Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and the Web.
Psychiatric patients find relief in ER
Emergency room staff are called on to handle a variety of issues and recently that includes psychiatric patients. A recent trend in hospital visits is showing more patients with psychiatric concerns are opting for emergency rooms. Unfortunately, doctors say many emergency rooms either do not have enough beds or enough qualified professionals to meet demand. (KIMT)
Mercy Medical Center-Sioux City now a Blue Zones Worksite
Siouxland welcomes another Blue Zones Worksite to the area. Mercy Medical Center is now the ninth location in Sioux City to adopt the well-being improvement initiative. To become a Blue Zones Work Site Mercy worked closely with its cafe chef to create a menu with healthier options. Mercy also organized a wellness committee to help support healthy lifestyles among its employees. (KTIV)
At birth: In small towns, family physicians help deliver
While Ellen Aquino was considering different residency programs in the U.S. before moving from the Philippines, a family medicine colleague advised her against selecting OB/GYN. “She was telling me, ‘You’re just going to be paying for malpractice (insurance).’ Why don’t you just do family medicine and you can still do OB because it’s part of the scope of family medicine,’” Aquino said. Aquino works as a family medicine physician at Floyd Valley Hospital Family Medicine Clinics in Le Mars. (Le Mars Daily Sentinel)
Spike in synthetic drug use impacts local hospitals
“We’re seeing more and more of our patients coming in with reporting some use or actually exclusive use of K2 and addiction to synthetic marijuana,” said David Kaptain, who manages the Powell Chemical Dependency Center at Iowa Lutheran Hospital. The center treats up to 90 patients at a time. Des Moines police also see synthetic drug use on the rise. In one of their biggest synthetic-drug bust to date, Des Moines police raided six convenience stores caught illegally selling products such as K2. (KCCI)
Community donations help Clarinda hospital land new ambulance
On Thursday morning, Medic 4 was displayed for the public at a special gathering at Clarinda Regional Health Center. Medic 4 features some of the latest ambulatory technology on the market and hospital CEO Chris Stipe says the addition of this four-wheel drive ambulance would not have been possible without some financial assistance. (KMA)
Wellmark seeks to extend pre-Obamacare policies
Iowa’s dominant health insurer said Thursday that it would like to offer a two-year extension to customers who have insurance policies that predate Affordable Care Act rules. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield expressed interest in the Obama administration’s announcement Wednesday that it would let carriers extend such coverage through 2016. The change could affect tens of thousands of Iowans who buy their own insurance policies or obtain them through small employers. (Des Moines Register)
Rural hospital leaders seek support for key issues from Capitol Hill
Rural hospital leaders gathered Thursday on Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to extend Medicare provisions for rural hospitals, remove the 96-hour rule for critical access hospitals, and provide relief from the direct supervision policy for critical access and rural prospective payment system hospitals with 100 or fewer beds. As Congress prepares to address a physician payment fix and Medicare provisions for rural hospitals that expire at the end of March, lawmakers will make decisions that have profound effects on rural hospitals. (American Hospital Association)
Another boost for the Medicaid expansion
Here’s another episode that reveals that the politics of Obamacare are more complex for Republicans than their tidy political narrative allows. In some good news out of New Hampshire, the GOP-controlled state senate has just passed the state’s version of the Medicaid expansion, after a contentious fight. It’s now headed to the Dem-controlled house, and it’s expected to pass and get signed by the Dem governor. It could expand health coverage to over 50,000 people and boost the state’s economy. (Washington Post)
Companies turn to private exchanges to control health care costs
At Walgreen, the giant drugstore chain, employees now have a much broader choice of insurers and plans. Once limited to two options, either from a local Blue Cross plan or UnitedHealthcare, workers can now choose among as many as 25 plans from five insurers, depending on where they live, including Kaiser Permanente, the well-known California-based H.M.O. As health care costs continue their steady climb, employers are looking for ways to slow the pace. (New York Times)
What will Obamacare really cost? They might be the first to know
Now that medical insurers must accept all applicants no matter how sick, what will these new customers cost health plans? How will they affect coverage prices for 2015 and beyond? Few questions about the Affordable Care Act are more important. How it all plays out will affect consumer pocketbooks, insurance company profits and perhaps the political fortunes of those backing the health law. A few Denver actuaries, bound to confidentiality, will be the first to glimpse the answers. (Kaiser Health News)
The staff experience: Employees have human needs too
Hospital leaders need to be more in tune with the internal word of mouth not reflected in surveys. When we start looking at the human experience of everyone, we will be better able to both empathize and make the changes that will reinvigorate staff in these times of great change. Common sense and common courtesy – words to live by. (Hospital Impact)
Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and the Web.
