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Caring for a Community

Chicago Medical School graduates are transforming the experience and quality of care for more than 3 million people in the 45 counties served by PA-based Geisinger Health System by combating chronic diseases with population health-based approaches.

We are literally caring for a population, serving a community.
David Feinberg, MD '89

Geisinger President and CEO Dr. David Feinberg, who has been hired by Google to organize its health initiatives beginning in 2019, and Dr. Andrea Feinberg, Geisinger's chief health officer for innovation, have improved health outcomes for people with diabetes by tackling widespread food insecurity. They instituted the Fresh Food Farmacy, an informatics-driven initiative that next year will provide 1.5 million healthy meals.

"We're seeing significant reductions in hemoglobin A1C levels by providing free nutritious food to people with diabetes and their family members, who often share the same genetic and behavioral risks," Dr. Andrea Feinberg said. "We've brought our staff together in a medical home model to support the patient and provide resources that give them hope and the tools to be successful."

Geisinger has made news with other bold actions that include expanded genetic testing and the use of data analytics for the prevention and diagnosis of Lyme disease, the resistant staph infection MRSA and respiratory problems related to the boom in natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania — data that informs patient care.

"We are literally caring for a population, serving a community," Dr. David Feinberg said. "What's really important, in addition to our hospitals and clinics, is understanding our people's genetic code and, further, their zip code, so we can make changes that ultimately keep them out of our hospitals."

The Feinbergs are leaders in a national movement to improve health outcomes and lower costs by addressing inequities in the social determinants of health — food, housing, education and transportation.

"If you don't have those things, it's harder to hear what your providers are saying, harder to participate in your care," Dr. Andrea Feinberg said. "You're worrying about bigger problems." Both physician executives support RFU's collaborative, team-based approach to health professions education and practice.

"It's all about the team," Dr. David Feinberg said, noting that Geisinger earned a "best in the world" ranking for the effective use of blood thinners by putting pharmacists in charge of the treatment.

"When we decentralized control, care got better," he said. "Now you see our teams huddling together to discuss patient care. That's very different than when I was in school and it's absolutely crucial."

Health professionals need "a basic belief in humanity," said Dr. Feinberg, who recalls a powerful illustration of population health shared 30 years ago during his rotation in psychiatry on Chicago's South Side.

"If your patients come in with rat bites and you just fix their bites, you're not a good doctor," Dr. Carl Bell told him. "You've got to go into the community and kill the rats."

Posted December 12, 2018
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