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

Iowa News

North Liberty woman meets her heart donor’s family
A North Liberty woman who needed a heart transplant in 2012 met the family of the Wisconsin woman who gave her life at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on Tuesday. Amber Mattheis found out she had severe hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with end-stage heart failure in 2004. Then in 2011, she was in the hospital for a test when doctors told her she needed a heart transplant. (KCRG)

Woodbury County Board approves regional mental health services agreement
The Woodbury County Board on Tuesday approved a final sharing agreement for the delivery of mental health services through the new four-county Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services group. Beginning July 1, Woodbury, Plymouth, Cherokee and Sioux counties will work together in the reorganized state mental health system for low-income residents with mental, intellectual and developmental disabilities. (Sioux City Journal)

Blue Zones kicks off in Oskaloosa
The Blue Zones Project held its Oskaloosa kickoff Monday evening at the Oskaloosa High School gym. Blue Zones originated with Dan Buettner of National Geographic.  He found five areas of the world that had many people living healthy, active lives into their 100s. He interviewed those people to learn their secrets to long life. Buettner and several of his colleagues were in Oskaloosa Monday to help the local Blue Zones staff kick off their campaign to improve the community’s health and well-being. (Oskaloosa Herald)

National News

Is Obamacare a success? We might not know for a while
After months of focusing on how many people have or haven’t signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, we now have a rough total (7.5 million), and everyone’s keen to get to the bigger questions: How well is the law working? How many of those who signed up have paid their premiums and are actually getting coverage? How many were uninsured before they signed up? And just how big has the drop been in the number of uninsured people? (National Public Radio)

Health care reform unfinished, part 1: Hospitals take a hit
Surveys find there are 9 million fewer uninsured after the enrollment period prescribed by the Affordable Care Act. But that alone does not equal success for the Act, known as Obamacare. Hospitals have not yet realized the savings of universal health care but they’re already feeling the bite of cuts in payments. The Hospital Association of Pennsylvania embraced health care reform. Hospitals had provided billions in uncompensated care and the promise of universal coverage appealed not only to their bottom line but their values. (CBS Philadelphia)

Accountable Care Organizations explained
While ACOs are touted as a way to help fix an inefficient payment system that rewards more, not better, care, some economists warn they could lead to greater consolidation in the health care industry, which could allow some providers to charge more if they’re the only game in town.   ACOs have become one of the most talked about new ideas in Obamacare. Here are answers to some of the more common questions about how they work. (Kaiser Health News)

Census survey revisions mask health law effects
The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said. The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said. (New York Times)

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

Iowa News

Iowans getting healthier, state report shows
The Iowa Department of Public Health released its 2014 Healthy Iowans Progress Report on Friday afternoon, highlighting advances the state has made toward improving residents’ health as well as remaining barriers. The state began working on a health improvement plan in May 2011, which connected health planning efforts underway across the state in the private and public sectors. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Lung and kidney recipient to speak
Born with cystic fibrosis, an inherited and chronic disease that affects many organ systems but particularly the lungs, Steve Ferkau had little hope of surviving beyond age 40 without a lung transplant. He received his gift of life on April 8, 2000, when he was given a double-lung transplant from Algona teenager Kari Westberg, who had died unexpectedly after telling her parents of her desire to be an organ donor. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

National News

Report projects health care costs to dip slightly
The Affordable Care Act’s health insurance subsidies will cost a little less than previously thought, according to a new report released Monday. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that health insurance subsidies under the so-called “Obamacare” plan will total a little more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, instead of almost $1.2 trillion initially estimated. CBO said the 8 percent cut results largely from tighter cost controls by insurance companies offering plans on health care exchanges. (Associated Press/ABC News)

Providers lag as consumers set agenda
Health care consumers appear willing to dump the doctor’s office for cheaper and more convenient retail and remote alternatives that could amount to tens of billions of dollars in lost revenues for traditional providers if they fail to adapt, according to a report from PwC’s Health Research Institute. Despite controlling nearly 20 percent of the economy, traditional health care is years if not decades behind other industries when it comes to adopting a business model and technologies that assess and meet consumer needs. (HealthLeaders Media)

What a physician-led ACO can teach us about getting it right
When compared to larger, hospital-sponsored ACOs, rural and small physician-led ACOs face a tough challenge, because despite limited resources they need to come up with substantial upfront capital and infrastructure investment to establish a strong ACO foundation. To help ease this burden, 35 ACOs were selected to participate in the Advanced Payment Model ACO demonstration through a grant program from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. (The Health Care Blog)

Doctors overlook lucrative procedures when naming unwise treatments
When America’s joint surgeons were challenged to come up with a list of unnecessary procedures in their field, their selections shared one thing: none significantly impacted their incomes. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons discouraged patients with joint pain from taking two types of dietary supplements, wearing custom shoe inserts or overusing wrist splints after carpal tunnel surgery. The surgeons also condemned an infrequently performed procedure where doctors wash a pained knee joint with saline.  (Kaiser Health News)

(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.)

