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

Iowa News

Deep Freeze: Temperatures Drop and Trips to Emergency Rooms Increase
“We’ve had a steady stream of last-minute shoppers in here, so people are braving the cold and coming out today,” Linda McConnell, Owner of Basket Bowtique, said. The bitter cold, the icicles and the snow didn’t stop some from heading out. “I’ve kind of made my body immune to the cold,” said Lynn Perrego as he worked outside in Downtown Cedar Rapids. Not everyone, however, was immune. “It has been crazy with the weather-related injuries,” St. Luke’s Emergency Room Doctor Donald Linder, said. Emergency rooms in Cedar Rapids are full. “We’ve had so many orthopedic injuries — people falling,” Dr. Linder said. (KCRG)

The doctors are in – and so are the nurses and the rest of the hospital staff on Christmas
Christmas is usually a day spent with family. For some, it’s time spent with other people’s family — family who are in a place they probably wish they didn’t have to be. Nurses, doctors and other hospital employees are among the workers for whom taking off Dec. 25 simply isn’t an option. Hospitals can’t just put up a “Closed for Christmas” sign. And while a hospital may not be a person’s first choice for a place on Christmas, staff members say they do their best to keep Christmas merry and bright — for both themselves and the patients. (Muscatine Journal)

National News

Christmas: The deadliest day of the year?
More people die on Christmas than any other day of the year, Medical Daily reported. In the 1970s, researchers discovered this phenomenon after they began studying death trends throughout the year. A wide array of causes seem to contribute to the trend of Christmas Day deaths including understaffed hospitals and an unwillingness by people to bother their relatives for a ride to the doctor’s office. Death by cardiac disease, respiratory diseases, endocrine/nutritional/metabolic problems, digestive diseases, and cancer – the five most common causes of death – see an overall increase during this time of year, Medical Daily reported. (Fox News)

Health law not first new program with launch woes
Although multiple problems have snarled the rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, it’s hardly the first time a new, sprawling government program has been beset by early technical glitches, political hostility and gloom-and-doom denouncements. (ABC News, from AP)

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

Iowa News

Mercy installs powerful new MRI unit
A $2 million, magnetic resonance imaging scanner is now operating at Mercy Medical Center. The 15,000-pound piece of equipment was lifted by crane and lowered into the fourth-floor radiology area of the Sioux City hospital at Sixth and Jones streets on Dec. 2. The Siemens Magnetom Skrya, equipped with a powerful 3.0 strength Tesla magnet, offers enhanced image clarity and will allow Mercy staffers to perform breast, cardiac and abdominal scans. It is the most powerful MRI machine in Sioux City. (Sioux City Journal)

Young University of Iowa cancer patient fights for herself and others
On a night in September, following an agonizing few months that saw her daughter diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Vicki Kluesner sneaked into the 10-year-old’s room posing as the tooth fairy. Jackie Kluesner had lost three teeth, and her mom came prepared with $3 – $1 per tooth. But when Kluesner slipped her hand under Jackie’s pillow, she found more than teeth. She found a note. “Dear tooth fairy,” it read, “the money you give me will go to Iowa City for children fighting cancer. So can I please get a little more?” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Lawmaker: Governor considering $30 million cut to state money for mental-health services
Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration plans to cut $30 million in state money that counties use for mental-health services, a Democratic legislator said today. Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids said a Department of Human Services administrator confirmed this week that his agency is recommending curtailing the annual payments, which help 47 Iowa counties provide services to people with mental illness or disability. The $30 million was part of a complicated bill, passed in 2012, to shift Iowa’s mental-health system away from one in which each county oversaw and helped finance services. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

National News

Health enrollment deadline extended to Christmas Eve
Federal regulators extended the deadline for consumers to enroll in health insurance until midnight Tuesday, Christmas Eve. “We recognize that many have chosen to make their final decisions on today’s deadline and we are committed to making sure they can do so,” said Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille. “Anticipating high demand and the fact that consumers may be enrolling from multiple time zones, we have taken steps to make sure that those who select a plan through tomorrow will get coverage for Jan. 1.” (USA Today)

