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

Iowa News

Iowa lawmakers ‘limping’ to end of the session
Senate GOP leader Jerry Behn describes the Iowa Legislature’s difficulty in shutting down its session for a second straight year as “limping” to the finish. Gov. Terry Branstad says he doesn’t want a repeat of last year’s 172-day session before a June 30 agreement was finalized and lawmakers adjourned hours ahead of a potential government shutdown. Legislators face a third week of overtime work with a fiscal 2013 budget agreement continuing to elude them and keeping negotiations in limbo on reforms in property tax, education and mental health areas. (Quad-City Times)

Minnesota town serves as example for Iowa health initiative
Iowans seeking to have the best health in the nation — a goal Gov. Terry Branstad announced in August — can look north to see the effect the “Blue Zones” has had in Albert Lea, Minn. The town of 18,000, just 10 miles north of the Iowa/Minnesota border, was first to experiment with Blue Zones principles when it was chosen as the prototype community in 2009. “You have to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” said Randy Kehr, executive director of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, a backer of the efforts in Albert Lea. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Ames continues to make strides as Blue Zones decision nears
Ames is continuing to move toward becoming a Blue Zone Community. The Ames Blue Zones Advisory Board has made great strides to give the best chance of being chosen as a test community. The decision on which communities will be chosen will take place at 9 a.m. Friday at the Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield office building. Several media organizations will be in attendance as well as the governor. (Iowa State Daily)

Specially trained dogs offer companionship for those suffering from PTSD
The men have tried booze, prescription drugs and talk therapy, but something new happened to them when they heard that Nicole Shumate’s service-dog nonprofit Paws & Effect had picked them to be the first group to use dogs to help with post-traumatic stress disorder. They had hope. Mitch Chapman’s symptoms improved even before the two-week training session, just from thinking he might find relief. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Health spending is flattening out
In 2009 and 2010, total nationwide health care spending grew less than 4 percent per year, the slowest annual pace in more than five decades, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. After years of taking up a growing share of economic activity, health spending held steady in 2010, at 17.9 percent of the gross domestic product. The growth rate mostly slowed as millions of Americans lost insurance coverage along with their jobs. Worried about job security, others may have feared taking time off work for doctor’s visits or surgical procedures, or skipped non-urgent care when money was tight. (New York Times)

Automation and the health care cost curve
Why is health care historically a slow adopter of potentially labor-saving, and thus cost-saving, techniques and technology? For one reason, there was no urgency. Productivity in health care, in the sense of wringing out incremental savings in labor, has lagged far behind the rest of business largely because competitive pressures present in other industries simply didn’t exist in healthcare. But with margins being threatened as never before, many new contracts with commercial insurers depend at least partially on efficiency, meaning healthcare providers must improve labor utilization. (HealthLeaders Media)

Strong leaders, wise investments keep Baptist healthy
Baptist Health South Florida wants you to stay out of the hospital. It may seem illogical—a healthcare system actively working to keep patients from spending heavily for the hospital care. But that’s exactly what Baptist’s newest mission is all about, said longtime Baptist Health CEO Brian Keeley. The reason: Preventive medicine and primary care improve the public health of the community, cut healthcare costs and reduce hospital expenditures for nonpaying or uninsured patients. But with the aging baby boomer generation putting more pressure on healthcare, the shift to primary care and prevention is increasingly important for all healthcare systems, experts say. (Miami Herald)

Providers have mixed feelings on CMS proposed hospital payments
Despite the slight increase, the American Hospital Association was “deeply disappointed” with the new coding cuts in the proposed Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) rule, which fails to account for automatic across-the-board budget cuts going into effect next January, the trade association said. “Taken together, this will result in a negative update for hospitals next year unless changes are made,” AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock said Wednesday in a statement. (Fierce Healthcare)

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Today is the final day of National Donate Life Month.  Through all of April, IHA, the Iowa Donor Network and Iowa’s hospitals have sought to make Iowans more aware of how they can provide the “gift of life” through organ, eye and tissue donation and by signing up with the Iowa Donor Registry.  It is our honor to share the story of Dyamond Ott because, like the gift of life, her life continues to be an inspiration to do more.

