UPHP Membership: June 2018

Posted on June 19, 2018


UPHP Programs Update

Dickinson County Healthcare System (DCHS) Update

In early June, Bellin Health, a Wisconsin-based health care system, announced it was terminating efforts to acquire Dickinson County Healthcare System (DCHS) after nearly six months of negotiations. The purchase agreement between the two entities was set to pay past debts, pension obligations and other financial liabilities. The final purchase price, however, was significantly more than what was originally estimated, resulting in the termination of the agreement.

This situation has left the people of Dickinson County with fear and uncertainty about the future of access to health care in their area. To help ease our members’ minds, we sent out letters last week to our Medicare and Medicaid members who see providers in Dickinson County. The letters ensured members that their Dickson County area provider is still in network with UPHP, and that DCHS is still providing services. This letter was sent to over 3,300 families and was done completely in-house.

In the meantime, DCHS is continuing its search for another partner. Until then, they will continue to provide care to the residents of Dickinson County and the Iron Mountain community.


Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures Campaign

The Upper Peninsula Health Plan (UPHP) and Upper Peninsula Health Group (UPHG) will promote the Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures campaign throughout the Upper Peninsula from July 1, 2018 through August 31, 2018.  Various media such as radio, newspaper, Facebook, billboards and television will be utilized to promote the campaign.  In addition, all participating practices will receive a participation packet with campaign and promotional materials for their individual practice use during the two month campaign.

The purpose of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures Campaign is to help keep children healthy by promoting well child visits.   A well child visit is instrumental in the early detection of problems that could impact a child’s future.

For questions or concerns please email HealthyKids@uphp.com.


Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – Supportive Care for Infants and Families

Upper Peninsula Health Care Solutions (UPHCS) recently received a $10,000 grant from the Superior Health Foundation to provide important education related to neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and treatment of pregnant women with opioid use disorders to providers, allied health professionals, and public health and human services staff across the Upper Peninsula.

Through the UP Perinatal Collaborative initiative, UPHCS recruited three educator leads to travel the Upper Peninsula June 4th – 8th and provide training: Sandra Chapman, LBSW, CADC-M, Substance Use Disorder Coordinator at Northcare Network; Erika Osier, BSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, Family Birthing Center & Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Clinical Educator at Upper Peninsula Health System – Marquette, and Kelly Kurin, MSN, RNCNIC, NNP-BC, IBCLC, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurse Practitioner at Upper Peninsula Health System – Marquette. Over 150 people participated at the UP-wide events. Continuing Medical Education and Continuing Nursing Education credits were offered to participants and multiple sessions were held at the following locations:

  • Marquette: Peninsula Medical Center / Upper Peninsula Health System – Marquette
  • Hancock: Upper Peninsula Health System – Portage / Aspirus Keweenaw
  • Ironwood: Aspirus Ironwood
  • Escanaba: Island Resort and Casino
  • Sault Ste. Marie: War Memorial Hospital

The incidence of NAS in the Upper Peninsula continues rise, and has emerged as an obvious focus area for quality improvement within the UP Perinatal Collaborative. A UP Perinatal Collaborative leadership steering committee will begin to review policies and procedures across Marquette County systems of care at a special meeting in June, and will be looking for ways to better coordinate services for mother with opioid use disorders during and post- pregnancy.

The CDC’s most recent data – from 2014 – indicates that NAS affects almost 12 out of every 1,000 U.S births, which is a dramatic increase from a rate of just over 1 per 1,000 births in 20001. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), NAS affects just over 4 out of every 1,000 births in Michigan. That rate has remained largely the same since 2010. The Upper Peninsula region has the highest incidence of NAS affected births with a rate hovering between 14 and 17 per 1,000 births since 2010; that is over twice the rate of almost every other region in the state. NAS and maternal opioid use in the UP was featured in a Detroit Free Press article released earlier this month: https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2018/05/03/opioid-epidemic-drugaddicted-babies/335398002/

The objective assessment of newborns that have signs of NAS is essential for quantifying the severity of symptoms, providing guidance for pharmacologic treatment, and facilitating structured weaning. The Finnegan Neonatal Abstinence Scoring Tool (FNAST) is the most widely used assessment tool, which will also be a focus of the regional training sessions. The UP Perinatal Collaborative identified that standardization of this evidence-based assessment across birthing hospitals was needed. UPHCS and the Superior Health Foundation were happy to work together with the education team to fund and coordinate this training.

