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

Iowa News

Work starts on $14 million Mercy Medical Center project
A $14 million modernization of Mercy Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit is underway at the Sioux City hospital. The investment, set for completion next summer, calls for a complete renovation of the existing 21,000 square feet of ICU space on the fifth floor and an 8,000-square-foot addition above radiology services on the fourth floor. (Sioux City Journal)

Mercy Iowa City service helps millionth caller
In the last nine years, one million people in the Corridor have gotten professional medical advice from a registered nurse, over the phone, for free — Mercy Hospital On Call in Iowa City celebrated its millionth caller on Wednesday. Registered nurse Sue Kuntz answered the phone in the Mercy On Call department later Wednesday afternoon, and it happened to be a patient she talked to on Tuesday. The patient had gone to the doctor for nausea, but still felt sick after receiving medication. (KGAN)

Mercy College receives College Success grant
Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines has received a $74,574 grant from Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corp. The college will use the money to help students who are at risk academically to stay in school and complete their degrees, said Kris Owens, the college’s manager of student success. (Des Moines Business Record)

Pregnant…with breast cancer
Having a baby. Being diagnosed with cancer. Two life-changing events. A doctor at Jennie Edmundson hospital found herself dealing with both – at the same time. Dr. Lori Platt is passionate about her work. After all, as an OB/GYN physician, she gets to bring beautiful babies into this world. But back in October, it all came to a screeching halt. (WOWT)

Telligen wins quality innovation network award for Iowa, Illinois and Colorado
Telligen, Inc., a leader in population health management solutions, has been awarded the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Quality Innovation Network Quality Improvement Organization contract for the states of Iowa, Illinois and Colorado. Charged with overseeing quality improvement efforts in these states, Telligen will support CMS’ new approach to improving care for beneficiaries, families and caregivers. (DigitalJournal)

National News

Senators hear how ‘two-midnight rule’ harms patients, hospitals
On Medicare’s 49th anniversary Wednesday, a Senate panel heard testimony from caregivers and hospital administrators about the costly consequences of the federal program’s unclear definitions of “inpatient” and “outpatient.” A Massachusetts resident described how her 92-year-old husband’s nursing home stay wasn’t covered by Medicare because, though he’d been in the hospital during the prior 10 days, the hospital didn’t consider him an inpatient for the minimum period two midnights. (HealthLeaders Media)

Poor planning and oversight led to flaws, GAO finds
Federal health officials were responsible for the problem-pocked start of last year because of poor planning and lax oversight of outside contractors, according to government investigators who warned that “significant risks remain” that some Americans could again have trouble buying coverage in the federal health insurance marketplace this fall. (Washington Post)

Hospital IT leaders work to leverage big data
As big data becomes more widely used in healthcare, hospitals and other organizations are continually trying to find ways to use the information while addressing any concerns that may arise. Leveraging big data is one way to become more efficient in the delivery of care, according to Darwin Cooley, director of pharmacy services at West Burlington, Iowa-based Great River Medical Center. (FierceHealthIT)

Registered nurses are delaying retirement, contributing to larger workforce
The size of the registered nurse (RN) workforce has surpassed forecasts from a decade ago, growing to 2.7 million in 2012 instead of peaking at 2.2 million as predicted. One less-noticed factor in this “nursing boom” is the decision by a growing number of RNs to delay retirement. According to a new study, among registered nurses working at the age of 50 from 1991 to 2012, 24 percent continued working as of the age of 69. This compared to 9 percent of RNs still working at the age of sixty-nine in the period from 1969 to 1990. (Health Affairs)

NIH funding to help 23andMe expand gene database
Genetic testing company 23andMe has been awarded a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, less than a year after the U.S. Drug and Food Administration ordered the company to stop its DNA tests. The NIH grant will last for two years and will help 23andMe build survey tools and expand its gene database. (FierceHealthIT)

(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.)

8x10-Kevin-Locke-1661smA rural, Critical Access Hospital relies on the voluntary medical staff to demonstrate a strong commitment to community and dedication to local health care.  Kevin Locke, M.D., a Mayo Clinic Health System family medicine physician, has been a member of the medical staff at Winneshiek Medical Center (WMC) since 1989.  He has spent those years impacting countless families in the northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota region by providing exemplary care for residents from newborns to centenarians.

In addition to a full clinic practice, Dr. Locke is community-minded and gives tirelessly of his time. He is a member of the national Disaster Medical Assistance Team and has been deployed to disaster areas throughout the United States. He serves as Winneshiek County medical examiner, Medical Director of Wellington Place (a long-term care facility), Winneshiek Medical Center Hospice director and is a member of the WMC hospitalist team.  Throughout his career, Dr. Locke has participated in educating future doctors through the University of Iowa and other programs; he even created a room in his home to take in medical students.

locke_grantsmDr. Locke received a special WMC leadership award this year for his 2012 work and leadership of a clinic transformation project to decrease patient waiting time, while increasing the time providers spend face-to-face with each patient. The clinic transformation project kicked off with a week-long Kaizen event and continued with the subsequent process changes, such as pre-visit planning (chart preparation) and team rooming. Dr. Locke volunteered to pilot these changes in his own practice and is leading the roll-out to other practices in the clinic.  Results have shown dramatic improvement in patient and staff satisfaction, decreased waiting time and increased efficiency.

