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

Iowa News

Hawkeye Comm. College to receive $835,000 in grants
Eight community colleges in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin are in a consortium, which was awarded $12.7 million earlier this week. Sixteen Northeast Iowa counties will be served by the grant. In all, $500 million was awarded to 32 applicants as the first part of a $2 billion, four-year investment. Designed to work in combination with President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act, the funding will increase opportunities for the unemployed. The grant also supports partnerships between the college and Allen Health System, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare and the Waverly Health Center. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Audubon County doing its part to help healthiest state goal
Audubon County is responding to Governor Terry Branstad’s challenge to becoming the healthiest state by the year 2016. Beth Jacobsen, a physical therapist at Audubon County Memorial Hospital is spearheading the hospital’s effort. Jacobsen says Iowa currently is ranked 19th and in 2006 that state was ranked fifth. “It involves gearing up your entire community including; your city government, churches, schools, hospitals, civic organizations and every citizen to try and live healthier,” says Jacobsen. “And part of the idea behind it is that you will make changes in your community environment to make healthier choices because they are there to be made.” (KS 95.7)

Mercy-Sioux City receives new life-saving devices
Mercy Medical Center is busy adding even more vital equipment to its arsenal. The hospital foundation spent $850,000 on 22 new defibrillators and two dozen specialty monitors to support the mission to expand hospital care.  “We’re excited to get these to improve patient outcome,” says Jim Nolen, clinical nurse manager of trauma services. “As far as anyone in cardiac arrest, deliver the better quality of joules, electricity to help get the heart restarted. It follows along with the American Heart Association guidelines that have improved patient care.” (KPTH)

National News

Some common ground for legal adversaries on health care
The 2010 health care overhaul law has provoked an unprecedented clash between the federal government and 26 states, dividing them on fundamental questions about the very structure of the federal system. But the two sides share a surprising amount of common ground, too, starting with their agreement in briefs, filed on Wednesday, that the Supreme Court should resolve the clash in its current term. (New York Times)

Hospitals push to raise patient experience scores
At Lehigh Valley Health Network’s two hospitals, teams are trying to improve patient experience scores, especially for one metric that for them seems the toughest: reducing noise levels around patients’ rooms. “We’re the largest trauma center in Pennsylvania, with four helicopters coming in and out, and it’s pretty hard to overcome that,” says Anthony J. Ardire, MD, Lehigh’s senior vice president for quality and patient safety. “I don’t want to rationalize our scores, but that’s the reality.” (HealthLeaders Media)

Hospitals push hike in age for Medicare
As the deficit reduction super committee hunts for $1.5 trillion in additional savings, U.S. hospital executives are so worried about having their payments cut that they plan to start lobbying Congress next week to shift the burden onto their elderly patients – specifically by raising the age of eligibility for Medicare. “Providers have been giving and giving and giving, and will give more. But the beneficiaries also have to be touched even though politicians feel like that’s a third rail,’’ said Lynn Nicholas, president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association. “It’s pretty much a no brainer to raise the age of eligibility for future enrollees.” (Boston Globe)

A night in the ER: adrenaline, chaos and very long waits
A wall-mounted computer screen in the call center at L.A. County/USC Medical Center showed the emergency room was full. Ambulances were supposed to take patients elsewhere on this Friday night. But they kept coming — some because it was the closest ER, others because the injuries were so severe only a trauma center could handle them.  “We get them from outside hospitals, from clinics, from the field, from the jail, from police, from everywhere — everywhere,” said Alma Aviles, a nurse supervisor. “It’s like a battlefield in here.… It just doesn’t stop.” (Los Angeles Times)

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

Iowa News

Digital mammography now at Wayne County Hospital
Wayne County Hospital now offers the latest diagnostic technology available in digital mammography with the introduction of our new Selenia digital mammography machine from Hologic for breast cancer detection. This state-of-the-art system is equipped with the R2 ImageChecker CAD a computer-aided diagnostic process that double checks each image for any suspicious areas and identifies them to the radiologist for further review. (Centerville Daily Iowegian)

Hospital garden tours demonstrates growing local food system
A garden brimming with vegetables and flowers greeted participants at Regional Health Systems of Howard County in Cresco. Morning glories growing over a cattle panel, pink blossomed Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, poppies and zinnias grow among the vegetables. The second tour stop was Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah where the Pepperfield Project crew has transformed a grassy courtyard into an edible landscape. Three years ago the hospital hired Pepperfield to put in a garden. (AgriNews)

