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

Iowa News

Pay Medicaid bills quickly, legislators tell managers
Legislators warned private Medicaid managers Tuesday that if they don’t improve how they pay bills from service providers, some of those agencies could soon close their doors. “We’ve got to get to it. We cannot leave people behind here. … It’s going to be make or break for our state,” Senator Liz Mathis (D-Cedar Rapids) told executives of the three national companies that took control of the state’s $4 billion Medicaid program in April. Mathis’ demand for a solution came at the close of a four-hour Senate hearing about the transition to private management of Medicaid. (Des Moines Register)

As political career sunsets, Harkin focuses on disability rights
Tom Harkin sat in the Democratic National Convention hall here Monday night listening to U.S. Senator Al Franken’s speech from the podium. Or, rather, trying to listen. The 76-year-old former senator from Iowa doesn’t hear as well these days, and found it hard to discern Franken’s words through the cacophony of the convention floor. Harkin, who retired in 2015 after 30 years in the Senate, is attending the convention this week as a delegate from Iowa — “a real delegate,” he clarified more than once — but spent much of the day celebrating, reliving and advocating for the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Des Moines Register)

Wellmark sees $35 million savings from ACO contracts
Iowa’s largest health insurer says it is seeing success from its efforts to reward hospitals and clinics for providing high quality care. Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield announced Tuesday that its Accountable Care Organization (ACO) contracts with 13 hospital and clinic systems saved $35 million in health care costs last year. Under such arrangements, hospitals and clinics are paid for keeping patients well, instead of just for ordering more tests and providing more treatments. Accountable care organizations’ goals include encouraging patients to take steps to catch health issues before they become serious and expensive problems. (Des Moines Register)

Former state trooper opens up about addiction
Michael Haugen has more time these days to reflect on his life as a small-town Iowa boy who grew up to be a proud lawman. “I loved (being an Iowa state trooper),” Haugen said. “It was very rewarding. I loved helping people.” You can imagine how people reacted when the person who swore to uphold the law was charged with breaking it. After an infection, Haugen became addicted to his prescription drugs. An addiction counselor at Iowa’s House of Mercy recovery center said Haugen’s case is unusual, but not at all surprising. Rebecca Peterson said she has seen it all. (WHO)

National News

Kentucky and feds near possible collision on altering Medicaid expansion
Anxiety and suspense are building in Kentucky as a potential clash over the state’s high-achieving Medicaid expansion nears next month between Governor Matt Bevin and the Obama administration. At issue is whether to make the poor pay and work to obtain health insurance under the federal-state program. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays the full cost of the expansion now, but in 2017 the state will begin absorbing some expenses and its share will rise to 10 percent in 2020. Bevin’s position is Kentucky can’t afford it. (Kaiser Health News)

Arizona becomes the last state to provide health insurance to low-income children
Arizona is rejoining a children’s health insurance program for low and middle-income families, becoming the last state in the union to provide coverage for health care, dental care, speech therapy and other services to families who don’t qualify for Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Monday that it had approved Arizona’s plan to unfreeze enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, effective Tuesday. The state estimates that 30,000 to 40,000 children will become newly eligible for health coverage as a result of the decision. (Washington Post)

Insurer, Topeka health provider create ACO
One of Kansas’ largest health insurers is trying to reduce costs and improve the quality of care for at least some of its customers in the Topeka area. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS) announced Monday that it had formed an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) with SCL Health. Mary Beth Chambers, spokeswoman for BCBSKS, said the ACO is a way of using funding to encourage health providers to improve their coordination of patients’ care. (Kansas Health Institute)

CMS proposes bundled payment models for cardiac and hip fracture care
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently proposed a new payment model that would bundle payment to acute care hospitals for heart attack and cardiac bypass surgery services. In addition, the proposed rule would expand the existing Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement model to include other surgical treatments for hip and femur fractures beyond hip replacement. “Hospitals are under a tremendous burden to help ensure these complex models work for patients,” said American Hospital Association Executive Vice President Tom Nickels, noting that this is the third mandatory demonstration project from the agency in a little over a year. (CMS)

Much work to be done for Americans with disabilities
The 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act is certainly something to celebrate. But it also highlights how much work still needs to be done. While the federal government has for decades required states to accommodate the special needs of people with disabilities like cerebral palsy and autism, Congress has never provided the money to do so. This leaves funding up to state and local governments, and oftentimes, there are no dollars to be found at these levels, either. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

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

Iowa News

Iowa Medicaid providers not getting paid on time, running into billing issues
Hundreds of Medicaid providers have run into billing issues since the April 1 transition of the state’s $5 billion Medicaid program over to three out-of-state, private insurers, according to a survey released by Iowa Democratic legislators on Monday. The survey includes responses from more than 400 Iowa providers, including doctors, hospitals, clinics and not-for-profit agencies. Legislators used social media to solicit the responses over about a month’s time, during June and July. Problems range from late and inaccurate payments to increased administrative costs and reduction in services. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Mercy opening new internal medicine clinic next week
Mercy Clinics announced Monday that it is opening a new internal medicine clinic next week. Mercy Clinics Internal Medicine Central Campus is located at the Mercy Medical Center Central Campus at 411 Laurel St.  It opens August 1. The new clinic will focus on adult patients only. Mercy Clinics said it now offers internal medicine services at four locations in Urbandale, West Des Moines, Des Moines and Ottumwa. (KCCI)

