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(From time to time, the blog features recipients of the IHA Iowa Hospital Heroes Award.  These outstanding hospital employees come from across the state and work at hospitals of every size.  They exemplify the courage, caring and community focus that are at the center of the hospital mission in Iowa.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHeroes come in many shapes, sizes and colors–some even wear capes!  Many, though, are much less visible, preferring to fly under the radar. Roger Sandhorst is one of those quiet heroes.  Never one to attract attention, to put things off, to give up, or even go on vacation, Roger is too busy taking care of everyone else to put himself first.

In a hospital full of professional caregivers, the director of plant operations may seem an unlikely recipient of the Hospital Heroes Award.  He may not have a medical or nursing degree, or even directly serve patients, but he spends all of his typical 10-12 hour days caring for our community in his own way.  Of course, he is always ready to respond in an emergency.  Snowstorms, power outages, broken pipes – Roger is leading his crew to save the day quickly, quietly and professionally.

But what really makes Roger truly stand out is what he does every day.  How he oversees the routine care of a 45-year-old building, where visitors routinely comment, “It can’t be that old!” How he ensures that everyday requests are handled just as efficiently as emergencies. How he sets a standard of professionalism that all staff admire and appreciate.

During his 27 years as supervisor and director of the Plant Operations Department, Roger has led Cass County Memorial Hospital (CCMH) through two major addition and renovation projects.  His experience and expertise have been key to the successful completion of these projects, bringing state-of-the-art medical facilities to the people of southwest Iowa.  He makes it possible for medical personnel to do their jobs just that much better, contributing to the healing and life-saving care they give every day.

Roger’s dedication to the hospital has been unwavering.  Over nearly three decades, his vacation days could probably be counted on one set of toes and fingers.  Hours of the day mean nothing to Roger when it comes to taking care of the people and facilities that make up CCMH. Whatever it takes, whenever it happens, Roger is there.  He has earned the respect and gratitude of all who have had the privilege to experience his quiet care and compassion.

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

Iowa News

Trauma, poverty damaging to kids, doctor says
Traumatic experiences and poverty can damage young children’s brains just as surely as lead poisoning can, a national expert said Monday in Des Moines. Scientists increasingly understand that children’s brain growth can be stunted by a lack of stimulation and by childhood traumas, such as violence and sexual abuse, said Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, a pediatrician and expert on child development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Des Moines Register)

Cedar Rapids pediatrician earns national honor
A member of Mercy Medical Center’s pediatric clinic has earned a national honor. Rick Mersch, MD, FAAP is one of seven pediatricians across the country recognized as Parents magazine’s 2014 “Our Favorite Pediatricians.” Dr. Mersch was selected after receiving nine nominations on his behalf from patients last spring. (KGAN)

National News

Federal doctor ratings face accuracy, value questions
Consumers searching this fall for the best doctor covered by their new public or private insurance plan won’t get very far on a federal database designed to rate physician quality. The Affordable Care Act requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide physician quality data, but that database offers only the most basic information. It’s so limited, health care experts say, as to be useless to many consumers. (USA Today)

Scalpel or scope? Cutting health care costs one appendix at a time
Consumer price comparison is almost nonexistent in the U.S. health care system, but a new study shows that when given the choice between a less costly “open” operation or a pricier laparoscopy for their children’s appendicitis, parents were almost twice as likely to choose the less expensive procedure – when they were aware of the cost difference. The study, published in the September issue of Annals of Surgery online, shows that providing pricing information upfront can influence patient choice of surgical procedures and potentially lead to cost savings in health care. (University of Utah)

Hospitals seeking physician alignment
More and more, alignment decisions are pivotal strategy decisions. Although many dynamics are at work, the core concept is that emerging changes to the financial underpinnings of the healthcare industry will reward organizations that provide care more efficiently and deliver value. The changes required go well beyond optimizing the cost components of the efficiency equation. (HealthLeaders Media)