National News

How one hospital reduced its readmission rate
Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial was highlighted in a new report as one of seven academic medical centers posting significant changes in 30-day readmission rates following a non-surgical discharge. In their case, it was a positive change — the hospital posted the biggest decrease in readmission rates among academic centers, to 16.7 percent from 19.9 percent. Gary Noskin, chief of staff at Northwestern Memorial, says there’s been a “concerted effort” to reduce readmissions over the last three or four years, and that it’s intensified recently. “Patients don’t want to come back to the hospital … and there are costs associated with it.” (Wall Street Journal)

Election-year ruling looms for health overhaul
President Barack Obama’s landmark health care overhaul appears headed for a Supreme Court ruling as the presidential election season hits full stride in the coming year. The health care law affecting virtually every American is sure to figure prominently in President Barack Obama’s campaign for re-election. Republican contenders are already assailing it in virtually every debate and speech. (Associated Press)

10 IT initiatives your hospital should undertake in 2012
A new year means a fresh start, and as 2012 creeps closer, it’s time to think about new IT approaches. Although the reform may mandate certain IT practices be implemented, other non-required initiatives will help to streamline workflows, save money and improve care in the new year. Fred Pennic, senior advisor with Aspen Advisors and author of the blog Healthcare IT Consultant, suggested 10 initiatives hospitals should undertake in 2012, with meeting “meaningful use” at the top of the list. (Healthcare IT News)

ICD-10’s ten-year reign of fear
Shortly after the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS) recommended that the United States adopt ICD-10, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) assembled a session on the code scheme for its annual conference. The last-minute addition was so late, in fact, that the MGMA did not have time to include it on the printed agenda, and the only available time slot was 7 a.m. Yet the room was overflowing with attendees. “You couldn’t get in. The line was out the door,” said Robert Tennant, senior policy advisor for the MGMA. “They were terrified.” (Government Health IT)

NY audit notes $42M in Medicaid overpayments
New York auditors say the state Health Department has overpaid nursing homes about $42 million in Medicaid over a 44-month period because many are not collecting money from their clients’ income as required. While many nursing home residents have income from sources including Social Security and pensions, which should be used to offset the cost of care, auditors say local governments sometimes fail to enforce that provision. (Associated Press/Wall Street Journal)

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Organizers behind the Iowa Blue Zones Project, the centerpiece of the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative, held an informational webinar this week that drew some 500 participants from towns and cities across the state.  Now those same communities are preparing for a symbolic kickoff for the initiative – the “Iowa Start Somewhere Walk,” which is set for October 7

At noon on that date, Iowans are asked to take a one-kilometer walk.  Many Iowa communities are organizing starting points where groups can gather for the walk, including at several hospitals (such as in Grinnell, Greenfield, Estherville and Fairfield).  It is hoped that 250,000 Iowans will participate. 

The ultimate goal the Healthiest State Initiative is to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation within five years, as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.  In 2010, Iowa ranked 19th when compared to the rest of the United States. “By itself, a one-kilometer walk won’t change the health of the state,” said Governor Terry Branstad, who has endorsed the privately backed initiative.  “But, it’s an opportunity for all Iowans to come together and take the first step toward our ambitious goal.”  

At the center of the Healthiest State Initiative is the Iowa Blue Zones Project, which over the next five years will select 10 Iowa communities as “Blue Zones,” demonstration sites to implement proven wellness principles on a community-wide basis.  This week, interested individuals and groups from all over the state participated in a webinar to learn details about the Blue Zones application and selection process.  For those who were unable to participate in the live webinar, a recording is available by calling 888/203-1112 and entering the passcode 5678247. 

Information will also be presented in person by Blue Zones organizers during a series of “road shows” in October.  Leaders from interested communities are encouraged to attend these presentations, which will feature Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner, who will be a keynote speaker at next week’s IHA Annual Meeting.  The road show stops are scheduled for: 

  • October 10, 9-11 a.m., in Harlan at the C.G. Therkildsen Activity Center, 706 Victoria Street 
  • October 10, 3-5 p.m., in Storm Lake at Buena Vista University’s Anderson Auditorium, 610 W. Fourth Street 
  • October 11, 10 a.m.-noon, in Ankeny at Des Moines Area Community College’s FFA Enrichment Center, 1055 SW Prairie Trail Parkway 
  • October 12, 9-11 a.m., in Cedar Rapids at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center’s auditorium, 616 A Avenue NE

As keystones for community health care and wellness, IHA is encouraging hospitals to take a leadership role in the Iowa Blue Zones Project.