Iowans back medical marijuana with stories of suffering
Iowa lawmakers heard pleas Wednesday for legalized medical marijuana from a Des Moines grandmother who smokes pot to relieve her symptoms and the partner of a Boone man with brain cancer who wants another option to reduce his suffering. Medical marijuana is a dead issue this session because of a lack of support in the Legislature, but it’s certain to return next year, say proponents of medical cannabis. (Des Moines Register)
Waverly native loses leg, recovers with help of new NASA technology
In August, I took my very first emotional step with my new prosthetic. I then began my physical therapy at Waverly Health Center. After several months of hard work, I had come a very long way with using my new leg. I am a much stronger individual now that I see I really can do things that people without disabilities can do, even though I may have to do those things a little differently. I also know that giving up was never the correction answer for me. (Cedar Falls Times)
Hospital’s new lab equipment increases diagnostics accuracy
Crawford County Memorial Hospital (CCMH) in Denison has added a new hematology analyzer in its Lab Department to provide faster and more accurate analyses of blood samples. The CCMH Board of Trustees approved the purchase to replace older and inefficient equipment. The new equipment will offer CCMH a great deal of accuracy on abnormal white cells through the use of a seven-part part differential. The former analyzer discriminated white cells based on particle size only. (Mapleton Press)
Report calls for national VBP strategy, measures development process
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should develop a national value-based purchasing strategy for Medicare analogous to its National Quality Strategy, according to a new report prepared by RAND Corp. for the department. “The strategy should outline what the federal government’s goals are for VBP and thus what constitutes success, the priority areas for measurement, a timeline for increased focus on outcomes and other high-priority measurement areas” the report states. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
AHA survey: Hospitals appealing half of RAC claim denials
Hospitals continue to proactively appeal Recovery Audit Contractor claim denials. Hospitals participating in the American Hospital Association survey report appealing 49 percent of all RAC denials, and almost half had an appeal overturned in their favor through use of the discussion period before a formal appeal. Lack of medical necessity was the top reason Medicare RACs cited to deny claims; however, nearly two-thirds of those denials were found to be for care that could have been provided on an outpatient basis rather than medically unnecessary. (American Hospital Association)
Two-year extension offered for canceled health plans
Warding off the specter of election-year health insurance cancellations, the Obama administration Wednesday announced a two-year extension for individual policies that don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. The decision helps defuse a political problem for Democrats in tough re-election battles this fall, especially for senators who in 2010 stood with President Barack Obama and voted to pass his health overhaul. (Associated Press/Boston Globe)
Physicians take SGR repeal message to Washington, D.C.
With Congress facing an end-of-the-month deadline to repeal the reviled Sustainable Growth Rate, hundreds of the nation’s physician organizations on Wednesday intensified their calls for a permanent fix for the funding formula. Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, president of the American Medical Association, said more than 600 state and national physicians’ organizations sent a joint letter to House and Senate leaders Wednesday asking them to repeal SGR before the latest temporary delay lapses on March 31 and a mandated 24 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements kicks in. (HealthLeaders Media)
Broadlawns asks state for $6M to add 12 psychiatric beds
Polk County’s public hospital is asking state legislators for $6 million to help expand its psychiatric services, including adding inpatient beds for people going through mental crises. Iowa has a critical shortage of psychiatric services, health care leaders say. Mentally ill patients are routinely shuttled around the state in a quest for open hospital beds. Broadlawns Medical Center hopes to add 12 psychiatric beds, plus increase its outpatient psychiatric services to help ease the crunch. (Des Moines Register)
A new life: Kidney transplant puts hockey fan back in the game
Amanda and David Mahnke continue to spread organ donation awareness to the community via Facebook and by teaming up with the Waterloo Black Hawks hockey team. “They brought us an idea that we could use Waterloo Black Hawks games to help spread awareness about organ and tissue donation. We thought that was a good idea,” said Tim Harwood, spokesperson for the team. Harwood contacted the Iowa Donor Network to help with the events held at scheduled hockey games. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)
Depression weighs heavily on college students
College students with depression often run into more difficulties than the typical student. Those who struggle the most don’t connect with the help they need. Sometimes their disease is invisible because many don’t feel comfortable informing their instructors or friends about their condition, and their symptoms often are misread as poor classroom or social performance. “I think that, in other people’s eyes, I would look weak if I told them that I’m just sad a lot,” Alyson Brown said. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
