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

Iowa News

Medicaid privatization still causing problems
Iowa state legislators gathered in Des Moines on Tuesday to discuss the Medicaid issue. Among them was Senator Amanda Ragan (D-Mason City). Ragan said the lawmakers listened to providers talk about the struggles they’re facing, some not having been paid by the private managed care organizations since the change happened. Ragan says the problems are starting at the top and are spilling down to the 500,000 Iowans who are on Medicaid. “We’ve got concerns about prior authorization, we’ve got concerns about the billing and then about reimbursement,” Ragan said. (KIMT)

Spencer Hospital lays out 5-year plan
A large portion of Thursday’s Spencer Hospital Board of Trustees meeting focused on the addition of several objectives to the hospital’s list of goals for the next five years. “About every five years, we work with our stake holders to develop a strategic plan for the hospital. We treat it, administratively, as kind of a strategic plan and also kind of an annual work plan as well to try and continue to maintain our focus on important priorities,” hospital President Bill Bumgarner explained. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

Driving deaths up in Iowa, state patrol blames distracted drivers
It has been a dangerous year for Iowa drivers, so far. With five traffic fatalities over the weekend, the death toll is now at 211 for 2016. That puts us on track to have 440 fatalities this year, which would be the highest since 2007, when there were 446. “It’s been crazier than normal,” said Sgt. Nathan Ludwig, Iowa State Patrol. “It’s a year where us in law enforcement, just shake our heads.” “A majority of the fatalities this year are attributed to texting and driving,” said Sgt. Ludwig. (WHO)

National News

Nurses quitting at Missouri hospitals
Missouri hospitals are bedeviled by a record turnover in nurses, according to a new report by the Missouri Hospital Association. The report found that 17.9 percent of nurses left their hospital jobs over the past year. That’s up from 15.7 percent the previous year and the highest in the 12-year history of the survey. The highest turnover is among mental health nurses at 29 percent, with 10.5 percent of jobs going unfilled. “Missouri is facing a mental health workforce shortage made worse by maldistribution and the aging of behavioral health providers,” the report said. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

More and more, schools use simulators to teach students
Patients don’t want to be practice dummies for medical students, so health care organizations increasingly are using real dummies. More and more, institutions such as the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Creighton University, the University of Iowa and many others are investing in simulators — high-tech, specialized mannequins and other devices — to give their students practice for procedures and to provide training in new techniques to veteran doctors and nurses. Students and medical providers don’t have to worry about injuring a patient when practicing on simulators. (Live Well Nebraska)

Small, urban hospitals fall behind on electronic data exchange
While more hospitals are exchanging information via both electronic and non-electronic means, small and rural hospitals are still fighting to catch up, according to a new brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. In 2015, about 90 percent of medium and large hospitals were able to send care records through electronic and non-electronic means, and 71 percent were able to receive records those ways. But when it comes to smaller, urban organizations, only 80 percent were able to send information electronically and non-electronically, and just 58 percent could receive data through both mediums. (Fierce Healthcare)

30 percent of children’s readmissions to hospitals may be preventable
One of the key indicators of the quality of a hospital’s care is how frequently its patients are readmitted within a month after being discharged. A study this month examined readmission rates for pediatric patients and found that nearly 30 percent of them may have been preventable. In more than three-quarters of those cases, researchers determined that hospital-related factors played a role. The most common hospital-related reasons had to do with how patients are assessed, postoperative complications or hospital-acquired conditions. (Kaiser Health News)

Failure to fund efforts to fight Zika reveals need to address public health disasters
Nearly 800 women in the United States and its territories have tested positive for a Zika infection. A dozen babies have been born with birth defects. In the past few weeks, researchers learned that in addition to spreading by mosquito bite, the disease can be sexually transmitted. Two cases in Florida are suspected of being the first in the U.S. to have been transmitted by local mosquitos. And yet, Congress left for its seven-week summer break without approving President Barack Obama’s request for $1.9 billion to deal with Zika. (Modern Healthcare)

