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

Iowa News

Study: Tougher rules could reduce Iowa teen driving deaths
Iowa could reduce by more than half its rate of motor vehicle accidents that kill teenagers if state lawmakers adopted a stronger graduated driver license law, according to a new national study. However, two key lawmakers and the state’s chief highway safety expert all said Monday it would be difficult to adopt tougher teen driver rules in a state where many young people in rural communities rely on cars and pickup trucks to drive to school, work and other activities. (Des Moines Register)

‘Rethink your drink,’ health officials tell Iowans
Iowa health officials want you to “rethink you drink” and watch out for those calories that you aren’t aware of that could be added to your waistline. Iowa Department of Public Health officials said the sneaky culprits are sugary drinks. They said they’re urging Iowans take a moment to think about what they’re drinking. “We take a lot of calories in that maybe we’re not aware of,” said Carol Voss, a registered dietitian and nutrition coordinator for the Iowa Department of Public Health. (KCCI)

National News

Kansas rejection of Medicaid expansion puts hospitals at risk
Two southeast Kansas hospitals — one in Independence, the other in Fort Scott — are among several in Kansas that might have to close in part due to the state’s failure to expand Medicaid. To prevent that, both are actively negotiating potential partnerships with neighboring hospitals. Officials at Mercy Hospital Independence and the Coffeyville Regional Medical Center are talking. Similar discussions are underway between Mercy Hospital Fort Scott and Via Christi in Pittsburg. (KCUR)

Supreme Court won’t hear case on Obamacare Medicare board
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the latest lawsuit against Obamacare, this time a challenge to a board that critics label a “death panel.” The case, Coons v. Lew, contested the constitutionality of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, among other complaints against Obamacare. The IPAB is designed to limit spending growth in Medicare, but the challengers say that it will result in limiting care for seniors. (Politico)

Survey: 97% of patients OK docs’ using technology during a visit
A new survey conducted by voice recognition software company Nuance Communications shows that patients don’t have a problem with their doctors using technology during visits, as long as technology doesn’t get in the way of a meaningful interaction with their physician. Nuance surveyed 3,000 patients in three countries: the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. They found that 97 percent of patients approved of their doctor using technology (including desktop computers and mobile devices) during a consultation, and an additional 58 percent said technology positively impacts their overall experience, especially when it’s “used collaboratively to educate or explain.” (MobiHealthNews)

No easy, reliable way to screen for suicides
Even a careful psychiatric examination of the co-pilot involved in last week’s Germanwings jetliner crash probably would not have revealed whether he intended to kill himself, researchers say. “As a field, we’re not very good at accurately predicting who is at risk for suicidal behavior,” says Matthew Nock, a psychology professor at Harvard. He says studies show that mental health professionals “perform no better than chance,” when it comes to predicting which patients will attempt suicide. (Iowa Public Radio)

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

Iowa News

Iowa’s newest senator finds her voice on veterans
With strong words and clear resolve, Sen. Joni Ernst introduced her first legislation last Monday in a floor speech we wish more Americans would hear. Ernst wisely abandoned references to breadbags and spoke with compelling compassion about a subject on which she excels: Veterans. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Little patient makes big strides
For the first five months of Henry Compart’s life, his legs were wrapped in plaster casts more than they were wiggling free, it seemed. The casts were there when his parents snuggled him. They made bathing and dressing him a chore. And they kept Henry from playing on his tummy. So when the final set of casts at last came off earlier this month, revealing a pair of perfectly straight feet — the first big milestone in the treatment of Henry’s clubfeet, which turned out to be one of the most difficult cases ever seen by doctors at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics — it was a special moment for the family. (Iowa City Press Citizen)

Mapleton holds groundbreaking ceremony
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Thursday, March 12, for the new Horn Physicians Clinic in Mapleton. The new building will feature more space due to the clinic growth since opening in 2011. Chris Nichols, CEO of Horn Memorial Hospital, said, “They (providers and staff) are cramped in a small space.” With the commitment of Dr. Curtis Hesse, ANRPs Jackie Crampton and Michele Koerner, and the staff, Horn Memorial and Horn Physicians Clinic started looking about a year ago for a space to expand in Mapleton. (The Mapleton Press)

Climbing a mountain to beat breast cancer
On a hot and humid July morning in Des Moines, Susan Brown, a 58-year-old breast cancer survivor, paused trekking up a steep hill to slow her heavy breathing. Nearly two months later, with 31 of her fellow Above + Beyond Cancer climbers, Susan traversed Mount Salkantay Pass in Peru, trekking as high as 14,842 feet. She stood with a backpack filled with prayer flags as snow flurried around her leaner body, stronger heart and expanding grin. Today, Susan feels healthier than before her cancer diagnosis. (The Des Moines Register)