Local groups promote MS awareness
A pair of Dubuque groups offer support for people with multiple sclerosis. The groups, based at Mercy Medical Center-Dubuque and UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital, cater to people in varying stages of the disease. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)
Americans may be able to keep old insurance plans longer
The Obama administration is preparing to announce that Americans who want to keep their old health plans may do so for at least one year longer than they expected, even if the policies don’t comply with law, according to insurance industry officials familiar with the latest rewrite of federal health-care rules. The decision marks the second time in four months that administration officials have adjusted their rules about health plans that do not include benefits required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act. (Washington Post)
HHS seeks $600 million for health law enrollment efforts
Just in case Congress doesn’t pass President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget plan, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services say they have other options for finding the money they need to implement the health care law. The law is expected to generate $1.2 billion in user fees—including those on health insurers who participate in its online marketplaces, or exchanges. The administration’s budget requests an additional $600 million to help run the federal marketplace, call centers and other outreach efforts. (Kaiser Health News)
Obama budget sets Medicare savings, hospitals seek reprieve
President Barack Obama’s budget plan for 2015 would save $402 billion from the Medicare and Medicaid government healthcare programs for the elderly and poor over the next 10 years, primarily due to reduced reimbursement to healthcare providers and drugmakers. A White House budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning October 1, released on Tuesday, would save more than $350 billion by pursuing a familiar menu of options that range from increased drug rebates to more efficient post-acute care, reduced hospital admissions and new means testing for Medicare. (Reuters/Chicago Tribune)
CDC warns of antibiotic overuse in hospitals
Hospital physicians are putting their current and future patients in danger by overusing antibiotics, and they need to take steps now to prevent resistant bacterial strains, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials warned Tuesday. According to a CDC survey, “about half of hospitalized patients got antibiotics during their stay.” But “given the many reasons patients need hospital care, that’s not particularly surprising,” agency director Tom Frieden, MD, said during a news conference. (HealthLeaders Media)
SD panel votes to keep guns away from mentally ill
South Dakota should take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people found to be mentally ill and a threat to themselves or others, a state Senate committee recommended Tuesday. The Judiciary Committee voted 5-2 to endorse the measure after supporters said it would improve public safety while also giving people a chance to regain their right to possess firearms after their mental illnesses have been successfully treated. (Sioux City Journal)
This past fall, neither Marlene Coon nor her mother Darlene Mack was initially concerned when Darlene began experiencing breathing problems. At first, the mother-daughter duo who live together in a house near Smithland chalked up the symptoms to allergies, or at most, a minor case of the flu.
When the situation suddenly turned dire and Darlene was rushed to UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s, questions arose not just about Darlene’s health but about her daughter Marlene’s future as well. With her mother and long-time caretaker in the hospital, Marlene faced a long list of questions. Where would she live? How would she travel from home to Sioux City to visit her mother?
“The outlook for my mom didn’t look good at the time, but I knew my prayers would be answered and everything would work out,” recalls Marlene.
As doctors diagnosed Darlene with an infected hernia and prepared her for the first of several life-saving surgeries, St. Luke’s staff took Marlene under their wings. They gave her a room in the Levitt Guest Center, just steps away from her mother’s room in intensive care, where she could have some quiet moments to herself to rest or work on her poetry. Staff also introduced her to the hospital’s chaplains who invited her to use the chapel whenever she needed. Eating many meals in St. Luke’s cafeteria, Marlene got to know St. Luke’s food and nutrition employees on a first-name basis.
In many ways, St. Luke’s became Marlene’s “home away from home.”
As days led into weeks and Darlene’s health declined, Marlene called her sister Laura in California to let her know their mother was failing. Laura quickly planned a trip and arrived in Sioux City with her family soon after.
“When I first arrived, the staff made sure that my family had our own room in the Levitt Guest Center. They went out of their way to accommodate our needs,” says Laura. “It was a very humbling experience to know that people genuinely cared about my family.”
When their mother opened her eyes the next day, the Mack family celebrated and began the process of planning the future for not only Darlene but Marlene as well. Through conversations with St. Luke’s care coordinator Mary Shook, the family expressed their concerns about finding a place for both Darlene to recover and Marlene to live during her mother’s recovery.
