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

Iowa News

Iowans off welfare, but still in poverty
This summer marks the 20th anniversary of welfare reform signed by former President Bill Clinton. Working with a Republican-controlled Congress in 1996, he made significant changes to the government program that provides monthly cash assistance to the poorest Americans. But limiting government assistance doesn’t miraculously lift people out of poverty. It just means they have even less money. In fiscal year 2015, the number of Iowans receiving cash welfare was at “a new modern-day low not seen since the late 1960s,” according to a report from the Iowa Department of Human Services. (Des Moines Register)

Marshalltown hospital to join forces with Ames hospital
Marshalltown’s struggling hospital plans to join forces with Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. The Marshalltown hospital and clinic system, called Central Iowa Healthcare, operates a 49-bed hospital in Marshalltown. It also has primary care clinics in Marshalltown, Conrad, State Center and Tama-Toledo. It was called Marshalltown Medical and Surgical Center until 2014. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Mississippi hospital demonstrates surgical robot
Singing River Health System in Mississippi recently gave onlookers a demonstration of the Da Vinci robotic surgical system, showing how the evolution of technology can lead to advancements within the medical field. Urologist Dr. David L. Spencer of South Mississippi Urology pointed out the capabilities of the surgical system. He said the advancement of this technology will make surgery a lot “simpler.” (Miami Herald)

Other states harmed by Missouri’s lack of drug monitoring
Missouri’s failure to set up a statewide prescription drug monitoring program during the 2016 legislative session will continue to affect other states. Each of the eight states bordering Missouri already has a program that notifies doctors when their patients have been prescribed dangerous amounts of addictive painkillers from multiple providers. Representative Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston) says without a program of its own, Missouri is negatively affecting the efforts of others to stop drug dealers and prevent addiction. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Telehealth increasingly used for mental health care
The rapid growth of telehealth services for mental and behavioral care means employers should consider the rewards and risks associated with this delivery of health care, particularly when it comes to privacy and state laws. Mental and physical health problems are often related and many studies show that stress is the top workforce risk, leading to lots of chronic health conditions in the workplace. For many people, the solution to these disparities is telemental and telebehavioral health, meaning mental health care and behavioral health care delivered via interactive audio or video, computer programs or mobile applications. (Bloomberg)

GIS maps hospital efforts to healthier populations
For years, providers have used geographic information system (GIS) software to map disease outbreaks and monitor the effectiveness of interventions. Now, with the Affordable Care Act and the push for accountable care, it’s proving to be a valuable tool in population health efforts. While global health organizations and public health agencies in the U.S. have long used it for population health purposes, its use in the private sector has mostly been limited to strategic planning and marketing. But that’s starting to change as hospitals take on more risk for health outcomes and cost. (Healthcare Dive)

29 hospitals appeal decision over Medicare outlier payments
Twenty-nine hospitals are appealing a judge’s ruling last year over outlier payments to hospitals for particularly expensive patients. The hospitals had challenged regulations governing outlier payments for fiscal years 1997 through 2007, saying the Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary’s “flawed regulations and misguided enforcement” shorted them $350 million. They alleged HHS didn’t properly account for the skewed data of the hospitals that “turbocharged,” a practice in which hospitals would improperly manipulate their charges to receive additional outlier payments. (Modern Healthcare)

eric-burge-transplant-gamesEric Burge of Davenport is no stranger to the world of organ transplantation. In fact, Eric’s brother, John, received a kidney transplant just a few years prior to Eric discovering he needed a transplant as well. Eric and John have an inherited disorder called polycystic kidney disease. It is the most common hereditary disease in the U.S., affecting more than 700,000 people each year. Many cases require an organ transplant due to the formation of cyst clusters in the kidneys that destroy healthy tissue.

Alan Reed, M.D., director of the Organ Transplant Center at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, says many individuals with polycystic kidney disease need a transplant need a transplant but tend to have a very favorable prognosis. Luckily, when Eric started having health issues, his lifelong friend, Mary Beth Murray, had a special connection with organ donation and was willing to help. Mary Beth, who also lives in Davenport, decided to become an organ donor because of her father’s kidney issues when she was younger. Although she desperately wanted to help, Mary Beth was not a compatible match and unable to donate to her father.

