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

Iowa News

Iowa health care providers embrace the challenge to do better
As health care becomes more consumer-directed and comparative information like the Iowa Report becomes more available, hospitals and physicians will be competing on value. And why shouldn’t they? Whether it’s individuals or insurance companies, those who pay for health care deserve to know how well providers are performing. Iowa hospitals and physicians recognize that reality. In fact, they embrace it, which is why the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative exists and why Iowa is a health care value leader, as the HEN data attests. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Study shows hospital’s impact on Calhoun County economy
According to the latest study by the Iowa Hospital Association Stewart Memorial Community Hospital in Lake City generates 257 jobs and contributes $18 million to Calhoun County’s economy. Information was compiled from data submitted by hospitals in the American Hospital Associations Annual Survey of Hospitals. (KCIM)

Cherokee hospital implements new electronic medical records system
In addition to all of the other exciting updates that have taken place over past 18 months, Cherokee Regional Medical Center continues to invest in the health of the patients it serves by allocating nearly $2 million for an upgraded electronic medical records system. The transition to the new Epic system took place within the hospital on Sunday, March 30th. All Cherokee Regional Clinic locations will switch over to Epic later in the year. (Cherokee Chronicle Times)

Iowans and Minnesotans least likely to struggle with health care costs
One in four Alabamans (24.5 percent) said in 2013 that there were times in the past 12 months when they did not have enough money to pay for the healthcare and/or medicine they and their families needed — the highest percentage in the nation. Residents of West Virginia and Mississippi followed closely behind. At the other end, Iowa and Minnesota tied for the lowest percentage of residents who were unable to afford needed healthcare or medicine, at 12.2 percent. (Gallup)

National News

Repercussions and reprieves at health insurance enrollment deadline
America’s health insurance marketplace closes on Monday night, the deadline for most people to obtain coverage or face a penalty. The confusion and uncertainty of the last six months appear likely to continue as consumers, including some who have never had insurance, begin using new policies for the first time. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions. (New York Times)

California proving new health care law can work
If the new health care law makes it here, it can make it anywhere. As thousands of California procrastinators try to beat Monday’s midnight deadline to apply for a health care plan, they’ll be joining more than 1 million others in the Bellwether State who already have enrolled through California’s health insurance exchange. And another 2 million have been determined eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s program for the poor. (San Jose Mercury News)

Health care spending growth hits 10-year high
Health care spending rose at the fastest pace in 10 years last quarter, a development that could foreshadow higher costs for consumers this year. Expenses for health care rose at a 5.6 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said last week. The jump triggered a sharp upward revision in the government’s estimate of consumer spending overall and accounted for nearly a quarter of the economy’s 2.6 percent annualized growth in the last three months of 2013. (USA Today)

What are Maryland hospitals doing to make your next stay safer? Take a look
If you’ve ever been in a hospital, you’ve seen the hand-washing reminders posted for health care providers. That’s obviously a biggie when it comes to preventing the spread of infections. But have you ever thought about how often hand-washing actually happens in hospitals? Now we know. Maryland hospitals reached an average of 87 percent compliance at 44 of the state’s acute-care hospitals and one of its specialty hospitals in 2013, up from 81 percent just two years ago. (Washington Business Journal)

Two Boston hospitals change surgical technique after cancer debate
Two Boston hospitals have made changes to a controversial surgical procedure after questions arose about its safety. The technique, called morcellation, is characterized by a surgeon shredding tissue, usually fibroids or the uterus during a laparoscopic hysterectomy, that is then usually removed through a small incision in the abdomen. Both Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston are changing guidelines about when to use morcellation just months after learning of at least two medical cases where women had undetected cancer spread into their abdomen following the procedure. (ABC News)

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

Iowa News

Regional Health Services plans June opening for first phase of construction
Regional Health Services of Howard County is planning the opening of the first phase of the construction project for June. Hospital CEO Robin Schluter said, “New equipment and furniture are being ordered to target the June time frame. The first phase of the project includes the new entrance, eight new patient rooms, the same-day surgery center, therapies area and gymnasium, the donor hallway, the new emergency room waiting area, and the new gift shop.” (Cresco Times Plain Dealer)