Dr. Locke’s determination, dedication and commitment to make a difference are what make him successful – and cherished in the hospital and community. He advocates for community members when they can no longer speak for themselves and does not count the hours he serves, but only the quality and outcomes that he guides. Dr. Locke is beloved by his patients, to whom he gives exceptional, individualized care. For Dr. Locke, the needs of the patient always come first.

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

Iowa News

Medicare touts $12 million drug-cost savings for Iowans
Iowa seniors and disabled people have saved nearly $12 million on medications this year because of a reduction in the “doughnut hole” in Medicare’s prescription-drug program, federal officials have estimated. Medicare administrators said 16,150 Iowa participants have saved an average of $728 so far this year because of the change, which is part of the Affordable Care Act. (Des Moines Register)

Muscatine earns Blue Zones certification
It was not the celebration of the end of a project, but the beginning of one. Members of the Blue Zones Project of Muscatine celebrated that beginning Tuesday night, as a crowd of more than 50 project volunteers, residents, and city and business leaders learned that Muscatine had officially earned certification as a Blue Zones Community. “Wow, what a deal this is, isn’t it?” Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins asked the crowd. (Muscatine Journal)

Mosquito-borne West Nile virus sickens three Iowans
Three Iowans have been sickened by the West Nile virus so far this summer, state officials said today. The virus usually peaks in early autumn, when the types of mosquitoes that tend to carry it are most common. But the disease can also be spread during the summer, the Iowa Department of Public Health noted. The three human cases confirmed this summer were in Clay, Monona and Woodbury counties, all in western Iowa. (Des Moines Register)

National News

A health trade-off that’s here to stay: Lower cost, limited choice
Traditionally, there were a few ways that health insurers could keep premiums low for individual health plans. They could select people with no prior health problems. They could pare back the services and products they offered to avoid ones that could be expensive, like maternity care or prescription drugs. They could increase premiums or deductibles so their customers would pay a larger share of any eventual bills. By changing the rules, the Affordable Care Act pushed health insurers toward a new strategy: limiting the choice of doctors and hospitals they’ll pay for. (New York Times)

IOM panel recommends new financing system for physician training
An Institute of Medicine committee has recommended replacing Medicare’s separate funds for indirect and direct graduate medical education with one direct payment to program sponsors based on a geographically adjusted national per-resident amount. The report recommends maintaining aggregate support for Medicare GME at the current level while phasing out the current Medicare GME funding provided to hospitals over the next decade. (Institute of Medicine)

Study makes strong case for texting Medicaid patients
the study showed that HealthCrowd’s text messaging platform was 15 to 100 times more effective than other modalities and provided a three to 30 times better return on investment when normalized for cost. Specifically, it was 100 times more effective than postcards, 50 times more effective than buckslips in mailers, 30 times more effective than voice calls, and 15 times more effective than email. (MobiHealthNews)

Physicians to appeal ‘Docs v. Glocks’ ruling
Family physician associations say they will challenge a federal appellate court’s ruling that upholds a Florida law prohibiting physicians from speaking with patients about firearms. The 2-1 ruling issued Friday by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturns a June 2012 U.S. District Court ruling that struck down the state law – popularly referred to as the “physician gag law” or the “Docs v. Glocks law”—as a violation of physicians’ First Amendment rights. (HealthLeaders Media)

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

Iowa News

New Iowa budget has $171 million ‘spending gap’
State Auditor Mary Mosiman said Monday the “true” general fund expenditures for the budget year that began July 1 are projected to be $7.401 billion, while the revenue under the state’s 99 percent spending limitation law available for budgeting stood at $7.23 billion, resulting in a $171 million “spending gap” that would be balanced using part of the carry-forward surplus. (Des Moines Register)

Program encourages 69 people to lose 610 pounds
In the past 10 weeks, Sue Morris of Davenport has lost 18 pounds, reduced the amount of medicine she takes each day and estimates that she will save $100 a month in medical expenses. He and 68 other people have taken part in the Naturally Slim Inc. weight-loss program sponsored by Genesis Philanthropy, part of Davenport-based Genesis Health System. (Quad-City Times)

National News

Report: Medicare hospital fund solvency extended four more years
The Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will remain solvent until 2030, four years longer than projected last year, according to an annual report issued today by the Medicare Board of Trustees. The improved outlook “is primarily due to lower than expected spending in 2013” for most hospital service categories, according to the Treasury Department. (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)

In Ohio, Medicaid numbers are up, uninsured are down significantly
When Ohio expanded Medicaid last fall, Governor John Kasich estimated as many as 330,000 more people would take advantage. A new survey — and a separate study — indicate that may be coming true. The Ohio Hospital Association surveyed 130 hospitals and about half responded. About four in 10 said they are seeing fewer patients with no insurance. More than two-thirds said they’re seeing more patients covered by Medicaid. (WCBE)

