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

Iowa News

Country doctors: Center draws doctors to underserved areas
Dr. William Durbin believes family medicine is the second-best career in the world. The best? Rural family medicine. “Rural medicine gives you a unique opportunity to do things you won’t experience in a big city,” Durbin recently told a small group of third-year medical students from Des Moines University. “And by big city I mean anything over 1,000.” Durbin is a bit biased. He practices family medicine in Parkersburg. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Woman says fitness program saved her life
Cherubim Hurdle weighs less than 400 pounds now, but her goal is to get under 200. Still, she says it’s not just the pounds that are relevant.  Hurdle was one of the first participants to successfully complete the FIT Start program. The program is being rolled out by one of Iowa’s largest medical providers, Iowa Health, as a way to cut the number of morbidly obese patients who seek gastric bypass surgery, which can be risky and expensive.  The goal is for Iowa Health patients to drop their plans for bypass surgery and instead, improve their health the natural way. (Radio Iowa)

Fairfield is ‘ready’ to become a Blue Zone
Out of 54 remaining towns, several will be selected for a site visit, and ultimately, 10 will be chosen to become a designated Blue Zones community. Fairfield will begin planning for that step when the time comes.  On Tuesday, Fairfield will host a Blue Zones Winter Walk to show continued support of the project. Supporters and community members will gather at noon in Howard Park and walk one kilometer. (KTVO)

Ban on vaginal births after C-sections increases Sioux City C-section rates
While the percentage of C-sections has increased a bit, there’s a pretty easy explanation that doesn’t involve elective inductions, a practice frowned upon by many medical professionals. “If there has been an increase, it would have been starting five years ago when we stopped doing vaginal births after C-sections,” said Dr. Paul Eastman, OB-GYN, with Siouxland Obstetrics and Gynecology. “And in Sioux City, we only do vaginal births after C-sections because we don’t have 24-hour surgery, anesthesia and surgeon coverage, OB coverage, for subsequent pregnancies.” (Sioux City Journal)

Cargill donates $100,000 toward new Iowa Falls hospital
As part of its longstanding commitment to support the communities in which it does business, Cargill has donated $100,000 to the Ellsworth Municipal Hospital Foundation to support the construction of the new hospital. The foundation has raised a current total of $6.6m to fund the construction of a new hospital in Iowa Falls, which will improve health care for area residents, attract more businesses and create jobs for the community. The new hospital will replace the outdated facility that currently serves the community. It will also include a health education area, which will be named for Cargill. (FoodBev.com)

National News

‘Romneycare,’ meet ‘Obamacare’
It’s something supporters of President Barack Obama’s health reform law will say again and again: The health care overhaul put into place in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney is the big (but smaller) sister of the federal law. His rivals for the Republican presidential nomination like to say it, too. But that doesn’t mean Romney’s law gets to stay just like it was just because it got there first. It still has to conform to the federal law, and that won’t exactly be an easy lift. (Politico)

Feeling strain when violent patients need care
I didn’t know much about the patient—just that he’d showed up on my floor the previous evening after some confusion about whether his room was ready. When I went into his room that morning, he was still asleep. I gently roused him while his doctor, who had followed me in, explained that he needed to do a physical exam. The patient, suddenly fully awake, challenged him: “Are you going to examine me or are you just going to stand there and talk about it?” His voice had an edge to it that, I’ll reluctantly admit, scared me, especially when he quickly got up out of the bed and started yelling at the doctor and me. (New York Times)

Highest health care pay found in California, Alaska
California dominates the pay rankings for several lines of work, so it comes as no shock that California markets set the U.S. pace for health-care salaries. But Alaska? Its strong performance is much more surprising. On Numbers has analyzed compensation data for two closely related employment sectors — health-care practitioners and support staffers — in 406 metropolitan areas and divisions. The following rankings are based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for 2010, the latest year for which official numbers are available. (The Business Journals)

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

Iowa News

Ward: Bill would set up mental health services by region
After months of meetings on the redesign of the Mental Health and Developmental Disability plan, we finally have a bill. Thursday morning the bill was distributed to Legislators and the public at the Capitol. The bill pulls together the recommendations from seven work groups and more than 100 people consisting of state legislators, county supervisors, providers, consumers, and family members. We spent months identifying what we believed would be the best system, regardless of cost. The governor and the Department of Human Services are determining the costs of the proposed changes to the mental health services. (Des Moines Register)

