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

Iowa News

Dubuque County supervisors urges state-level action on mental health funding
Dubuque County supervisors Monday took state leaders to task for an alleged failure to address inequalities in county contributions for mental health funding. Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution calling on the Legislature and Governor Terry Branstad to equalize the funding basis for mental health services across the state. Dubuque County is one of nine Iowa counties that form Mental Health/Disability Services of the East Central Region. Each county contributes mental health funding for the region as a whole. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

Link between gut bacteria, MS discovered
Researchers are now saying bad gut bacteria – or an insufficient amount of good bacteria – may have a direct link to multiple sclerosis (MS). “Every human carries trillions of bacteria in their gut and recent advances in research indicate that these tiny passengers play an important role in our overall health maintenance,” says Ashutosh Mangalam, PhD, assistant professor of pathology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. In a study published online in the journal Scientific Reports, Mangalam and his team say that MS patients do have a distinct microbiome from their healthy peers. (Science Daily)

National News

Judge sides with hospitals over California ballot initiative to cap executive pay
A Sacramento County judge has ruled that a proposed ballot initiative to limit hospital executives’ pay violates a prior deal between the labor union that backs it and the California Hospital Association (CHA), which opposes it. The judge ruled Friday in a case involving a proposed November initiative asking voters to limit any hospital executive’s salary and expense allowance to that of the president of the United States. CHA sued, arguing that the initiative violated a previous settlement with United Healthcare Workers-West. (Associated Press/Mercury News)

Storm clouds gather around Kentucky Medicaid plan
A thunderstorm rumbled through Frankfort Wednesday as Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin laid out his sweeping proposal to reshape the state’s Medicaid plan into one he predicts will encourage responsible health choices and teach Kentuckians the basics of paying for health care. But Bevin’s plan has stirred up a storm among health advocates opposed to changes that would have a profound impact on hundreds of thousands of the 1.3 million Kentuckians on Medicaid. (Courier Journal)

How technology can deliver broad improvements in health care
According to Kenneth Kizer, director of the Institute for Population Health Improvement at the University of California, Davis, using technologies to improve population health is still in its infancy, but it is clear that they will fundamentally change the nature of health care in coming years by connecting patients and caregivers in ways previously unimaginable, making health care more convenient, helping people stay healthy and patients recover from illness more quickly. (Wall Street Journal)

Sub-specialty hospitalists on the rise
The hospital-only specialty, which originated in primary care in the 1990s, has caught on throughout numerous sub-specialties such as gastroenterology and general surgery services. The growth of the hospitalist is driven in part by physicians’ desires for greater work-life balance, particularly when it comes to call coverage. Hospitals themselves are also embracing the trend, as patients increasingly expect prompt, high-quality care. The role of the hospitalist is alluring to physicians and hospitals and its growth is well established. But cultural and recruiting challenges remain. (HealthLeaders Media)

Retail clinics: Convenience comes at a cost in health care
While they are convenient, retail clinics and urgent care centers are driving up health spending because more people are seeking care for routine illnesses more often, according to a new report from PwC’s Health Research Institute. That shift may reduce costs in the long-run by improving patients’ overall health and wellness, but the increased use of convenient care will be a major reason for medical cost inflation for the foreseeable future. (Fierce Healthcare)

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

Iowa News

Scott County’s mental health court aims to offer treatment, not jail
Scott County will soon become home to the first mental health court in Iowa. The new mental health court procedure is part of an effort to cut back on the number of people with mental health conditions being put in jail. The project is a collaborative partnership between Interfaith Quad Cities and Genesis Philanthropy. The new court comes at a time when the state of Iowa has been under fire for lagging behind other states in providing access to mental health treatment. (WQAD)

Heroin’s hold: Iowa legislation allows responders to use ‘opioid antagonists’
Iowa lawmakers took steps this year to better equip emergency first responders and medical technicians to help deal with people experiencing a life-threatening drug overdose. Under legislation that took effect April 6, law officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and others are authorized to procure, possess and administer emergency drugs known as opioid antagonists to people who are experiencing an overdose. The new law also allows “people in a position to assist” to possess and administer the opioid antagonist if they believe it is necessary. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Medication historians help prevent adverse drug interactions
Being a medication historian is more of an art than a science. Martin Cortez and Andrew Welding interview patients who are admitted to UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s about the medications they’re taking, which can range from a couple of prescription drugs to more than a dozen. “We try to figure out what they’re all taking for medications currently and get that up-to-date for the hospitalists, the nurses and everybody else here,” Welding explained. (Sioux City Journal)

