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

Iowa News

West Nile virus confirmed in Iowa
The Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed the first human case of West Nile Virus for 2012. The virus appeared in a Lyon County woman between the ages of 60 and 80. Officials say drought conditions in Iowa have reduced the virus-carrying mosquito population in the state, but Iowans should still use insect repellent and wear long sleeves whenever possible to decrease their risk. (KWWL)

National News

U.S. administration says states will join Medicaid expansion
The Obama administration on Monday said it expects states will eventually join its planned expansion Medicaid as they evaluate the benefits of providing health coverage to more low-income people. U.S. Medicaid director Cindy Mann said states will likely spend the next several months analyzing the plan. “There’s much to consider. But we believe that when states do weigh in … they’ll decide that it’s in their state interest to move ahead,” Mann told a health care forum sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank. (Reuters)

HHS launches $200M APRN training demo
Five hospitals will share as estimated $200 million in federal funding to help train additional advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Monday. The announcement comes amid growing concern that the demands of healthcare reform will exceed the ability of primary care practitioners to meet those needs. (HealthLeaders News)

Study examines link between nurse burnout, care
As hospitals cut costs to survive ever-increasing financial pressures, nurses argue that inadequate staffing harms patients. Now members of a University of Pennsylvania research team say they have figured out a key reason for that.  If hospitals could reduce their proportion of burned-out nurses to 10 percent from the 30 percent that is typical, according to the study, they would prevent 4,160 cases a year of the two most-common hospital-acquired infections statewide and save $41 million. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Federal transportation law encourages stricter teen driving regs
In most states today, such a novice driver would not be allowed to drive with a car full of friends and would have other driving restrictions, thanks to regulations implemented over the past decade. But safe-driving advocates say more needs to be done. They hope that safety provisions included in the transportation bill signed into law by President Obama this month will encourage states to adopt or strengthen laws intended to protect teenage drivers — and everyone who shares the road with them. (Kaiser Health News)

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

Iowa News

Sioux City hospitals provided $33 million in community care
A new report shows that the two Sioux City medical centers provided more than $33 million in community care last year. The study, by the Iowa Hospital Association, said Mercy Medical Center-Sioux City provided $19.2 million and St. Luke’s Health System provided $13.9 million. Community benefits include health screenings, support groups, immunizations, nutritional services and transportation programs. (Sioux City Journal)

Hospitals go high-tech to halt medical mistakes
Hospitals across Iowa are beginning to use more high-tech equiptment. St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids is one of many turning to new computerized programs. Hospitals used to depend on hand written notes for prescriptions and patient care, which often lead to mistakes. The new technology helps to reduce the amount of errors. With one swipe of a handheld scanner over a wrist band, nurses know everything there is to know about a patient. “It will tell us if we have the right patient, the right medication, the right time. It also gives us allergy warnings,” said Debbie Julian, St. Luke’s Nurse. (KCRG)

Cherokee hospital copes with multiple RAGBRAI medical issues
The not-so-pretty underbelly of the beautiful human creature called RAGBRAI that rolled through Cherokee Sunday more than 30,000 strong was revealed and troublesome for more than 18 hours straight at the Cherokee Regional Medical Center. According to CRMC CEO and President John Comstock, this year’s record RAGBRAI crowd, combined with triple digit temperatures and the many uninhibited revelers, nearly overwhelmed the hospital’s Emergency Room and downtown First Aid Station with a wide assortment of ailments and injuries. (Cherokee Chronicle)

Easier at-home health care
Top-notch hospitals are a vital component of the health care system. Even so, most people are anxious to avoid inpatient care when possible and seek to bring hospital stays that become necessary to a close as soon as feasible. Many health problems can be handled at home or in a less-acute care setting than a hospital if people have available to them specialized medical equipment and products and understand how to use them correctly. Supplying these items and providing critical education and assistance is at the heart of the mission of a new service available at Trinity Regional Medical Center. (Fort Dodge Messenger)

Iowa charitable fund helps ease anxiety of cancer patients
What if you had to drive more than 1,300 miles for your cancer treatments? Michael Cooper, who lives near Pacific Junction, Iowa, had to do just that, making 35 round trips to the Jennie Edmundson Hospital Cancer Center. Fortunately, prepaid gas cards from the hospital’s Cancer Center Charitable Patient Care Fund helped defray his travel expenses. “The gas cards were extremely helpful,” Cooper said. “It allowed me to not have to impose on my friends — and my friends are just like me: They’re hardworking people. … It was just better to drive myself back and forth.” (Omaha World-Herald)

