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

Iowa News

Extended session likely for Iowa Legislature
The Iowa Legislature’s 2015 session appears headed toward an extended run as House Republicans and Senate Democrats remain deadlocked on developing a new state budget, particularly school spending for the upcoming academic year. There is no rule requiring the Legislature to adjourn by a specific date, but lawmakers need to approve a state budget before the new state fiscal year begins on July 1, 2015. (Des Moines Register)

Senate lawmakers try to keep mental health facilities open
A proposed health services budget in the Democratic-controlled Senate has funding to save two state mental health facilities slated to close this year, lawmakers said Wednesday, though it’s unclear whether such a legislative move would garner enough support from either the House or Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City and vice chairwoman of the Senate Human Resources Committee, said there is about $11 million in a proposed health and human services budget bill to keep the facilities in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant open. (Associated Press/Marshalltown Times-Republican)

Students explore health care hands on
An 80-year-old “patient” who was not breathing and had no heartbeat was brought into Floyd Valley Hospital Wednesday. Ambulance personnel relayed to emergency room staff the patient was in V-fib, or ventricular fibrillation, a life threatening abnormal heart rhythm. As six Le Mars Community School students looked on, the patient, a mannequin, was rushed into the emergency room. (Le Mars Daily Sentinel)

New endoscopy suite open at Knoxville hospital
Sharon Campbell, surgery manager, explained that the endoscopy suite is joined by a processing room for equipment handling after use. The endoscopy suite improves efficiency during procedures and having a separate processing room enhances patient safety by immediately removing used equipment from the operating environment. “We have a more spacious and comfortable area now to accommodate the growing volume of outpatient procedures,” said Campbell. (Knoxville Journal Express)

National News

Rural hospitals struggle to stay afloat
There are a lot of small, rural hospitals in Kansas. Without them, many Kansans would have to travel long distances for care. What’s more, in many small towns, the hospital is one of the largest employers — making it vital to the local economy. But declining populations, combined with changes in the way hospitals are paid for their services, are making it more difficult for many small hospitals to survive. (High Plains Public Radio)

Know what’s really sick? Missouri, Kansas being stupid on health care
It’s too bad more people didn’t show up at the massive free medical clinic at Kansas City’s Bartle Hall on Saturday. Granted, about 1,500 persons came to see a doctor or dentist. And about as many volunteers sacrificed a Saturday to help out. But if Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback stopped by, I missed him. I also didn’t see Missouri Sen. Rob Schaaf or Kansas Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, two of the most strident voices against Medicaid expansion in their respective states. In fact, I didn’t spot any politicians at all. (Kansas City Star)

Appeals of denied Medicare claims mean high costs for hospitals, low risk for RACs
Increased scrutiny and denial of hospital inpatient claims by Medicare’s recovery audit contractors over the last few years has been followed by growing numbers of denials being overturned in the hospitals’ favor. But instead of being more careful and selective about which claims to audit, three separate RAC agencies have continued to audit ever larger numbers of Medicare claims. (HealthLeaders Media)

More whistleblowers say health plans are gouging Medicare
Privately run Medicare plans, fresh off a lobbying victory that reversed proposed budget cuts, face new scrutiny from government investigators and whistleblowers who allege that plans have overcharged the government for years. Federal court records show at least a half dozen whistleblower lawsuits alleging billing abuses in these Medicare Advantage plans have been filed under the False Claims Act since 2010, including two that just recently surfaced. (National Public Radio)

Americans are drinking more heavily, especially women
Whether quaffing artisanal cocktails at hipster bars or knocking back no-name beers on the couch, more Americans are drinking heavily – and engaging in episodes of binge-drinking, concludes a major study of alcohol use. Heavy drinking among Americans rose 17.2 percent between 2005 and 2012, largely due to rising rates among women, according to the study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health. (Kaiser Health News)