Burying Ebola victims in Liberia
When Matthew Lincoln died, I was embedded with a group of aid workers tracking down Ebola patients. We were on our way to a treatment center with his 23-year-old wife, Garmai and their 11-month-old son, Freeman, both of whom are believed to be infected with Ebola. We picked up Garmai and Freeman in the small village of Mahwa, but instead of traveling directly to the clinic, we detoured to pick up another suspected Ebola patient. A four-hour trip stretched to six, and by the time we reached our destination, Matthew was dead. (ABC News)

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

Iowa News

‘Exciting’ changes happening in Iowa’s mental health care
Multiple years in the making, Iowa’s new method of delivering mental health services is underway. The early feedback from officials on the ground is mostly positive and cautiously optimistic. Officials think the transition from services delivered by counties to a collaboration of multiple-county regions will improve mental health care in the state. But many also caution that significant challenges remain, such as shortages of patient beds and psychiatric physicians and the lack of a statewide system for treating children with mental health issues. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Mercy Medical Center trains fire and rescue crews
A helicopter made a rare landing on the Lyons-Decatur practice field last week. The landing was part of a training for local fire and rescue teams to learn about procedures when working with a medical flight crew. The evening began with training at the Lyons Fire Hall, with Bruce Blatchford, flight paramedic from Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, giving a presentation. (Lyons Mirror-Sun)

Cherokee hospital opens new expansion
Improving health care facilities and expanding the scope of services are top priorities for the Cherokee Medical Center. Over the last year, the medical center has undergone significant renovations. Today, that result of those renovations were shown to the public. The hospital spent nearly $3.8 million to renovate the emergency room, admitting area, and operating room. (KMEG)

Remembering the Mercy Air Med crash victims
It’s been nearly two years since three crew members aboard the Mercy Air Med helicopter lost their lives when the aircraft crashed into a field in Ventura. Dozens of people gathered at Mercy Medical Center North Iowa to celebrate and remember the lives of Russ Piehl, Gene Grell and Shell Lair-Langenbau. “It’s not an easy day, but no day since this happened has been easy,” explains Melody Piehl, the wife of paramedic Russ Piehl. (KIMT)

Clinton hospital celebrates its history
The evolution of Mercy Medical Center-Clinton has been extensive. What else can be expected for an organization that dates back 125 years? The hospital is the combination of several branches into the one that stands today. Its history carries roots from the Agatha Hospital, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Jane Lamb Memorial Hospital and Samaritan Health System. On Friday, Mercy honored that heritage with its 125-year celebration. (Clinton Herald)

National News

For many new Medicaid enrollees, care is hard to find, report says
Enrollment in Medicaid is surging as a result of the Affordable Care Act, but the Obama administration and state officials have done little to ensure that new beneficiaries have access to doctors after they get their Medicaid cards, federal investigators say in a new report. The report, to be issued this week by the inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, says state standards for access to care vary widely and are rarely enforced. (New York Times)

Free-standing EDs with primary care seen as new rural model
Georgia—where Republican elected officials have rejected expanding Medicaid, which hospital leaders say would help the finances of rural facilities—has proposed a regulatory change that some observers think could help rural hospitals across the country. In March, Gov. Nathan Deal said financially struggling rural hospitals can offer fewer inpatient services and still keep their hospital licenses. In essence, they can convert into free-standing emergency departments that stabilize and transfer patients to bigger hospitals. (Modern Healthcare)

What’s behind the slowdown in health care costs
A flood of 77 million people from the baby boomer generation have been turning 65, the age of Medicare eligibility, since 2011. These younger enrollees have been a leading factor driving down the rate at which health care spending is increasing, because the younger boomers tend to be healthier than older enrollees and therefore use fewer medical services. (U.S. News & World Report)

HIMSS analytics sees progress in hospitals’ advanced EHR adoption
After a period of stagnation in electronic health record adoption in 2013, hospitals in the first and second quarters of 2014 have taken steps to advance health IT efforts, according to the latest HIMSS Analytics data, EHR Intelligence reports. HIMSS Analytics is the research arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. HIMSS Analytics uses an eight-stage EMR Adoption Model to track the progress of hospitals and health systems in implementing EHRs. (iHealthBeat)