Local artwork brightens Mercy Medical Center
Five Siouxland artists were asked to enhance the healing environment at Mercy Medical Center with their paintings, which are now on display in the hospital’s Heart Center, cafeteria and patient care areas. The Mercy Medical Center Foundation purchased works from artists Pauline Sensenig, Nan Wilson, Jamie Bowers, Terri McGaffin and Francisco Salvador with a $10,000 grant from the Gilchrist Foundation, a local family foundation. The hospital was awarded the grant last July. (Sioux City Journal)

National News

Wireless sensors aim to unravel hospital lines
A patient in an intensive care unit can be tethered to a half a dozen cables for monitoring his or her vital signs as well as several intravenous lines. The tangle of wires and lines has been likened to a bowl of spaghetti and has long been a frustration for nurses. “Just getting rid of those wires would be fabulous,” said Ann Smith, the patient care supervisor of the intensive care unit at the Wheaton Franciscan St. Joseph Campus. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Not-for-profit health care outlook remains negative
The sputtering national economy, a rising federal deficit, and lean state budgets are getting blamed for debt downgrades in the not-for-profit healthcare sector which are expected to continue through the rest of the year and beyond, according to Moody’s Investors Service. “It is a negative outlook,” says Lisa Goldstein, associate managing director at the bond rating agency. “We have had a negative outlook on this sector since November 2008, starting with the financial crisis. It speaks to continued pressure on hospitals financial performance for the next 12 to 18 months.” (HealthLeaders Media)

Doctor shortage likely to worsen with health care law
In the Inland Empire, an economically depressed region in Southern California, President Obama’s health care law is expected to extend insurance coverage to more than 300,000 people by 2014. But coverage will not necessarily translate into care: Local health experts doubt there will be enough doctors to meet the area’s needs. There are not enough now. Other places around the country, including the Mississippi Delta, Detroit and suburban Phoenix, face similar problems. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that in 2015 the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than needed. And that number will more than double by 2025. (New York Times)

How shifts, night work affect hospital workers
Recent findings about the ill effects of shift work and lack of sleep might be worrisome for hospital workers based on that lifestyle. For instance, residents now work regulated hours under duty-hour limits to improve patient safety. But few may have considered what shift work, particularly at night, can do to hospital workers. A study online yesterday in BMJ that didn’t specifically look at healthcare jobs found shift work (evening, irregular or unspecified shifts, mixed schedules, night shifts and rotating shifts) is linked to more heart attacks and strokes. (Fierce Healthcare)

Miami med school’s big ambitions led to big layoffs
Long before the University of Miami announced in May that its Miller School of Medicine had financial problems big enough to force layoffs of about 900 full-time and part-time workers, there were signs of serious trouble. As far back as October, billionaire car dealer Norman Braman wrote in a memo to fellow UM trustees that he and colleagues had been receiving anonymous letters for months “outlining a host of wrongdoings, mostly at the medical school.” Braman and others closely tied to the school warned UM officials the medical school was spending too much, too fast in the push to build a world-class medical center. (Miami Herald)

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

Iowa News

New Sioux Center hospital a community-wide effort
You probably wouldn’t drive a car that’s more than 60 years old, but would you go to a hospital that’s been around for just as many years? That advanced age is just part of the reason folks in Sioux Center were celebrating Thursday, because a new hospital is on the way. Right now an empty field east of Sioux Center, Iowa doesn’t look like much, but it’s set to become the brand new Sioux Center Community Hospital & Health Center Avera. “It’s hard to believe that we’ve been planning since 2006,” said Stan Speer, the hospital’s Board President. (KMEG)

New program at Dallas County hospital informs patients on costs
Dallas County Hospital in Perry has implemented a program aimed at helping patients better understand the often complex and confusing world of health care costs and insurance. With the new Payment Navigation tool, the hospital speaks directly with personal insurance providers to provide patients with an estimate of their total cost so that they can make informed decisions about their health care. (Raccoon Valley Radio)

