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

Iowa News

Thousands of jobs fall through despite Iowa incentives, audit shows
Iowa’s economic development agency awarded millions of dollars of incentives to businesses to create or retain thousands of jobs that they failed to produce, according to a state audit. The report shows that during an 11-year period businesses failed to deliver at least 6,600 jobs they promised in exchange for financial assistance from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Another 24,000 jobs from newer projects are “under contract,” the audit shows, meaning it is too soon to know whether all of those commitments will be met in full. (Des Moines Register)

Mercy residents, medical students learning about narrative medicine
Medical students and residents at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa are learning that every patient has his or her own story and that understanding that story can improve care. Dr. Daniel Waters, a cardiothoracic surgeon with the Mason City Clinic and director of medical education at Mercy, is leading a series of seminars on narrative medicine. This is a “relatively new area of study,” said Waters. Narrative medicine uses stories from literature to train care providers in how to decode patient narratives through improved listening and empathy. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

‘Wheels for Work’ helps Ames woman care for special needs son
A local mother can make her weekly trek across the state to care for her special needs son thanks to a local partnership. LaKaren Humanes’ son has epidermolysis bullosa, a rare skin condition where almost any amount of friction causes his skin to blister and rub off. She has to take him to the University of Iowa’s burn center for treatment each week. When her car broke down, she contacted the “Wheels for Work” program, a joint partnership between the United Way of Story County and Ames Ford Lincoln to provide cars to people in need who don’t have reliable transportation. (Ames Tribune)

Doctor, nurse who both survived breast cancer share advice
Breast cancer can happen to anyone — even someone who had no risk for the disease, like Dr. Suzy Lipinski. The physician at Partners in OBGYN, part of Covenant Medical Center, didn’t have any family history of breast cancer and was 39 and healthy, but was diagnosed with breast cancer. Lipinski’s coworker, Jacque Bakker, a registered nurse at Partners in OBGYN, was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Both Bakker and Lipinski say there are things they wish they would have known before being diagnosed. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

National News

Utahns likely won’t be able to sign up for Medicaid expansion on January 1
Utahns eligible for the state’s small-scale Medicaid expansion plan likely will be unable to enroll in the program on the estimated January 1 start date. The plan, projected to cover 9,000 to 11,000 people, recently underwent federal public comment. The state was hoping to receive an “early nod” from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, indicating that the plan was “on a good path” by September. It’s received no such nod from the feds, who have said Utah is among a number of states to submit plans that needs approval. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Vermont gets preliminary OK to move toward all-payer system
Vermont has received tentative approval from the Obama administration to establish an all-payer reimbursement system for health care providers in the state starting in January. Vermont plans to use an Accountable Care Organization-type structure that would cover all providers. Vermont says its goal is to provide better quality care and reduce health care cost growth. Providers would be paid global rates determined by the patient populations and health outcomes. Some experts say more states should consider such a system to speed the transformation to value-based payment. (Modern Healthcare)

Missouri officials considering opening a special hospital to treat tuberculosis
Two years after the University of Missouri closed the state’s lone hospital for treating tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, state health officials are looking at opening a replacement facility. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is seeking bids for a study that could provide officials with a road map for opening a new treatment center to replace the current process of sending patients to other states. It comes amid a nationwide increase in the number of people contracting the disease. (St. Louis Dispatch)

Hospitals continue to lead other health care settings in worker flu vaccinations
An estimated 91 percent of hospital workers report receiving a flu vaccine for the 2015-16 flu season, compared with 80 percent of ambulatory care workers and 69 percent of long-term care workers, according to a survey released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coverage for health care workers in all settings was 79 percent, up from 77 percent in 2014-15. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends annual flu vaccination for all health care personnel to reduce flu-related illness and mortality in health care settings. (AHA News)

States say Medicaid provider access rule is ineffective and burdensome
Some want to opt out of a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rule effective this week that’s meant to ensure Medicaid beneficiaries have adequate access to care. The rule requires states to assess how easy it is for fee-for-service Medicaid beneficiaries to receive various care services. Iowa officials asked for a delay in submitting its plan because it is developing new time and distance standards required by the managed care rule. CMS declined the request. (Modern Healthcare)