Advocates encouraged by mental health plan
Patient advocates were heartened by many provisions of a state mental health reform plan unveiled at the Statehouse on Thursday, but they were concerned by the measure’s repeated use of this phrase: “Subject to the availability of funding.” “That’s huge, huge, huge,” said Teresa Bomhoff, a Des Moines activist for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Bomhoff remains optimistic that legislators will make big improvements in Iowa’s patchwork mental health system. But the lack of a firm commitment to spend tens of millions of dollars on the effort worries her and others who work closely with the system. (Des Moines Register)

Eastern Iowa cities striving for blue

Both Cedar Rapids and the Iowa City area plan events this week to ramp up efforts as they compete to become one of the first Blue Zones communities in Iowa. About 20 Eastern Iowa communities have applied, with hundreds of people seeking to solidify each town’s chances. The Blue Zones Project is a main component of Iowa’s healthiest state initiative, an effort to make Iowa the nation’s healthiest state under the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. (Eastern Iowa Health)

Ames hospital receives $250,000 gift
Sauer-Danfoss has pledged $250,000 to the Mary Greeley Medical Center Extraordinary Visions campaign. The hospital’s foundation launched the Extraordinary Visions campaign in late September. The $6 million campaign will support the medical center’s $129 million building project, the largest in the hospital’s history. To date, $3.7 million has been raised, including the gift from Sauer-Danfoss. The project includes a new six-story tower with larger patient rooms that will provide better healing environments and accommodate new technologies. (Mary Greeley Medical Center)

Mercy mom delivers 13-pound baby; no epidural
A woman gave birth to a 13-pound, 12-ounce baby boy without medication at Mercy Medical Center on Thursday. When asked about the birth experience Kendall Stewardson, 24, of St. Charles, said she couldn’t talk about it. “It wouldn’t be TV appropriate,” Stewardson joked. Baby Asher was born healthy and nine days late. He was 23.5 inches long. His family has a history of big babies. Asher’s big brother Judah weighed 12 lbs., 1 oz. when he was born. Both Stweardson and her husband Joshua were born weighing more than 10 Lbs. (KCCI)

National News

Hospital hiring of physicians picks up steam
Hospitals increased their physician hiring in 2011, and hospital employment of doctors shows no signs of slowing in 2012, with doctor hiring becoming a major strategy for hospitals getting ready for health system reform. “We have a work force shortage,” said Alan Kaplan, MD, vice president with Iowa Health System and president of Iowa Health Physicians and Clinics, based in Des Moines. “We would look at any physician seeking employment. I’m not saying we would want to employ all specialties, but we would look at them.” (American Medical News)

Minor mistakes, deadly results
Alarms have been sounding for more than a decade, ever since the Institute of Medicine—the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences—estimated that as many as 100,000 people a year were dying in US hospitals due to preventable errors. Despite those warnings, the situation has gotten worse. In 2010, the federal government estimated that faulty medical care contributed to the death of about 15,000 Medicare patients per month. By these measures, faulty hospital care is one of the leading causes of death, behind heart disease and cancer. Why haven’t hospitals made more progress on patient safety? (Washingtonian)

Outpatient move saves hospital
Genesis Health System in Davenport, IA, is in the midst of an agreement with Mercer County, IL, to run the county’s hospital. When the 670-licensed-bed Genesis system took over operations a few years ago, Mercer had an $800,000 deficit. Genesis began a slow process of changing the hospital culture, with the biggest emphasis on a change in outpatient care, says Ted Rogalski, hospital administrator. The latest financial figures showed a $500,000 positive margin, with immediate changes in vendor contracts and improved management controls helping to better the hospital’s fiscal status, Rogalski says. “It was really putting policies and procedures to ensure that we were collecting dollars owed us,” he adds. Once those financial areas were strengthened, hospital officials then focused on revised clinical improvements, with better outpatient care as a primary target. (HealthLeaders Media)

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

Iowa News

Mental-health redesign bill offers big ideas, but money remains a question
Patient advocates were heartened by many provisions of a mental-health redesign bill draft released this morning, but they were concerned by the measure’s repeated use of this phrase: “Subject to the availability of funding.” “That’s huge, huge, huge,” said Teresa Bomhoff, a Des Moines activist for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Bomhoff remains optimistic that legislators will make big improvements in Iowa’s patchwork mental-health system. But the lack of a firm commitment to spend tens of millions of dollars on the effort worries her and others who work closely with the system. (Des Moines Register)