National News

Hospitals worried about cut in fund for the uninsured
The federal government has been spending $20 billion annually to reimburse these hospitals—most in poor urban and rural areas—for treating more than their share of the uninsured, including illegal immigrants. The healthcare law will eventually cut that money in half, based on the premise that fewer people will lack insurance after the law takes effect. But the estimated 11 million people now living illegally in the United States are not covered by the healthcare law. Its sponsors, seeking to sidestep the contentious debate over immigration, excluded them from the law’s benefits. (New York Times)

Medicaid expansion linked to fewer deaths
Although much of the attention has been focused on how expanding Medicaid (or opting out) will affect state budgets, a new study looks at how the reform provision will affect coverage and therefore mortality rates. According to the study published yesterday in the online New England Journal of Medicine, Medicaid expansion could lower mortality rates. If more poor people had health insurance, fewer would die, Harvard researchers concluded. (Fierce Healthcare)

What patients want in a hospital
In a nationwide survey of 6,000 consumers across nearly a dozen industries, provider customers (following health insurance customers) were the least likely to share a positive experience with others. Fifty-four percent of provider consumers talk about their positive experience, compared to 70 percent of retail and 66 percent of banking customers. Even more, consumers also are less forgiving of providers with whom they have had a negative experience, reporting that six out of ten negative experiences are more likely to be remembered longer in the provider industry compared to other sectors. (Fierce Healthcare)

Women in health care—4% of CEOs, 73% of managers, report says
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 73 percent of medical and health service managers are women. RockHealth (the health startup incubator) released a Women in Health Care report. Consider that while women compose 73 percent of medical and health services managers, only 4 percent of health care CEOs were women. In the 2011 Venture Funded Digital Health database that RockHealth created, they looked at organizations who received more than $2 million in venture funding—zero had a female CEO. The report also outlines other interesting statistics such as the percentage of TEDMED speakers who were female. (Forbes)

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

Iowa News

Charity care jumps at Iowa hospitals amid economic slump
Iowa hospitals gave 83 percent more free care last year than they did in 2007, a new survey shows. The jump in charity care came amid an economic slump and a growing number of uninsured Iowans. The Iowa Hospital Association said today that its 118 members gave out $600 million last year in charity care, which is defined as care for which no payment is sought. That was up from $328 million in 2007, the association said. The hospitals also reported that they had $351 million in “bad debt” expenses, which involve patient bills that were never paid. That cost was up from $285 million in 2007. (Des Moines Register)

Anamosa hospital using RAGBRAI as recruitment opportunity
Enticing doctors to practice in rural Iowa can be a tough sell, so recruiters are using two unconventional tools to fill positions in Anamosa: RAGBRAI and pie. “Knowing there are thousands of eyes coming into the community, we thought, let’s be proactive,” said Kelli Salow, provider recruiter for Iowa Health Physicians & Clinics, which includes Jones Regional Medical Center in Anamosa. Salow, who has been on the weeklong bike ride across Iowa in the past, knows there are doctors who make the trip, including her sister-in-law, who practices medicine in rural Iowa. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

27% of Iowa adults have pre-existing health problems, national group says
More than a quarter of Iowa adults have a health problem that could make it hard for them to obtain health insurance if they had to seek their own policies in the current market, a national advocacy group said today. Families USA, which supports the Affordable Care Act, used federal health and Census data to calculate how many people have pre-existing health conditions that could cause denials if they ever applied for individual policies. The group calculated that 27 percent of non-elderly Iowa adults have such conditions. That’s a bit higher than the 25 percent national average. (Des Moines Register)

Ottumwa hospital on right path, new CEO says
The newest CEO of Ottumwa Regional Health Center anticipates so much success, they may need a remodel or expansion due to the influx of patients. In an interview with the Courier editorial board Wednesday, CEO Philip Dionne at ORHC says he understands the challenges the hospital faces. Some problems, he said, parent company RegionalCare inherited. Other issues came when the company acquired the hospital. (Centerville Daily Iowegian)

Nurse involved with Sioux City’s first open heart bypass surgery retires
After 37 years in medicine, 27 of them at Mercy Medical Center, a nurse who played a key role in a groundbreaking operation is retiring. Linda Groves was part of Siouxland’s first open heart bypass surgery back in 1978. Even Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott stopped by to honor the registered nurse with a city proclamation. Groves says she’s looking forward to spending time with her grandchildren, and relaxing. But, that doesn’t mean she’ll forget where she’s worked for nearly three decades. (KTIV)