Medicaid expansion will drive affordability, insurance leader says
Medicaid expansion will force the US to address the cost of health care, health insurance trade association chief Marilyn Tavenner said recently. “Medicaid is going to become the bigger issue from the affordability perspective,” said Tavenner, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, who spoke at the McKesson Health Solutions Conference in Orlando, Florida. She said she would like to see the 19 states that haven’t yet expanded the health care program for low-income people under the Affordable Care Act do so. (Bloomberg)

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

Iowa News

EpiPen price increases hit Iowa Medicaid
The cost of EpiPens to the state of Iowa has nearly tripled since 2012, and one Iowa lawmaker says it’s hurting taxpayers. House Majority Leader Representative Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights) asked the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) to look into how much the state pays for the lifesaving allergy treatment through its Medicaid program. According to DHS, the state currently pays an average cost of $453.61 per EpiPen prescription. That’s up from $161.35 in 2012. (Des Moines Register)

United Health Foundation ranks Iowa 8th for women, infant, children health care
Health rankings released by the United Health Foundation give Iowa an overall rank of 8th when it comes to the health care provided to women, infants and children. The lowest individual ranking put Iowa at 22nd in the country for infant health. The Chief Medical Officer for United Healthcare, Ana Fuentevilla, says having women’s health ranked seventh is great, but says the infant health at 22 is not good, while the children’s health ranking is also high at number five. “So the state overall could focus on what things can we do to improve the overall health of our infants.” (Radio Iowa)

‘Access center’ jail diversion campus takes shape
Officials are inching closer to developing a new center that would provide comprehensive assistance to people experiencing behavioral or substance-related health crises. Plans for what officials are calling an access center — which would be an all-in-one site that would include a sobering center, short-term mental health crisis observation beds and a year-round low-barrier homeless shelter — have been in the works for months as part of a push by local governments and nonprofits to change the way Johnson County approaches policing. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Copper alloy surfaces reduce bacteria
A research partnership between Grinnell College and Grinnell Regional Medical Center concluded that using copper alloy materials in a hospital setting substantially decreased the hospital’s bacterial burden. These results could reduce the number of health care-associated infections. The new study shows for the first time that copper maintains the reduced bacterial load in both occupied, as well as clean, unoccupied rooms. The research found significantly fewer bacteria on copper alloy products such as grab bars, toilet flush valves, IV poles, switches, keyboards, sinks and dispensers. (Des Moines Register)

Hospital Board Seeks Community Input
Those planning a new hospital in Rock Rapids say they need some information. The owner of the current hospital, which is leased to Sanford Health, is the Merrill Pioneer Community Hospital (MPCH) Association. The association and Avera Health jointly announced that Avera will lease the operations of the Rock Rapids community hospital and clinics beginning in May, 2019. Avera and MPCH are planning a new hospital and clinic to be built in southwest Rock Rapids. TThe MPCH Board of Trustees is conducting a fundraising feasibility study to determine potential financial support and to gain understanding of public opinion. (KIWA)

National News

Pleas from uninsured, physicians don’t sway Idaho lawmakers on Medicaid expansion
At issue before the Legislature — yet again — is how Idaho should address the needs of 78,000 lower-income residents who don’t qualify for standard Medicaid or for subsidized health coverage on the state exchange. Following more than two hours of impassioned public testimony, a legislative panel reviewing health care options for thousands of Idaho’s working poor acknowledged Wednesday that it does not expect to reach consensus on what if any action to recommend to the full Legislature. (Idaho Statesman)

Proposed New Jersey law spells out rules on telemedicine
In today’s digital age, seeing a doctor via video conference doesn’t sound so outrageous. It already exists in the Garden State, but New Jersey is on a very short list of states without regulations specifically addressing the field of telemedicine — the virtual interaction between patient and doctor. A bill aims to change that, creating a definition for the practice that spells out who’s eligible to participate, which technology can be used and how the cost of services would be covered. (New Jersey 101.5)

How Atlanta police handle calls involving the mentally ill
Agencies continue to work with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) to train officers how to recognize those suffering from mental illness, problems of addiction and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and autism. In 2004, a group from NAMI approached the GBI about bringing a national program to agencies across Georgia, Director Vernon Keenan said. Keenan recently spoke about Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) in front of about 50 state troopers, sheriffs, deputies, police chiefs and officers from all over the state. (AJC.com)

