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

Iowa News

Iowa Legislature reaches agreement on human services budget
The Iowa Legislature crossed off another item on its “must-do” list with a conference committee agreement Monday on the $1.85 billion health and human services budget. Members expressed reservations with the deal, which includes dropping Senate Democrats’ plans to re-establish a 20-bed state-run facility for delinquent girls previously served at the Iowa Juvenile Home before the Toledo center was closed in January. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Minors banned from using e-cigarettes under bill headed to governor
A ban on electronic cigarettes for minors is headed to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. The Iowa House voted 74-23 on Tuesday afternoon to approve the ban, which prohibits children and teens under 18 from using, possessing, purchasing or attempting to purchase “alternative nicotine products” and “vapor products.” The ban applies to products that contain nicotine – the active ingredient in tobacco – and those that do not. (Des Moines Register)

Program helps children who don’t speak much find voices
Through the It Takes Two to Talk — The Hanen Program for Parents of Children with Language Delays, Elijah, 4, is slowly building his language skills and improving communication. The program is geared for children up to age 5 who use few or no words. It has been offered since October at ChildServe, a nonprofit organization serving children with special health-care needs. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Insurers: Millions more have coverage now
A panel of health insurers agreed Tuesday that the number of insured people in the country has climbed by millions, despite arguments by some Republicans that the insured population has declined because of canceled plans. “I don’t doubt that,” said Jay Gellert, president and CEO of the California-based Health Net, when asked whether there’s any real question that the nation’s insured population has grown. (Politico)

Emanuel: Although ‘not a perfect law,’ ACA is protecting patients
In his new book, “Reinventing American Health Care,” Ezekiel Emanuel offers some surprising predictions about where health care is going in the next decade and beyond, including forecasting the end of health insurance companies as we know them. Along the way, readers will learn more about what’s actually in the Affordable Care Act and its tortuous political path to passage. (Kaiser Health News)

Group proposes framework for health care facility weather resilience
The American Meteorological Society Policy Program today proposed a three-step strategy for increasing the resilience of health care facilities and services to high-impact weather events. “The foundational layer for increasing resilience is risk management,” the report states. “The second layer focuses on creating durable facilities. The next layer ensures the continuity of health services, finally topped with a layer of usable information to assist with decision making. (American Meteorological Society)

Sports medicine turns to telehealth
Sensor technology and telehealth technology are revolutionizing how the healthcare system responds to the football field’s hard knocks, and the same technology could apply to other sports such as hockey, soccer, and anywhere else where sharp blows to the noggin are part of the game. (HealthLeaders Media)

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

Iowa News

‘Medical homes’ aim to prevent health emergencies before they start
Jeff Giannetto suffers from several chronic health problems. He’s had four heart attacks in his lifetime, and has COPD, a condition that’s put him in the hospital. The problem is that Giannetto was waiting until those flare-ups to seek care. But since he started participating in the medical home program at MercyCare Community Physicians, Giannetto has noticed major improvements in the quality of care he’s received and his own health. (KCRG)

City presents growth award to UnityPoint Health St. Luke’s
The city of Sioux City presented a “Growing Sioux City Award” on April 8 to UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s. The award, which recognizes the health care system’s growth and investment in Sioux City, was accepted by UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s CEO Peter Thoreen. “We’re honored and pleased to be recognized with this award,” Thoreen said. “We believe it is important to reinvest in Sioux City and expand our ability to serve this growing part of the community.” (Sioux City Journal)

Feds lack knowledge of physicians’ costs
Without knowing the cost of a service, learning what billions of dollars Medicare pays has little relevance. For example, many physicians in Iowa have higher costs than reimbursement for lab and x-ray services. For many chemotherapy drugs (12 actually) the cost exceeds the Medicare payment, too. CMS needs to accurately determine practice costs and reward physicians for the right tests and the right treatments, not just more tests and treatments. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa DHS: Medicaid records sent to wrong clinic
Iowa officials say personal information from more than 800 Medicaid clients was accidentally mailed to the wrong health clinic. Iowa Medicaid Enterprise, a division of the state Department of Human Services, says Friday the error occurred during the mailing process. Patient listings were mailed in February. The listings include the patient’s name, phone numbers, state identification and type of enrolled program. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