Kansas hospitals want to hit reset button Medicaid expansion debate
The Kansas Hospital Association has hired former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to help craft a Medicaid expansion plan that Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislators might support. Tom Bell, KHA’s president and CEO, said he hopes that Leavitt, a former Republican governor of Utah who headed HHS under former President George W. Bush, can help Kansas policymakers craft a plan similar to those developed in Arkansas and Iowa, which expand Medicaid through the use of private insurance companies. (Kansas Health Institute)

So you have high blood pressure? New guidelines suggest maybe you don’t
New guidelines for the management of hypertension suggest that people 60 or older might be able to handle higher blood pressure readings than originally thought. Hypertension, which can lead to strokes, heart attack, kidney failure and death, is traditionally treated with medication and diet. The goal of most doctors is to keep their patient’s blood pressure below 140 (systolic) / 90 (diastolic). But after reviewing mounds of evidence, a committee of experts now says the systolic number, especially in older people, can be higher at 150/90. And many of these patients who were on medication would no longer need to be. (CNN)

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

Iowa News

Hospitals ready for health act
One Iowa hospital said its goal is to continue to try to decrease the number of patients staying at the hospital. “I would anticipate … that we wouldn’t see an increase from Medicare reforms,” said Shannon McQuillen, the director of marketing and public relations at Unity Point Health in Fort Dodge, Iowa. “Our goal is to reduce inpatient volumes, to keep people healthy and out of the hospital.” Jenny White, revenue cycle director at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, said that hospital is also trying to engage in preventative care, though officials still expect some increase. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

Finding the perfect gift for kids with special needs
Laura Bohnenkamp works with Marco and other kids with a wide range of special needs, from cerebral palsy to autism at the Center for Disabilities and Development, part of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Toys, she said, are used to help kids learn. “Kids like a range of toys,” said Bohnenkamp, a speech pathologist. “Things that light up, things that have a lot of pieces, things to kind of take apart. We really like the things that make noise and light up and just do a variety of functions.” (KWWL)

Iowa family welcomes triplets from adopted embryos
This spring, four embryos arrived via FedEx.  On Tuesday, three babies were delivered by C-section. For 34 weeks, they went by Baby A, B, and C.  Now they are Ezekiel, Malachi, Evangeline born healthy and in that order.  Parents Joni and Luke Timm count the newest additions to their family as a blessing. “Everybody wants to know what I did and I didn’t do anything.  I keep telling them that God did this all,” says Joni. (WHO-TV)

ISU Pink Glove Dance video receives charity gift
Iowa State University managed to win two contests at once with their submission for this year’s Pink Glove Dance competition. The video that Ames and ISU community health care providers produced not only won third place in the national competition, it also scored second place in a sub-contest hosted by School Health Corporation. “In our video, we had two schools, ISU and Ames High School, which made us eligible for a separate division of the contest,” said Jason Mortvedt, digital communications specialist at Mary Greeley Medical Center. (Iowa State Daily)

National News

Individual mandate no longer applies to people whose plans were canceled
Thursday, the Obama administration announced that people whose insurance plans were canceled this year will “temporarily” be exempted from the law’s individual mandate. Here’s how they’re doing it — and what it means for the law. (Washington Post)

93 percent of hospital executives think Obamacare will make health care better
Over at Health Affairs, they surveyed 74 C-Suite executives from institutions that, on average, employed 8,520 workers and saw annual revenues of $1.5 billion. The survey wasn’t scientific by any means, but in a speculative conversation that’s proceeding mostly by anecdote, these individuals have a better vantage point on the changes that health reform is making to actual health-care systems than virtually anyone else. The results? Hospital executives think health reform is going to make the health care they deliver a whole lot better. (Washington Post)

DeSalvo appointed National Coordinator for health IT
Karen DeSalvo, MD, has been named the new national coordinator for health information technology. DeSalvo is currently New Orleans’ health commissioner and senior health policy advisor to Mitch Landrieu, the city’s mayor. In announcing DeSalvo’s appointment, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius emphasized DeSalvo’s efforts to modernize New Orlean’s healthcare system and her pivotal role in rebuilding the city’s public health infrastructure after Hurricane Katrina. (InformationWeek)

