of the screening model and has been vital in getting the initiative to where it is today, officials said. Value-based payment in healthcare also is a source of funding, recognizing the value of early intervention and reimbursing screening costs.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Rochester Regional Health to close Hill Haven

Rochester Regional Health has announced plans to close Hill Haven this fall. (provided)
Rochester Regional Health has announced plans to close Hill Haven this fall. (provided)

Rochester Regional Health this fall plans to close Hill Haven Rehabilitation and Transitional Care Center following nearly four decades serving the Rochester community.

“Hill Haven has been a staple of our community,” said Jill Graziano, senior vice president of extended care at RRH. “Following months of deliberation and careful consideration, we are announcing the building’s retirement, but not its legacy, which our employees will carry forward. We are committed to keeping 100 percent of Hill Haven’s 350 staff members with positions throughout the health system.”

Several factors influenced the decision to close Hill Haven, officials said in a statement Tuesday, including the shifting needs of the community, as well as growth of in-home and transitional senior living and health care options. Nursing homes across the state and country also are experiencing similar patterns, officials said.

“New choices of care continue to emerge as more people seek alternatives to nursing homes — a trend that has been growing, even before the pandemic, which has impacted admissions,” Graziano said. “As an integrated healthcare delivery system, we understand continuum of care is essential and Rochester Regional is positioned to meet the needs of many Hill Haven residents through our wide range of personalized, comprehensive programs such as long-term care, home care and ElderONE — part of the national Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) network, among others.”

Hill Haven’s services include short-term rehabilitation, skilled nursing care, hospice care and dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease care. Officials said RRH social workers and care managers will have personalized conversations to ensure residents and their families receive the appropriate level of specialized care and support they need as they transition to another facility within the health system, back home or other nursing homes within the community.

Hill Haven is certified for 288 beds, according to the federal Medicare website. The facility has an overall rating of two out of five stars, which is based on a nursing home’s performance in three areas including health inspections, staffing and quality of resident care measures.

Hill Haven ranked above average for its staffing and quality of resident care measures, but in the area of health inspections, the agency received one out of five stars, according to the Medicare website. The low rating was based on a 2019 health inspection at which time the facility received seven citations. Between 2020 and 2021 there were no complaint inspections and two infection control inspections resulted in no citations.

The state Department of Health has approved Rochester Regional Health’s operational closure plan. All Hill Haven employees will receive details of their new job placements within other parts of the integrated health system in the coming days.

“Our employees mean a great deal to our health system and we could not be more proud of them,” said Hill Haven Administrator of Rochester Regional Health Denis Vinnik. “We celebrate their great history of serving residents and the Rochester community. And we look forward to the continuation of their service and unwavering dedication to our health system and the community.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Rochester Regional Health CEO Eric Bieber to retire

Rochester Regional Health System President and CEO Eric Bieber M.D. plans to retire in July from the position he has held for more than six years. The Rochester Regional board of directors will conduct a national search to identify Bieber’s successor.

Eric Bieber M.D.
Eric Bieber M.D.

“It has been a tremendous honor to lead such a dedicated team of talented people over the past seven years,” Bieber said on Wednesday. “Together, we have built a robust integrated health network that provides critical services for people living across western NY and the Finger Lakes.”

Bieber joined the organization — which was formed as a result of the merger of Unity Health System and Rochester General Health System — in 2014, following a career as president of University Hospitals West Region in Cleveland and as president of the Ohio health system’s accountable care organization. Bieber also held University of Chicago Medical Center positions, including division chief and fellowship director of its reproductive endocrinology and infertility program. Prior to his career at RRH, Bieber co-authored 14 medical textbooks.

He was chosen as RRH’s leader among more than 100 candidates.

“Over the course of his tenure, Eric has been a visionary leader who has enabled us to take our place as one of New York State’s most respected and far-reaching health systems,” said board Chairman Michael Nuccitelli in a statement. “He has led us through the complexities of the healthcare landscape so that we can continue to provide high-quality, innovative care for our patients and community for many years to come.”

Under Bieber’s leadership, Rochester Regional Health has grown into a $3 billion health system that not only delivers care to New York State’s residents but also, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, ACM Global Laboratories, partners with the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies to develop new medicines and bring them to market more quickly.

During his time as president and CEO, Rochester Regional has:

· Opened the seven-story Sands-Constellation Center for Critical Care at Rochester General;
· Built Rochester Regional into an integrated health system comprised of nine hospitals, a far-reaching network of destination primary and specialty care campuses, home care and hospice, skilled nursing centers and more;
· Revitalized system facilities, including Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic, St. Mary’s Hospital and various skilled nursing and clinical sites to meet the evolving needs of their communities;
· Expanded the system’s footprint through an affiliation with St. Lawrence Health System and Lifetime Care Home Health Care and Hospice;
· Promoted nursing excellence with the creation of the College for Health Careers and the expansion of the Isabella Graham Hart School of Practical Nursing, and by enabling Rochester Regional’s nurses to achieve unparalleled success in earning Magnet Recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and nearly 30 Beacon Awards from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses;
· Achieved elite electronic medical records connectivity status with HIMSS 7 status;
· Recruited nearly 700 new primary care and specialty providers to work in urban, suburban, and rural communities in Upstate New York; and
· Created a visionary sustainability program designed to reduce waste, eliminating toxins, and create a green community.