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

Iowa News

Mental health workers lament Iowa facility closings
Former and current employees at Iowa mental health institutes targeted for closure Wednesday refuted claims that the facilities in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda are antiquated. They questioned whether mentally ill Iowans will be better served in other settings. “We have a mental health crisis in Iowa right now,” said Cindy Fedler, a nurse clinician who recently was laid off at the mental health institute in Mount Pleasant. She was one of four MHI employees who told Senate Oversight Committee members the facilities are a crucial last resort for patients suffering from an acute mentally illness. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

The faces of organ donation
Some of the nearly 5,000 organ recipients were invited back to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Transplant Center to help plant several cypress trees on the medical campus. They’ll serve as a living monument to all those touched by the lifesaving efforts here since the first kidney transplant nearly 50 years ago. Transplant Surgeon, Dr. Alan Reed, says while 5,000 may be the headline, it’s important to look behind the numbers for this incredible milestone. (KGAN)

Broadlawns buying properties for growth along Hickman
Broadlawns Medical Center is positioning itself for a potential expansion on the south side of Hickman Road. Since November, it has acquired five houses and one vacant lot directly across the street from the medical center, 1801 Hickman Road, a review of Polk County assessor’s records shows. Broadlawns isn’t announcing any specific plans for the properties. It acquired them for “future growth and expansion,” Mikki Stier, the hospital’s vice president of government and external relations, said. (Des Moines Register)

How teen daughter helped save the life of her dad, Jamie Pollard
Annie Pollard is a hero. But don’t tell her that. She wants nothing to do with it. Just like she takes umbrage with her father, Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard, mentioning during a 20-minute press conference he’s indebted to her. That she was instrumental in saving his life when he suffered a heart attack in March. (Ames Tribune)

National News

Bill to repeal health insurance tax gains steam in House
A bipartisan bill to help health insurance companies avoid fees under ObamaCare is now backed by a majority of House lawmakers, its sponsors announced Wednesday. The bill would repeal an ObamaCare provision commonly called the “health insurance tax” (HIT), which charges insurers an annual fee to help pay for the healthcare law. (The Hill)

Medicare weighs options for reining in hospice costs
Medicare officials are considering changes in the hospice benefit to stop the federal government from paying twice for care given to dying patients. But patient advocates and hospice providers fear a new policy could make the often difficult decision to move into hospice care even tougher. (Kaiser Health News/Healthcare Finance News)

Why many doctors don’t follow ‘best practices’
Dr. Steven Brown, a professor of family medicine at the University of Arizona, has studied doctors’ reasons for ordering unnecessary tests before a scheduled surgery. A lot of it has to do with perceived safety, he says. “They think, somehow, that this is going to make the patient more likely to do well in surgery,” he says. “It’s not.” Brown says some doctors don’t know the latest guidelines, which is somewhat understandable, since there can be hundreds to follow. (National Public Radio)

Health care crunch: Patient costs rise, ability to pay drops
Americans last year were hit both with “skyrocketing” costs for some popular medical procedures, and with health insurance deductibles that are rising at a rate well above inflation. At the same time, the amount of revolving credit that people can tap to help pay some leading health-care costs decreased, according to a study released Wednesday by TransUnion Healthcare. (CNBC)

Once cash cows, university hospitals now source of worry for schools
Teaching hospitals have long been points of pride for major universities, and in recent years revenue from medical services has served as a lifeline for some schools that have struggled with falling state aid and pressure to slow tuition increases. Now the marriages between universities and their cash-cow clinical operations are starting to fray as changes stemming from the 2010 health-care law threaten to make university hospitals less profitable. (Wall Street Journal)

9780789749499 2.7.12Who is Mark Cuban and who gave him a medical degree?

That may have been the common query from health care providers the world over after Cuban shared on Twitter that he intends to have his blood drawn and analyzed every quarter “for everything available” and that anyone who “can afford to” should do the same.  It was just a few words from a mid-level celebrity on social media; then again, there are more people following Cuban on Twitter than there are adults living in Iowa.

Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team but may be better known for the business “reality” show “Shark Tank,” insisted that he was simply advising people to build a base of personal health data for future reference.  But anyone this obsessed with data isn’t going to just let it sit; they’re going to look for abnormalities, outliers, changes.  And when they see one, no matter how small, they are going to take action because, after all, we are talking about health.

“More is not better,” health care experts told Cuban.  The kind of overtreatment Cuban advocates wastes scarce health care resources and runs the risk of creating more waste through a ripple effect of possible tests and their results, which may produce either false positives or false negatives.  Here’s how Dr. R. Adams Dudley from the University of San Francisco Center for Healthcare Value described the escalation:

  • If a patient gets just five things checked in his blood every quarter, that’s the equivalent of 20 tests a year. (An activist patient like Cuban may be getting many more tests done.)
  • Given normal variation, about 5 percent of tests may produce an unexpected result. That means out of 20 tests, “even one test is expected to be abnormal, even if (the patient is) healthy,” Dudley points out.
  • Although doctors may suspect that nothing’s amiss, “we are trained not to just ignore an abnormal result, but to do further testing or even treatment,” Dudley points out.  “That testing or treatment always involves risks.”

Cuban’s particular piece of advice undermines the value hospitals are working harder than ever to bring to the health care system.  But, at the same time, hospitals are also trying harder than ever to get patients engaged in their health care. It is a delicate balancing act.

Problem is, despite health care providers’ efforts to carefully convey the more-is-not-better message, there will probably be more Mark Cubans in the future – a lot more.  Health care blogger Andrew Holtz summed it up:  “It won’t be long before the incessant data logging that is already widespread in sports sprints past the daily-steps tracking by a Fitbit to global monitoring of every breath and heartbeat… even analyzing our blood without those pesky phlebotomists.  Look, the Apple Watch already has a blood sugar monitor add-on and it’s not alone.”

A stream of data will become a torrent that will “flow into a void of understanding,” Holtz predicted.  But it doesn’t have to be that way, not when providers are prepared well ahead of the flood and not when patient-provider relationships are built through access to care and a medical home that is not hampered by income, geography, politics or regulations, including disconnected reimbursement policies.

That’s where IHA comes in – to get the information to hospital leaders and advocates, to share the hospital story with the public and to knock down the barriers to high-quality, high-value, patient-centered health care for everyone.


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

Iowa News

State unemployment rate drops to lowest level in nearly 7 years
The state unemployment rate continued its slow trend downward in March. “The Iowa unemployment rate dropped to 4-percent and that’s the lowest it has been since 2008,” according the Ed Wallace of Iowa Workforce Development. The March rate is down from the 4.1-percent in February and its the sixth straight monthly drop. Wallace says part of the drop in unemployment is driven by six straight months of increases in non-farm jobs. (Radio Iowa)

New test helps doctors tailor treatment for individual patients
The Iowa Institute of Human Genetics is offering a new test that will ensure that patients who may require specific pain medications, or need blood-thinning drugs to prevent heart attack or stroke, will receive medicine that is safe and effective, based on the patient’s own genetic make-up. Variations in a person’s DNA can alter the way they metabolize certain drugs. These changes in metabolism can cause drugs to be less effective than expected or even raise the risk of dangerous side effects. (University of Iowa)

Newell, Skiff Auxiliary give generous donation toward medical technology
Through the generosity of Louise Katherine Newell, who named the Skiff Medical Center Auxiliary in her will, the auxiliary has been privileged to join with the Skiff Foundation in the purchase of a pain management radio frequency generator, estimated to cost $29,484.80, for use by Matt Biggerstaff, the new pain management physician who began seeing patients in Newton recently. (Newton Daily News)

National News

TN, KS get warning: Expand Medicaid or risk hospital funds
Add Tennessee and Kansas to the list of states that have been warned by the Obama administration that failing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act could jeopardize special funding to pay hospitals and doctors for treating the poor. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services confirmed Tuesday that it gave officials in those states the same message delivered to Texas and Florida about the risk to funding for so-called “uncompensated care pools” — Medicaid money that helps pay the cost of care for the uninsured. (Kaiser Health News)