Dyamond Ott

Dyamond Ott never hid from who she was. Diagnosed at an early age with a chronic condition that ravaged her liver and kidneys, it would have been easy for her to shy away from any publicity. But that was not in Dyamond’s nature.

Dyamond was diagnosed with a chronic blood and liver disease at the age of six. During the course of the next six years, the disease caused such severe damage that a liver and kidney transplant was required.

On September 20, 2006 an 11-year-old-boy by the name of Jacob was tragically killed after being hit by a car on the way home from school. Jacob was identified as a donor match for Dyamond.

The decision of Jacob’s family to donate his organs had a profound impact on Dyamond. She gave thanks daily for the “gift of life” given by her hero Jacob and his family. Dyamond was eventually able to meet the donor family and thank them in person. She and her family also set up the Dyamond Forever foundation and a video promoting organ donation.

While the transplant provided Dyamond with new life, her journey remained difficult. One year after her transplant, her spleen had to be removed because of pre-cancerous spots. Then early in 2011 she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Throughout surgery to remove the tumor and 30 treatments of radiation, Dyamond remained an inspiration to all those around her.

Late in 2011, the Ott family received the news they had feared. Dyamond was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer affecting transplant recipients. After fighting courageously her entire life and being grateful for every moment Jacob’s gift had given her, Dyamond passed away on December 11, 2011. She would have been 19 on April 25.

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

Iowa News

ER and chemotherapy services reopen at Creston hospital
Greater Regional Medical Center staff announced Thursday afternoon the reopening of the emergency room and chemotherapy departments, both temporarily relocated at the north entrance at GRMC. Staff also announced same day/ambulatory surgery services reopened Thursday in the newly constructed surgery center and can be accessed at the north entrance. Patients are being notified individually regarding re-scheduled chemotherapy appointments and same-day surgery services. (Creston News-Advertiser)

Hospital adding ‘community safe room’
Guthrie County Hospital CEO Jerry Neal took media members through the hospital’s next planned expansion project: a “community safe room that will provide absolute life safety for 267 people in the event of high wind and tornado events.”  When not in use as a safe room, the space will be utilized for four inpatient hospital rooms, a family room, and a nursing support area. (Guthrie County Times)

Locals support proposed state-wide bullying hotline
Mental-health advocates support a local legislator’s move to expand crisis services into a statewide bullying-specific hotline. Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, proposed the hotline last week in the Legislature, partially in reaction to the suicide of Iowa student Kenneth Weishum Jr., who was allegedly bullied for being gay. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

National News

When a tornado strikes a hospital
Creston, Iowa, did not lose any lives to the tornado that struck on Saturday, April 14, but it did lose a lifeline. A twister hit the town’s only hospital, tearing away its roof, breaking windows, and leaving it without power. Because tornadoes, hurricanes, and other severe storms can destroy hospitals as indiscriminately as anything in their path, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is funding research to better understand what makes hospital buildings vulnerable and how weather warnings are used in short- and long-term planning within a facility’s chain of command. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Hospitals halt free baby formula
Nearly all metropolitan-area hospitals have stopped handing out free infant formula to new moms at discharge time. And the last one to still do it in Omaha, Creighton University Medical Center, is being acquired by Alegent Health. Whether Creighton would fall in line with other Alegent hospitals that ended the practice in January is uncertain. The Nebraska Medical Center ended the practice three years ago. Methodist Health System, whose women’s hospital in Omaha delivers more babies each year than any other facility in the city, ended formula handouts 14 years ago. All cited the same reason: A preference to encourage breast-feeding. (Omaha World-Herald)

Americans support Medicare reform, but not on their dime
Medicare, the federal health insurance program for older and disabled Americans, may be hurtling toward the critical list, but most people don’t want to pay for needed reforms from their own wallets, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll finds. Eighty-three percent of those polled believe changes are needed to keep Medicare affordable and sustainable, and 51 percent think that “a great deal of change” is necessary. But they’d rather not make any personal sacrifices, according to the poll. (U.S. News & World Report)

