Visit our website ⇒

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

Iowa News

Spencer Hospital plans OB unit expansion
Spencer Hospital announced plans to expand its obstetrics unit in 2015. This new expansion project would add an operation room suite onto the birthing unit of the hospital. “We’re in the initial stages of the planning for that,” Spencer Hospital President Bill Bumgarner said. The hospital listed the approximately $3 million addition in its 2015 budget. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

Long-time smokers discover real help at Ft. Dodge hospital
The word quitter usually has a negative meaning, but when it comes to giving up a smoking habit, the exact opposite is true: Quitters are winners. An eight-week-long program that partners the Webster County Health Department and the UnityPoint Health – Trinity Regional Medical Center Smoking Cessation Team, is helping smokers become winners that quit. (Fort Dodge Messenger)

‘Birthday button’ sends good news to whole hospital
The Eddy family is at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines waiting for their third bundle of joy. As they get ready to announce the arrival, down the hall, a nursery full of babies alerts staff to theirs, along with a new sound. Methodist Maternity Unit Manager Deb Tell says, “We celebrate the birth of all babies that are born at the hospital with the push of the lullaby button.” Nursing leadership put in the buttons at the start of the new year. (WHO)

4 Mercy hospitals form regional governing board
Four large medical centers in Iowa’s Mercy Health Network have formed a new regional governing board. Mercy Medical Centers in Sioux City, Mason City, Dubuque and Clinton have formed one board to provide governance and oversight to the medical centers. The organization’s officials say it will allow greater unity in developing strategies and pursuing better care, lower costs and healthier communities. (Associated Press/WGEM)

National News

Citing safety, Intermountain to miss 2014 meaningful use deadline
Despite its sophistication in health care information technology, the CIO of Intermountain Healthcare says the organization is unready and will forgo incentive payments and trigger penalties. Federal officials acknowledge that many health systems take issue with the meaningful use deadlines. (HealthLeaders News)

Obama budget will seek record funding for new doctors
President Obama will propose boosting the National Health Services Corps from 8,900 a year to 15,000 a year over the next five years, as well as spending $5.23 billion to train 13,000 primary care residents over the next 10 years, in his budget next week. The budget marks the first time Medicare funds will be used to increase the number of medical residents and it’s the largest-ever proposed increase of the corps, officials said. The administration hopes to boost both team-based care, as well as send residents out to rural areas and areas with lower access to care, officials said. (USA Today)

Hospitals coping better as drug shortages persist
U.S. hospitals are coping better with ongoing shortages of hundreds of medications, but a new survey indicates that obtaining drugs from alternate sources is costing them a lot of money they can’t spare. Premier Inc., the hospital group that did the survey, conservatively estimates that cost at $230 million a year for the country’s 5,000 hospitals, on average, from 2011 through 2013. ”The total impact is likely much higher,” said Mike Alkire, chief operating officer of Premier. (Associated Press/Boston Globe)

Health care pros react to Hillary Clinton’s HIMSS speech
Hillary Clinton addressed her keynote comments at HIMSS14 to health care technologists and entrepreneurs from both sides of the aisle, but many who stood in line almost three hours before conference room doors opened were fervently pro-Hillary. That was apparent by comparing the volume and frequency of applause between the packed, main conference room and the busy overflow space, which had seats available. (InformationWeek)

Note takers help the elderly at the doctor
It used to be difficult for Edith Couturier, an 85-year-old resident of the District of Columbia, to explain to her adult children on the West Coast all the details of her medical appointments. But now she doesn’t go alone — she takes along a volunteer “medical note taker.” “There are four ears listening to what the doctor says,” said Couturier. That second set of ears belongs to Sharon Wolozin, who takes notes the old-fashioned way – with pen and paper – and then reads some of the main points aloud to confirm them with the doctor. (USA Today)

Leave a Comment

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

Iowa News

Iowa hospitals seeing quality improvements
Iowa hospitals are seeing improvements by the numbers. This is partially due to an initiative that started back in 2011. Nearly all Iowa hospitals are participating in the Hospital Engagement Network initiative. This research-based program finds the most effective and safe ways to improve medical practices. And it’s working. Harm was prevented in more than 4,000 patients in 2013 alone and health care costs were reduced by $51 million. (KIMT)

Creston hospital makes $26 million economic impact
Greater Regional Medical Center generates 366 jobs that add $26,842,112 to the region’s economy, according to the latest study by the Iowa Hospital Association (IHA). In addition, Greater Regional employees by themselves spend $7,323,293 on retail sales and contribute $439,398 in state sales tax revenue. (Creston News Advertiser)

Wellmark’s $1.3 billion reserves are ‘prudent,’ outside review determines
Iowa’s dominant health-insurance company is touting a new report that says the company’s $1.3 billion in financial reserves are “reasonable and prudent.” Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield leaders said the independent experts’ report – ordered by Iowa’s insurance commissioner — confirms their contention that they have the proper amount of money set aside for unforeseen expenses. (Des Moines Register)

