UI partners on centralized liver center


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The University of Iowa is joining forces with two health-care organizations in a partnership to improve care for patients with liver disease. Several health-care officials say the collaboration would advance research and expertise in the field.

The University of Iowa Organ Transplant Center, the Iowa Digestive Disease Center, and Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines will work together to form the Iowa Liver Center — a decision announced Feb. 1.

For the last six years, the UI Health Care has sent both kidney and digestive experts to this area of the state, but this center will be the first time  it has had a permanent presence in central Iowa.

“We felt that we would be able to do a much better job at giving care, a much more efficient job by creating a set administrative structure between the organizations involved to allow patients to plug in an easier fashion,” said UI Professor David Elliott, the director of the Division of Gastroenterology/Hepatology.

This new expansion is focused on the availability of care to patients in this area of the state. The organization will bring the same experts from the university to the greater Des Moines region. Previously, patients needed to travel to Iowa City for regular appointments.

“The drive for this whole project is patient convenience, so the fact that patients will be able to stay in their medical homes while receiving University of Iowa expertise is remarkable,” Elliott said.

One specialist involved with this project from the Iowa Digestive Disease Center in Clive, Iowa, also stressed the importance of care availability.

“Traveling to Iowa City is always a burden for patients in this area, but now that the university has teamed up with our center, care will be fantastic, and university doctors will gain valuable experience,” said Ravi Vemulapalli, a doctor at the Iowa Digestive Center.

The care given to patients at the new center has already started, but its opening date has not yet been decided.

“It is a matter of days to weeks instead of months,” said Alan Reed, director of the UI Organ Transplant Center. “The space physically exists, people are already making appointments, but now we are just in the process of pulling it all together.”

Reed said this partnership isn’t going to cost the UI much more than they already spend sending specialists to central Iowa, and he believes it will save the state money.

“It will allow us to take care of a population of patients and apply costly technologies at a cheaper and creative way,” he said.

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