When Mary Beth’s older sister faced the same kidney issues years later, Mary Beth once again was not a compatible match and unable to donate to her sister. Unwilling to give up, Mary Beth was determined to help Eric when she discovered he needed a kidney transplant. This time around, Mary Beth was a perfect match for her friend in need.

On January 3, 2013, the day of the surgery, Mary Beth remembers feeling excited and unsure what to expect, but determined to have a successful procedure. Reed performed Eric’s kidney transplant surgery with great success.

Since his transplant, Eric’s care has been managed by UI Post Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Coordinator Lou Ann Reynolds, RN. Eric describes Lou Ann’s support and calming influence as “immeasurable.”

Reynolds stresses the importance of becoming an organ donor. “Whether it’s for a friend, a workmate, or a total stranger, I would tell people they have the ability to change another person’s life,” Reynold says.

To Eric, a kidney transplant meant a second chance at life; “As a recipient, there’s no way to thank [my donor] to that magnitude.”

Both Eric and Mary Beth will participate in the 2016 Transplant Games, set for June 10-15 in Cleveland. They look at the games as a celebration of life and an opportunity to be together with family and friends. They will be competing together in the donor/recipient bowling event. Eric will also participate in the track and field events and swimming relay.

“I’m incredibly proud of these athletes and so pleased that they have taken this opportunity to do such great things,” Dr. Reed says.

To learn more about organ and tissue donation and the Iowa Donor Registry, click here.

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

Iowa News

Traveling orthopedic surgeons improve rural care
Orthopedic patients living in rural areas are more likely to be older, overweight and less physically active, but their access to care often is limited because there aren’t enough local practitioners. However, a new study from the University of Iowa finds that visiting consultant clinics (VCCs) staffed by visiting orthopedic surgeons can improve patient outcomes by increasing access to physicians. VCCs are outreach sites regularly visited by an orthopedic surgeon, typically a rural hospital located in a community too small to support a full-time specialist. (Iowa Now)

Schoitz Foundation helps build a better community
A new foundation, the Otto Schoitz Foundation, has been created to provide charitable grants using revenues from an investment of $50 million. The foundation comes as the result of Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare’s May 1 transfer of its Iowa facilities to the Mercy Health Network in Des Moines. The purpose of the foundation is to improve the health and well-being of the community and its individual members in the greater Cedar Valley Region, an area within 50 miles of Waterloo, by funding grants and other financial requests. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Innovative stroke therapy provides ‘miracle’ results
In 2015, the American Heart Association issued a strong endorsement of the thrombectomy procedure in certain severe cases of stroke. Its adoption marks the first major advance in stroke treatment in nearly 20 years. As home to a nationally designated Comprehensive Stroke Center, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has the infrastructure and personnel to offer thrombectomy to patients 24/7 as needed. In the time since the therapy was endorsed last year, four more doctors with expertise in the procedure have been recruited to join the staff. (University of Iowa Health Care)

National News

Will Medicaid expansion holdouts finally give in?
Legislators in some non-expansion states are currently under fire from state hospital associations, and in some cases state governors, to finally expand their Medicaid programs. Will the holdouts cave under the pressure? As of March 14, there were 19 non-expansion states, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report. Hospitals in those states are not faring as well as their counterparts in states that have expanded their Medicaid programs. (Healthcare Dive)

Connecticut cuts stir worries on mental health funding
Mental health advocates say state budget cuts may impede the improvements Connecticut has made in outreach and care after the deadly 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The state started several new mental health programs after the killings at the Newtown school, where a disturbed 20-year-old man shot and killed 20 children and six adults. One such effort, based in schools, helps children who show symptoms of trauma and depression. (Wall Street Journal)