Mercy-Des Moines reshapes organizational structure
Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines is announcing a reorganization which will integrate clinical and administrative functions across the organization. This new integrated leadership will better align operational functions across the Mercy enterprise. Under the plan, seven physician leaders have been selected to partner with an administrative colleague. Together each two-member team, or “dyad,” will be accountable for the performance of their respective areas. Additionally the physician leaders will be charged with working together as a team to ensure the overall coordination and quality of patient care. (Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines)

Newton hospital ER ‘adopts’ family for Christmas
Every day is a challenge for Danielle Shine. But thanks to the ER staff from Skiff Medical Center, this past Christmas Eve became a day Shine and her family will never forget. Shine is a young Newton mom who has lived in a wheelchair the past nine years of her life. In September 2002, she was the passenger in a vehicle whose driver was speeding down a gravel road and then slammed on the brakes, causing the vehicle to spin out and flip into a ditch. The driver was unharmed, but Shine was rushed to the Skiff ER with a devastating injury — a broken neck — and she was on a ventilator for 28 days. (Newton Daily News)

At Mary Greeley Medical Center, it’s about the people
Even as we celebrate successes and are encouraged by the results that are achieved at Mary Greeley Medical Center, there is a clear emphasis on continuous improvement. We’re developing the strategic plan that will guide what we do through 2016. The plan will have quality and patient safety front and center. We will also strive to be prepared for health reform no matter what direction it takes. Our vision is that Mary Greeley will be the medical center of choice. We believe that is achievable because, at Mary Greeley Medical Center, it’s all about the people. (Ames Tribune)

Iowa Ladies Football Academy commits $1M to new hospital
As registration opens for the second annual Iowa Ladies Football Academy, set for June 9, the event’s organizers have announced a five-year, $1 million pledge toward the construction of the new University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. In partnership with the UI football program, the Iowa Ladies Football Academy offers women an intensive one-day immersion in the Hawkeye football experience—and the opportunity to benefit UI Children’s Hospital through their personal fundraising. Nearly 300 participants raised more than $150,000 at the inaugural academy in June 2011. (Hawk Central)

National News

Johns Hopkins unveils new, $1.1 billion hospital
At the new $1.1 billion Johns Hopkins Hospital there will be Xboxes and a basketball court for kids, sleeper-sofas for families, single rooms for all patients, an improved dining menu and extensive soundproofing. It’s part of an effort to make the hospital experience more patient-focused, Hopkins officials said Thursday on the first tour given to the news media since construction began five years ago on the 1.6 million-square-foot building, which will replace aging facilities on the East Baltimore medical campus. (Baltimore Sun)

An Rx? Pay more to family doctors
The nation’s second-largest health insurer is shaking up its approach to paying doctors, putting a major investment behind the idea that spending more for better primary care can save money down the road. Starting this summer, WellPoint Inc., which insures some 34 million Americans, will offer primary-care doctors a fee increase, typically of around 10 percent, with the possibility of additional payments that could boost what they get for treating the patients it covers by as much as 50 percent. (Wall Street Journal)

Health law is a family affair for CMS’ Tavenner
Marilyn Tavenner, the president’s nominee to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was already hoarse when she began her speech at the Care Innovation Summit in Washington D.C. today. However, that did not stop Tavenner, the agency’s acting administrator, from delivering a laundry list of the 2010 health law’s benefits and achievements, including a particularly personal one. An estimated 2.5 million young adults have gained coverage through the law’s under-26 provision, and “one of those happens to be my daughter,” a type-1 diabetic, Tavenner said. “I have personally benefited from this provision.” (Kaiser Health News)

Dangerous infections are more likely in pediatric intensive-care units
The vast majority of children who enter pediatric ICUs receive high-quality and even lifesaving care from dedicated professionals and never develop infections. But pediatric ICUs, like adult units, can also be fertile ground for bloodstream infections. Among the deadliest are infections introduced through central-line catheters. Those catheters, which deliver medication, nutrition, and fluids to critically ill patients, can also spread infection throughout the body if they aren’t inserted with absolutely sterile techniques and kept meticulously clean by the doctors, nurses, and other health-care providers. (Consumer Reports)