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

Iowa News

Healing room: New patient room focuses on efficiency, comfort
On Mary Greeley Medical Center’s North Addition fourth floor is a patient room made of hard-core Styrofoam and cardboard curtain walls, with details like cabinet knobs and soap dispensers drawn on with permanent marker. It may not look like much right now, but it is the future of patient care at MGMC, a 3-D drawing board of sorts for medical staff and administrators to work out just how best to care for patients. The room redesign comes as part of MGMC’s $129 million expansion project, Extraordinary Visions, which launched this week. (Ames Tribune)

Physician assistants providing more health care in Iowa
Emily Appleton, a physician assistant with St. Luke’s Physicians & Clinics Mount Vernon Family Practice, said she has a degree of autonomy that allows her to handle many of her patients’ diagnoses and treatment. “I always submit my notes to a doctor for them to sign off, and I can always ask them a question,” Appleton said. “I’ve been a physician assistant for 12 years, and I really enjoy what I do.” Dr. Dustin Arnold, chief medical information officer at St. Luke’s, said physician assistants fill a critical role. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Health coaches play larger role
Health coaches are playing a more important role in patient care, and training programs are allowing more providers to implement the concept into their practices. Mercy Clinics and the Iowa Chronic Care Consortium offer training in this new role. Mercy’s focus is on the physician’s office and mainly employs registered nurses as health coaches. The consortium trains registered dietitians, personal trainers, pharmacists, certified medical assistants and registered nurses for the role. (Des Moines Register)

Mercy Iowa City awards nursing and staff scholarships, awards
The annual Legacy Award for Outstanding Nursing Care was awarded to Jean Semsch, a staff nurse in Intensive Care. An anonymous donor initiated the award in 2004 with a gift to the Mercy Hospital Foundation to honor the legacy of the founding Sisters of Mercy. The award is given to a nurse who exemplifies their tradition of extraordinary care in healing and comforting the sick with skill, compassion and respect for human dignity. (Eastern Iowa Health)

National News

Health insurers push premiums sharply higher
Major health insurance companies have been charging sharply higher premiums this year, outstripping any growth in workers’ wages and creating more uncertainty for the Obama administration and employers who are struggling to drive down an unrelenting rise in medical costs. A study released on Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a research group, showed that the average annual premium for family coverage through an employer reached $15,073 in 2011 — 9 percent higher than in the previous year. (New York Times)

Dartmouth Atlas: Readmission rates show ‘not much progress’
Dartmouth Atlas researchers are again pointing fingers at hospital quality of care, this time showing wide variation in 30-day readmission rates, which have not gone down and in some cases rose between 2005 and 2009. Some hospitals argue that they can’t be blamed for high readmission rates because they have sicker patients with more co-morbidities, people who are less well educated and hampered by transportation and poverty.  That “may be an explanation, but it shouldn’t be an excuse,” said David Goodman, M.D., lead author of the study.

Paul Ryan delivers health care reform replacement
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan says it’s time for Republicans to rally around a comprehensive “replacement” to President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform legislation — with the government giving a limited contribution to help Americans get health coverage.   That’s the model Ryan wants to apply through Medicare, Medicaid and employer-sponsored health insurance. It’s the approach he used earlier this year for Medicare and Medicaid in the House-passed budget, but he now wants to expand it to workplace health insurance by giving people a refundable tax credit to help them buy coverage. (Politico)

Boomers’ delusion about health in retirement
Most baby boomers say they’re planning on an active and healthy retirement, according to a new poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. And, in a switch from earlier years, more than two-thirds recognize the threat of long-term care expenses to their financial futures. But some experts worry that when it comes to their health, boomers are still woefully unprepared — or worse, in denial. (National Public Radio)