National News

Few have sought exemption from health care for insurance or pay fine
The government left the door wide open for millions of Americans to be excused from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most people must carry health insurance or pay a fine, but so far relatively few have asked for such a pardon. About 77,000 families and individuals have requested exemptions from the health-care law’s so-called individual mandate. (Washington Post)

‘Tiering and steering’ a contentious issue for local health care
“Tiering and steering” is the catch phrase at the heart of the three-year dispute that threatens to end the UPMC-Highmark relationship. Health provider UPMC believes if it signs a contract with Highmark after this year, the Pittsburgh insurer will assign UPMC’s doctors and hospitals to its most expensive tier in order to recoup the billions of dollars it is spending to develop its own provider network. By making it more expensive to get care through UPMC operations, patients would be “steered” to hospitals in Highmark’s Allegheny Health Network. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Covered CA head says improving health care literacy is state’s primary task
The only thing harder than rolling out President Barack Obama’s health care law is changing the health care industry culture, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said Thursday night at the Barbara Lee & Elihu Harris Lecture at Merritt College. Despite exceeding expectations by enrolling 3.3 million Californians in Covered California’s marketplace of insurance programs or Medi-Cal during its first six months, he said the initiative was “relatively succeeding” and “only just beginning.” (San Jose Mercury News)

Study: Costly breast cancer treatment more common in for-profit hospitals
Older breast cancer patients who received radiation treatment after surgery were more likely to undergo a more expensive and somewhat controversial type of radiation called brachytherapy if they got their care at for-profit rather than nonprofit hospitals, a new study reports. “This reinforces the idea that reimbursement is a significant driver of the adoption of new cancer therapies, which is a shame,” said one of the study’s authors. (Kaiser Health News)

Saudi Arabia reports more deaths from respiratory syndrome
At least 14 new cases of the Middle East respiratory symptom coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, have been detected in Saudi Arabia, the health ministry said in its latest statement about the condition. Of those new cases, five of the patients died within 24 hours. This brings the total number of known cases to 313, including 92 deaths, the ministry said Friday. (CNN/KCCI)

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

Iowa News

Editorial: Hospital helps Fort Dodge Prosper
UnityPoint Health – Trinity Regional Medical Center is a good example of something that is so vital a part of our immediate environment it is easy to take for granted. Its excellence is enormously important to our community and region. Having a first-rate medical center close at hand is essential to the quality of life of every Fort Dodger. Trinity has become a major regional referral center for specialty care. That benefits not only those who call Fort Dodge or Webster County home, but also many others who live in the nearby counties. (Fort Dodge Messenger)

Marshalltown hospital takes big step into future
The ground is officially broken – and wet – at the site of the future Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center. A group of 75 people gathered underneath a tent as rain fell during the groundbreaking ceremony for the $35 million phase one of the project Wednesday – where umbrellas far outnumbered shovels. The hospital also announced that the new facility will be re-branded with a new name and that effort is underway. (Marshalltown Times-Republican)

Manning Regional Healthcare Center new center nears opening
Members of the media toured the new Manning Regional Healthcare Facility Wednesday afternoon. The new facility has been many years in the making and will be quite a change for visitors as everything will be on one floor. MRHC will maintain a 17-bed hospital, but the Manning Family Recovery Center handling substance abuse recovery will increase to 16 beds. (KCIM)

Loebsack gets a look at local health scene
Health care was on the agenda Thursday afternoon when Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, came to visit Trinity Muscatine hospital. Officials from Trinity Muscatine and the hospital’s parent company, UnityPoint, discussed current health care issues with Loebsack after a tour of the recently renovated hospital. One issue in particular that has been debated since it was passed in 2010 is the Affordable Care Act. Loebsack, who supported its passage, said that Congress appears to be reaching a consensus of trying to improve the law rather than make another effort to repeal it. (Muscatine Journal)

Inspiring others to ‘donate life’
At Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, one man is sharing his experience of becoming an organ recipient to help inspire others. Steve Ferkau was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease which creates thick mucus in the lungs making it very difficult to breathe. Fourteen years ago, a second chance at life came in the form of a pair of lungs from the late Kari Westberg of Algona. “I don’t know what made her think that way and I have to believe that she was influenced by people like Iowa Donor Network and people telling others about the goodness of organ donation,” said Ferkau. (KIMT)