This region-wide training opportunity will help to standardize the way in which care providers and other service agencies address NAS in the Upper Peninsula. By improving the consistency with which babies suffering from NAS are assessed, our local health systems can improve care, increase the effectiveness of medication assisted therapy, and, ultimately, enhance the baby’s ability to grow and thrive.


UPHCS receives $65,000 from BCBS for Diabetic Retinopathy Project

UPHCS has been awarded a total of $65,000 in grant funding from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Michigan – Investing in Upper Peninsula Health program, with $20,000 coming from a co-sponsorship provided by the Superior Health Foundation. The funding will be used to launch an initiative in Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw and Baraga counties.  Through partnerships with health care providers in the region (including Upper Great Lakes Family Health Centers, Upper Peninsula Health System-Portage, and Baraga County Memorial Hospital) the project will integrate telehealth technology into primary care clinics to increase access and availability of retinopathy screenings for diabetic patients in the region.

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults in the United States.  More than 40% of diabetics, aged 40 and older, have DR, many with a vision threatening form of the disease.  Early detection and treatment of DR can significantly reduce vision loss.  Although annual retinal screens for diabetic patients are recommended, the rate of diabetics in the UP who are getting their screens every year is below national benchmarks (as low as 23% in some populations).  Many factors have been identified as contributing to these low rates, but the simplest explanation is that DR often has no symptoms until it is too late to treat and the shortage of eye care professionals in the region makes appointments inconvenient for patients.

The goal of the UPHCS DR Screening Telehealth project is to reduce the incidence of vision impairment from DR and other vision threatening illnesses among diabetics by reaching them in primary care clinics. Funding will be used to purchase digital retinal cameras and train staff in primary care clinics to acquire high-resolution digital retinal images from patients. Staff will then securely transmit relevant clinical data and images, for review by an off-site eye care professional, through a secure third-party network. These remote specialists then provide a report indicating the patient’s retinopathy level and make referral recommendations.  Additionally, because it is not enough to simply identify patients with vision-threatening retinopathy, funds will be used to coordinate care and train local eye care specialists to screen the images so that they can take part in the process and help direct appropriate follow-up care for their patients in their communities. Primary care clinics benefit because the service is simple, inexpensive, and billable to most insurances.  Eye care professionals benefit because they can conduct screens at their own convenience and bill insurances for the service.  Most importantly, Patients benefit because they are more likely to get their annual DR screening and less likely to suffer vision impairment as a result.


UPHP Sees Changes at the Top

Transitions are happening in the leadership at the Upper Peninsula Health Plan organization.

Long-time Upper Peninsula Health Plan (UPHP) President and CEO Dennis Smith announced his retirement, effective July 1st, late last year, and as a result, COO Melissa Holmquist was named as Smith’s successor.

Smith and Holmquist both joined the Sunny Morning Show today to talk about the transition that is underway at the Marquette-based agency.

Smith talked about several of the key successes that have happened under his watch, including steady and consistent growth, and productive alliances in the U.P. health care landscape that have been facilitated by UPHP.

Holmquist shared some of her background with UPHP and what she hopes to see in the future of the group as she takes over the reins.

LISTEN IN – Retiring CEO Dennis Smith and incoming CEO Melissa Holmquist talk transitions.


UPHP names Melanie Bicigo Chief Operating Officer

Upper Peninsula Health Plan announces Melanie Bicigo as Chief Operating Officer. Long-time Upper Peninsula Health Plan (UPHP) President and CEO Dennis Smith announced his retirement (effective July 1st) late last year, starting a waterfall of opportunity at UPHP. Melissa Holmquist was named Smith’s successor as CEO, leaving the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO) vacant. With extensive health plan experience, Melanie Bicigo brings invaluable knowledge and leadership to the COO position. Read more here.