604,000 uninsured veterans in 2017 unless more states expand Medicaid
More than 600,000 military veterans are likely to be without health coverage next year unless more states expand income eligibility for the Medicaid program, researchers at the Urban Institute reported Wednesday. Of 327,000 uninsured vets in non-expansion states, only 39 percent currently qualify for Medicaid or subsidized marketplace coverage. Seventy-seven percent would qualify if those states expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, according to the report funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (McClatchy DC)

Robots–not people–may solve health care’s nursing shortage
Developing technologies may offer a possible solution to the nation’s shortage of nurses. Finnish think tank EVA estimates that robots could be employed to do as much as a fifth of nurses’ work. And some hospitals in other countries are already taking advantage of them. For example, some hospitals in Japan use Terapio, a medical cart that can make rounds, deliver medications to patients and grab medical records, according to The Daily Beast. The new technology can help free nurses from these simple, but time-consuming tasks, allowing them to focus more on care tasks that require a more specialized touch. (Fierce Healthcare)

Congress finally approves funding to fight Zika – but what does this mean?
After months of bickering, Congress agreed Wednesday to allocate $1.1 billion toward curbing the spread of the Zika virus, a primarily mosquito-borne disease that has raised public health alarms. The package is part of a larger spending bill to keep the federal government running until Dec. 9. It comes as the virus  is actively spreading in Florida. More than 3,000 cases have been reported in the continental United States, though most were contracted by people traveling abroad. The funding consists of two pots: one, totaling almost $935 million, for efforts curbing Zika’s spread at home; and another, for about $175 million, targeting it abroad. (Kaiser Health News)

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

Iowa News

Wellmark trims broad-network health insurance options
Iowans looking to buy individual health insurance policies now have fewer options from the state’s largest carrier. Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield leaders said Tuesday that they no longer will sell standard, broad-network health policies, known as Preferred Provider Organization plans, on the individual market in Iowa. The company will continue to sell plans that steer participants to specific hospital-and-clinic systems, such as the Mercy Health System or the University of Iowa system. It also will sell a Health Maintenance Organization plan that has some restrictions on out-of-network care. (Des Moines Register)

UI app aids in alleviating kids’ pain
With certain medical procedures, pain is unavoidable. However, with the Distraction in Action application, distress caused by these painful medical procedures can be reduced. Researchers at University of Iowa (UI) Children’s Hospital and the UI College of Nursing have developed an app, Distraction in Action, that will be used as an intervention method to distract children from painful medical procedures such as IV insertions. The app’s development is based on 20 years of research and is geared toward children between the ages of four to 10. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

Seasons receives $150,000 grant for Children’s Mental Health
Seasons Center for Behavioral Health has been awarded a $150,000, nine-month planning grant from the Iowa Department of Human Services. The purpose of the grant is to fund the continued development of children’s mental health crisis services throughout the state of Iowa. Seasons will work closely with partners Boys Town, Juvenile Court, Prairie Lakes AEA and Avera in providing a collective rural voice on how children’s crisis services should be delivered in the future. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

National News

Rural hospitals in Georgia see ray of hope in tax credit program
The chief executive of two financially stressed hospitals in southwest Georgia looks forward to the promise of donations under a new state tax credit program. “The tax credit legislation is a lifeline for us, helping us keep essential services in our rural communities,’’ said Kim Gilman, who runs Phoebe Worth Hospital in Sylvester and Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center in Cuthbert. Gilman joined several other rural hospital CEOs at the state Capitol on Tuesday for the kickoff of a task force, called Rural Healthcare 180, that aims to promote the donation program. (Georgia Health News)

Public gets chance to speak on Idaho Medicaid expansion at hearing Wednesday
The legislative committee reviewing health care options for Idaho’s working poor convenes a daylong session in the Capitol Wednesday, including a two-hour period of public testimony. Wednesday’s agenda features morning testimony from advocates on both sides of the debate over whether Idaho should expand Medicaid to cover the estimate 78,000 residents caught in a health coverage gap. Those residents earn too much to qualify for standard Medicaid health benefits, but not enough to qualify for subsidized coverage available on the state health insurance exchange. (Idaho Statesman)

Underfunding Medicaid in New Mexico is a foolish decision
Currently, New Mexico receives four dollars in federal funds for every state dollar invested in Medicaid. Rather than maximizing this $4 to $1 return on investment, New Mexico underfunded the Medicaid budget in the 2016 legislative session. For fiscal year 2017, New Mexico is losing over $265 million in federal matching funds for Medicaid by failing to come up with $67 million to meet Medicaid’s minimum budget needs. In response, health care providers have issued serious warnings that the low Medicaid rates will force them to downsize staff and potentially even close entire facilities. (Albuquerque Journal)