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

Iowa News

UnityPoint Health St. Luke’s reveals new themed room
Kids being treated at one Sioux City hospital have a new alternative to the traditional hospital setting. UnityPoint Health St. Luke’s has opened its second “pediatric patient theme room.” It was organized by the Children’s Miracle Network, in partnership with Scheels All Sports. This room lets patients enjoy the great outdoors while they are inside the hospital. This is the hospital’s second theme room and they say they have two more in the finishing stages, with others planned for the future. The other current theme room is a car-themed room, created in partnership with Sioux City Ford. (Siouxland News)

Linn County agencies brush up on life-saving skills
More than a dozen emergency and law enforcement agencies responded to a mock mass casualty Monday night. The training simulated a collision between a school bus and a car. Robins Firefighters were the first to arrive on scene. Just a few moments later other agencies from across the region arrived for support. How these agencies work together is the main purpose behind this drill. About 100 officials responded to this drill: their most difficult task was deciding who needs what sort of care. In a process they call triage. (KCRG)

National News

Maryland hospitals find care transformation demands consumer engagement
In January 2014, Maryland’s hospitals agreed to partner with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation on a five-year experiment to test whether a shift in hospital focus from acute emergency care, surgeries and inpatient stays toward preventive, community-based care could not only control cost growth but also help people get and stay healthy before they need a hospital visit. Last month that experiment reached its midpoint with Maryland’s hospitals building a solid foundation for care delivery transformation. (Fierce Healthcare)

Houston hospital to open Zika clinic
Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women is opening a Zika clinic to help pregnant women at risk of contracting the virus. The hospital’s maternal-fetal medicine experts will run the clinic. The clinic is open to pregnant women who show Zika symptoms, have traveled to Zika-affected countries or have partners who traveled to Zika-affected countries and/or show symptoms. Last week, Houston received $1.5 million to fight Zika from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Houston’s share is part of a CDC-sponsored nationwide $60 million package, which the organization is sharing with other states. (Houston Business Journal)

New voices in medical advocacy often are patients
In the world of advocacy for children with disabilities, life-threatening conditions and chronic disease, a new generation of advocates is emerging: the patients themselves. Advocacy has often been dominated by parents of children with the disorders. One of their greatest successes is that, through better daily care, funding, and advocacy, even in cases of lethal illness, the children generally are living longer, better lives. Some of those children now are at an age where they are forcing advocacy groups and their own parents to take their views into account, even when opinions diverge. (Wall Street Journal)

Many well-known hospitals fail to score 5 stars in Medicare’s new ratings
The federal government released its first overall hospital quality rating on Wednesday, slapping average or below average scores on many of the nation’s best-known hospitals while awarding top scores to dozens of unheralded ones. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rated 3,617 hospitals on a one- to five-star scale, angering the hospital industry, which has been pressing the Obama administration and Congress to block the ratings. Hospitals argue the ratings will make places that treat the toughest cases look bad. (Kaiser Health News)

Price transparency eludes consumers in 43 states
Just seven states achieved a passing grade for making usable health care price information available to consumers, a new study finds. The other 43 states failed at price transparency because they didn’t collect claims data from all payers or they failed to make the data accessible to the public through a website, according to the 2016 Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws. The report is meant to be a state-by-state resource that shows policymakers, health providers and consumers how states are progressing at price transparency. (Modern Healthcare)

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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 the hallmarks of the hospital mission in Iowa.)

bmiller smallestBarbara Miller has had a phenomenal impact on the quality of Great River Hospice since its inception. The program’s first social worker, she set the stage for social work’s role in hospice and developed meaningful programs, including:

  • Quilts: Barbara organized a service in which volunteers make quilts for every Great River Hospice patient – more than 3,000 to date. It has become a tradition that family members, friends and caregivers sign the quilts and many quilts are displayed at visitations.
  • Grief support group: Barbara developed a monthly community grief support group and her leadership has made it successful. She has the gift of becoming part of attendees’ inner circle in a way that makes them comfortable with opening up and sharing, which leads to healing.
  • Veterans’ recognition ceremonies: Barbara designed a recognition ceremony for our patients who are veterans and their families. It includes a video that honors their service to our country, a certificate and a pin.
  • Bereavement programs: Barbara implemented several bereavement programs that have a very good reputation in our community.

img034smallBarbara works hard to meet the needs of every hospice patient. For example, when a patient who lived alone and had no family needed help at home, Barbara stepped in. She organized a volunteer group to go to clean the patient’s home, do his laundry and prepare a home-cooked meal.