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

Iowa News

Sanford Sheldon Medical Center provides community benefits
Sanford Sheldon Medical Center has released some figures that show the impact that the facility had on the community last year. Sanford Sheldon says they provide $1,800,524 in community benefits to Sheldon, according to a recently-completed assessment of those programs and services. That amount, based on 2013 figures, includes $1,350,660 in uncompensated care and $56,405 in free or discounted community benefits that Sanford Sheldon specifically implemented to help Sheldon and O’Brien County residents. (KIWA)

Medical center launches expansion just five years after first opening its doors
More than 200 people attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the $10 million expansion project at UnityPoint Health-Jones Regional Medical Center in Anamosa. “This is recognition that Jones Regional has a bright future,” Jones Regional Medical Center CEO Eric Briesemeister said, adding that the hospital is a model for other rural hospitals. The hospital is expanding just five years from when the facility first opened. (Anamosa Journal-Eureka)

Wait time averages 35 days for Youth Mental Health Services
Recent data demonstrates the ongoing need for support for funding youth mental health services in the Quad Cities. Based on information pulled from the 2013-14 school year, wait times for a child to see a mental health professional average 35-60 days in the Iowa Quad Cities. Although you can see a counselor and get a follow-up appointment quickly in the Illinois Quad Cities, it takes up to 25 days for a psychiatric evaluation with the current service model. (Quad-Cities Online)

Food-borne illness sees increase in Iowa
In 2013, Iowa had 342 cases of shigella — bacteria closely related to salmonella that causes shigellosis. This was a 522 percent increase over the average number of cases for the past three years, according to the annual disease report released this month by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The majority of cases were due to a community-wide outbreak in western Iowa beginning in September and lasting through the end of the year. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

National News

Personal attention seen as antidote to rising health costs
Kevin Wiehrs is a nurse at a busy doctor’s office in Savannah, Ga. But instead of giving patients shots or taking blood pressure readings, his job is mostly talking with patients like Susan Johnson. Johnson, 63, a retired restaurant cook who receives Medicare and Medicaid, has diabetes, and she already met with her doctor. Afterwards, Wiehrs spends another half hour with her, talking through her medication, exercise and diet. (Kaiser Health News)

Senators: Widen Medicaid program for frail seniors
More than a dozen U.S. senators from both parties are calling on the Obama administration to broaden a Medicaid program for the nation’s frailest seniors, calling it a proven alternative to pricier nursing home care as states seek to limit long-term medical costs. In a letter released Thursday, the senators urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to follow through on plans to loosen restrictions on the Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly. (Associated Press/KWWL)

HHS awarding $200M to fight chronic diseases
The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will spend more than $200 million over the next year to fight chronic diseases that make up the vast majority of the country’s spending on medical care. Federal dollars will be awarded to nearly 200 health departments and community health organizations to prevent and control the rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Each state will receive at least a half-million dollars, and 11 states will receive at least $5 million. (The Hill)

VA implements waiting room ‘smart chairs’
The Vitals Chair, designed by the kiosk maker Vecna, is not your typical waiting-room seat. It includes an antimicrobial touchscreen with magnetic stripe, blood pressure cuff, anti-bacterial wipes, thermometer, printer, sensor, and scale — all of which are FDA-approved, according to Vecna. The wheelchair-accessible seat has one power cord and a network cable but no hard drive, because it does not store data. (InformationWeek)

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

Iowa News

Horn Memorial Hospital provides community benefit
Horn Memorial Hospital provides $709,377 in community benefits to Ida Grove and the surrounding communities according to a recently completed assessment of those programs and services. That amount, based on 2013 figures, includes $495,572 in uncompensated care and $193,969 in free or discounted community benefits that Horn Memorial Hospital specifically implemented to help Ida County and the surrounding communities. (Mapleton Press)

