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Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and Web.

Iowa News

Braley’s Medicare campaign pays off
Federal officials have launched the first of two studies to consider realigning the way doctors who care for Medicare patients are paid. Traditionally, doctors have been reimbursed for their services partially under a formula that factors in geographic location. Opponents for years have said the government’s reimbursement rates are unfair. (Des Moines Register)

Mercy-Sioux City nurses reject contract
Union nurses at Mercy Medical Center on Monday overwhelming rejected the latest contract offer from the Sioux City hospital. But the two sides said they would continue to negotiate past the expiration of the current three-year contract on Wednesday, averting — at least for now — a potential strike. (Sioux City Journal)

Mercy West hopes to resume admissions after pipes burst
Mercy Medical Center-West Lakes hopes to begin admitting patients again today after seventh-floor air-conditioning pipes burst Monday, forcing the hospital to evacuate 22 patients. Hospital officials said imaging appointments would resume at 7 a.m. Surgeries and heart catheterizations scheduled for today were set at other locations. (Des Moines Register) Update from IHA:  Mercy Medical Center-West Lakes announced about an hour ago that it would begin admitting patients at 3 p.m. today.

Newton youths use birthday gifts to help hospital patients
Clay Trotter and Logan and Luke Zaabel hosted a birthday party attended by more than 30 friends. The guests were asked, instead of bringing a gift for the boys, to bring DVDs in new or good condition. These DVDs would then be donated to Skiff so that pediatric patients could enjoy the entertainment during their hospitalization. (Newton Daily News)

U.S. News

Of all specialties, demand for psychiatrists is growing fastest
The lack of psychiatrists in Iowa has been so bad that several hospitals have had to close their inpatient psychiatric care units, says Scott Lindsley, operations director for Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (USA Today)

Poll: Favorable views of health reform law increasing among Americans
The results suggest that the Obama administration’s promotion of the legislation may be paying off or that the public may be warming to the law as early provisions take effect. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 48 percent of the public had a favorable view of the law in June while 41 percent had an unfavorable opinion. A month earlier, the split was 41 percent favorable to 44 percent unfavorable. (Washington Post)

New coverage for uninsured people in poor health
The Obama administration is launching a special coverage program for uninsured Americans with medical problems this week, the most ambitious early investment of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. But here’s the catch: Premiums will be a stretch for many, even after government subsidies to bring rates close to what healthier groups of people are charged. (Associated Press)

HHS begins accepting applications for early retiree reinsurance program
The Department of Health and Human Services announced today it has begun accepting applications for the early retiree reinsurance program created by the healthcare reform law. The law sets aside $5 billion that businesses, unions and state and local governments can use to cover the healthcare costs of their retirees – and their spouses and dependents – who are older than 55 but don’t yet qualify for Medicare. (The Hill)

Want to know what a hospital charges? Good luck
Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, a research organization in Washington, says published hospital charges are “useless for consumers.”  One reason, as Rose discovered, is that hospital prices are moving targets, varying with patients’ needs and doctors’ treatment strategies. (Kaiser Health News)

Organ donation: An opt-out policy?
A suburban New York assemblyman whose daughter is a two-time kidney transplant recipient wants to flip New York’s organ-donation system on its head by presuming people are donors unless they indicate otherwise. (USA Today)

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It has only been a few weeks since the IHA Social Media and Health Care conference was held and already the internet is buzzing with some interesting discussion pertinent to the event’s topic. On Monday, Advertising Age published an article focusing on the role of social media in hospitals in light of the passing of federal health care reform.

While the article tries to point out that recent increases in hospital marketing dollars and social media tactics can be attributed to hospitals vying for market position in anticipation of reform changes, certain social media experts in the health care industry have raised a red flag.

Lee Aase, manager of syndication and social media at Mayo Clinic, recently spoke at the IHA Social Media and Health Care conference. Aase was prompted to post on his blog some thoughts on how his quotes were interpreted and what he thinks is the true relationship between health care social media and health reform. Aase defends Mayo Clinic’s social media efforts as not being in reaction to health reform, stating that the hospital’s efforts date back to 2005. He also states that health reform is likely a non-factor in the reason for why hospitals are beginning to embrace social media.