Mental health patients stay for days in ER
Dr. Michael Miller at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and his staff said their ER is dealing with the same issue. That’s not where the problem ends. Emergency department doctors said psychiatric patients end up staying in the ER much longer because doctors have nowhere else to send them. “They need to be admitted somewhere, but we have no place to put them. Our inpatient beds are full, all of the other hospitals are full, so we are holding them in the ER and trying to keep them stable and sometimes they are staying here for days,” said Dr. Matthew Aucutt at Mercy Medical Center-Cedar Rapids. (KCRG)

Iowa needs options for severely mentally ill inmates who finish sentences, prison director says
Iowa’s prison system needs better options for severely mentally ill prisoners who finish their sentences, the system’s director told legislators today. “These people are very difficult,” John Baldwin said. “These are a small fragment of the total population. (They) are very, very aggressive, very violent and so mentally ill that the current structure in Iowa does not accept them.” (Des Moines Register)

Volunteers in Davis County train to be first-responders
Citizens interested in becoming a Davis County first-responder began classes this evening. First-responders are sponsored in part by the Davis County Hospital EMS Department. A group of nine local and rural residents signed up to be trained as first-responders. Participant and Davis County Sheriff Deputy Josh Sinnott helped raise more than $11,000 needed to make the course happen. Several Davis County townships, businesses and individuals donated the funds necessary to cover the cost of the classes. (KTVO)

National News

Many Americans open to narrow doctor networks in Obamacare
Most Americans would rather pay more for a health insurance plan that allows them to get treatment from a wide range of doctors and hospitals, a new survey finds. But in a finding that could prove important for President Obama’s health law, working-age consumers who don’t get health benefits through an employer favor health plans with narrower provider networks that cost less. (Los Angeles Times)

So many changes to the health care law, but are they legal?
After President Barack Obama bowed to critics in November and allowed people with canceled health insurance policies to keep their coverage for another year, the White House quickly hit the spin cycle. In a telephone briefing with reporters that same day, senior administration officials said their “enforcement discretion” allowed them to tweak the Affordable Care Act to ensure that it would be implemented with minimal disruption. (McClatchy/Miami Herald)

Signing up for Obamacare could someday take as little as 10 minutes
With five weeks to go until the end of open enrollment, the White House still has a lot of work ahead if it wants to meet the Congressional Budget Office’s initial target of 7 million Obamacare signups. New government numbers released Tuesday suggest the administration is a little over halfway to that goal, though officials have sought to temper those expectations. (Washington Post)

CPOE stragglers: One hospital’s fix
When Christus Health implemented CPOE as part of its EHR initiative, the hospital chain didn’t require all doctors replace traditional paper orders with the new computerized system. However, it made the capability available to all physicians — and most hospitalists, surgeons, and other medical staff were relatively fast to adapt to the computerized system, said Dr. Luke Webster, vice president and chief medical information officer at Christus Health. (InformationWeek)

Co-ops report early enrollment successes and expansion plans
The Affordable Care Act’s nonprofit co-op health plans, which see themselves as the rebel alliance battling established insurers, have signed close to 300,000 members and are set to expand into three new states next year, officials say. Starting from zero in October, New York’s Health Republic Insurance has enrolled more than 50,000 policyholders. That’s among the best results so far for 23 nonprofits created by the health law. CoOportunity Health in Iowa and Nebraska has also signed up more than 50,000; Colorado HealthOP, close to 9,000. (Kaiser Health News)

Leave a Comment

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

Iowa News

Quality improvements at Iowa hospitals save money, lives
A comprehensive quality improvement program at Iowa hospitals prevented potentially life-threatening complications for hundreds of patients and saved millions of dollars in health care costs in 2013, according to a new analysis by the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative. The 127 hospitals participating in the Iowa Hospital Engagement Network prevented potential harm to more than 4,300 patients and reduced health care costs by more than $51 million. (Des Moines Business Record)

Insurer reaches health milestone
A West Des Moines nonprofit insurance provider set up to sell insurance under nation’s new health care overhaul plan says it has surpassed 50,000 individual and group members, a milestone that wasn’t expected for at least two years. CoOportunity Health sells health care insurance in Iowa and Nebraska. It is one of 23 Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans set up nationwide. (Associated Press/KCRG)

Businesses share Blue Zones successes
River City Bar & Grill, Mason City’s seventh Blue Zones designated restaurant, demonstrated healthier buffet choices at a Wellness Works lunch and learn on Tuesday at the Clarion Inn-Mason City. The event, sponsored by the Mason City Blue Zones Worksite Strategy Committee, drew about 95 attendees from Mason City work sites that have earned a Blue Zones designation or are working toward it. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

National News

Obama: Health insurance enrollment at 4 million
Pressing for a final rush of health care enrollees, President Barack Obama said Tuesday that about 4 million people have signed up for health insurance through federal or state marketplaces set up under his health care law. But with a key deadline approaching fast, he urged some of his most steadfast backers to help sign up millions more by then. (Associated Press/Kansas City Star)