Additionally, Barbara helped developed Great River Hospice’s annual memorial service and she attends the visitations and funerals of many hospice patients because she knows the importance of showing her continued support.

Barbara’s family joins her in her mission. They have hosted Thanksgiving dinners at the hospice house and prepared breakfasts for hospice families. A son and daughter-in law cook monthly meals for families and one daughter is co-chair of the Annual Great River Hospice Fun/Run.

Barbara’s service comes from her compassionate heart. Her quiet heroism has affected the lives of many people in our community who have grieved or are grieving the loss of loved ones.

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

Iowa News

Pay Medicaid bills quickly, legislators tell managers
Legislators warned private Medicaid managers Tuesday that if they don’t improve how they pay bills from service providers, some of those agencies could soon close their doors. “We’ve got to get to it. We cannot leave people behind here. … It’s going to be make or break for our state,” Senator Liz Mathis (D-Cedar Rapids) told executives of the three national companies that took control of the state’s $4 billion Medicaid program in April. Mathis’ demand for a solution came at the close of a four-hour Senate hearing about the transition to private management of Medicaid. (Des Moines Register)

As political career sunsets, Harkin focuses on disability rights
Tom Harkin sat in the Democratic National Convention hall here Monday night listening to U.S. Senator Al Franken’s speech from the podium. Or, rather, trying to listen. The 76-year-old former senator from Iowa doesn’t hear as well these days, and found it hard to discern Franken’s words through the cacophony of the convention floor. Harkin, who retired in 2015 after 30 years in the Senate, is attending the convention this week as a delegate from Iowa — “a real delegate,” he clarified more than once — but spent much of the day celebrating, reliving and advocating for the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Des Moines Register)

Wellmark sees $35 million savings from ACO contracts
Iowa’s largest health insurer says it is seeing success from its efforts to reward hospitals and clinics for providing high quality care. Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield announced Tuesday that its Accountable Care Organization (ACO) contracts with 13 hospital and clinic systems saved $35 million in health care costs last year. Under such arrangements, hospitals and clinics are paid for keeping patients well, instead of just for ordering more tests and providing more treatments. Accountable care organizations’ goals include encouraging patients to take steps to catch health issues before they become serious and expensive problems. (Des Moines Register)

Former state trooper opens up about addiction
Michael Haugen has more time these days to reflect on his life as a small-town Iowa boy who grew up to be a proud lawman. “I loved (being an Iowa state trooper),” Haugen said. “It was very rewarding. I loved helping people.” You can imagine how people reacted when the person who swore to uphold the law was charged with breaking it. After an infection, Haugen became addicted to his prescription drugs. An addiction counselor at Iowa’s House of Mercy recovery center said Haugen’s case is unusual, but not at all surprising. Rebecca Peterson said she has seen it all. (WHO)

National News

Kentucky and feds near possible collision on altering Medicaid expansion
Anxiety and suspense are building in Kentucky as a potential clash over the state’s high-achieving Medicaid expansion nears next month between Governor Matt Bevin and the Obama administration. At issue is whether to make the poor pay and work to obtain health insurance under the federal-state program. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays the full cost of the expansion now, but in 2017 the state will begin absorbing some expenses and its share will rise to 10 percent in 2020. Bevin’s position is Kentucky can’t afford it. (Kaiser Health News)

Arizona becomes the last state to provide health insurance to low-income children
Arizona is rejoining a children’s health insurance program for low and middle-income families, becoming the last state in the union to provide coverage for health care, dental care, speech therapy and other services to families who don’t qualify for Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Monday that it had approved Arizona’s plan to unfreeze enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, effective Tuesday. The state estimates that 30,000 to 40,000 children will become newly eligible for health coverage as a result of the decision. (Washington Post)

Insurer, Topeka health provider create ACO
One of Kansas’ largest health insurers is trying to reduce costs and improve the quality of care for at least some of its customers in the Topeka area. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS) announced Monday that it had formed an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) with SCL Health. Mary Beth Chambers, spokeswoman for BCBSKS, said the ACO is a way of using funding to encourage health providers to improve their coordination of patients’ care. (Kansas Health Institute)