Who’s saying no to the ACA? The states that might need it the most
Most media attention of this issue has focused on the politics of reform; some coverage has played up the finances, too. But remember: There’s more at stake than just the optics of coverage expansion. Based on measures of mortality and other health outcomes, the states that are generally saying no to Medicaid—the ones that are resisting the ACA—are the states that might need it the most. (The Advisory Board)

Commission says discharge trends driving Massachusetts health care spending
Massachusetts hospitals discharge a larger portion of their patients to other health care settings than the national average, a difference that has contributed to the state’s higher post-acute care costs and has driven health care spending, a state analysis concludes. The findings come courtesy of a supplemental cost trend analysis report undertaken by the state’s Health Policy Commission, which is tasked with keeping state health care costs and quality in check. (Boston Business Journal)

Study: Fist bumps are less germy than handshakes
A nice firm handshake has long been a mark of good manners and elevated social skills. It is also a very germy way to greet your fellow humans, much worse than a couple of more casual alternatives, a new study shows. “A short, sweet fist bump will transmit the least bacteria,” and even a high-five is better than a traditional shake, says David Whitworth, a senior lecturer in biochemistry at Aberystwyth University-Ceredigion in the United Kingdom. (USA Today/Des Moines Register)

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

Iowa News

Medical excellence is a key factor in Des Moines growth
Two critically important factors in corporate decision-making about site selection are the quality of a community’s schools and the ready availability of comprehensive, top-quality health care. This has been proven repeatedly with every ranking of the Des Moines metropolitan area as one of the best places to live in the nation. Consequently, it is no exaggeration to assert that the excellence of Des Moines’ medical facilities is helping the entire metro area achieve its dreams for tomorrow. (Des Moines Register)

Health fair underscores diversity, poverty in Des Moines
Des Moines’ East High School was transformed into a shopping mall of health care services on Saturday. In the cafeteria, nurses offered behavioral health screenings. Down one wide hallway, dentists and dental hygienists interviewed schoolchildren on their brushing habits, and poked around on their teeth. In a band room lined with musical instruments, volunteers administered state-mandated vaccinations — including for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. (Des Moines Register)

Local agencies battle heroin addiction
Cody Shafer, health educator with Johnson County public health, said increased heroin use, intravenous use in particular, is having another concerning health implication through the spreading of HIV and hepatitis C. Shafer said hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted through shared drug equipment, from needles to cotton and cookers. “Basically anything used in the process,” Shafer said. “I’ve seen a definite increase in the hepatitis C inpatients.” (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Medical marijuana advocates want Iowa law expanded
A narrowly focused medical marijuana law just took effect in Iowa, but advocates are already looking to see how they can expand access to the drug for the chronically ill. State lawmakers this year approved legislation that allows the use of oil derived from marijuana to treat chronic epilepsy. The law — driven largely by advocacy from mothers of children with epilepsy — includes strict rules for acquiring the oil, such as requiring a state registration card and that the oil must be bought from another state that produces it. (Associated Press/Des Moines Register)

Harvest to begin soon at Independence hospital garden
This spring, Buchanan County Health Center staff decided to add a hospital garden to their attractive campus, desiring to grow fresh produce for both the hospital cafeteria and the Independence area “SPARK” program. SPARK is a preschool/elementary program that not only educates little one’s about the importance of healthy food and exercise, but also gives them a chance to sample some fresh fruits and vegetables they may have never tried before. (Independence Bulletin Journal)

National News

With deadline looming, lawmakers reach deal on VA health care
House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a compromise plan to fix a veterans health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays. The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have scheduled a news conference Monday afternoon to unveil a plan expected to authorize billions in emergency spending to lease 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care. (Associated Press/National Public Radio)

Costs of expanded audits aimed at Medicare fraud hit health care firms
In a bid to cut Medicare spending and help pay for health-care changes, the Obama administration has significantly expanded audits designed to recover improper payments from health-care providers. “We are taking, I would say, a brutal spanking, those that are fully compliant and within regulation,” said Tim Fox, founder and chief executive of Fox Rehabilitation. He said the government was “cracking down” to help pay for the expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Plan to simplify 2015 health renewals may backfire
If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises. Insurance exchange customers who opt for convenience by automatically renewing their coverage for 2015 are likely to receive dated and inaccurate financial aid amounts from the government, say industry officials, advocates and other experts. (Washington Post)

NY state health care experiment emphasizes prevention
Patients scheduled to get hip replacements at Glens Falls Hospital must attend a pre-operation class, where they learn about the procedure, recovery and post-surgical therapy. At Moreau Family Health Center, doctors, nurse practitioners and care managers start the day huddled over data to share perspectives on patients who have appointments. These are scenes from the emerging American health system, where increasingly more time is spent on coordination, prevention and education, and less on expensive tests and hospital stays. (Albany Times Union)