Robot cleaner a ‘game changer’ for hospital infection epidemic
At any given time, 1 in 20 hospital patients is battling an infection that they got on site, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Hospitals now pay greater attention to hand hygiene — Purell dispensers have become ubiquitous — but their main infection control methods haven’t changed much for decades. Most rooms are still disinfected by housekeepers armed with chemical cleaners. Enter the Xenex, a mobile, robotic device that combats germs with blasts of light. It looks like Star Wars’ R2D2 with a handle, but it’s a killing machine — if you’re a microorganism. (CNN)

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

Iowa News

Woodbury County fears mental health service cuts
If pending state legislation is enacted, one-fourth of Woodbury County residents receiving mental health services would lose that care, county officials said Tuesday. The County Board and county Social Services Department Director Patty Erickson-Puttmann again aired fears that a state redesign in how mental health services are administered and paid for could harm local programs. (Sioux City Journal)

Iowa guides Obama
President Barack Obama waxed nostalgic during his return to Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, but only long enough to say his time in Iowa still guides his blueprint for an “economy built to last.” The morning after delivering his third State of the Union speech that laid out four pillars — made in America manufacturing, American energy, raising educational levels and fair play — Obama flew into Cedar Rapids to repeat that message in front of about 400 people at Conveyor Engineering & Manufacturing. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Cedar Rapids named in Top 3 for quality health care in U.S.
Patients hospitalized in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area have lower complications and death rates than most parts of the country, according to a new study that ranks the Corridor’s health care system third best in the nation. HealthGrades, a health care research firm headquartered in Denver, based today’s report on a study of 5,000 hospitals nationwide. Cedar Rapids, which also includes the Iowa City area, ranked third behind Baltimore and Phoenix/Prescott, Ariz., as the group’s Top Cities for Hospital Care in America. (Eastern Iowa Health)

By 2020, expect some sticker shock on Iowa cost of health care
The coming year will determine whether — or in what form — health reform survives. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the health care law’s constitutionality before it adjourns in June. If it survives the court challenge, it will at least face a political gauntlet — if not its demise — if the Republicans capture the White House, Congress or both in the 2012 presidential election. If health reform survives, the U.S. health care landscape will change more in the next decade than it has in the last 50 years. However, health reform is mostly health insurance reform. (Des Moines Register)

Mom donates 100 ‘sleep sacks’ to Mercy in Des Moines
An Iowa mom who lost her baby to sudden infant death syndrome is working to help prevent more deaths. Julie Tuttle lost her 3-month-old daughter Taryn in 2009 to SIDS. Wednesday, Tuttle and her new baby, Marilyn, stopped by Mercy Medical Center to donate 100 sleep sacks to the hospital. The product is designed to be safer alternative to blankets, bumpers and crib bedding. (KCCI)

Dubuque emergency room sees jump in weather-related injuries
It’s been nearly two weeks since eastern Iowa’s first major snow storm of the year, and already, emergency rooms are seeing an uptick in weather-related injuries. Dr. Mark Singsank works in the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque. He said the number of patients the ER sees jumps as much as 10 percent in the five days following a major snow storm. (KWWL)

National News

Colorado wants mandatory flu shots for most hospital and nursing home workers
State health officials want to mandate flu vaccinations for nearly all hospital and nursing-home employees, with no religious or other personal exemptions, saying patient protections outweigh individual choice. The state board of health will vote next month on new rules requiring low- and high-risk medical facilities to hit employee flu-vaccine targets that step up each year, to 90 percent of workers in 2014. The Colorado Hospital Association supports mandatory flu vaccine in hospitals, which along with nursing homes make up most of the high-risk facilities. Individual hospital systems, though, have varied policies. (Denver Post)

GOP leaders want ‘replace’ bill ready if Supreme Court nixes health law
House Republican leaders are drafting a bill to replace President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul if the Supreme Court strikes it down this summer. Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts, chairman of a health care panel, says the GOP leadership wants to seize the opportunity if Obama’s signature legislation is ruled unconstitutional. The Republican bill would include malpractice reform, high-risk insurance pools for people with pre-existing conditions, tax breaks for individuals and small businesses, and would allow people to buy cheaper coverage from insurers in another state. (Associated Press/Washington Post)

Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation aims to cut health-care costs
The Obama administration touts it as a key solution to the nation’s runaway health-care spending: a new national center set up by the 2010 health-care law to test and implement groundbreaking ways to cut costs while improving patient care. On Thursday, a little more than 14 months after the center opened, officials will release a report summarizing its progress: 16 recent initiatives, funded with more than $1.7 billion in federal money, that will involve more than 50,000 providers over the next five years. (Washington Post)

Jurors side with Garth Brooks in hospital naming-rights lawsuit
A jury awarded Garth Brooks $1 million Tuesday night in a civil dispute involving the country music entertainer and a naming-rights’ promise he said was made by the largest health-care system in the state. A Rogers County jury deliberated for three hours in awarding him $500,000 on breach of contract and fraud claims against Integris Rural Health Inc. and only 15 minutes before awarding the same amount of punitive damages. The amounts were the legal maximums in this case. (Tulsa World)

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

Iowa News

Iowa public health warns of norovirus outbreaks
Reports of the norovirus illness have been increasing across Iowa in recent weeks, and Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids is seeing more patients than usual with the symptoms. The Cedar Rapids medical center is classifying the apparent spread as a “sporadic outbreak,” with an average 10 to 15 people coming in for treatment daily for the past 10 days. “The busiest week we had was the first week of January,” said Mercy spokeswoman Karen Vander Sanden. “And that was with people who were sick enough to be admitted.” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

CR Blue Zones community forum set for Feb. 2
The purpose of the forum is to identify the major health issues facing the Cedar Rapids and Linn County communities. Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones, will make an appearance to discuss possible solutions to the issues. The first 100 attendees will receive a free copy of Mr. Buettner’s book. During the first hour of the CR Blue Zone Check-Up event, Stephanie Neff, interim director of Linn County Public Health; Tim Charles, CEO of Mercy Medical Center; Dr. James Levett, chief medical officer of Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa; and Ted Townsend, CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital, will discuss the most prevalent health issues facing the community. Pat Baird, retired CEO of AEGON, will moderate the discussion. Attendees will be invited to share their observations and join the discussion. (Corridor Business Journal)

Broadlawns first in state with 3-D mammography
Mammograms just got a lot more advanced in Iowa. The FDA approved the 3-D technology just last year, and Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines is the first in the state to use it. From seeing a still image to seeing layer after layer of breast tissue, a 3-D mammogram, also known as breast tomosynthesis, gives doctors a never before seen look at the breast. “We’re actually able to detect cancers at a smaller size, thus at an earlier stage, and we’ll increase the patient’s risk of survival,” said Dr. John Tentinger, a radiologist at Broadlawns. He said early studies show up to a 7 percent increase in the detection rate for cancer. (WOI)

National News

Landmark health overhaul get nary a mention
When it came to health, what was most surprising was how little President Obama had to say in his State of the Union address. His landmark 2010 health overhaul — whose fate is currently before the Supreme Court and whose repeal is the top priority for every GOP presidential candidate — got barely a passing mention. The president also resisted the urge to use the speech to criticize House Republicans for their passage last year of a budget plan that would dramatically reshape the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled. (National Public Radio)

CBO report on Medicare demos draws mixed response
A Congressional Budget Office report critical of the Medicare fee-for-service demonstration projects in disease management, care coordination, and value-based payments has received mixed reviews from stakeholders who acknowledge the report’s significance while contending that it contains no surprises for the healthcare industry. Meanwhile, officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the demonstration projects, have remained almost silent. (HealthLeaders Media)

Senate watchdog targets high-prescribing Medicaid docs
An influential U.S. senator is grilling officials in nearly three-dozen states, demanding to know how they are cracking down on physicians who prescribe massive amounts of potentially dangerous prescription drugs. Iowa Republican Charles Grassley sent letters to 34 states Monday asking what steps they had taken to investigate doctors whose prescribing of antipsychotics, anti-anxiety drugs and painkillers to Medicaid patients far exceeds that of their peers. (Pro Publica)

Florida hospital loses $178M judgment in negligence case
A Florida man and his family have won a $178 million judgment against the HCA-owned Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, FL, and a doctor accused in the lawsuit of medical negligence in a case involving weight-loss surgery gone awry. A Duval County, FL, jury found Memorial was liable for damages of $168 million. And on Monday, the jury awarded an additional $10 million in punitive damages in the case. (Nashville Tennessean)

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