National News

NC lawmakers consider undoing regulations that ‘ration’ where hospitals can build
Last year, the North Carolina House voted 114-2 to designate the bobcat as the state’s official state cat. Now the bobcat bill is a threat to community hospitals, says the N.C. Hospital Association. Not with the bobcat provision, but with the new text that replaced the bobcat language which has nothing to do with bobcats. Instead, it would repeal a special health care law that controls where new hospitals, surgical centers, medical scanning clinics, drug rehab centers, hospices and other medical services are placed. (Fayetteville Observer)

Time to fix Georgia’s health care provider shortages
Georgia needs a health care system that is sustainable. When a hospital closes, it hurts the whole community and carries ramifications for the entire state’s economy. Closing Georgia’s health insurance coverage gap through expanded Medicaid eligibility is a critical step to help the state’s medical providers get paid for services they now deliver charitably, while also giving more than 300,000 people who fall into the gap access to treatment. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Real-time sharing of records ‘virtual safety net’ for patients at California Hospitals
Six East Bay-area hospitals in California plan to share patient records in real-time to create a “virtual safety net” for patients. “We’re trying to use technology and available information to make it so no matter what door a patient walks through in Alameda County, we’re all on the same page,“ said Jim Hickman, CEO of Better Health East Bay. The secure data-sharing platform integrates with each hospital’s electronic health record system and will help care teams understand each patient’s usage patterns and care needs in the community. (Fierce Healthcare)

How telemedicine is transforming health care
After years of big promises, telemedicine is finally living up to its potential. Driven by faster internet connections, ubiquitous smartphones and changing insurance standards, more health providers are turning to electronic communications to do their jobs—and it’s upending the delivery of health care. Telemedicine’s future will depend on how—and whether—regulators, providers, payers and patients can address the challenges. (Wall Street Journal)

Without federal funding, counties brace to confront Zika on their own
Communities across the country are preparing for the arrival of the Zika virus, but they aren’t preparing equally. With no aid in sight from the federal government, local officials are preparing as best they can for the possibility that Zika could soon spread within the United States. But the task has fallen to a patchwork of state and local programs that have a huge disparity in financial resources and manpower. (Washington Post)

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

Iowa News

State launches health alert notification network
State officials say five Iowa health systems have launched a statewide alert notification network. The Statewide Alert Notification system provides real-time, secure notifications to care teams regarding emergency room visits, admissions and discharges of their members, according to a news release issued Friday by the Iowa Medicaid Enterprise and the Iowa Department of Public Health. The five systems in Iowa currently receiving alerts include Broadlawns Medical Center, Unity Point Health Partners, Iowa Health+, University of Iowa Health Alliance and Mercy Accountable Care Organization. (Quad-City Times)

Iowa can’t afford to wait for mental health reform
State policymakers and elected officials have long acknowledged that when it comes to mental health services, Iowa fails almost every conceivable test. A 2015 report estimates there are 120,000 people in Iowa with a serious mental illness, but only about 300 psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who can prescribe medication. Iowa now ranks last among the states in terms of the available state psychiatric beds. (Des Moines Register)

Five Iowa health centers win federal grants to provide dental care
Health centers in five Iowa communities have received nearly two million dollars in federal funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for dental care. HRSA spokesman Martin Kramer says the money is going to facilities in Council Bluffs, Fort Dodge, West Burlington, Urbandale and Ottumwa. “Health centers can use this funding to hire more staff, to increase their capacity to see more patients or to build or expand on oral health facilities. (Radio Iowa)