CMS proposes bundled payment models for cardiac and hip fracture care
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently proposed a new payment model that would bundle payment to acute care hospitals for heart attack and cardiac bypass surgery services. In addition, the proposed rule would expand the existing Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement model to include other surgical treatments for hip and femur fractures beyond hip replacement. “Hospitals are under a tremendous burden to help ensure these complex models work for patients,” said American Hospital Association Executive Vice President Tom Nickels, noting that this is the third mandatory demonstration project from the agency in a little over a year. (CMS)

Much work to be done for Americans with disabilities
The 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act is certainly something to celebrate. But it also highlights how much work still needs to be done. While the federal government has for decades required states to accommodate the special needs of people with disabilities like cerebral palsy and autism, Congress has never provided the money to do so. This leaves funding up to state and local governments, and oftentimes, there are no dollars to be found at these levels, either. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

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

Iowa News

Iowa Medicaid providers not getting paid on time, running into billing issues
Hundreds of Medicaid providers have run into billing issues since the April 1 transition of the state’s $5 billion Medicaid program over to three out-of-state, private insurers, according to a survey released by Iowa Democratic legislators on Monday. The survey includes responses from more than 400 Iowa providers, including doctors, hospitals, clinics and not-for-profit agencies. Legislators used social media to solicit the responses over about a month’s time, during June and July. Problems range from late and inaccurate payments to increased administrative costs and reduction in services. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Mercy opening new internal medicine clinic next week
Mercy Clinics announced Monday that it is opening a new internal medicine clinic next week. Mercy Clinics Internal Medicine Central Campus is located at the Mercy Medical Center Central Campus at 411 Laurel St.  It opens August 1. The new clinic will focus on adult patients only. Mercy Clinics said it now offers internal medicine services at four locations in Urbandale, West Des Moines, Des Moines and Ottumwa. (KCCI)

Birth trends difficult to predict midway through 2016
The miracle of life — and quantifying it — remains something of a mystery, much to the chagrin of local birth experts. At the respective birth centers of Mercy Medical Center-Dubuque and UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital, recent trends in birth rates have been difficult to pin down. Liz Tippet, director of maternal and child services at Mercy, said the number of babies born in the first six months of 2016 could indicate just about anything. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

National News

Children’s hospital in Minneapolis gets an intensive care simulation room
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota is opening an intensive care simulation in its Minneapolis hospital to train medical students and staff. The new room, which comes complete with child- and baby-size mannequins and beeping equipment, is meant to accurately reproduce the high-stress environment of an intensive care unit and will allow teams to practice procedures during simulations of medical emergencies. A debriefing room allows trainees to review video playback and analyze opportunities for improvement. (Twin Cities Pioneer Press)

Health centers quickly filling up space in Philly area malls
How about treating yourself to a shopping spree after getting good news at your annual physical? That opportunity has arrived, as more mall spaces are being used as medical offices and health centers to resuscitate struggling suburban malls. Retail and real estate experts say the trend is on the rise, especially among malls looking to fill space vacated by traditional retailers with new tenants to generate rental income and increase traffic. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Surgeon says apps may turn organ donation support into ‘concrete action’
Users of Tinder, the popular online dating app, usually swipe right on their mobile screens to gain a potential match. Come September, the same action might allow them to save lives by registering to be an organ donor. Dr. Thomas Fishbein, a transplant surgeon and the executive director of the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, is optimistic about the Tinder and Organize partnership in attracting potential donors, especially younger ones. His institute is trying a somewhat similar strategy by developing a free app that allows people to indicate their desire to be organ donors. (Kaiser Health News)

Hospitals show some benefit from ACA
One of the promises made by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) appears to be coming true: U.S. hospitals spent less on charity care for uninsured and underinsured patients in 2014, the first year of the health care law’s implementation. The drop in charity care — as well as a stabilization of bad debt expenses — was revealed after the Post-Gazette analyzed federal data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Medicare will test population-health approach to stroke and heart disease risk
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has selected 516 physician practices to participate in a payment initiative intended to change the way providers manage heart disease. Overall, nearly 20,000 health care practitioners and more than 3.3 million Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries will participate in the five-year effort. The new CMS Innovation Center model will use predictive modeling to generate personalized risk scores and develop specific plans in partnership with patients to reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. (Modern Healthcare)

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