Helping ex-inmates in Kentucky get Medicaid
Like inmates throughout the country, most people entering the Louisville Metro Jail lack health insurance and many suffer from long-untreated chronic conditions. Some people, particularly those with serious mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction, keep getting re-arrested and returning to jail, increasing costs to taxpayers. When Kentucky expanded Medicaid in 2014 to cover low-income adults, Louisville Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton hired a full-time Medicaid enrollment staffer in December 2014 to sign up people during the jail intake process. (Modern Healthcare)

Hospitals’ community influence, responsibility growing
Hospitals will need to invest in efforts to improve the community’s social determinants of health if they want to reduce preventable illness. Hospitals are now being asked to pull the lens back and look at quality more broadly. The change comes with shifting Internal Revenue Service rules, the Affordable Care Act, and evidence linking life struggles such as poor housing with the risk of illness. Now, many health care organizations are being held responsible for the health status of their communities, not just their patients. (HealthLeaders Media)

Time runs short on House GOP bill tackling mental health, mass shootings
House Republicans are circulating a revised draft of long-stalled mental health legislation. The controversial bill from Representative Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) has been cast as the Republican response to mass shootings, but it has long been delayed. The bill would allow Medicaid to cover more care at mental health facilities, but the Congressional Budget Office has put a price tag on the change of $40 to $60 billion over 10 years. (The Hill)

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

Iowa News

Former Decorah resident pens 3-volume history of Iowa’s psychiatric hospitals
David Rosheim, a former Decorah resident and Luther graduate, has published a history of Iowa’s psychiatric hospitals at Cherokee, Independence, Mount Pleasant and Clarinda – two of which, Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant, were closed last year. “I was searching for some books on the topic since I had become curious,” Rosheim said. “I found none so I wrote one.” He added, “Suddenly the controversy, not yet settled, about whether to keep these institutions open came into public awareness and I became involved in the discussion myself.” (Decorah News)

North Iowa agencies test emergency response skills in tornado scenario
Mason City residents with police scanners may have been puzzled to hear reports of a tornado hitting the town Thursday morning, especially since it was a sunny day. The voice on the scanner was quick to point out it was a drill. Emergency responders, Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa staff, government agencies and others from throughout the area tested how prepared they are for an emergency through a full-scale disaster exercise for Cerro Gordo County. State Homeland Security personnel also were involved. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Finley to purchase Dubuque wellness center, open 2 clinics
UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital will purchase Women’s Wellness Center in Dubuque and open a pair of clinics at the site this summer. “We have spent the last several months in discussion with Kelly McMahon, the president of Women’s Wellness Center, on what turned out to be a mutually beneficial acquisition for Finley Hospital to acquire the practice,” said Finley President and CEO David Brandon. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

Sara Travis named chief nursing officer at Palo Alto County Health System
Sara Travis, BSN, has been named the chief nursing officer/assistant administrator at Palo Alto County Health System (PACHS). Sara has been serving as interim in this position for the past seven months and has worked in various nursing positions at PACHS since 1991. “PACHS has great potential and I look forward to being a part of the future knowing we will continue to provide a strong health care system in Palo Alto County,” said Travis. (Emmetsburg Reporter-Democrats)

National News

New Hampshire aims to integrate mental health care for children
The state plans to streamline its mental health and substance abuse programs for children. A number of states, including Maine and Massachusetts, have turned to a so-called “system of care” model for young people with mental health issues in recent years. New Hampshire has been studying the approach for several years, through a group called the New Hampshire Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative. (New Hampshire Public Radio)

Virginia health care: Pay by the month, get unlimited visits
In January, Dr. Maura McLaughlin started a new type of primary care practice in central Virginia. Instead of getting payments from insurance companies for each appointment, her patients pay her directly and get unlimited visits for a fixed monthly fee. McLaughlin has joined a tiny but growing movement of doctors nationally – there are only a handful in Virginia – who have begun to provide subscription-like service to patients, a model known as direct primary care. (Associated Press)

Children with brain tumors undergoing radiation therapy helped by play-based preparation
Play-based procedural preparation not only helps children cope with the stress and anxiety of radiation therapy, but can also help reduce the amount of sedation used and cut costs, according to a study from the Child Life Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “The results demonstrate the value of having child life specialists as part of the health care team,” said lead author Shawna Grissom, director of Child Life at St. Jude. (Science Daily)