One of Iowa’s oldest pharmacies has been sold
Hammer Pharmacy in Des Moines, one of the state’s oldest drug stores, has been sold to GRX Holdings of West Des Moines. Hammer was founded in 1872 by Alvin Hammer and Russell Johnson Sr., partnered with Hammer in 1942 and eventually took over the business. It is now part of GRX’s group of 17 independent pharmacies. Hammer Pharmacy will continue to offer free delivery, immunizations and medication packaging, said Nicolle McClure of GRX. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Lawmakers should fix Washington’s mental-health system, not politicize it
Across the state, hospitals are proposing to add psychiatric capacity and open new psychiatric units. But despite strong community support and investment of state capital funds, these projects often get mired in state approval through the “certificate of need” process. Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner Craig Adams has scheduled a hearing to address issues in the mental-health system as a whole and wants to understand the impact on local hospitals and the Washington State Hospital Association. Washington’s community hospitals look forward to being part of the solution. (Seattle Times)

California program saving lives and saving money
In Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor, frequent health care users representing just one percent of the patient population account for about one-fourth of health care spending. That’s why health professionals across California have started targeting this problem group. The Illumination Foundation launched the program with the goal of breaking the vicious cycle into which these patients had fallen, then following them over a two-year period. The program saved $14 million in health care spending for just 37 people over two years. (Kaiser Health News)

Pay-for-performance program has improved Oregon’s health
Oregon Health Plan’s pay-for-performance program has resulted in three years of continued health care improvement for nearly all the state’s Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs). So says a new Oregon Health Authority report which indicates each of the state’s CCOs showed improvement in a majority of the health care goals tied to performance. For 2015, CCOs received a combined total $168 million in incentive payments based on the level of care they provided to low-income Oregonians. (Portland Business Journal)

How can hospitals improve patient satisfaction? By engaging their employees
For years, hospitals earned high (or low) ratings based almost entirely on the medical care they delivered. Today, providing a positive patient experience has become an equally important focus for hospitals around the country. A good way for hospitals to help their patients have good experiences is by focusing on their employees. Engaged employees do far more than simply show up on time and perform satisfactorily, and instead go the extra mile to care for patients. (STAT)

The challenge of taking health apps beyond the well-heeled
When you hear the phrase “digital health,” you might think about a Fitbit, the healthy eating app on your smartphone, or maybe a new way to email the doctor. But Fitbits aren’t particularly useful if you’re homeless, and the nutrition app won’t mean much to someone who struggles to pay for groceries. A small but growing effort is underway to use digital technologies – particularly cellphones – to improve the health of Americans who live on the margins. They may be poor, homeless or have trouble getting or paying for medical care even when they have insurance. (Iowa Public Radio)

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

Iowa News

Iowa ranks high in report on well-being of children
When it comes to wellness, Iowa’s kids are better off than those in most other states, according to a new report, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The state ranked third nationally in the 2016 Kids Count Data Book, which looks at the health, education, economic well-being and communities of the country’s children. Even still, one out of every seven Iowa children is living in poverty — and that has a ripple effect. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Adel family goes to Capitol Hill to help kids with special health care needs
From visiting doctors to finding the right specialists, it can be difficult for parents to manage care for kids with complex conditions. One family from Adel is taking their story to Capitol Hill to talk to the Iowa delegation about how to make it easier for families to navigate. It’s part of the Children’s Hospital Association’s Family Advocacy Day. They’re encouraging lawmakers to pass a bipartisan bill called the ACE Kids Act, which stands for Advanced Care for Exceptional Kids. (WHO)

Record number of nurses apply for loan forgiveness program
Iowa College Aid has received a record number of applications for a loan forgiveness program for Iowa registered nurses and nurse educators for the 2015-16 academic year. The 331 applications mark an increase of 7.1 percent from 2014-15. Started in 2007, the program offers loan repayment assistance to registered nurses employed in Iowa and nurse educators teaching at eligible colleges and universities in Iowa. This year, 40 recipients qualified for loan repayment awards of up to $2,340, based on full-time employment. (Business Record)

Mercy Iowa City to close skilled nursing unit
Mercy Iowa City will shut down its skilled nursing unit at the end of June in response to declining demand, said Margaret Reese, the hospital’s spokesperson. Reese said Monday the unit will officially close June 30, although officials decided to close it several months ago and staff have already discharged the final two patients. “It really wasn’t necessary for us to keep it open,” Reese said. She said the hospital did not lay off staff as a result of the closure and transitioned the unit’s nurses into other nursing jobs. (Iowa City Press Citizen)