Britt hospital opens Senior Life Solutions program
Hancock County Memorial Hospital and Psychiatric Medical Care opened Senior Life Solutions to a public tour Sept. 16. Senior Life Solutions is a program geared toward helping senior-citizen-aged residents with emotional and social needs. “It’s the first program like this in the state of Iowa,” program coordinator Kasie Christensen said. The program’s staff will work with participants in group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy and other services provided in the third floor of HCMH in Britt. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Oncology, hematology now offered in Adair County
Adair County Health System is adding services to Adair County Medical Clinics and Adair County Memorial Hospital. Beginning this month, Angela Sandre, DO from MOHA Cancer Center of Iowa will see patients at Greenfield Adair County Medical Clinic and be overseeing chemotherapy at Adair County Memorial Hospital. (Creston News Advertiser)

Coventry Health Care and Mercy Medical Center Bolster Collaboration
Coventry Health Care and Mercy Medical Center reported an expansion of their existing collaboration. Coventry and Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines noted that they currently provide Medicare-eligible Coventry members with coordinated care. According to a media release, the new plan, called Carelink from Coventry, powered by Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines, also will be available to employer groups. (Insurance News Net)

Burgess Health Center nurse receives Patriot Award
Burgess Health Center Director of Emergency Services Karla Copple, RN, recently received the Patriot Award from Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve for her support of employees who are active in the National Guard or National Reserve. Employees serving in the National Guard or Reserve can nominate their supervisors for the Patriot Award to recognize efforts that support employees’ military service. (Mapleton Press)

National News

Report: Admission of uninsured at hospitals dips
The number of uninsured patients admitted to hospitals has dropped markedly this year, reducing charity care and bad debt cases, particularly in states that have expanded Medicaid coverage under the new federal health care law, a government report released Wednesday concluded. The report from the Department of Health and Human Services said hospitals in states that have taken advantage of new Medicaid eligibility levels have seen uninsured admissions fall by about 30 percent. The report estimated that the cost of uncompensated hospital care will be $5.7 billion lower in 2014. (Associated Press/KWWL)

Number of Latinos with insurance coverage surges under health care law
The federal health care law has dramatically increased coverage among Latinos, according to a new report that provides a comprehensive look at the effects of the Affordable Care Act on a historically underinsured community. Overall, the percentage of Latinos ages 19 to 64 lacking health coverage fell from 36 percent to 23 percent between summer 2013 and spring 2014. (Los Angeles Times)

Analysis: cost more than $2B
The total price tag for ObamaCare’s main enrollment portal now stands at more than $2 billion, according to a new analysis by Bloomberg Government. The new total, released Wednesday, includes efforts to construct and then fix after serious technical problems threatened to shutter the site last fall. In all, implementation of the Affordable Care Act has cost more than $73 billion since its enactment in 2010, the analysis found. (The Hill)

Finding specialists tough for rural patients under managed care
Diane Kantoff’s job is to find specialists who will treat patients of the Plumas District Hospital Clinic in this quaint little town in the woods 80 miles northwest of Reno. These days, she said, when it comes to patients on Medi-Cal, doctors’ offices frequently tell her “no” before she is even done speaking. “It’s just been kind of a nightmare,” she said. Her lament feels all too familiar to other health workers in rural Plumas. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Feds target physician-owned companies for unnecessary surgeries
Federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit last week against a network of physician-owned companies. They said it involved 35 doctors nationwide and that it led some of them to perform risky surgeries that were not necessary, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor. Last year CBS News reported a story focused on a doctor named Aria Sabit. He is now accused of overbilling Medicare and harming patients, simply to sell more hardware. (CBS News)

IV fluids shortage continues in hospitals
As flu season looms, materials management and pharmacy teams are anxiously watching their IV fluid supplies. Despite hopes that the months-long saline solution shortage would clear up over the summer, the situation has not improved and there are indications that it has worsened. (HealthLeaders Media)

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