Deployed at 60, hospital social worker to share his military experience
Dan Grinstead, an Iowa social worker who gained international notoriety when he deployed with the National Guard to Afghanistan at age 60, will be appearing at Buena Vista University for an open-to-the-public ACES series event. A reception for Grinstead follows the presentation, “Our Military at Home: Going Beyond ‘Support the Troops'”. Since 1975, he has been a social worker at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. (Storm Lake Pilot Tribune)

National News

CMS poised to announce ICD-10 implementation date
A federal official involved in the ICD-10 launch couldn’t give a room full of stakeholders a firm date on for the new implementation of the medical code set, but suggested on Wednesday that an announcement is imminent. Denise Buenning, acting deputy director with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Office of e-Health Standards and Services reportedly told attendees at a two-day ICD-10 summit held in Washington, DC, that a firm date for the implementation would be forthcoming. (HealthLeaders Media)

Are med school grads prepared to practice medicine?
Each July at teaching hospitals across the country the most seasoned residents leave to begin independent practice, younger residents behind them move up a rank, and freshly minted M.D.s take their place as interns at the bottom of the ladder. The transition can be perilous: patient outcomes can suffer, and young doctors can be particularly vulnerable to burnout. (New York Times)

Rural hospitals face tough choices on computerized records
One of the biggest challenges American hospitals face right now is adopting electronic medical records systems. It’s costing tens of billions of dollars, eating up tons of staff time and it’s especially tough for the country’s 2,000 rural and small town hospitals. Rural hospitals are typically cash strapped, and people with information technology skills can be hard to find outside of big cities. That means a lot of small hospitals are turning to bigger hospitals for help, and giving up some independence in return. (Kaiser Health News)

Doctors can learn a lot from dentists about Medicaid expansion
Have dentists struck gold? Not in the mouths of their patients, but in of all places, in Medicaid, a program infamous for its low reimbursement rates. A new study found that in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act dentists saw about a 7 percent rise in income. And he says some also avoided increased patient wait times. New income, new patients and no more wait times? How’d they pull that off? Dentists leaned on their hygienists. (Marketplace)

CDC: Vaccines save hundreds of thousands of lives
Vaccines given to infants and young children over the past two decades will prevent 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines also will have saved $295 billion in direct costs, such as medical expenses, and a total of more than $1.3 trillion in societal costs over that time, because children who were spared from sometimes-devastating illnesses will be able to contribute to society, the report shows. (USA Today)

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

Iowa News

Hospital helps students get message on drunk and distracted driving
Students at Spencer High School were called from their warm classrooms at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning and told to exit the building. What they found waiting for them outside was an accident scene involving multiple classmates. The scenario helped begin the two-day “Power of Choice” program, coordinated by Amy Sievers, with the Iowa Department of Transportation office in Spencer, and Laura Manwarren, with Spencer Hospital, and involving a small army of volunteer emergency responders, law enforcement and medical providers. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

SimMan provides training to caregivers
It almost sounds like something out of a science fiction novel: “SimMan.” But SimMan – a shortened form of “Simulation Man” — is working hard to help staff at the Mitchell County Regional Health Center save lives. The full-sized mannequin-sized simulator – not unlike what most would use to learn to use CPR – provides training for a range of medical emergencies. Last week, Karen Howard of Laerdal, the SimMan vendor, was on hand to provide the training. (Mitchell County Press News)

Medical marijuana bill advances in Iowa Legislature
The Iowa Legislature moved Wednesday toward decriminalizing oil derived from marijuana for the treatment of severe epilepsy, with lawmakers casting on-the-record votes supporting a proposal many believed had no chance of passage this year. After weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations and bill drafting, legislation was introduced in the Senate and advanced through a key committee on Wednesday – positioning it for floor debate as early as Thursday. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Moody’s: Hospital expenses continue to outpace revenues
Expense growth continued to outpace revenue growth in the not-for-profit hospital sector in fiscal year 2013, leading to lower operating and cash flow margins for the second year in a row, according a report released today by Moody’s Investors Service. “Factors leading to the decline in performance include low rate increases from commercial payers and rate cuts from Medicare and Medicaid,” said Moody’s Analyst Jennifer Ewing. (Moody’s Investors Service)

The truth about a critical drug discount program
To read the commentary Vital drug program for the poor is in real danger at, you’d think American hospitals are shirking the poor while simultaneously limiting highly profitable pharmaceutical companies from developing new drugs for rare diseases. All this due to their participation in a small federal drug discount program called 340B. If the argument sounds absurd, it is. (Alabama Media Group)