Hospital leadership support crucial in going green
Hospitals embracing sustainability, such as recycling programs, food management and other waste-reduction initiatives, require a commitment from the top, according to yesterday’s report by the Health Care Research Collaborative. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the healthcare industry spent more than $6.5 billion on energy, surpassing all other service industries with the exception of transportation, the report noted. And healthcare facilities generate 5 million tons of solid waste each year–5 percent of which is hazardous, the report added.  (Fierce Healthcare)

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

Iowa News

Wellmark and Iowa Health System enter into Accountable Care Organization
Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa announced a groundbreaking collaboration Thursday with Iowa Health System that creates Iowa’s first commercial health plan Accountable Care Organization (ACO). The new ACO focuses on coordinating care to improve quality, provide greater value, and slow increases in health care costs. (Eastern Iowa Health)

Creighton aligns with Alegent Health
Creighton University and Alegent Health yesterday announced agreements forming a long-term strategic affiliation, which includes the planned acquisition of Creighton University Medical Center (CUMC) from Creighton and its clinical partner Tenet Healthcare. The addition of CUMC into the Alegent Health family will make Alegent the primary teaching sites for Creighton’s health sciences schools, enhancing both the academic experience for students and healthcare in the greater Omaha community. (Alegent Health)

Iowa legislative leaders continue talks; rank-and-file go home
Hopes for the Iowa Legislature to adjourn this week gave way to the reality of fiscal and philosophical differences that have kept lawmakers at the Capitol a week past their scheduled adjournment. Legislative leaders and the governor’s office say they have agreed to a general fund budget of about $6.242 billion. The differences are over how much to spend “off budget” or beyond that number. (Quad-City Times)

New liver has TV anchor on the mend
On March 21, doctors gave Larry Wentz new life with a new liver in a six-hour procedure. The month since has seen progress and setbacks. Fluid on his lungs required a second surgery. He has lost 42 pounds. He takes 24 pills each morning, 10 pills each night and five insulin shots daily for diabetes. The transplant cost around $500,000. The couple is insured, thankfully. Regardless, Larry Wentz has life’s new lease, one in which he cannot affix a dollar amount. Can you quantify the awe of Skyping a son who 10 days ago gave Dad his second grandchild? (Sioux City Journal)

National News

CMS proposes higher hospital payments in value-based purchasing
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services yesterday proposed a rule that would enhance the hospital value-based purchasing program (VBP) set to begin in October, helping Medicare move to a system that rewards value, not volume, the agency announced yesterday. The proposed rule will increase payment rates to general acute care hospitals by 0.9 percent in fiscal year 2013, after allowing for other payment and regulatory changes. Overall, CMS expects total Medicare spending on inpatient hospital services will rise by approximately $175 million next year. (Fierce Healthcare)

Disability insurance causes pain for Medicare
Every year, a vitally important issue gets lost in the din: disability insurance payments, which account for almost $1 out of every $5 spent by Social Security, are growing out of control. The trustees reported Monday that the government made $128.9 billion in insurance payments to 10.6 million disabled workers and their family members last year, 25 percent more than it received from payroll taxes. Medicare spent more than $90 billion on benefits for disabled workers. And Medicaid spent $110 billion more on the poor disabled. (New York Times)

Medicare trustees’ report signals ‘a lot of work ahead’
The Cliff Notes version of the 279-page Medicare Trustees Report is that the program’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will remain solvent until 2024, and that further action is needed to assure its long-term financial stability. That sums up much of the media’s reporting of the dense tome, which was released Monday afternoon. Immediately upon the report’s release, politicians, think tanks, and policy wonks from across the political spectrum used the findings to bolster their arguments for their particular brand of healthcare reform. (HealthLeaders Media)

Few doctors consider themselves rich
Few doctors think of themselves as rich, and only about half think they’re fairly compensated, according to survey results released this week by Medscape. The annual survey isn’t scientific – and perhaps, not surprising, either — but it offers insights into what nearly 25,000 physicians earn, and how they view that number. In 2011, compensation self-reported by surveyed physicians ranged from an average of $156,000 for pediatricians to $315,000 for radiologists and orthopedic surgeons. (Kaiser Health News)