Racing against clock, Heaton tries to stall institute closures
State Rep. Dave Heaton can’t sleep. The Mount Pleasant Republican is awake in knots many nights, thinking about a proposal that would close two mental health institutes in rural Iowa. “It’s my town,” he said. “I know these people that work there. My interest really, though, is in the patients themselves.” Gov. Terry Branstad, also a Republican, recently decided to close two mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda, which serve rural Iowa. Now, Heaton is facing a race against the clock to try to pass legislation that would slow down the closures. (The Des Moines Register)

National News

How Boehner, Pelosi surprised everyone with a $200 billion deal
A few days after the chaos of a failed vote to fund the Department of Homeland Security, Speaker John Boehner asked for a meeting, alone, with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Compromise was on his mind. With automatic cuts to doctors under Medicare set to take effect at the end of March, Boehner (R-Ohio) wanted to explore the possibility of a deal that would end the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), and with it a problem that has dogged Congress for nearly two decades. The March 4 meeting in Pelosi’s (Calif.) office on the second floor of the Capitol was brief, lasting only 11 minutes. But on the central question that has for years thwarted deal-making between the parties — whether to raise taxes — Boehner got the answer he was looking for. (The Hill)

Colleges getting out of health insurance business
The federal health care overhaul is leading some colleges and universities to get out of the health insurance business. Experts are divided on whether this change will be good or bad for students. Some call it an inevitable result of health care reform and a money-saver for students since insurance in the marketplace is usually cheaper than the college plans. Others worry that more students will go without health insurance since their premiums won’t be folded into the lump sum they pay for school, and they say college health plans offer more coverage for the money than other options. (The Washington Post)

Online program converts physicians to family doctors
A group at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine could have an impact on Arkansas and Oklahoma with an online program launched last year to retrain doctors from other fields to help fill the growing demand for primary care physicians. Dr. Leonard W. Glass, M.D., president of Physician Retraining & Reentry through the UC-San Diego School of Medicine, notes that more than 30 million Americans are projected to obtain health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and every day about 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare. “I started this program because I realized that unless someone does something, the entire health-care delivery system is going to come to a screeching halt in about five or 10 years because of the shortage of family doctors,” Glass said by phone recently. (Times Record)

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

Iowa News

UnityPoint Health-Trinity finishes new heart center, ER
UnityPoint Health-Trinity has finished construction on its new heart center and emergency department. Hospital workers are now training for opening day, which will be Sunday, April 19. The new emergency department will include trauma, short stay, and radiology rooms for patients. The facility will improve patient safety, privacy and coordination of care. (WQAD)

Cherokee hospital CEO Comstock to retire
Cherokee Regional Medical Center CEO John Comstock, has announced that he will retire in September. CRMC’s Board of Directors and UnityPoint Health have named CRMC Senior Vice President David Liebsack as Comstock’s successor, following a transition process. Comstock has served as CEO of Cherokee Regional Medical Center since joining the organization in 1996. (Cherokee Chronicle Times)

Wearables help manage chronic diseases
Erik Nieuwenhuis is excited about the Apple Watch and other wearable devices coming down the pipeline that could change the way he and other diabetics monitor their blood sugar levels. Medical technology company Dexcom has developed an app for the smartwatch, which is expected to go on sale in April, That will allow its continuous glucose monitor to wirelessly transmit glucose readings in real time directly to Apple Watch. (Sioux City Journal)

Robillard tapped as interim UI president
UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard would become the interim University of Iowa president later this year under a plan proposed Wednesday by the president of the Iowa state Board of Regents. Robillard also is the chairman of the search committee looking for a replacement for retiring UI President Sally Mason. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

National News

Senate will wait to vote on Medicare deal
Senators will wait until they return from a two-week recess to vote on a Medicare deal that passed the House on Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said senators will “move to it very quickly” once they return from the recess next month. “I want to reassure everyone … we’ll move to it very quickly when we get back,” McConnell said, adding he expects it will pass the Senate. The House voted Thursday to repeal automatic payment cuts to doctors under Medicare, known as the “doc fix.” (The Hill)