In rural Iowa, caregivers seek mental health resources
A farmer who is the caregiver for his wife when she has episodes of bipolar disorder telephoned me after reading recent columns. He wished to share what has been helpful for their situation. This man helped me realize many people needed more resources for individuals struggling with chronic mental illness and ideas for their caregivers. (Iowa Farmer Today)

University of Iowa clinics receive Stage 7 EMRAM award
Twenty-one healthcare clinics in the University of Iowa Health Care system have been recognized for achieving Stage 7 on the HIMSS Analytics EMRAM adoption model, joining fewer than five percent of hospitals in the nation at the highest level of the health IT adoption scale. (EHR Intelligence)

National News

Hospitals chart ways to boost care, funding under ACA
Hospitals are getting creative when it comes to meeting tough new mandates in the Affordable Care Act to improve care and increase patient satisfaction — and they’re getting paid more as a result. Under an ACA program, the federal government gives money to hospitals that deliver better care, rather than just paying them for procedures covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Called the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing program, it aims to increase quality care and shrink the number of patients who die from mistakes. (USA Today)

Why the Medicare ‘doc fix’ vote caught the House by surprise
After the House surprisingly passed a bill by voice vote Thursday temporarily halting cuts to the rate in doctors’ payments from Medicare, the Capitol was abuzz with questions. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., exclaimed, “They voiced it? My God!” while walking onto the floor – leadership struck a deal that forced the bill through without a single member being put on the record as voting for or against. The fix stops the cuts, which were built into the Sustainable Growth Rate in the late 1990s. (CBS News)

Study: Mental health reforms that could have aided Deeds’s son not in place for 2 years
When Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds sought emergency psychiatric treatment for his adult son in the fall, Virginia’s mental health administration had failed to implement reforms recommended almost two years earlier, according to a new report from the state inspector general. The long-awaited report centers on a question that have plagued mental health advocates and Virginia lawmakers for months: Why was Austin “Gus” Deeds released from custody for want of a psychiatric bed the day before attacking his father and killing himself? (Washington Post)

Health care quality can and should be measured
Accountable care, population health, value-based payment, etc. Every day we are faced with ever more jargon associated with the incredible upheaval in the delivery and financing of health care. Our ability to digest each of these new ideas and deliver better “value”–as defined by lower cost and higher quality–is stressed beyond belief. Adding to the confusion is the need to verify the definition of each of these since the meanings remain fluid. (Hospital Impact)

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

Iowa News

Actress Glenn Close to appear at Iowa event on dealing with mental illness
Broadlawns Hospital in Des Moines is bringing in six-time Academy Award nominee, Glenn Close, for an event in May on dealing with mental illness. Broadlawns vice president, Mikki Stier, says the appearance by Close is part of what they call the “Me-Series,” which seeks to address particular needs in the community. “One of the biggest issues with mental health care is getting out there and talking about mental health care. The fact that we have limited access, that there’s not enough providers in our community,” Stier says. (Radio Iowa)

Le Mars hospital gearing up for renovations
Floyd Valley Hospital’s clinic and surgical center is small and out dated, that’s why the staff is especially excited about Wednesday’s groundbreaking. “We’ve been using the same operating room set up since I got here 32 years ago. It’s a very nice place but it’s time to do an upgrade,” said Dr. Mark Stelzer. Over the years the North addition project has grown quite large, this expansion now totals roughly $26 million. (KCAU)

Mercy doc applauds statin revisions
A Mason City vascular specialist is applauding new recommendations by the American Heart Association for the use of statins — drugs designed to lower cholesterol levels. The guidelines, developed by the AHA and American College of Cardiology at the request of the federal government, lowered the threshold for using statins to reduce risk of heart attacks and strokes. Under the new guidelines, 50 million Americans ages 40 to 75 are eligible to consider a statin such as Crestor, Zocor and Lipitor, or their generic equivalents, some of which are more intense medications than others. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Census shows Iowans still pulled toward metro areas
Eight of Iowa’s nine metropolitan areas saw increases in residents while more rural counties saw their populations decline, according to new population estimates the U.S. Census Bureau is releasing today. More employment opportunities, higher wages, choice in schools, a diverse housing stock and other amenities are all factors that attract people to larger cities, local officials and others say. (Des Moines Register)