The patient experience: Does this really matter?
Studer Group Medical Director Dan Smith, MD, discusses how providers who address and improve patient experience will thrive in the new age of transparency and accountability. According to Smith, “We now practice in a world of ever-increasing transparency and accountability where process of care, outcome of care and perception of care are scrutinized. Those who embrace the change, align and outperform on these evidence-based measures will not only receive full payment for services but also value-based bonuses.” (HealthLeaders Media)

Bill targets socioeconomic factors in hospital readmissions
Bipartisan legislation introduced this week would tweak Medicare’s readmissions program to adjust for socioeconomic status of patients. It would also allow off-campus hospital outpatient departments currently under construction to continue receiving higher rates than similar facilities that aren’t owned by hospitals. Leaders of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, quickly received support from the Federation of American Hospitals and the Association of American Medical Colleges. The American Hospital Association said it was still reviewing the bill. (Modern Healthcare)

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

Iowa News

Mental breakdown
120 hours. Five straight days. The amount of time an Iowa family says they spent in the emergency room, waiting for a psychiatric bed to become available for their daughter. A struggle this family faces, along with other families in the state of Iowa, is finding and getting the help they need – when they need it – when it comes to mental health. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) says there are 721 psychiatric hospital beds in Iowa. 142 beds are for children. Of the child beds, DHS says only 11 have been available on average since December. (KWWL)

State-supplied hearing aids help students succeed
In 2007, Senator Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines) introduced a bill to provide hearing aid coverage for kids. The bill was simple — to make audiological and hearing aid coverage for Iowa’s children an essential health benefit — but getting it past the insurance lobby was not. The insurance lobby prevailed in stopping the bill, but a Hearing Aid and Audiological Services fund was established to help cover the expenses of hearing aids and other audiological services for children younger than 21. (Des Moines Register)

UnityPoint breaking ground for Westdale clinic
UnityPoint Clinic will break ground Thursday for a new building on Williams Boulevard SW in Cedar Rapids that will separate its family medicine and urgent care clinics. UnityPoint Clinic Family Medicine and Urgent Care at 2375 Edgewood Road SW will become a dedicated urgent care clinic when the new UnityPoint Clinic Family Medicine Westdale building is completed in the spring of 2017. Dr. John Roof, vice president and UnityPoint Clinic Cedar Rapids medical director, said in a news release that the company has experienced continuing growth in southwest Cedar Rapids. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Oregon hospitals will give consumers quick estimates on procedure costs
Oregon hospitals took a step toward price transparency on Wednesday, promising to provide cost estimates for scheduled procedures within three days. The initiative aims to give uninsured patients and those who are out-of-network a better idea of what a procedure will cost. “It’s another step to give patients the tools they need to make decisions,” said Andy Van Pelt, executive vice president at Oregon Association of Hospitals & Health Systems. (Oregon Live)

Feds approve California’s health plan tax swap
The Obama administration has signed off on California’s expansion of a tax on health plans that contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to Medi-Cal and other programs, with plans receiving offsetting breaks on other state taxes. The tax on managed care organizations will bring in an estimated $1.1 billion for Medi-Cal, the state’s health care program for the poor, as well as allocating more money to people with developmental disabilities and other programs. (Sacramento Bee)

Health insurance options disappearing for rural Americans
Americans living in many rural areas in the U.S. will have just one health plan option next year if they buy insurance from the exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows more than 650 counties will have just one insurer on the exchanges next year, and 70 percent of these counties have mostly rural populations, according to the report. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

Overtime pay rules will affect millions of health care workers
Millions of full-time health care workers will be eligible for overtime pay under a new federal rule that nearly doubled the threshold at which companies can deny it. But not all in the health care industry are cheering the news. The new Obama administration rule is expected to affect a total of 4.2 million workers. Health care professions that will likely be affected by the overtime threshold increase are nurses, medical and physical therapist assistants, medical and pharmacy technicians and paramedics. (Modern Healthcare)