Texas bills on medical authority spark more ‘doc fights’
Every two years, it seems, lawmakers are asked to recalibrate a few delicate balances between groups of health professionals trying to keep others from encroaching into their business. More than a dozen bills this year — some moving, some apparently stuck — would give professionals like nurse practitioners and physical therapists more autonomy to operate independently from medical doctors. Others would expand the range of medical professionals like optometrists, allowing them to prescribe painkillers, or create new classes of non-doctor medical professionals, like dental hygiene practitioners. (Texas Tribune)

Can corporate wellness programs lower health care costs?
Corporate wellness programs aren’t new, but historically, some of them have been considered little more than “fluff” efforts to encourage healthy behavior. No one ever really gauged whether they worked. Instead, businesses would control health care costs by changing insurance plans. Employees saw their deductibles go up. They were expected to shell out more from their own paychecks for their policies. Their benefits may have been cut back. The Affordable Care Act, however, has made it increasingly difficult for companies, especially small ones, to save money by tweaking some of these variables. (Charleston Post and Courier)

A better nursing home
What Barry Berman planned was a multi-year project to build, from the ground up, a nursing home that would look totally different from the traditional model. It would be based on innovative experiments from elsewhere, and it would accept people of all different incomes, as well as non-elderly people with debilitating diseases such as ALS and MS. It would be a home, not a hospital, no matter how sick residents were, and it would allow them to make their own choices and live their own lives. (The Atlantic)

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

Iowa News

St. Luke’s, PCI team up for advanced cardiac care
Specialists from two of Cedar Rapids’ major health care providers are partnering to provide better cardiac care, officials said Monday. The Heart and Vascular Institute is made up of physicians from UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids — St. Luke’s Hospital and UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology — and cardiovascular surgeons from Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Mental health facility opens for parolees, probationers
Sitting empty more than six years because of a lack of funding, the Anchor Center — a residential treatment center for parolees and probationers with mental health and substance abuse issues — is finally open. The 26-bed mental health residential correctional center at 3115 12th St. SW in Cedar Rapids is intended to serve as a bridge to help offenders transition out of prison and back into society. (KCRG)

National News

Oscar, a health insurance start-up, valued at $1.5 billion
Sixteen months after going live, the insurance company Oscar has joined the elite group of start-ups known as unicorns, or those with billion-dollar valuations. The company plans to announce on Monday that it has raised $145 million from a group led by the billionaire Peter Thiel and his Founders Fund venture capital firm. Other investors in the round included the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Horizon Ventures, the Wellington Management Company and Goldman Sachs. (New York Times)

U.S. panel ‘clarifies’ mammogram advice
A committee that’s been attacked for its controversial mammogram recommendations for half a decade clarified that advice Monday, saying they have been misunderstood. The panel says women in their 40s can get mammograms every year if they want to, but said it really needs to be up to a woman to decide if she wants to risk the anxiety of getting a false positive result, one showing a breast lump that turns out not to be cancer, after all.  (NBC News)

Why 2015 could be the year of the health care hack
Two years ago, credit card companies were getting hacked. Last year, it was major retailers like Target. But 2015, said Srinivas Mukkamala of cybersecurity firm RiskSense Inc., will be the year that health care companies get hacked. “It’s not the health care providers they’re after, it’s the third party processors,” he said, or the companies that hold personally-identifiable data. (Memphis Business Journal)

New FDA head: ‘Full steam ahead’ on e-cig rules
The acting head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Monday that the agency is moving “full speed ahead” with its efforts to crack down on the use of e-cigarettes. Two weeks into his tenure, Dr. Stephen Ostroff said strengthening tobacco regulations is one of his top priorities. He pointed to alarming new federal data that showed the use of e-cigarettes among middle and high school students has tripled in the last year — a trend that landed on the front page of nearly every national newspaper. (The Hill)