National News

More than 6 million Americans enrolled under the ACA, White House says
More than six million Americans have now signed up for private insurance under the Affordable Care Act, according to a White House official, with just four days to go until the end of its first open enrollment period. While traveling in Italy on Thursday, President Obama shared the news in a conference call with thousands of health-care navigators and volunteers helping enroll people on state and federal marketplaces, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the numbers had not been formally announced. (Washington Post)

CMS confident as HIX deadline nears
In contrast to the fall’s nearly disastrous rollout of the federal government’s public exchange website, HealthCare.gov, a hopeful spring appears to be dawning. As Monday’s open enrollment deadline to obtain individual policies on the exchanges approaches, the Obama administration has reported a signup surge. With about 800,000 people enrolling in the first two weeks of March, more than 5 million individuals have obtained health insurance policies through the exchanges, federal officials say. (HealthLeaders Media)

House ‘doc fix’ vote in doubt
House Republican leaders are trying to quell opposition to a one-year “doc fix” after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said he could broker a long-term alternative and the major physician lobbying groups came out against the House plan. The move pits the new Finance chairman against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who negotiated the “doc fix” patch with House Speaker John Boehner personally. (Politico)

Consumers get $10B in health coverage subsidies
Americans have already qualified for about $10 billion in tax credits to help them purchase private health insurance this year through the Affordable Care Act, according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.  That’s an average of $2,890 for each of the 3.5 million people who qualified for a subsidy as of March 1 — about 83 percent of those who enrolled in an exchange plan. (Kaiser Health News)

Missouri hospitals cut positions, new construction
Missouri hospitals have eliminated about 1,000 positions and put a hiring freeze on more than 2,100 vacant positions in the past six months, the state hospital association said Wednesday while pushing for an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program. The Missouri Hospital Association said its members also have canceled or delayed more than $100 million of capital improvements, and some hospitals are now considering where to pare back services such as oncology or hospice care. (Associated Press)

Therapists’ apps aim to help with mental health issues
Games like Flappy Bird and Candy Crush have helped many of us de-stress during long waits at the doctor’s office and crowded Metro rides. But what if an app could actually help with mental health? Researchers from Hunter College and the City University of New York say they’ve developed an app that can reduce anxiety. In the game, called PersonalZen, players encounter two animated characters in a field of grass. (Iowa Public Radio)

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

Iowa News

Liquid from e-cigarettes a danger to kids, officials say
People who use e-cigarettes should keep the devices and their refill liquid away from children, Iowa officials say. E-cigarettes are electronic devices that vaporize liquid containing nicotine, which is the addictive part of tobacco. Proponents say they’re safer than regular cigarettes because they don’t contain cancer-causing tar, but some public health officials say the devices’ safety has been oversold. (Des Moines Register)

UI report: Many older Americans ill prepared for natural disasters
Older Americans are more vulnerable when natural disasters strike, yet most of them are not adequately prepared for serious floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires or other calamities. Those are among the findings researchers with the University of Iowa College of Public Health recently published online in the American Journal of Public Health. The findings are based on a 2010 survey conducted in conjunction with the Health and Retirement Study, which tracks social, economic and health information for U.S. adults age 50 and older. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

More time given to enroll in federal health care marketplace
The Obama administration has decided to give extra time to Americans who say that they are unable to enroll in health plans through the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline. Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension. (Washington Post)

Poll: Most uninsured didn’t know about March Obamacare deadline
As the White House is announcing some leeway on the March 31 enrollment deadline, about six in 10 uninsured American adults didn’t know about the deadline in the first place, according to a new poll. The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, conducted between March 11-17, found that just 39 percent of uninsured adults below the Medicare age knew that March 31 was the deadline to sign up for coverage. (Washington Post)