It can be expected that this debate on how social media will be used in the wake of health reform will be carried out for years to come. For now, Lee Aase and the Iowa Hospital Association both feel that it is premature to determine whether or not hospitals have been incorporating social media for the purpose of proactive marketing. It’s more likely that hospitals have been implementing social media in order to stay current on what has become a new era in marketing and communications.

A realistic scenario is to assume that the bright marketing individuals working in Iowa’s hospitals are more interested in testing these waters to see what sort of return on community engagement can be realized as opposed to jumping into a turf war, fighting for impression in a realm that’s still largely undefined.

What are your thoughts? Are your hospitals currently incorporating health reform into your marketing tactics? Discuss in the comments below or on Twitter by using hashtag: #ihahealthreform.

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Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and Web.

Iowa News

Braley announces commissioning of Medicare study

Bruce Braley

A study on geographic disparities in Medicare reimbursement that Iowa congressmen say shortchange the state’s health care providers has been commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services. The commissioning is “an important step in finally changing the way Medicare does business,” according to 1st District Rep. Bruce Braley. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Doctors seek to reverse ‘dangerous’ nursing rule
Should nurse practitioners in Iowa be allowed to supervise radiology technicians who perform a real-time medical imaging procedure known as fluoroscopy? The Iowa Medical Society says definitely not, and it’s asking the Polk County District Court to overturn a rule, which became effective May 15, that allows advanced registered nurse practitioners to supervise those procedures. (Des Moines Business Record)

Iowa DHS implements restructuring
Matching available resources with reality has forced state Department of Human Services’ officials to tighten the agency’s statewide service belt from 99 notches to 42. That’s how many counties will still have full-time DHS offices serving clients as the new fiscal year arrives July 1. (Quad-City Times)

U.S. News

States struggle to pass budgets without stimulus
For at least 30 cash-strapped states counting on federal stimulus money, the news was a stunning blow: A deficit-weary Congress had rejected billions in additional aid, forcing lawmakers into a mad scramble to balance their budgets. (Associated Press)

Strike’s fallout could spread beyond unionized hospitals, report warns
A nursing strike of 14 hospitals — a near certainty if negotiations falter today — could be a financial blow to the Twin Cities’ health care market, according to a report issued Monday by Moody’s Investors Service. The metro hospitals could be caught in a double whammy of rising expenses — because of the high cost of replacement nurses — and declining revenues as nervous patients cancel medical procedures or seek them elsewhere. (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Donald Berwick, a nominee well-suited to trim the fat on health care
Dr. Berwick is the perfect nominee to help reshape a health-care system that is wasteful and bloated. He has a track record of understanding how to wring inefficiencies out of health care systems and improve care in the process. (Washington Post)

Defensive medicine not just an issue for specialists
Researchers say that 91 percent of the 1,231 doctors who responded to their survey “reported believing that physicians order more tests and procedures than needed to protect themselves from malpractice suits.” That view was held by the vast majority of generalists (91 percent), medical specialists (89 percent), surgeons (93 percent) and other specialists (94 percent). (Wall Street Journal)

High court won’t review San Francisco health care plan
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied an appeal from the Golden Gate Restaurant Association of an appeals court ruling upholding the city’s requirement that employers help pay the bill or give their workers health coverage. The decision allows the program to maintain its emphasis on sharing the financial responsibility for health care — a cost borne by the public, employers and employees. (Associated Press)

Despite aging Baby Boomers, NIH devotes only 11 percent to elderly studies
The National Institutes of Health., the nation’s main medical research center, is devoting only about 11 percent of its $31 billion budget to studies directly involving health concerns of the elderly. Less than one-third of the $3.46 billion in aging research reported this fiscal year is channeled through the National Institute on Aging, nominally the main center for geriatric research. (New York Times)

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Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and Web.