Behind retailers’ health care strategies, operational know-how
Some retailers, reasoning that they are “smart about efficiency and productivity and standardization and using digital technology and getting closer to the customers, believe that they can… really change the way that care is delivered and paid for in this country,” says one analyst. (HealthLeaders Media)

Holder, Sebelius tout billions in health care fraud recoveries
The U.S. recovered $4 billion last year through healthcare fraud prevention and enforcement efforts, according to a report released Wednesday by Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The report says that the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Act recovered more than $8 for every $1 it spent on healthcare fraud investigations over the last three years, the best ratio in the 17-year history of the program. (The Hill)

UC San Diego researchers try to quiet noisy hospitals
When San Diegan Merry Maisel’s 92-year-old mother entered the hospital after a fall in 2002, she was put in an intensive care unit overflow unit with six other patients. There were heart monitors beeping, TVs on and loud chatter from the nurses’ station. Maisel believes that noisy hospital visit started her mother’s downward spiral. “She would jerk at each noise. She would shudder,” Maisel said. “She must have felt it as an attack.” (KBPS)

Leave a Comment

psafetyThe 127 hospitals participating in the Iowa-based Hospital Engagement Network (HEN) prevented potential harm to more than 4,300 patients in 2013 and reduced health care costs by more than $51 million, according to data released today by the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative (IHC), which administers the network.

Among other improvements, participating hospitals reduced early elective baby deliveries (which can increase complications) by 90 percent; catheter associated urinary tract infections by 44 percent; adverse drug events by 28 percent; central line-associated blood stream infections in intensive care by 24 percent; surgical site infections by 24 percent; patient falls by 23 percent; and avoidable re-admissions by 11 percent.

This work has taken place as part of the federal Partnership for Patients initiative, with the goals of reducing harm by 40 percent and hospital readmissions by 20 percent.  The program has helped the hospitals develop the infrastructure, expertise and organizational culture that will support further improvements for years to come.  The Iowa HEN, which includes12 hospitals in Illinois and Nebraska, has accelerated improvement across the state and patients are benefiting every day from the spread and implementation of best practices.

In addition to reducing costs, the Iowa HEN reduced the time that patients spent in the participating hospitals by 17,758 days.  It’s estimated that at least 32 lives were saved because of the HEN.

“Through the HEN program, Iowa hospitals and their 71,000 employees are ensuring that patients are safer when they are in the hospital and less likely to return to the hospital, all of which reduces the cost of care,” explained Tom Evans, M.D., IHC CEO.  “In many ways, Iowa was already a leader in these measurements, but our hospitals have taken up the challenge to do even better – and they are succeeding.”

“Iowa physicians and hospitals are committed to raising the quality and safety bar in all parts of the state,” said IHC Board Chair Jeff Maire, D.O., of Mercy Surgical Affiliates in Des Moines.  “Through that commitment we are increasing value and bending the cost curve for all health care consumers.”

Leave a Comment

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

Iowa News

Feds: Medical staff can share mental health info when public may be at risk
Health care providers can share a mental health patient’s personal information with law enforcement officials or relatives if public safety could be at risk, or to help find a suspect, fugitive or missing person, federal officials say. Federal officials have released new clarifications about federal health law privacy rules at the request of Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, who was working on behalf of Jan Thomas, the widow of slain Aplington-Parkersburg High School football coach Ed Thomas. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Pro-Medicaid GOP governors well placed for reelection
Conservative activists threatened revenge for Republican governors who boosted Obamacare. Now it looks like they were mostly blowing smoke. Around the country, Republicans who defied the base and embraced Obamacare’s massive expansion of Medicaid are better positioned for reelection than those who did not. None has garnered a serious primary challenge so far, and even Democrats have struggled to field strong contenders to take them on. (Politico)

New ACA insurance causes headaches in some doctors’ offices
Sheila Lawless is the office manager at a small rheumatology practice in Wichita Falls, Texas, about two hours outside of Dallas. She makes sure everything in the office runs smoothly – scheduling patients, collecting payments, keeping the lights on. Recently she added another duty–incorporating the trickle of patients with insurance plans purchased on the new Affordable Care Act exchanges. Open enrollment doesn’t end until March 31, but people who have already bought Obamacare plans are beginning to use them. (National Public Radio)

Pediatrics group advises against retail store health clinics for kids
Health clinics at retail stores like CVS, Walgreens and Target are a popular choice for some families because of their convenience, but a leading medical society is advising parents to avoid the clinics for their children’s care. The American Academy of Pediatrics says such clinics are “detrimental” to the comprehensive, continuous care relationship between doctors and families, a concept known as the medical home. Such facilities should not be a source of primary care for children, the academy said. (CBS News)

Even as a doctor with decent insurance, I had difficulty entering the health care system
In 2015, experts estimate that 20 million more non-elderly Americans will be minted into newly-insured patients. But while much of the current debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act has been around the cumbersome website, the controversy of having to trade in one’s current health insurance, the true affordability of monthly premiums, and the potential low ratio of primary care physicians to new patients, there may also be other unforeseen issues. (The Atlantic)

Leave a Comment