Bieber received his medical degree at Loyola-Stritch School of Medicine and his master’s degree in health care management from Harvard University. He also holds a master’s degree in microbiology from Illinois State University, as well as a bachelor’s in biology from Illinois Wesleyan University.

When Bieber was hired to lead RRH, the health system had two hospitals, Rochester General and Newark-Wayne Community Hospital in Wayne County. Genesee County’s United Memorial Medical Center joined the health system in early 2015, while Clifton Springs Hospital and Clinic in Ontario County joined a few months later.

“It has been an extraordinary privilege to work with partners and colleagues in New York State and beyond throughout my career, but I would especially like to thank the medical staff, 20,000 employees and board of Rochester Regional, as well as the Rochester community for their tremendous support,” Bieber said.

Bieber was selected this year as one of the Rochester Business Journal’s Power 100. He told the RBJ that his biggest mentors in his career have been his parents and his patients.

Bieber is an accomplished musician and classically trained pianist who played keyboard and bass guitar in rock bands in high school. In his RBJ Power 100 profile, Bieber said he plays and writes music to unplug during his free time.

In 2015, Bieber told the RBJ that when he took the job at RRH he expected it to be his last posting and Rochester to be the city he ends up in.

“Some people take a job expecting to move on or return to somewhere else,” he told the RBJ at the time. “That’s not me. I’m in it for the long haul.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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Rochester Regional to become first health system in Finger Lakes with $15 minimum wage

In July 2021, Rochester Regional Health will become the first health system in the Finger Lakes Region to raise its minimum wage to $15. It is a journey the health system began with a commitment in 2016 to raise its minimum wage incrementally every year until reaching the $15 an hour target in July 2021. The most recent Rochester Regional increase was in January, to $14.50 an hour.

The wage increases represent a nearly $20 million investment by Rochester Regional impacting roughly 7,000 employees including home health aides, nursing assistants and environmental services staff.

Eric Bieber M.D.
Eric Bieber M.D.

“Building a healthy community means not only taking care of patients—it also means investing in our employees and the communities in which they live and work,” said Rochester Regional President and CEO Eric Bieber M.D. in a statement. “Setting a precedent for employers throughout our region to raise the minimum wage is just one part of this effort. At Rochester Regional, we’re working on multiple fronts to build an environment of diversity, equity and inclusion that rewards employees’ hard work, develops their potential and feeds neighborhood prosperity.”

Rochester Regional has created an infrastructure to support the employee journey throughout their careers, officials noted. A worker will start at a livable minimum wage. If they want to rise in the ranks, the health system will support them with ongoing educational opportunities and laddered promotions leading to higher pay:

• The Rochester General College of Health Careers is home to the Isabella Graham Hart School of Practical Nursing, which since its founding in 1964 has prepared thousands of students to gain LPN certification and launch successful nursing careers.
• The Rochester General Hospital Clinical Laboratory Technology Program educates the next generation of Bachelor of Science level, board certified, New York State Licensed Clinical Laboratory Technologists, and since 1934 has opened career opportunities for more than 850 graduates.
• Training programs for Home Health Aides and Certified Nursing Assistants prepare students for meaningful jobs that open tracks for further education and advancement.
• Tuition Assistance enables nurses to earn advanced nursing degrees: from associate’s to bachelor’s and from bachelor’s to master’s.
• A 12-month, accredited LPN and RN Residency Program helps newly licensed nurses transition to clinical practice.
• Robust clinical ladders facilitate advancement and ongoing pay increases along a variety of career tracks: LPN, RN, Sterile Processing and a new ladder about to be defined for Surgical Technicians.
• Unlimited certification programs enable employees to gain advanced competencies. Rochester Regional pays certification costs, then provides a completion bonus and add-on pay. Since 2018, more than 1,500 employees have achieved 3,000 certifications in the following areas: Nursing, Sterile Processing, Respiratory Therapy, Medical Technology and Imaging.

“A cornerstone of Rochester Regional’s answer to the many challenges our region faces are our investments in workforce development — training the compassionate caregivers of tomorrow while creating career paths that enrich workers’ lives and communities,” Bieber said.

Rochester Regional’s commitment to the community serves as a model of transformational change, said Aqua Porter, executive director of the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, which partners with organizations like Rochester Regional to tackle the root causes of poverty.