Opioid crisis in rural areas may be tackled through telemedicine
Some health professionals think technology could offer a solution to the opioid crisis — by using video chat to connect patients in need with faraway physicians who know how to treat addiction. Their telemedicine effort is part of a larger initiative to fight the opioid epidemic in hard-hit rural areas such as Appalachia. This summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture directed $1.4 million to five pilot projects in southwest Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. The initiative comes as the nation’s addiction to prescription painkillers remains at epidemic levels. (Washington Post)

MedPAC questions validity of CMS’ hospital star ratings
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) has added its influential voice to those questioning the accuracy of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS’) hospital quality star-rating system and whether or not it penalizes hospitals with the sickest patients. The panel, which advises Congress on Medicare spending, will develop its own quality measures and a corresponding payment structure. CMS released the ratings this summer despite pressure from Congress and industry stakeholders to delay or tweak the system. They and others say the system oversimplifies a complex matter and could hurt hospitals’ reputations. (Modern Healthcare)

grmc-copper-small-2

Queenster Nartey (left), a senior majoring in biological chemistry who graduated from Grinnell College in May 2016, and Shannon Hinsa-Leasure (right), associate professor of biology at Grinnell College, count the number of bacterial colonies on samples collected from copper and non-copper surfaces at Grinnell Regional Medical Center.

A research partnership between Grinnell College and Grinnell Regional Medical Center (GRMC) concluded that using copper alloy materials in a hospital setting substantially decreased the hospital’s bacterial burden. These results could reduce the number of health care-associated infections.

Shannon Hinsa-Leasure, PhD, associate professor of biology at Grinnell College, and a research team with undergraduate students Queenster Nartey and Justin Vaverka, published their results in the American Journal of Infection Control.

The new study shows for the first time that copper maintains the reduced bacterial load in both occupied as well as clean, unoccupied rooms. The research found significantly fewer bacteria on copper alloy products such as grab bars, toilet flush valves, IV poles, switches, keyboards, sinks and dispensers.

Hinsa-Leasure’s team conducted research over 18 months at Grinnell College and GRMC with more than 1,500 samples. During the study, patient rooms were cleaned daily and subjected to a final, or terminal, cleaning upon patient discharge. High-touch areas were swabbed in occupied and unoccupied rooms and aerobic bacterial counts were determined for comparison purposes. GRMC’s move to copper surfaces was initiated to improve patient safety and reduce risks for infection.

DCF 1.0

Grinnell Regional Medical Center

High-touch surfaces throughout a hospital can serve as reservoirs for pathogenic microorganisms, including Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium difficile and vancomycin-resistant enterococci. These and other pathogens can survive from days to months on dry surfaces, making it difficult to maintain the suggested standard for surface-level cleanliness.

“This study is the first to demonstrate that copper alloy surfaces maintain reduced bacterial numbers in unoccupied and occupied patient rooms,” Hinsa-Leasure said. “This is in contrast to control rooms, where bacterial numbers rebound following terminal cleaning to levels comparable to those found in occupied control rooms. This is key to protecting newly admitted patients from contracting infections through commonly touched surfaces, even when they are considered clean, and is integral to an effective infection-control strategy.”

For the research, half of the patient rooms at GRMC were fitted with copper alloy and its germ-killing properties on high-touch surfaces. Because of the research findings, additional rooms will soon have the same life-saving features to reduce risks of acquiring an infection while admitted at the hospital.

GRMC has not had any health care-acquired infections in the past 12 months, except for three urinary tract infections. However, health care-associated infections are a serious concern in the medical industry. Of the 35.1 million discharges of inpatients in the US each year, an estimated one in 25 patients admitted to a hospital contracts a health care-associated infection. In 2011, an estimated 10 percent of the 722,000 patients who contracted health care-associated infections died from the infection.

To decrease microbial pathogens, some hospitals have begun installing metal surfaces that are naturally antimicrobial, including copper alloy, which kill a majority of bacteria within two hours. Copper compounds have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, yet copper alloys were just recently recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as having antimicrobial effectiveness, driving the increased study and use of copper alloy surfaces.