How big data helped cut emergency room visits by 10 percent
A patient walks into an emergency room as a blank slate to doctors, who must quickly gauge the likelihood of an acute problem. Were a doctor to know that the patient suffers from chronic headaches, that a recent CT scan didn’t reveal any problems, and that just a week earlier a doctor at a different ER told the patent to follow-up with a specific primary care physician, the slate wouldn’t be quite so blank. “All of a sudden, it changes the whole nature of the conversation with the patient,” says Dan Lessler, the chief medical officer for Washington state’s Medicaid program. (BusinessWeek)

L.A. hospital doctors practice communication skills in ‘operating room of the future’
Before the car-wreck victim reached the emergency room, doctors, residents and nurses at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center knew what to expect by glancing at their smartphones. The details came in the staccato of text messages: A 35-year-old man had driven head-on into a bus. He suffered major chest injuries. His vital signs were crashing. This was not just another day in the hospital. (Associated Press/Minneapolis Star Tribune)

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

Iowa News

How are hospitals faring under value-based purchasing rules?
Changes in incentives are shaping how hospitals in Iowa and throughout the country are engaging with patients. Under the Value Based Purchasing program (also referred to as value based performance) enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, hospitals now earn a bonus or are penalized in the amount they receive in Medicare reimbursements, based on scores that take patient satisfaction and quality of care into consideration. (Des Moines Business Record)

Pella delegation meets with Grassley on rural health
According to Grassley, there were three topics that the representatives discussed with him. The first was in regard to a new Center for Medicare Services rule, known as the 96-hour rule, that requires Critical Access Hospitals to have a patient admitted, surgically treated and released within 96 hours. Either that or moved on to another hospital, within the same time period. (Knoxville Journal Express)

Iowa smoking rates vary dramatically by county, report shows
Some Iowa counties have double the smoking rates of others, a new national study shows. The highest rates are in southeast Iowa’s Wapello and Lee counties, where more than 20 percent of adults said they smoked daily in 2012. That compares to Story and Johnson counties, where the rates were below 10 percent. (Des Moines Register)

Greater Des Moines ranks 25th for overall well-being
Greater Des Moines ranks as the 25th best metro area in the country for overall well-being of its residents, according to a new report published by Healthways and Gallup. The 2013 State of American Well-Being report is based on data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a measure that Iowa has used since 2011, when Gov. Terry Branstad launched the Healthiest State Initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016. (Des Moines Business Record)

National News

Medical device recalls nearly double over decade
The annual number of medical device recalls increased by 97 percent between fiscal years 2003 and 2012, to 1,190, according to a new report from the Food & Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “The most frequent causes for recalls are related to device design, software, and non-conforming material or component issues,” the report states. “If industry and CDRH can address these problems jointly, we may be able to prevent as many as 400 recalls each year.” (Food and Drug Administration)

Kids benefit from counseling at pediatrician’s office
Pediatricians often recommend some mental health counseling for children who have behavior problems like defiance and tantrums. But counseling can be hard to find. Children are much more likely to get help if the counselor is right there in the doctor’s office, a study finds. The children in the study had behavior problems, and many also had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or anxiety. They were 8 years old, on average, and two-thirds were boys. (Iowa Public Radio)

Royce White fighting for NBA spot, mental health
“My advocacy for mental health will be there regardless of whether I’m playing or not,” White said. “If it takes this platform to boost or activate what we need to do mental-health wise, then that’s not good enough, then somebody else isn’t doing their job. Those questions will be there, and I’m still willing to answer those questions. But right now it’s just about the Kings and playing.” (Associated Press/Winona Daily News)

Organ recovery centers reduce transplant costs 37%
Here’s how it works: Staff members from the Center for Organ Recovery and Education will travel to any of 150 area hospitals where a donor has been declared brain-dead. If the family agrees, CORE workers will transport the body to a newly remodeled surgical facility northeast of the city. All the while, skilled teams will maintain the donor’s heart rhythm so the organs remain viable for transplant. The donor’s organs will be removed in CORE’s surgical suites rather than in the originating hospital where organ recovery from brain-dead donors competes with surgeries on living patients for expensive operating room time and resources. (HealthLeaders Media)

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