Ebola not mutating into ‘supervirus,’ study finds
The Ebola virus that is causing the current outbreak in West Africa is not mutating as quickly as earlier reports had suggested, a new study finds. This finding helps allay fears that the virus could change into a more infectious or deadly form, the researchers said. In the study, published online today (March 26) in the journal Science, researchers compared virus samples from people in Africa who became infected with Ebola up to nine months apart. (CBS News)

Bill would give TN special Medicaid funding
Tennessee hospitals that treat large numbers of low-income or uninsured patients will collect special Medicaid payments under a provision in a major health care bill that passed the House Thursday and now goes to the Senate. If the measure becomes law, Tennessee will no longer be the only state in the nation ineligible for the extra funding intended to help reimburse hospitals for providing care to people that aren’t able to pay. (Murfreesboro Daily News Journal)

New York City to teens: txt me with mental health worries
The majority of teenagers with mental health issues don’t get help. But maybe if help were just a text message away — they wouldn’t be so hesitant to reach out. That’s the thinking behind NYC Teen Text, a pilot program at 10 New York public high schools that allows teens to get help with mental health issues by text. (Iowa Public Radio)

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

Iowa News

Study: Sioux City hospitals add $246M to local economy
The two hospitals in Sioux City combine to generate 2,712 jobs that contribute $246 million in local economic benefits each year, according to a new study. Employees at UnityPoint Health — St. Luke’s and Mercy Medical Center also spend in excess of $100 million on retail sales in the community, generating $5.1 million in state sales tax revenues, according to the Iowa Hospital Association report. (Sioux City Journal)

Groups express support for Iowa bill on Medicaid oversight
The Iowa Legislature should have more oversight of this year’s plans to transition the state’s Medicaid program into private managed care, representatives for several medical groups told a House panel Wednesday. Lobbyists for groups representing children and older people, among others, expressed their support for a bill making its way through the House that would create a commission that provides transition guidelines and offers rules for private managed care contracts. The Senate passed the bill unanimously this month. (Associated Press/Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

How health systems are building ‘ecosystems’ of care
“We basically include all hospitals and all physicians in our state as members if you will,” said Tom Evans, president and CEO at the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative. “It’s based on the premise of the health care stakeholders – provider, patient, payer and purchaser – we really believe that the provider community should be proactively working to improve care.” The concept behind the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative was to have the providers come together, regardless of who they work for, on improving patient quality, safety and value. (Healthcare Finance News)

UnityPoint Health improves care for veterans through coordinated health records
Electronic health records at UnityPoint Health are now connected to the Department of Veterans Affairs through eHealth Exchange, the federal Health Information Exchange. Through this connection, clinicians can electronically share patient information across both systems to improve coordinated care for veterans regardless of location, UnityPoint announced in a recent press release. (Muscatine Journal)

Easing kids’ fears when visiting the doctor
It can be scary for any kid to visit the doctor, especially if you have to make several trips and have special surgeries and procedures. March is Child Life Month, which is a time dedicated to celebrating the specialists making it easier for kids to go through stressful situations. (KCCI)

National News

House passes Medicare deal in overwhelming 329-37 vote
The House on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to repeal automatic cuts to doctors under Medicare, endorsing a rare bipartisan deal that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) negotiated with Democrats. The bill, which passed by a vote of 329-37, puts Congress on the precipice of ending a nearly two-decades fight over a formula known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). (The Hill)

Obama will sign fix of Medicare doctor payments, without endorsing legislation
President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he’s ready to sign good bipartisan legislation to fix Medicare’s doctor payment problem, without endorsing any specific legislation. Without a fix, doctors face a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees, the consequence of a 1990s budget law that Congress has repeatedly waived. The House is expected to vote Thursday on a bill with rare support from both top leaders in the House that would permanently fix the problem. (U.S. News & World Report)

Obama health law hasn’t increased doctor burden, study finds
The implementation of the national health care overhaul has not, as once feared, been a burden to doctors, according a new report from a Massachusetts health care technology company and a New Jersey foundation. Even while 10 million Americans gained insurance coverage last year through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the proportion of new patients visiting primary care providers only rose slightly, to 22.9 percent in 2014 from 22.6 percent in 2013, the report said. And the new patients were no sicker than the patients those doctors saw in years past, said Josh Gray, vice president of research at athenahealth Inc. (Boston Globe)

House GOP approves budget to hike defense, slash safety-net programs
House Republicans pushed past their internal divisions to approve a budget blueprint Wednesday, putting the new Congress on track to notch a significant achievement once Senate Republicans pass their version by the end of the week. The ambitious but largely symbolic spending proposals adhere to Republican ideas for slashing social safety-net programs and lowering tax rates. But they have drawn criticism for dramatically boosting defense spending in a way that breaks with the Republican pledge to stick to deficit-lowering limits imposed at their own behest just a few years ago. (Los Angeles Times)