Picture-002Dr. Jennifer Cook, pediatric endocrinologist at Blank Children’s Hospital’s pediatric endocrinology and diabetes clinic, was nominated for the Iowa Hospital Heroes Awards because of her outstanding work as a physician and educator.  Dr. Cook received several nominations for the award, including those from hospital staff and parents of patients she has helped.

Dr. Cook earned her medical degree from the University of Iowa and completed her residency and fellowship training there as well. In 1994, she began her career at Blank Children’s Hospital, where she has practiced ever since, establishing the pediatric diabetes clinic. After 20 years, she has touched the lives of more than 10,000 patients and their families.

David Stark, chief operating officer of Blank Children’s Hospital, describes Dr. Cook as “extremely smart, compassionate and a dedicated physician.”  He also mentions how dedicated Dr. Cook is to the community; always participating in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk for the Cure, Camp Herko Hollow and American Diabetes Association events and activities.  She also sits on the boards of directors for these organizations.

Parents of patients with whom Dr. Cook has worked praised her devotion to her work and her patients by always treating them with the utmost respect and care they deserve.  Dr. Cook always provides time for her patients, no matter the request or the time of day.

Colleagues of Dr. Cook say she always has a respect for everyone on the inter-disciplinary care team, knowing that each member has something important to offer children and families.  This is truly a testament to her awareness of the importance of not only each child’s medical condition, but also their emotional response and adjustment.  She sees the whole child and their needs.

Dr. Cook is extremely deserving of the Heroes Award. She is a caring physician, a committed educator and an avid volunteer who never quite steps fully away from the children who have become her life’s work.  Pediatric endocrinology is a complex sub-specialty, but Dr. Cook is someone who makes the complex disease easy to understand.  Students, patients and hospital staff have all learned and benefited from Dr. Cook’s work.

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

Iowa News

New hope for liver cancer patients
A new surgical technique that takes advantage of the regenerative capability of the liver is giving new hope to patients with advanced liver cancer. The procedure is known as Associating Liver Partition with Portal Vein Ligation for Staged Hepatectomy, or ALPPS. The method has been used internationally for about five years and Iowa Methodist Medical Center is one of only a handful of hospitals in the United States to offer it. Dr. Qasim Chaudhry, transplant surgeon with The Iowa Clinic, performs the surgery at the Iowa Methodist Transplant Center. (Des Moines Register)

Filling the gap: Siouxland faces paid caregiver shortage
UnityPoint at Home, Arnold said, is partnering with St. Luke’s College to give nursing students an opportunity to spend time training in the home environment. Mike Stiles, the college’s chancellor, said he doesn’t think hospitals will struggle to find certified nursing assistants and nurses in the near future as much as home care companies will. “I think there will be a lot more care provided in places and settings other than the hospitals, and that’s where we’re going to have shortages, particularly because the skill sets that are necessary haven’t been fully determined yet,” he said. (Sioux City Journal)

As sales of painkillers grow, so do overdose deaths
Many experts say the trend began about 15 years ago, when national officials urged doctors to consider pain a “fifth vital sign,” to be considered as seriously as breathing, pulse, temperature and blood pressure. The Trust for America’s Health, a national group that tracks prescription-drug problems, reported last year that Americans’ purchases of prescription painkillers had quadrupled since 1999. Iowa’s prescription-drug problem is not as severe as many other states’. The Trust for America’s Health last year estimated Iowa had the seventh-lowest overdose death rate in the country. (Des Moines Register)

Mental health services revamped in north Iowa
Referrals are being accepted for mental health services for Medicaid-eligible children and adults being initiated in eight North Iowa counties. Magellan Integrated Health Home support services is available for Medicaid-eligible adults with serious mental illness and children covered by Medicaid who are experiencing serious emotional disturbances, said Anne Marie Wadle, director of the new Integrated Health Team at the Mental Health Center of North Iowa. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

National News

Sebelius praises Obamacare, concedes rollout was botched
Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Sunday that the health insurance exchanges that are now up and running across the country have given uninsured Americans a true choice of insurance plans with price comparisons. “People have competitive choices and real information for the first time ever in this insurance market,” Sebelius said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” (Los Angeles Times)