Cyberattack drill exposes health care industry’s vulnerabilities
Health care providers, like other industries, are not always very good at sharing cyber-attack intelligence with each other. But according to findings of a first-of-its-kind April 1 simulated drill, improvements are now underway specifically in the health care industry. The industry-wide exercise, CyberRX, presented participants with a series of challenges which “exercised elements within each of the organizations,” said Kevin Charest, chief information security officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (HealthLeaders Media)

Medicare’s $5 billion ambulance tab signals area of abuse
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has identified ambulance service as one of the biggest areas of overuse and abuse in Medicare — companies billing millions for trips by patients who can walk, sit, stand or even drive their own cars. “It’s a cash cow,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Beth Leahy, who prosecuted Penn Choice and five other ambulance fraud cases. “It’s basically like a taxi service except an extremely expensive one that the taxpayers are financing.” (Bloomberg)

FDA outlines plan to regulate e-cigarettes
The Food and Drug Administration will for the first time regulate the $2 billion market of electronic cigarettes, as well as cigars, pipe tobacco and hookahs, under a proposal to be released Thursday. If adopted, the government’s plan would force manufacturers to curb sales to minors, stop handing out free samples, place health warning labels on their products and disclose the ingredients. (Washington Post)

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trustsmallAuthor Stephen Covey wrote that “trust is the glue of life.  It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication.  It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”  Such an observation goes a long way toward explaining the massive disconnection and disaffection between citizens and their elected representatives.

In the latest findings from its annual poll, the Gallup organization showed only 8 percent of Americans rated the honesty and ethical standards of Congress as “high” or “very high.” State officeholders did somewhat better at 14 percent.  In between the two groups are car salespeople at 9 percent. Meanwhile, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released earlier this year showed President Obama’s job-approval rating at an all-time low, while only 34 percent of those polled said their member of Congress deserved another term.

At the other end spectrum are those who provide health care.  Nurses once again topped the Gallup poll, with 82 percent rating them high/very high for honesty and ethics. Nurses were followed by pharmacists, who tied with grade school teachers at 70 percent, and medical doctors, who tied military officers at 69 percent.

Hospitals no doubt benefit from these positive perceptions; a 2013 Harris Interactive poll measuring Americans’ trust in various industries showed hospitals second (supermarkets were first).  Still, only 28 percent of Americans agreed that hospitals are “generally honest and trustworthy,” though that easily bested banks (18 percent), carmakers (11 percent) and health insurance companies (7 percent).

In terms of public trust, business has historically fared better than government. The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer shows the largest ever gap between the two since the study began in 2001, indicating that government is losing trust while business is gaining.  In analyzing these results, CEO Richard Edelman wrote that government now lacks the agility to effectively partner with business to bring about innovation as well as the credibility to lead innovation.

“Now it is business’ turn to ascend the ‘bully pulpit,’ Edelman wrote. “Business has recovered trust from the crisis period because it is seen as having made demonstrable strides in transparency, supply chain and product quality.”

Edelman’s first recommendation: CEOs must become “Chief Engagement Officers” who publicly “make the macro case for forward progress, not just the micro case for a given product…There should be the usual strong economic rationale, but there must be thoughtful consideration given to arguments that address emotion and risk, as well as societal benefit.”

From there, Edelman urges business leaders to empower employees and seek input from a broad range of stakeholders with a clearly articulated business strategy, beginning foremost with how a proposed change will improve lives.  As change moves forward, it should evolve based on collective inputs.  Leaders should report frequently on progress against specific quantitative and qualitative targets and be prepared to acknowledge and deal with shortfalls.

In health care, there are clear connections between Edelman’s findings and advice regarding trust and the issues and strategies hospitals are dealing with.  Coordinated care, patient-centeredness, value-based purchasing, transparency, community benefit, use of social media – these all hold the promise of building public trust in health care providers by strengthening individual relationships with both external and internal audiences.

The primary take-away is that patients, particularly in younger generations, don’t want to be “sold” care; they want to partner with providers to manage and improve health.  They want a relationship. As Covey points out, without trust, relationships dissolve.  As Edelman shows, people expect to be engaged – to have a relationship – with the businesses they choose to trust.


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