Medical identity theft is fastest-growing identity crime in the US
By now, most people are aware of the consequences that data breaches create by exposing personal information, including credit card fraud or tax fraud. However, until recently, medical identity theft, the fastest-growing identity crime in the country impacting more than 2.3 million Americans, has mostly flown under the radar. In February, Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, announced that its systems had been the target of a sophisticated external cyber attack. (St. Louis Business Journal)

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

Iowa News

Marion County hospitals have $51 million economic impact
Pella Regional Health Center and Knoxville Hospital and Clinics have a $51 million impact on the local economy, according to the latest study by the Iowa Hospital Association. The hospitals’ employees contribute more than $10.9 million in retail sales and about $650,000 in sales tax in the county. The study examined the jobs, income, retail sales and sales tax produced by hospitals and the rest of the state’s health care sector. (KNIA/KRLS)

Iowa Senate panel OKs bill to track psychiatric beds
Iowa officials would develop a system for tracking when a bed is available for a person needing psychiatric treatment under a bill approved Tuesday by a Senate panel, though there is some concern over implementation. Members of a Human Resources subcommittee approved the bill, which now heads to a full committee for consideration. The bill originated and was passed in the House. (Des Moines Register)

DHS chief fails to gain Senate panel endorsement
A key Senate committee has declined to endorse the reappointment of Iowa’s human-services director, leaving it up to the full Senate to decide whether he should keep his job. Charles Palmer, 76, drew praise and criticism Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Human Resources Committee. Critics said Palmer failed to work with the Legislature, especially in deciding to close two mental institutions and a facility for delinquent juveniles. (Des Moines Register)

Colon cancer awareness takes an interesting twist
A giant inflatable colon is on display at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa in Mason City and it’s open to the public as a way to bring awareness to the deadly cancer. The idea of the traveling super colon is to help raise awareness about why people need a colonoscopy. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer for men and women in the United States. But if detected early, the disease is treatable, according to Dawn Theilan at Mercy Medical. (KIMT)

National News

Highlights of bipartisan House plan on Medicare doctor fees
Highlights of the compromise released Tuesday by House Republican and Democratic leaders to permanently avoid yearly cuts in reimbursements for physicians treating Medicare patients. Cost figures were not released but are based on interviews with lawmakers, lobbyists and congressional staff. (Associated Press/KWWL)

CDC survey: 7.6 million fewer U.S. residents uninsured in first 9 months of 2014
An estimated 37.2 million U.S. residents lacked health insurance at some time during the first nine months of 2014, 7.6 million fewer than in 2013, according to preliminary estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The uninsured rate for adults under age 65 fell 4.5 percentage points in Medicaid expansion states, compared with 2.8 percentage points in non- expansion states. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

VA says it will relax 40-mile rule for private medical care
Responding to pressure from Congress and veterans groups, the Department of Veterans Affairs said Tuesday it is relaxing a rule that makes it hard for some veterans in rural areas to prove they live at least 40 miles from a VA health site. The change comes amid complaints from lawmakers and advocates who said the VA’s current policy has prevented thousands of veterans from taking advantage of a new law intended to allow veterans in remote areas to gain access to federally paid medical care from local doctors. (Associated Press/Miami Herald)

Baton Rouge emergency room shows the cost of Obamacare fight
Baton Rouge hospital is closing the only emergency room on the city’s impoverished north side, a real-world ripple effect of the ideological clash over President Barack Obama’s health-care law. The shutdown on April 1 serves as an early warning for hospitals in states such as Louisiana, where Republican Governor Bobby Jindal turned down federal money to expand the Medicaid program for the poor. Charity hospitals will lose billions of federal aid beginning late next year, a cut that was supposed to be offset as more residents were covered by Medicaid. (Bloomberg)

Many doctors who diagnose Alzheimer’s fail to tell patients
Doctors are much more likely to level with patients who have cancer than patients who have Alzheimer’s, according to a report released this week by the Alzheimer’s Association. The report found that just 45 percent of Medicare patients who’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s said they were informed of the diagnosis by their doctor. By contrast, more than 90 percent of Medicare patients with cancer said they were told by their doctor. “What we found is really shocking,” says Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services for the Alzheimer’s Association. (Iowa Public Radio)

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