Health IT headway ‘breathtaking’
Health IT wasn’t quite in the dark ages in 2003 – but it sure was close. “I was talking recently with a man who told me about visiting an endocrinologist 10 years ago,” said Cheryl Stephens, CEO of Community Health Information Collaborative, based in Duluth, Minn. “The doctor kept a little spiral-bound notebook in his top pocket that had a page for every patient, with tiny notes about whether this hormone had gone up or down, etc. (Healthcare IT News)

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

Iowa News

Health care for 10,000 Iowans in limbo over communications snarl
The federal website, healthcare.gov, has made an initial determination that more than 10,000 applicants should qualify for the public insurance, according to a report issued last week. But federal officials have not yet sent complete information on those people to state administrators, who are supposed to review the applications and enroll people in the programs. The upshot is that some Iowans who dutifully signed on to healthcare.gov, worked their way through online glitches and thought they would receive public health insurance could be disappointed if they need to see a doctor in early January. (Des Moines Register)

Insurance leaders urge calm on coverage fears
Iowans who use healthcare.gov to apply for private insurance policies by Monday should rest assured that they will have coverage on Jan. 1, insurance company leaders say. Monday is the national deadline for applications on the new website from people who want to have insurance coverage starting in January. People with low to moderate incomes have the greatest incentive to use the website, because it’s the only place where they can obtain new government subsidies toward insurance premiums. (Des Moines Register)

ACA impacts to the medical industry
The Affordable Care Act may certainly provide some challenges to individuals and to business owners around the community. Some would argue, however, that the upcoming rollout will provide opportunities for people who would not otherwise be able to utilize certain health care-related services. “There are certainly a lot of politics around the Affordable Care Act,” said Bill Bumgarner, president of Spencer Hospital. “But it certainly is important to hospitals.” (Spencer Daily Reporter)

New kidney ‘best Christmas present ever’
John Schuffham of Mason City needed a kidney transplant. His wife, Debra, was willing to donate a kidney but was not a match for her husband. A special share donor program at Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines provided a solution to their dilemma. On Dec. 3, John, 64, became one of three Iowans in need of a kidney transplant to receive a new kidney from a live donor. His donor was Mary Sinclair of Urbandale, a woman in her 30s. Her mother, Regina Sinclair, was one of the patients receiving a transplant. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Family Practice Center becomes Blue Zones Worksite
Northeast Iowa Family Practice Center has received designation as a Blue Zones Worksite. This award reflects the company’s appreciation of employee individuality and the resulting considerations developed to provide a safe, challenging, and enjoyable work environment. A Blue Zones representative will officially award Northeast Iowa Family Practice Center their designation certificate at their monthly all-staff meeting on Jan. 14. (Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier)

National News

Growth in U.S. health care spending slows
It is a sweeping trend that should mean bigger paychecks for middle-class households and hundreds of billions of dollars in savings for the government. Yet only one in 20 Americans is aware of it. Nationally, spending on health care is growing at the slowest pace ever recorded. Annual spending on health care often grew more than 10 percent a year during the 1970s and ’80s. Growth dipped in the 1990s, only to rise again, but starting in the early 2000s, the rate began falling. It is now just about 4 percent a year. (New York Times)

States say health sign-ups on exchanges increasing
States with their own well-running health insurance exchanges reported on Wednesday an increase of 30 percent to 40 percent in enrollments from last week to this week. “We’re seeing huge interest,” said Peter Lee, director of California’s exchange, during a conference call sponsored by Families USA, a health care advocacy group that supports the Affordable Care Act. Six months ago, “no American knew about” the state exchanges. (USA Today)

Nebraska legislator vows to introduce Medicaid expansion bill in 2014
Tammy Fiechtner had been looking forward to the federal health care overhaul and its promise of affordable health coverage for her family. But the Stapleton woman told lawmakers Wednesday that her hopes were dashed when she got a chance to see what was available. She and her husband don’t make enough money to qualify for the federal tax credits available to buy private health insurance. They are not eligible for Nebraska’s current Medicaid program. (Omaha World-Herald)

Partners HealthCare CIO: Inside our clinical transformation
As CIO of Partners Healthcare, James Noga leads an IT organization poised to replace a generation’s worth of hospital software with an industry-standard electronic medical record and revenue management system — and that’s only the beginning. In May 2012, Partners announced what the press release called “a historic commitment to, and investment in a health information technology infrastructure of the future,” with software from Epic Systems at its core. (InformationWeek)