National News

Kansas committee seeks broader view of behavioral health efforts
Funding limitations and a sometimes-narrow focus have kept Kansas mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention groups from fully coordinating their efforts. Sarah Fischer, director of prevention and promotion services for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said a council subcommittee will now work with mental health, substance abuse, problem gambling and suicide prevention organizations to identify and focus on common concerns. (Kansas Health Institute)

A small town in Maine bands together to provide opioid addiction treatment
About 10 years ago, Bridgton, a town of just 5,000 residents in Maine, began showing signs of a serious drug problem. “I had a lot of young people calling the agency to come into treatment,” says Catherine Bell, director of Crooked River Counseling. Like so many states, Maine is facing a chronic shortage of treatment for opioid addiction. The problem is especially acute in rural parts of the state where there are no addiction doctors and the nearest methadone clinic is at least an hour’s drive away. (NPR)

New for-profit medical schools springing up across U.S.
For-profit medical schools are starting to pop up around the country, promising to create new family doctors for underserved rural regions. Rural states like Idaho need more general practitioners, with the baby boom generation aging and expanded insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act making health care more accessible. But critics of the new schools question whether companies can properly train the nation’s next crop of doctors. (Associated Press)

Replacement nurse alleges that Twin Cities hospital strike is hurting care
Tracy Mitchum, a replacement nurse from Georgia, stopped working at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids Wednesday, citing concerns about the quality of patient care while the hospital’s regular nurses are on strike. Allina Health replaced its 4,800 regular nurses at Mercy and four other Twin Cities hospitals with 1,400 temporary nurses when a seven-day strike, triggered by a dispute over health insurance benefits, started Sunday morning. “There are some nurses working out of their scope of practice that are completely lost,” Mitchum said. (Star Tribune)

CDC issues preparedness plan for locally acquired Zika cases
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week issued an interim plan for responding to locally acquired cases of Zika virus infection in the continental U.S. and Hawaii. As of June 15, only travel-associated cases have been reported in the continental U.S., including three infants born with birth defects and three pregnancy losses. The response plan outlines state and CDC activities to prevent and reduce local transmission once it has been identified. (CDC)

(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.)

Hoagbin_mug2-smallFor nearly 40 years, Dr. Joe Hoagbin has been a member of the CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs medical staff, caring for three generations of patients from southwest Iowa while advancing health care on multiple fronts.

After graduating medical school, Dr. Hoagbin took a position as an emergency physician at Mercy. He planned to stay for a year, but because of wonderful relationships with physicians, nurses and patients, he never left. He led the emergency department for 26 years, followed by chief of staff and other roles that led to him being named chief medical officer almost 10 years ago.

During his years in training, Dr. Hoagbin recognized the importance of team work in health care. On his first night of work at Mercy, he wanted to change the power imbalance between physicians and nurses and asked the nurses to call him “Joe.” The nurses said they could not do it but would call him “Dr. Joe,” which is the name he is known by at Mercy and throughout the region to this very day.

Hoagbin_Staff-smallEmergency medicine was a new specialty when Dr. Hoagbin began his career. He established the standards for patient-centered quality emergency care, bringing a spirit of team collaboration, excellence in care and outstanding patient satisfaction that continues to this day. Dr. Hoagbin demonstrated his vision and leadership in establishing the Council Bluffs emergency medical services system (EMS) as well as other EMS systems throughout southwest Iowa. At one time, he was medical director of 13 EMS programs in the region.

Dr. Hoagbin has always been an innovator and looked for processes outside the box. He dislikes the phrase: “That’s the way we have always done it.” He’s been known to quote famous physician Dr. Rudolf Virchow, who said, “For as long as you live, always stay dissatisfied with the status quo.”

In 2009, he was awarded the highest honor in Alegent Health, the Spirit of Mission Award. The award recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond, demonstrating excellence in relation to four core values: reverence, integrity, compassion and excellence.