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

Iowa News

UI officials see lack of nursing faculty
Rita Frantz, the dean of the UI College of Nursing said the nursing shortage may not affect the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, because 300 nurses were hired over the last year. What is concerning is the lack of faculty in the nursing program at Iowa universities, she said. “The biggest obstacle we have is a shortage of faculty,” she said. To tackle this, Frantz said administrators are beginning to look at different ways nursing departments can collaborate — such as the UIHC or Mercy Hospital — to help shoulder the burden of the nursing faculty and also create more clinical sites for students. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

Sumner breaks ground for new hospital
One Bremer County town will soon have a brand new hospital.  Community Memorial Hospital in Sumner broke ground Monday for a new $19.6 million facility.  It will replace the current hospital, which is more than 60 years old.  The new hospital is looking to address the community’s healthcare needs well into the future. Community Memorial Hospital has a small emergency room and even tinier patient rooms.  There are no private patient restrooms, meaning three or four patients could be sharing one hall bathroom at a time.  There are several other concerns with the 60-year-old building. (KWWL)

Ames medical center plans $128M addition
Mary Greeley Medical Center is ready to break ground on a new $128 million hospital addition. The groundbreaking ceremony is planned for Tuesday at 4 p.m. Plans call for a new six story patient tower, a new main entrance and more space for the emergency department. The process to build the new tower includes an exhaustive process to understand how each room will be used. “We tried to come up and mimic every scenario that we do in a hospital on a given day,” said Matt Aitchison, a clinical supervisor. (KCCI)

Celebrating rich history with Mercy Medical Center
Sioux City’s Mercy Medical Center is taking a trip back in time, observing “Mercy Day.” It’s a celebration of the hospital’s history, while remembering the rich faith and tradition started by “Sisters of Mercy” founder, Sister Catherine McAuley, a tradition that the hospital hopes to continue into the 21st century. “We’re here to serve the community, so whatever the health needs or needs of the community are, we put that into our strategic plan and we see how we best fit in order to work with others to fulfill and meet those needs,” says Jim Spencer, director of mission, ethics and spiritual care at Mercy (KMEG).

National News

Supreme Court could rule on health care law early next year
The Obama administration set the stage Monday for the Supreme Court to rule early next year on the constitutionality of the president’s healthcare law by declining to press for a full appeal in a lower court. The Justice Department announced it will forgo an appeal to the full U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Such an appeal to the 11-member court could have taken months and delayed a final decision from the high court until at least 2013. (Los Angeles Times)

Perry’s Medicaid plan secret: Dems like it
Texas Gov. Rick Perry publicly floated dropping out of Medicaid less than a year ago to cut spending — but now the state is quietly revamping the health care safety net for the poor in a way even some Democrats can get behind. The Medicaid proposal, which came up in Thursday’s Republican presidential debate, could prove increasingly inconvenient for Perry’s presidential campaign narrative. (Politico)

Many physicians feel they are delivering too much care
Your doctor may secretly think you’re making too many office visits and getting too many drugs and tests. A survey of primary-care doctors conducted in 2009 finds that 42 percent of the 627 respondents believed the patients in their own practice were getting too much care. Just 6% of doctors believed their patients were getting too little care. (The rest thought the level of care was just right.) And 28 percent of the doctors thought they themselves were practicing more aggressively than they would prefer to. (Wall Street Journal)

Videos as instruments of physician engagement
Hospitals looking to connect with patients, grow market share, and increase awareness about their services are turning to physician videos as a means to accomplish those goals. It’s also a way to engage the physicians, says Pam Marecki, assistant vice president of communications at Bayhealth Medical Center, a two-hospital system in southern Delaware. “Research has shown that physicians who have a video gain more Web traffic,” she says. In June 2010, Bayhealth started taping a video series titled “A Bit of Advice” at the same time it was completing video biographies about its physicians for its website, bayhealth.org. (HealthLeaders Media)

Nurse in fatal error put supplement in wrong tube
The cancer patient who died because of a medical error at Oakland’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center was killed by a nutritional supplement that a replacement nurse mistakenly put into a catheter meant for delivering medicine to her bloodstream, the media is reporting.  The nurse, a 23-year-old woman from New Orleans, was one of about 500 replacement nurses brought in by Sutter Health to staff its Oakland hospital and two Berkeley campuses when the California Nurses Association called a one-day strike for Thursday. Sutter kept its replacements for five days, locking out its regular nurses until today. (San Francisco Chronicle)

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