Insurers cut doctors, hope costly patients follow, physicians say
When Jody Sabatino opened her mailbox last month, she got some jaw-dropping news: Her insurance company, UnitedHealthcare, was cutting the 79-year-old’s most trusted doctor from its Medicare Advantage plan. In fact, four of her six regular doctors won’t be covered at all next year. “I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it,” Sabatino said. What’s easier to believe for those affected by the cuts is that because Obamacare makes it harder for insurers to cut patients from their rolls, they’re cutting doctors instead — and hoping patients follow them off the plan. (CNN)

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

Iowa News

Latham surprises Iowa GOP with announcement
In a surprise announcement Tuesday, Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Latham said he will step down from Congress after his term ends, turning the race for a key Iowa seat into a toss-up. “It is never a perfect time or a right time to step aside. But for me, this is the time,” Latham, 65, wrote in an email to supporters. “I want to share with you my decision that I will not be a candidate for any office in November of 2014.” (Des Moines Register)

Cherokee County joins agency to deliver mental health services
Cherokee County has joined a regional agency that will jointly deliver mental health services beginning in July. The County Board on Tuesday approved joining the Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services group. The Woodbury, Plymouth and Sioux county boards approved becoming part of the new agency last week. Cherokee County on Dec. 10 tabled its agreement for further consideration, but voted to move ahead Tuesday. (Sioux City Journal)

Sioux City program aims to keep drunken drivers off streets during holidays
Mercy Medical Center Sioux City is gearing up for this year’s holiday focus to keep drunken and drugged drivers off the streets. As part of Mercy’s Reality Education and Prevention Program, Jesse LaFramboise, a Morningside College student, and Ed Keane, a Sioux City attorney, will do their part to make sure partygoers get home safely. (Sioux City Journal)

New CT Scan adds to updates at Cherokee hospital
The list of exciting updates keeps growing at Cherokee Regional Medical Center, with the latest addition of a new Computed Tomography (CT) system. The Siemens SOMATOM Perspective CT was installed in the Radiology Department on December 10. Since CRMC began conducting in-house CT exams in 1993, they have been committed to updating CT machines to keep them at the forefront of technology. The new Perspective CT unit is the fourth CT system installed at CRMC during that time, replacing the existing 16-slice CT machine. (Cherokee Chronicle Times)

National News

Citi analyst: U.S. hospital admissions weakest in a decade
U.S. hospital admissions in November were the weakest in more than a decade, under pressure from a change in reimbursement rules for Medicare patients and confusion tied to the problem-ridden rollout of Obamacare, according to a survey by Citi Research. New billing rules for the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled require hospitals to treat patient stays lasting less than “two midnights” as an outpatient visit. (Reuters/Baltimore Sun)

Grassley pushing to include pharmacists in accountable care organizations
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware said Tuesday they will look for opportunities to advance their proposal to include pharmacists in Medicare’s program encouraging providers to give coordinated, high quality care to their Medicare patients. Grassley and Carper filed but did not offer an amendment to the physician payments bill considered in the Finance Committee last week that would include pharmacists in Medicare programs encouraging Accountable Care Organizations. (WOWT)

Embattled Minnesota health exchange chief resigns
The chief of Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace resigned Tuesday after facing criticism over the troubled rollout and a questionably timed international vacation. April Todd-Malmlov submitted her resignation during an emergency closed session of the government board of MNsure, Minnesota’s version of the insurance exchange that’s tied to the federal health care overhaul. She had been under increasing pressure over insurance sign-up problems and failed to get a vote of confidence from Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton last week. (Associated Press/Houston Press)

Remedify’s ‘cookbook’ designed to ensure clean surgical instruments
The problem of hospital acquired infections is a new concept to most people. No one thinks about the potentially scary germs on hospital curtains and other surfaces when she is in a hospital bed trying to get well. The idea that the tools surgeons use to cut into patients are equally dirty is even more terrifying. Avery Fisher and the team at Remedify are talking on this challenge so you don’t have to think about bits of bone stuck to surgical instruments, much less find the courage to ask about a hospital’s instrument sterilization program. (MedCity News)

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