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Format: 04/23/2014
Format: 04/23/2014

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Allegheny General Hospital Designated as Center of Excellence for Spine Care

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Pittsburgh (September 16, 2009) – Allegheny General Hospital’s (AGH) comprehensive spine care program has been recognized as a Center of Excellence in the nation’s first-ever widespread survey of spine centers.

Chicago-based healthcare industry analyst NeuStrategy fielded its Spine Center of Excellence (COE) Survey, which surveyed 99 hospitals across 35 states and three international locations. The survey gauges an organization’s capacity to provide effective, efficient spine care, and differentiate “emerging programs” from more-advanced, integrated “comprehensive programs.”

Hospitals responding to the COE survey are judged in four key components: depth and breadth of spine care clinical and research programs; expertise of clinical and support staffs; availability of dedicated spine care units and use of new technologies, and the program’s overall business plan and operational effectiveness.

Key Findings of the Center of Excellence Survey indicate that comprehensive programs (CPs) provide greater access to minimally invasive spine surgeries and report greater use of clinical pathways and outcomes measurement. CPs offer greater use of integrative medicine services; such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy and reflexology and employ a team approach to patient care. In addition to having dedicated units and operating rooms for spine patients, nine in 10 CPs also have an ambulatory surgery center.

“This data-intensive study reinforces how choosing the right spine care provider can significantly improve treatment and reduce long-term disability,” said Jack Wilberger, MD, Chairman of AGH’s Department of Neurosurgery. “We are pleased to be distinguished among our peer institutions for the outstanding quality and sophistication of our spine care.”

The AGH Department of Neurosurgery provides comprehensive treatment of spinal diseases and injuries including tumors, herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, vascular malformations and arthritis of the spine. Allegheny General’s 23-bed Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit, 37-bed Neuroscience Unit, and state-of-the-art technology provide an optimal environment for the care of patients with spinal disorders. The Hospital’s neurosurgeons perform thousands of spinal surgeries each year and an interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, therapists and support staff guide patients through all stages of the healing process.

Unlike cardiac, oncology and other clinical specialties, there is no industry standard for accrediting or certifying spine centers. The COE survey provides fundamental baseline measurements of the infrastructure and processes for comprehensive spine programs.

“To create an effective program, the interests of patients, physicians and facilities need to align in a collaborative, quality-based model that produces measurable results,” explains Kevin Dunne, Partner, NeuStrategy. “The Spine Survey is the first step toward standardizing measures to define spine centers of excellence.”

Back pain ranks among the leading reasons patients head to the doctor’s office, and industry sources estimate 4.6 million Americans will need spine surgery at some point in their lives. The aging U.S. population will continue to drive up demand and the costs of diagnosing and treating back and neck problems, yet many patient care delivery systems are failing to show improved patient outcomes.

Allegheny General Hospital was also acknowledged in NeuStrategy’s Spine Care COE White Paper for its particular efforts to meet the spine care needs of an aging patient population.

“The county we serve is the third oldest average population in the United States and, as we know, spine problems increase markedly with age,” Dr. Wilberger said. “Driven by the distinct clinical challenges inherent in this patient population – their complicating pre-existing and often chronic conditions – we created a Senior Spine Program at AGH to provide a holistic approach to treating their spine as well as other problems.”

In addition to Dr. Wilberger, other surgeons at AGH who specialize in spine care include J. Brad Bellotte, MD, Director, Complex Spine Surgery; Donald Whiting, MD; David Oliver Smith, MD; Michael Oh, MD; Patrick Flannagan, MD; Hae Dong Jho, MD; Parviz Baghai, MD, James Burgess, MD; Richard Prostko, MD and David Cohen, MD.

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