Pertussis spreads across Iowa and the nation
Centers for Disease Control officials predict that this year’s Pertussis outbreak could be the worst in 50 years, as more than 18,000 cases have been reported around the country. Washington state and Wisconsin each have reported more than 3,000 cases. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, 753 cases of Pertussis have been diagnosed in the state so far this year. That’s a 462 percent increase compared to the five-year average of 134 cases. Since Jan. 1, 25 cases of Pertussis have been confirmed in Woodbury County. (Sioux City Journal)

National News

30-day readmission, mortality rates updated
A major update to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Hospital Compare website refreshes data for 30-day readmission and mortality rates. Eight hospitals from California to Puerto Rico and New York showed up as “worse than” the national average in 30-day readmission rates for all three disease categories—pneumonia, heart attack, and heart failure—in the latest update of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website, Hospital Compare. (HealthLeaders Media)

Colorado theater shooting plunged hospitals into turmoil
Dr. Tien Vu was fixing up a child’s cut when the first victim was rolled into the emergency room. A bullet had ripped into his thigh. The emergency room at Children’s Hospital Colorado, where Vu has worked for nearly a decade, mostly tends to kids’ broken bones and stubborn fevers, though the staff has handled its share of ailing adults too. But a gunshot wound was unusual. Friday morning’s massacre tested the limits of the area’s mass-casualty response. Doctors said their approach to such catastrophes had been transformed by lessons from the Sept. 11 attacks and shooting rampages such as the one at Columbine High School, only 20 miles away. (Los Angeles Times)

Remote patient monitoring market to double by 2016
The U.S. market for advanced patient monitoring systems has grown from $3.9 billion in 2007 to $8.9 billion in 2011 and is forecast to reach $20.9 billion by 2016, according to a study by Kalorama Information. Efforts to reduce costs in healthcare, avoid emergency room overcrowding, and prepare for a growing number of elderly patients in the years to come are a few of the drivers for the adoption of these systems. In Kalorama Information’s recently published report, researchers predict “a looming health care crisis of unseen proportions,” and there will be fewer health care personnel and funds to address the industry’s growing needs. (InformationWeek)

Plastic surgery: ‘Wild West’ of medicine
Declining physician reimbursement has resulted in more physicians looking for ways to enhance their income. And plastic surgery is one of the only fields of medicine that is shielded from insurance companies. So an increasing number of doctors are closing their traditional medical practices and opening cosmetic surgery centers. These physicians learn the basics of plastic surgery through weekend courses, shadowing other doctors and even online webinars. (CNN)

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A statewide survey by IHA shows Iowa hospitals provided community benefits in 2011 valued at more than $1.4 billion, including nearly $600 million in charity care.

Community benefits are activities designed to improve health status and provide greater access to health care.  Along with uncompensated care (which is made up of both charity care and bad debt), community benefits include such services and programs as health screenings, support groups, counseling, immunizations, nutritional services and transportation programs.  The total value of these services, as reported in the survey, was nearly $148 million.

Total uncompensated care in 2011, including charity care and bad debt, was valued at more than $950 million, an increase of $100 million (11.8 percent) over 2010.

All 118 of Iowa’s community hospitals participated in the survey.

The programs and services accounted for in the survey were implemented in direct response to the needs of individual communities as well as entire counties and regions.  Many of these programs and services simply would not exist without hospital support and leadership, said IHA President and CEO Kirk Norris.

But the ability of Iowa hospitals to respond to such needs is being hindered by the ongoing economic downturn as well as by huge losses inflicted upon hospitals by Medicare and Medicaid, totaling more than $274 million (a 5.8 percent increase over last year’s report).  More than 60 percent of all hospital revenue in Iowa comes from Medicare and Medicaid.  Hospitals serving small, rural communities and counties are particularly dependent on the programs.

Iowa hospitals continue implement strategies that increase value to their patients and communities by offering high-quality care to individuals, addressing the health needs of identified populations and implementing process improvements that bend the cost curve.  By seeking out ways to raise quality, reduce waste and increase safety, Iowa hospitals have become value leaders, as shown in multiple studies by the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care and the Commonwealth Fund.

More information about Iowa hospital community benefits, as well as other hospital quality, safety, economic and utilization data, is available at IHA’s health care consumer website,

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