Delaware’s Booming Population Drives Expansion in Healthcare

For a small state, Delaware has big bragging rights when it comes to health care innovation.

It is the home of Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, whose Nemours Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders offers nationally renowned pediatric oncology and hematology care.

Then, there’s Christiana Care Health System and its cutting-edge research, especially at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute. The U.S.-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation awarded a $900,000 grant to the Graham Center’s Gene Editing Institute in 2017. The institute, led by Eric Kmiec, Ph.D., received the money due to its enormous potential to accelerate the development of personalized, gene-based cancer therapies.

In April, the institute announced the creation of a gene-editing tool that could allow researchers to take fragments of human DNA and precisely and quickly engineer changes to the genetic code. “The advance could have immediate value as a diagnostic tool, replicating the exact genetic mutations found in the tumors of individual cancer patients,” while also reducing the time required for diagnostics, according to the announcement.

The Gene Editing Institute also is working to create the next generation of cancer researchers, thanks to a
$1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. That grant supports the development of a gene-editing curriculum in collaboration with Delaware Technical Community College. “The NSF award clearly places us at the forefront of gene editing education,” said Kmiec in announcing the grant. “I believe we are among the first ever to transform a research tool used for years in our laboratory into a teaching tool that can be used in the undergraduate curriculum.”

Throughout the state, there is a spirit of cooperation and creative collaboration. That spirit is embodied by eBrightHealth, an accountable care organization (ACO) that includes participating health systems and providers across Delaware. ACOs use the most up-to-date industry tools, such as electronic health records, to reduce unnecessary and costly emergency department visits and deliver coordinated care.

Meanwhile, Delaware’s health care sector is finding new ways to

Bayhealth Milford Campus
Bayhealth Milford Campus

resolve a perennial challenge: serving rural populations. Most recently, services have blossomed in central and southern Delaware. Bayhealth is building a new campus near the border of Kent and Sussex counties, and it is using Lean-Led Design to improve patient experience while pursuing waste-free operational processes. Nanticoke Health Services is focusing on reaching out to rural communities with programs such as an “inpatient food closet” that helps food-insecure individuals make the transition home after a hospital stay.

Beebe Healthcare is also under expansion, ensuring that even residents of the most remote areas in Sussex County have to travel no more than 20 minutes to see a physician.


 

1. Ambulatory care and short-term stay centers will continue to rise.
Bayhealth is building a new hospital on its Sussex County campus, but it’s also building an outpatient center. In Rehoboth, Beebe Healthcare plans to add a short-stay surgical hospital on its Route 24 campus, which already is home to the Beebe Outpatient Surgery Center, located within the Bookhammer Outpatient Center.

2. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees for nurses are becoming requisites.
In the wake of the Institute of Medicine’s strong recommendation that 80 percent of the nursing workforce have a baccalaureate degree by 2020, area colleges have created programs that meet the requirement. For example, the University of Delaware’s School of Nursing offers academically rigorous degree programs ranging from BSNs to PhDs. UD’s state-of-the-art clinical simulation laboratory provides an immersive experience to help student nurses hone their decision-making skills.

3. Technology takes a central role.
IT is part of nearly every facet of health care. Big data and analytics will continue to help health care professionals predict possible complications. Telemedicine is becoming commonplace. Since 2014, for instance, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont has used an iPad-based program to link a transport team at the departure site with doctors in the hospital.

4. Delaware continues at the cutting edge of cancer research.
Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute unites scientists and clinicians to break new ground in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Researchers at the Graham Cancer Center collaborate closely on research with the University of Delaware, Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, among others. Clinical psychologists at A.I. duPont are currently exploring how children are affected when their siblings suffer from cancer, while UD researchers have developed a technology to program strands of DNA in ways that could lead to new, more effective therapies.

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