Penn State Hershey joins international pediatric quality improvement program

The pediatric gastroenterology program at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, will begin enrolling its first patients into the Improve Care Now (ICN) network in the first quarter of 2014, making it the only hospital in central and western Pennsylvania—and just the second in the state—to become part of this internationally recognized program. ICN is a network of more than fifty pediatric gastroenterology divisions throughout the United States, Canada, and Great Britain focused on the health of children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The network will celebrate its tenth anniversary later this year.

“Improving the quality of care for pediatric patients suffering from IBD always has been our goal,” said Marc E. Schaefer, M.D., M.P.H., Penn State Hershey’s physician leader for the ICN program. “By joining forces with Improve Care Now, our physicians and nurse practitioners have access to medical data to help us treat these children even more effectively.”

Medical centers in the ICN program pool their information on drugs, treatment techniques, and success rates and routinely discuss strategies for specific conditions and anticipated results. Worldwide, patients who are treated by doctors in the ICN program exhibit a 77 percent remission rate with 47 percent of those patients sustaining their remission for at least one year. In addition, 90 percent show satisfactory nutrition and 92 percent have satisfactory growth.

Dr. Schaeffer takes a history from one of his IBD patients in clinic.

Dr. Schaeffer takes a history from one of his IBD patients in clinic.

“ICN makes it a priority to better understand what young patients with IBD are going through,” Dr. Schaefer explained. “We involve families as a key part of improving the quality of care. Patients may not be compliant with taking their medications or may have sources of stress that are making them feel worse. We need to know the underlying reasons for any problems so we can offer education and strategies for improvement.”

“There are two projects in which Penn State Hershey Pediatric Gastroenterology has already taken steps towards quality of care improvement,” Dr. Schaefer said. One project involves monitoring vitamin D levels and providing supplementation when necessary, since bone health is an important part of maintenance of care in IBD. Another project has been implementing a transition clinic that will better prepare and educate our older patients for the transition to an adult gastroenterologist.

“The focus does not necessarily have to be on new medications,” Dr. Schaefer explained, “but on ensuring that the current ones are being used as effectively as possible.”

Dr. Schaefer underwent an intensive year-long orientation program, including a series of eight hour-long webinars and two ICN workshops in Chicago, to qualify Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital for ICN acceptance.

The launch of ICN at Penn State Hershey is a perfect fit with the Medical Center’s new IBD Center which focuses on pediatric gastroenterology, as well as colorectal surgery and adult gastroenterology, providing comprehensive care for all IBD patients.

“ICN is an excellent program for physicians interested in quality improvement,” Dr. Schaefer said. “This is more important than ever as we continue to see changes to health care, including increasing requirements for all medical practices to demonstrate quality improvement participation, and the introduction of pay for performance policies.”

To learn more about Penn State Hershey’s involvement in ICN, contact Dr. Schaefer at 717-531-5901, or visit


SchaeferMarc-150wMarc E. Schaefer, M.D., M.P.H

  • Assistant Professor, Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
  • Penn State Hershey Gastroenterology
  • Phone: 717-531-5901
  • Fellowship: Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hasbro Children’s Hospital-Rhode Island Hospital
  • Residency: Pediatrics, Maimonides Medical Center
  • Medical School: Sackler School of Medicine

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