“It was very important to the family that Marlene and Darlene be kept together at discharge. This was important for the patient’s overall successful recovery as well as to the daughter’s mental health,” explains Shook. “I have no doubt that Darlene would have been hospitalized for quite some time if we would have been unable to find a discharge plan that was satisfactory to the patient and her family.”
On a mission to keep mother and daughter together, Shook explored several options before calling Select Specialty in Omaha, a facility that could accommodate the patient and family’s needs. Most importantly, Marlene and Darlene would be able to live together at the Omaha facility while Darlene recovered.
“It was amazing to hear there was a place for both my mom and my sister. St. Luke’s really took our family’s situation into consideration, and they were able to come up with a great solution for mom’s discharge,” adds Laura.
St. Luke’s care coordinators work on a patient’s discharge planning throughout their admission says Shook. As part of the process, a number of factors are reviewed including the patient’s financial situation, family support, location of a facility and how that facility can best meet the patient’s mental and physical needs.
“If a patient is going home, we need to determine services that will best meet their needs at home. Our goal is to develop a plan at discharge that will assist patients and their families in understanding the patient’s illness, meet their goals for care and ensure the patient’s successful recovery after they leave the hospital. By developing a solid discharge plan, we also hope to prevent readmissions,” notes Shook.
Care coordination led to a positive outcome for the Mack family, who hopes to someday bring Darlene and Marlene back home to Smithland once Darlene finishes her recovery in Omaha.
“Everyone at St. Luke’s was so personable. They didn’t treat my mother as just another patient…staff cared for her like she was a family member,” says Laura.
Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and the Web.
Jails not appropriate setting for mentally ill, Linn, Johnson sheriffs say
Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner reports that three-fourths of the jail population – currently more than 300 inmates – at any given time is on some sort of psychotropic medication. In fiscal year 2013, approximately 16 percent of all inmates booked at the Johnson County Jail – or 873 people – self-reported being on psychiatric medication, according to Jessica Peckover, the county’s jail alternatives coordinator. That doesn’t count those who decline or fail to report any mental health issues at the time of booking. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
Covenant Medical Center updates MRI wing
Getting an MRI at Covenant Medical Center will no longer seem like stepping onto the set of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The hospital spent the last five months infusing $2.8 million into redesigning its MRI department — which stands for magnetic resonance imaging — to make it a warm and welcoming space for patients. Even the new magnet, the tubular device patients pass through during an MRI, is accented with wood paneling matching the walls and floor of the space. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)
Heart parachutes at UI
Heart-attack survivors suffering from congestive heart failure could potentially see a parachute of support. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics specialists in the Heart and Vascular Center are undergoing clinical trials to help heart attack survivors who may be suffering from heart failure due to scarred or damaged tissue in the heart. “Participants include patients who have had a heart attack and are eligible to participate in the trial,” said UI spokesman Tom Moore. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)
Report: About 18 percent of U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
About 18.2 percent of U.S. adults experienced a mental illness in 2011 or 2012, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. State averages ranged from 14.7 percent in New Jersey to 22.3 percent in Utah. The total includes 9.3 million adults with a serious mental illness causing substantial functional impairment. SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde said the findings, from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, can help public health officials and others address the mental health needs of the people in their communities. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
Care costs for undocumented immigrants absorbed by hospitals
Since undocumented immigrants can’t participate in the healthcare insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, millions of foreign-born residents will be excluded, leaving hospitals to continue to pick up the cost of their care. The current cost of treating uninsured undocumented immigrants, primarily at emergency rooms and free clinics, is estimated at $4.3 billion annually, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. (Healthcare Finance News)
U.S. fine-tunes messaging for home stretch of Obamacare sign-ups
Facing an end-of-the-month deadline, the U.S. government is increasing efforts to enroll millions more Americans into Obamacare, including appeals from President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. The Obama administration also is developing a strategy to communicate to Americans the penalty for going without insurance after March 31. People without insurance face fines of as much as 1 percent of their income, a penalty that hasn’t been mentioned in the government’s advertising. (Bloomberg)
As doctors embrace tablets, management headaches grow
As health care providers use smartphones and tablets to improve patient engagement, enhance care, and boost efficiency, management and security challenges increase. But healthcare providers are paying more attention — and spending more resources — to address these issues, according to a recently released study by HIMSS Analytics. Of the 170 health care and IT professionals surveyed, 59% have a mobile technology in place, and another 29 percent are developing a plan to cope with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets. (InformationWeek)