Here are the biggest problems for Obamacare’s next leader
If Sylvia Mathews Burwell is confirmed as the next secretary of Health and Human Services, it puts her in charge of a sprawling health-care overhaul that’s still gaining its footing and is under constant attack from opponents. The Obama administration is celebrating the more than 7.5 million people who have signed up for coverage in Obamacare health insurance marketplaces, but there are big implementation challenges for the next HHS leader. Here are the major challenges the next HHS chief will face. (Washington Post)

How will Boomer, Gen-X, Millennial doctors respond to healthcare changes?
With American health care in the midst of rapid transformation, both doctors and patients will be forced to adapt to changes stemming from the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” Of course, everyone responds to change differently. But is it possible to predict how doctors will adapt to health care reform based on the year they were born? The answer may surprise some patients and even force them to think differently about who provides their care in the future. (Forbes)

Medicaid expansion debate good for insurers
Some of the biggest health insurance companies in the country are poised to benefit from the debate over expanding Medicaid in Virginia, regardless of its outcome. If Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the Democratically controlled Virginia Senate prevail, the state will expand Medicaid eligibility to about 400,000 low-income residents. The money to insure them — hundreds of millions of dollars a year — will be paid by the federal government to private insurance companies. Understandably, those insurers strongly favor this option. (Washington Post)

With new health law, insurers target diabetics
As hundreds of thousands of diabetics get health coverage under the federal law, insurance companies are aggressively targeting this glut of new patients, who are expensive to treat and often lax in taking medications and following their diet. Insurers are calling diabetics when they don’t pick up prescriptions or miss appointments. They are arranging transportation to get them to the doctor’s office and some are even sending nurses on house calls in an effort to avoid costly complications that will have big impact on their bottom lines. (Washington Post)

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

Iowa News

House approves health, welfare funding
Iowa House lawmakers on Thursday set aside controversial proposals restricting abortion to approve $1.86 billion in spending on health and welfare programs for the coming year.  The chamber passed House File 2463 on a 51-47 vote, funding the state’s Medicaid health care program for the poor among many other state agencies and services.  When the bill came up for debate, it included two proposed amendments concerning abortion: one prohibiting Medicaid funding of abortions for any reason except to save the life of the mother and another denying state funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood, whose services include abortion. (Des Moines Register)

How a Cedar Rapids Emergency Room Saved Millions, and What it Means for the Whole

Emergency Rooms are often the catch-all of the medical world, where patients can receive care at any hour, regardless of their ability to pay.  But physicians and hospital administrators say it’s an expensive and disjointed way for people to receive care, particularly when patients visit the ER multiple times a
year.  A pilot program to manage care for ER ‘super users’ in Cedar Rapids is now in its third year—and administrators say it saves St. Luke’s Hospital about a million dollars annually. (Iowa Public Radio)

National News

Sebelius Resigns After Troubles Over Health Site
Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, is resigning, ending a stormy five-year tenure marred by the disastrous rollout of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.  Mr. Obama accepted Ms. Sebelius’s resignation this week, and on Friday morning, he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her, officials said. (The New York Times)

HHS: ObamaCare enrollment hits 7.5M
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday told lawmakers that enrollments in ObamaCare’s exchanges have reached 7.5 million.  This figure includes the 7.1 million people who signed up as of March 31 and an additional 400,000 who have taken advantage of a special enrollment period that will end April 15. The 400,000 may also include state-based enrollees who were not reported on March 31.  Sebelius made the comment before the Senate Finance Committee, where she appeared to testify on President Obama’s proposed HHS budget for 2015. (The Hill)

Doctors’ Billing System Stays Stuck In the ’70s For Now
For doctors, hospitals and insurance companies, all the complexities of medicine get boiled down into a system of codes.  These codes are used to track and pay for every procedure – like an 813.02 for mending a broken forearm, or an 800.09 for treating a concussion. But this coding system is now four decades old, and it doesn’t meet the needs of the medical system today. It was scheduled to be upgraded this October, but Congress delayed it last week. JaeLynn Williams, for one, is seriously bummed out.  “It’s kind of like looking forward to Christmas, and it doesn’t come,” she says. (Kaiser Health News)

Health care workers wash hands more when patients are watching
Patients were asked to observe and record the hand hygiene habits of their health care providers, who were aware that they were being watched.  During the project, nearly 97 percent of the health care workers washed their hands before direct contact with their patients, according to the study in the April issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.  The researchers also found that 58 percent of health care providers said they changed their hand hygiene practices, 88 percent said they were more motivated to wash their hands and 33 percent said they had more conversations with patients about infection prevention and control. (CBS News)