“In Rochester, we have a poverty issue bigger than the rest of the country. We’re No. 3 in poverty and No. 1 in childhood poverty. We have to do something in our community that is transformational,” Porter said. “Rochester Regional is a visionary leader. They understand that organizations that invest in their workers get better quality employees, higher retention, better customer service, and competitive advantage. Empowered workers in turn build healthy families and communities. That’s how we solve the crisis of poverty in Rochester.”

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Rochester Regional to open College of Health Careers at former Irondequoit Mall

Rochester Regional Health is dealing with a nursing shortage head-on. The health services organization has welcomed the first class of students to its College of Health Careers, located in the once-abandoned Macy’s building in the former Irondequoit Mall.

Eric Bieber M.D.
Eric Bieber M.D.

“Once again, we have created an innovative community asset that demonstrates our deep commitment to health care access, economic development and environmental sustainability,” said RRH President and CEO Eric Bieber M.D. in a statement this week.

The College of Health Careers, which includes Rochester Regional’s Isabella Graham Hart School of Practical Nursing, offers students a navigable path to training and education across the nursing spectrum from Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) to Registered Nurse (RN). Officials said the expansion represents not only Rochester Regional’s commitment to the advancement of nursing education but also its leadership in sustainability through urban renewal.

“The growth and evolution of our education programs combined with our ongoing efforts to revitalize vacant buildings will help create jobs and generate new businesses, and enable us to continue to provide excellent health care to the families who count on us every day,” Bieber said.

While most coursework has moved online during the pandemic, the college’s brick-and-mortar home is nearly ready to open. The state-of-the-art campus is creating a leading-class institution of higher learning for nurses and health care professionals of the future, officials said.

“Access to educational opportunities is a gateway to good jobs and a brighter future,” said Deborah Stamps, Rochester Regional executive vice president, inaugural College of Health president and chief nursing education and diversity officer. “The college will help increase the diversity of the healthcare workforce by providing economic mobility for those living in poverty or facing daily economic challenges. I am excited about the prospect of training hundreds of skilled nurses right here in Rochester who are dedicated to this community and the men, women, and children who live here.”

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2029 the need for nurse practitioners will grow more than 50 percent. Other nursing jobs are expected to grow by 7 to 9 percent. The R.N. workforce is expected to grow from 3 million in 2019 to 3.3 million in 2029, a 7 percent increase. The Bureau also projects 175,900 openings for registered nurses each year through 2029 when nurse retirements and workforce exits are factored into the number of nurses needed in the U.S., a report from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing shows.

The College of Health Careers will encompass the existing Isabella Graham Hart School of Practical Nursing, a one-year Licensed Practical Nursing Certificate Program. Roughly 300 graduates each year will be qualified to sit for the LPN licensure exam in New York state.

It also will offer an Associate in Applied Science degree with a major in nursing. This is the College of Health’s first degree program. The two-year AAS degree is the minimum education required to take the examination for R.N. licensure by the state. The college also will provide support and opportunities for students’ continued professional development to Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Masters in Nursing and doctorate degrees in collaboration with area colleges and universities.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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Rochester Regional Health one step closer to clean energy goal

Rochester Regional Health expects to save more than $220,000 a year through a community solar program with Nexamp. The program will support the expansion of clean energy resources at Rochester Regional Health’s facilities while also sharing the benefits with the community.

RRH has set a goal of sourcing all of its electricity through renewable sources by 2025. The organization is combining community solar with its own on-site solar, energy efficiency measures and other initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint.

“We know that hospitals and clinics use much more energy than a typical business, and we have made a conscious decision to manage our resources carefully so that we can ensure a healthy environment and create a more sustainable community,” said Mike Waller, director of sustainability for RRH. “The ability to complement our on-site solar with a community solar agreement gives us the opportunity to offset energy usage at our many sites across the region, while also providing a green energy option for our neighbors.”

Nexamp operates dozens of community solar farms across New York state. As an anchor off-taker, Rochester Regional Health will receive a larger portion of the credit from each project, with individual residential subscribers taking the rest.

“The community solar program in New York makes it possible to increase the generation of clean energy and share those benefits with both business and residents,” said David Wells, director of community solar in New York for Nexamp. “We are focused on helping all energy users achieve sustainability and cost savings in parallel. Distributed generation of clean solar energy from the sun is meeting the needs of communities and is an important step in the de-carbonization of our society moving forward.”

Initially, Rochester Regional Health will receive credit for 9.7 MW from five projects located in Rochester Gas & Electric, National Grid and New York State Electric and Gas service territories. The clean energy generated at these projects is fed directly to the local utility grid and Rochester Regional Health receives credit for the value of that energy on its regular electric bills, helping to lower its costs while offsetting its use of electricity from traditional sources.