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

Iowa News

Iowa House approves changes to mental health reform bill
Iowans should have access to mental health services regardless of where they live as a result of legislation lawmakers say will be approved before they adjourn. The legislation, which was approved 66-32 by the Iowa House on Tuesday, puts into place a state funding mechanism for locally-delivered services. The current county-based mental health system would be replaced under the bill, which likely will be tweaked by the Senate, where it was approved earlier 32-18. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

End-of-life angels offer support
No One Dies Alone was founded in 2001 by an Oregon nurse who saw a need to provide such care to dying patients in the hospital. The program has been adopted by institutions nationwide. Mary Anne Brekke, volunteer coordinator at Iowa Health Hospice, started the first program in Iowa in 2011. It has served 23 patients so far. Companions provide a great sense of comfort for near-death patients, said Brekke, who also volunteers for the program. (Des Moines Register)

Volunteers sort out St. Luke’s Hospital history
The St. Luke’s bill for surgery, including 16 days in the hospital, came to $56. But that was 1919, a year after the hospital had weathered the flu epidemic. “We were surprised St. Luke’s survived,” says Dot Hinman of Cedar Rapids. “The flu epidemic, two world wars, the Great Depression. They had trouble finding people during World War II because everybody was drafted.” (Eastern Iowa Life)

National News

Rewarding docs for keeping patients healthy
The concept, called “medical home,” asks doctors to keep their patients healthy and insurers to reward those doctors accordingly. But it also requires upfront costs for the provider, who may have to expand staff and improve computer technology. To date, insurance companies’ participation has been spotty. Alegent Health Clinic’s Dr. William Lowndes called it a “mind shift” in how doctors approach their practices and how payers compensate them. Alegent has eight sites working with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska to act as medical home clinics, Lowndes said, and more will adopt the model soon. (Omaha World-Herald)

Avoiding stupid in health care leadership
Glenn Fosdick, president and CEO of The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, has worked in the hospital industry for a long time, graduating from the University of Michigan’s hospital administration program in 1976 and managing a few Michigan hospitals along the way. With the way the current healthcare system is shaped, though, he has learned a simple concept that has carried him to success: Don’t be stupid and stubborn. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

Chicago hospital group to drop sugar-sweetened drinks
In recent years, hospitals have been cleaning up their food choices, adding healthier fare for patients, visitors and employees. Now, Vanguard Health Chicago, which operates four hospitals in Cook County, is taking the next step, one that few others have taken: a phasing out of all “sugar-loaded beverages,” including soda and sports and energy drinks, starting now. Over the course of this year, the hospital group hopes to refine its choices, eventually phasing out diet drinks and sweetened juices until it offers only unsweetened drinks or those that contain less than about a teaspoon of sugar per 12-ounce serving. (Chicago Tribune)

Debt collector faulted for tough tactics in hospitals
Hospital patients waiting in an emergency room or convalescing after surgery are being confronted by an unexpected visitor: a debt collector at bedside. This and other aggressive tactics by one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debts, Accretive Health, were revealed on Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general, raising concerns that such practices have become common at hospitals across the country. (New York Times)

Hospital charges show huge variance in study
Acute appendicitis is a common medical condition, but the cost of treating it varies enormously — from about $1,500 to $180,000 — researchers report. The median charge in 2009 was nearly $34,000, according to a California study that looked at more than 19,000 patients treated for uncomplicated appendicitis. The disparity is typical of price variations across the United States, the researchers added. A spokeswoman for the American Hospital Association said each patient’s course of care is different. And, “the costs also reflect more than the cost of serving an individual patient,” said Marie Watteau, the association’s director of media relations. “They reflect the costs of maintaining essential health care services for their community 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” (U.S. News & World Report)

Dealing with vaccine avoidance
An advocate for childhood vaccinations in Wisconsin says parents need to look past the misinformation on the issue, for the health of their communities. When it comes to getting their children vaccinated, Dr. Margaret Hennessy with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare says about 70 percent of Wisconsin parents are making sure their kids are up to date. However, there are many parents who continue to avoid them because of what she calls bad information circulating on the internet. (Wisconsin Radio Network)

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