Iowa News

Patients evacuated from West Des Moines Hospital
Officials with Mercy said patients have been evacuated from the Mercy West Lakes Medical Center on Monday morning. The patients were moved to the downtown facility after a water line broke around 5:30 a.m. The air conditioning system was affected and parts of the building are without air conditioning. (KCCI)

Nursing home inspectors feel lawmaker pressure
Dean Lerner, head of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, said state legislators should not be asking questions about pending enforcement actions against specific homes or lobbying on behalf of companies that stand accused of harming seniors. (Des Moines Register)

Meth battle: Iowa updates tracking of medicine
The battle against the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine will have a new tool in the coming months as an electronic system for tracking over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine is phased in across the state. (Quad-City Times)

U.S. News

1.2 million to lose benefits in days if stalemate continues
More than 1.2 million Americans will exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of June if Congress fails to work out a deal on an extension of unemployment benefits, according to the National Employment Law Project, a group studying the issue. (The Hill)

Americans are treated, and overtreated, to death
The American way is “never giving up, hoping for a miracle,” said Dr. Porter Storey, a former hospice medical director who is executive vice president of the hospice group that Morrison heads. “We use sports metaphors and war metaphors all the time. We talk about never giving up and it’s not over till the fat lady sings…glorifying people who fought to their very last breath,” when instead we should be helping them accept death as an inevitable part of life, he said. (Associated Press)

The new high-tech weapons against fraud
When a federal agency checks the General Services Administration’s list of suspended or debarred contractors to prevent those companies from getting government work, it’s only uncovering one piece of the puzzle. A company can change names and owners, acquire a new business registration number through the Data Universal Numbering System — DUNS, for short — and appear to the agency as an entirely new business. (The Federal Times)

The SEIU Andy Stern Leaves Behind
By the time Andy Stern resigned from his post as president of the country’s second-largest union, in May, he had established himself as the most influential and controversial labor leader of his generation. (The Nation)

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Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and Web.

Iowa News

Probe of rural Iowa system for dispensing abortion pills is urged
National abortion-rights opponents have asked Iowa’s attorney general to open a criminal investigation of Planned Parenthood’s use of a remote-controlled system to dispense abortion pills in rural clinics in Iowa. The group this spring filed a complaint with the Iowa Board of Medicine, which licenses doctors. (Des Moines Register)

Culver declares Franklin County disaster area
Governor Chet Culver today added Franklin County to a disaster emergency proclamation in response to recent severe weather. The disaster proclamation now covers Ringgold, Union, Taylor, Hancock, Wright and Franklin counties, and authorizes the implementation of the State Individual Assistance Grant Program to assist eligible residents of those counties. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Early retirements net better-than-expected savings for state
Administration officials and legislative sponsors initially pegged the estimated savings – for executive-branch employees only — at about $60 million, but they upped that projection today as a result of the participation of legislative branch employees and statewide elected offices. About 2,100 state employees signed up for the incentive program. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

U.S. News

Rate cap for insurer overturned
An insurance appeals board yesterday overturned the state’s cap on health premium increases for small business and individual customers covered by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. The found that rate increases Harvard Pilgrim initially sought in April are reasonable given what it must pay to hospitals and doctors. (Boston Globe)

Wellpoint sees health insurer ‘oligopoly’
U.S. health insurers are “moving towards an oligopoly,” a process that this year’s health-care overhaul will accelerate, the investor-relations chief at WellPoint Inc. said today. New regulations on administrative spending and premium increases will push some independent insurers out of business or into deals with bigger rivals, said Michael Kleinman, vice president for investor relations, at a Wells Fargo & Co. (Bloomberg)

Minnesota nurses union asks for ‘unfair labor practices’ strike
As contract talks continue between Twin Cites hospitals and their 12,000 nurses, nurses union leaders have been telling members that if they were to strike it would be an “unfair labor practices” strike. The union says that would mean the hospitals could not replace strikers permanently — their jobs would be safe. (Minnesota Public Radio)

Ban on drug industry gifts could be lifted
A two-year-old Massachusetts ban on gifts in the medical and pharmaceutical industries would be repealed under an economic development bill that the House budget committee began polling its members on yesterday. The ban, which prohibits drug firms from giving gifts and meals to health care professionals, has cut back on local business profits, a summary of the bill states. (Boston Globe)

Whooping cough epidemic strikes California
The state’s health department says the infection has come roaring back this year and is now an epidemic. By the middle of June, California had reports of 910 cases of whooping cough, or pertussis. At the same point last year, the state had seen only a quarter that number — or 219 cases. (National Public Radio)

Nearly 1 in 5 older women are going childless
More women today are childless: Nearly one in five end their childbearing years without having a baby, compared with one in 10 just 30 years ago. That’s true for all racial and ethnic groups and for most education levels, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data for women ages 40 to 44. But a very small group — the most highly educated — is bucking that trend. (USA Today)

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