Three community solar farms in Spencerport will provide solar credits to Rochester General Hospital, Unity Hospital and St. Mary’s Campus. A community solar farm in Lockport will provide solar credits to United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia and a community solar farm in Ghent, Columbia County, will provide solar credits to Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic and Newark-Wayne Community Hospital.

Officials noted that with no up-front investment, long-term commitment or equipment to install, community solar is equally accessible to all homeowners or renters, independent of income or credit history. For businesses such as hospitals, manufacturers, retailers and others, community solar is ideal because it can be used on its own or paired with on-site solar generation to further reduce environmental impact.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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Local hospitals to receive federal ‘safety net’ funding

Several hospitals statewide are slated to share nearly $300 million in emergency federal funding, including four in the Rochester metro area.

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday announced the “safety net” funding, which will provide health care to patients in need regardless of insurance. Some $290.7 million has been allotted to Upstate hospitals by Health and Human Services.

“Upstate New York’s ‘safety net’ hospitals were our critical, frontline defense against COVID-19 and it is only with their help that we were able to flatten the curve and begin the reopening process. As we begin to reopen, we must not forget the bravery and incredible sacrifices healthcare centers made to care for Upstate New York in our darkest hour,” Schumer said in a statement. “I will continue to fight tirelessly to make sure New York’s world-class health care workforce and all our hospitals get all the federal support they need to get on the road to recovery.”

Four Rochester-area hospitals will receive funding including Newark-Wayne Community Hospital, part of Rochester Regional Health, $5.3 million; Highland Hospital, part of University of Rochester Medicine $10.2 million; Rochester General Hospital, part of Rochester Regional Health, $22.4 million; and Unity Hospital (district includes Park Ridge and Genesee divisions), part of RRH, $13.3 million.

“Frontline workers have risked their lives and fought tirelessly to keep New Yorkers safe during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Gillibrand said. “Our safety net hospitals treated patients regardless of insurance status and because of their sacrifice, New York is progressing toward a safe reopening. As we move forward, this funding will provide direct relief to help these critical hospitals recover financially. I am grateful to our health care workers for their tireless work and devotion to public health and I will continue fighting for the resources needed to repair and recover.”

Schumer pushed the administration to provide $10 billion for safety-net hospitals nationally as part of the $175 billion Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund in the CARES Act and is in addition to the $264 million for rural healthcare centers and the $1.4 billion from the PHSSEF announced last month.

The senators also said that New York state as a whole will receive the lion’s share of funding, with more than 10 percent of the total $10 billion going toward health care providers across the state.

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Local hospitals begin non-emergency surgeries again

Rochester’s two health systems are beginning non-emergency surgeries again this week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo identified Monroe County as one the 35 counties that can start easing pandemic restrictions on its hospital activities. 

Such surgeries were on hold for the last several weeks to allow hospitals the capacity to devote to a surge of COVID-19 cases, which can be medically intense. 

“Our community has successfully flattened the curve and the risk of a dramatic surge … is low,” said Michael Apostolakos M.D., chief medical officer for the University of Rochester Medical Center. He was joined by the chief medical officer of Rochester Regional Health, Robert Mayo M.D., in a video conference about the change. 

The lifting of restrictions “means families can resume getting the care that they need,” Apostolakos said. “Non-COVID illness is increasing as people have not gotten some of the care that they need.”

Originally, the state had said routine surgeries could not continue unless COVID-19 cases had dropped to fewer than 10 admissions in 10 days. That threshold has not been reached locally, but earlier this week the state changed the threshold to allow areas where COVID-19 is less prevalent to open up again. 

“That was a thoughtful and helpful change,” said Mayo, noting that the previous threshold hadn’t accounted for population density or a stable COVID situation. Rochester appears to have landed on a plateau.

“Because Monroe County has done such a noteworthy job in flattening the curve, (the state) felt it was not as applicable to us, and we’re pleased that the criteria charged,” Mayo said.

Apostolakos noted that the change applies to all hospitals within the two health systems, not just those in Monroe County. The University of Rochester system includes the medical center, Highland Hospital, Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua, Noyes Hospital in Dansville, Livingston County, St. James Hospital in Hornell and Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville, Allegany County. RRH hospitals include Rochester General Hospital, Unity Hospital in Greece, Newark-Wayne Community Hospital in Wayne County, Clifton Springs Hospital and Clinic in Ontario County and United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia.

Apostolakos said “We’ll start with the most urgent procedures and move on from there,” adding it could take several months to work through the backlog created by the last several months.

The hospitals will remain vigilant about precautions such as universal masking, social distancing and extra cleaning. 

Mayo said, “We want to open as much capacity as possible, as quickly as possible and as safely as possible.”

In the meantime, the medical chiefs said, the hospitals will maintain some capacity in reserve for a potential resurgence of COVID-19 cases and could ramp up emergency restrictions again quickly if needed.  

[email protected] / (585) 363-7275