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

Iowa News

Anonymous Medicaid happy tales not enough
Governor Terry Branstad is desperate for good publicity about his privatization of Medicaid management. The problem: Iowans are not contacting the media to share positive experiences. Instead, numerous people have come forward with horror stories since the governor handed over administration of the government program to three for-profit insurers on April 1. Health providers are closing their doors because they’re not being reimbursed for services. Some are borrowing money to stay afloat. Patients are struggling to obtain medications and care. (Des Moines Register)

Bringing exercise programs to patients
Everyone knows that exercise can help patients prevent and manage chronic illness and, often, recover from acute disease. But getting patients on board can be tough. They complain that they can’t afford it, they can’t find the time or motivation, or they feel uncomfortable at the gym. To address such concerns, Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa, has moved beyond lecturing patients to partner with its local YMCA. Located at the Mercy Wellness Campus, the resulting collaborative program offers services and facilities through a medically integrated fitness model. (Today’s Hospitalist)

Allen kicks off fund drive
UnityPoint Health, the parent company of Allen Hospital and Allen College, has launched the most ambitious fund drive in those institutions’ long history in Waterloo-Cedar Falls. It’s a three-pronged, $19.8 million fund drive called “For Allen For You.” About $10.2 million already has been raised. The remaining $9.5 million is being sought to help fund three major initiatives “designed to address the health care and health care education needs of the Cedar Valley,” UnityPoint officials said in making the announcement. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Baby boom hits ORHC
This past week was a busy one for Ottumwa Regional Health Center (ORHC). A total of 17 babies were born at ORHC in less than 48 hours this week. It made for a very, very busy maternity ward, though doctors Lindsy Alons and Eric Garner said that wasn’t a bad thing. “Spikes in our census are cause for celebration up here,” said Sharry Fipps, Director. “Everyone pitched in to help; the positive attitudes and teamwork were definitely in play. We had 17 healthy babies with happy parents!” (Ottumwa Courier)

National News

Innovative Georgia tax credit benefits rural hospital donors
A new state income tax credit aims to help struggling rural hospitals, according to a news release. The program, which will go into effect in January, allows donors to rural hospitals to be eligible for tax credits. House Appropriations Chairman Terry England said it’s important that all of the donated money goes directly to the rural hospitals. “This innovative piece of legislation has put Georgia at the forefront of the national conversation for rural healthcare reform and has positioned our state to bring broader health care solutions to the table on a national level,” Representative Geoff Duncan (R-Cummings) said. (The Telegraph)

National meeting on Medicaid managed care to include focus on KanCare
Several Kansans are scheduled to meet today with federal officials and counterparts from across the country to discuss issues related to the privatization of state Medicaid programs. The meeting comes at a critical time for Kansas officials, who are expected next year to seek federal authorization to continue the state’s $3.2 billion managed care Medicaid program, known as KanCare. There have been steady complaints from hospitals, doctors and other health care providers about late payments and problems getting treatment authorizations from the managed care organizations. (Kansas Health Institute)

Texas Supreme Court allows Medicaid cuts to children’s therapy to proceed
A significant cut to the amount of money Texas pays therapists who treat children with disabilities was finally cleared to take effect — more than one year after state lawmakers originally ordered it — when the Texas Supreme Court on Friday declined to hear a lawsuit over the budget cut’s legality. Last year, a group of concerned Texans filed a lawsuit seeking to block the $350 million cut to Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for the poor and disabled, from taking effect. Child welfare advocates said the decision would harm vulnerable Texans. (Texas Tribune)

It’s easy for Obamacare critics to overlook the merits of Medicaid expansion
Three years into Obamacare and it seems as if much of the news is bad: private insurers exiting the exchanges, networks being narrowed, premiums rising and competition dwindling out of existence. But it’s important to remember that many, if not most, of the newly covered Americans became insured through an expansion of Medicaid. Looking at the balance sheet for Medicaid — health benefits, financial security, societal improvements through education — it’s not hard to argue that money allocated to Medicaid is well spent. (New York Times)

House approves bill for mental health first aid training
The House on Monday approved a bill that would require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to reauthorize mental health first aid training programs. The chamber approved H.R. 1877, the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2015, by voice vote. The bill would reauthorize a grant program that trains individuals who are likely to be a first responder to a patient experiencing mental illness, such as teachers of police officers. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised the bill, sponsored by Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas) and Doris Matsui (D-California), ahead of the vote. (Morning Consult)