Birth trends difficult to predict midway through 2016
The miracle of life — and quantifying it — remains something of a mystery, much to the chagrin of local birth experts. At the respective birth centers of Mercy Medical Center-Dubuque and UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital, recent trends in birth rates have been difficult to pin down. Liz Tippet, director of maternal and child services at Mercy, said the number of babies born in the first six months of 2016 could indicate just about anything. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

National News

Children’s hospital in Minneapolis gets an intensive care simulation room
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota is opening an intensive care simulation in its Minneapolis hospital to train medical students and staff. The new room, which comes complete with child- and baby-size mannequins and beeping equipment, is meant to accurately reproduce the high-stress environment of an intensive care unit and will allow teams to practice procedures during simulations of medical emergencies. A debriefing room allows trainees to review video playback and analyze opportunities for improvement. (Twin Cities Pioneer Press)

Health centers quickly filling up space in Philly area malls
How about treating yourself to a shopping spree after getting good news at your annual physical? That opportunity has arrived, as more mall spaces are being used as medical offices and health centers to resuscitate struggling suburban malls. Retail and real estate experts say the trend is on the rise, especially among malls looking to fill space vacated by traditional retailers with new tenants to generate rental income and increase traffic. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Surgeon says apps may turn organ donation support into ‘concrete action’
Users of Tinder, the popular online dating app, usually swipe right on their mobile screens to gain a potential match. Come September, the same action might allow them to save lives by registering to be an organ donor. Dr. Thomas Fishbein, a transplant surgeon and the executive director of the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, is optimistic about the Tinder and Organize partnership in attracting potential donors, especially younger ones. His institute is trying a somewhat similar strategy by developing a free app that allows people to indicate their desire to be organ donors. (Kaiser Health News)

Hospitals show some benefit from ACA
One of the promises made by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) appears to be coming true: U.S. hospitals spent less on charity care for uninsured and underinsured patients in 2014, the first year of the health care law’s implementation. The drop in charity care — as well as a stabilization of bad debt expenses — was revealed after the Post-Gazette analyzed federal data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Medicare will test population-health approach to stroke and heart disease risk
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has selected 516 physician practices to participate in a payment initiative intended to change the way providers manage heart disease. Overall, nearly 20,000 health care practitioners and more than 3.3 million Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries will participate in the five-year effort. The new CMS Innovation Center model will use predictive modeling to generate personalized risk scores and develop specific plans in partnership with patients to reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. (Modern Healthcare)

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

Iowa News

Study looks at childhood trauma’s impact in Iowa
A new report released by the Central Iowa Adverse Childhood Experiences Coalition provides more detailed evidence that a majority of Iowa adults have experienced childhood trauma, an indicator of higher rates of chronic diseases, mental illness, violence, risky behaviors and reduced life expectancy. The broad-based coalition of business, education, nonprofit and philanthropic entities is leading efforts to raise awareness of the lifelong impact of childhood trauma and to support initiatives working to prevent or mitigate its effects. (Business Record)

UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s nurse reaches 500 flight milestone on LifeGuard Air Ambulance
Bev Minear takes critical care to new heights — upward of 5,000 feet in the sky, in fact. A nurse with UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital for 26 years, Minear recently reached a significant milestone: 500 flights on LifeGuard Air Ambulance, which began service at St. Luke’s 35 years ago. Despite working 12-hour-or-more night shifts under incredibly stressful conditions, Minear said she loves working with critically ill patients. “It’s the best job,” she said. “I feel privileged to be there in their time of crisis.” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Hospital complies with call to release volunteer names
Crawford County Memorial Hospital (CCMH) and the men and women who volunteer for the hospital’s Community Cares Transportation Project have decided to release the names of those volunteers. The Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB) ruled June 16 that the names of hospital volunteers are public records and are not confidential. Bill Bruce, CCMH president and CEO, said when the idea for the transportation service was first being considered, CCMH believed the personal identities of volunteers could be kept confidential. (Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil)

National News

Like mental health reform, North Carolina Medicaid changes would be disastrous
To understand why North Carolina’s Medicaid reform plan is a bad idea, it helps to know the history of the state’s dismal mental health care reform. Because the mental health care delivery system was extremely expensive, North Carolina decided to get out of the mental health business by privatizing delivery. It would dismantle the system of government-run Area Programs and replace them with privately run Local Management Entities. North Carolina is now in the process of repeating this same mistake in its unnecessary and politically driven effort to reform Medicaid. (Raleigh News & Observer)

Growing pains for New Hampshire hospital’s crisis unit
When the 10-bed mental health crisis unit at New Hampshire Hospital opened on July 5 with much fanfare after a one-year delay, state Health and Human Services officials predicted it would fill up immediately, given the long list of patients waiting in emergency rooms at hospitals throughout the state. But it’s starting to look like the 10 new beds will barely make a dent in the number of mental health patients left lingering in emergency rooms. (New Hampshire Union Leader)

Robot aids in labor and delivery floor scheduling, workflow
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have demonstrated that robots can help with decision making on a hospital’s labor and delivery floor. Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory used a robot that could learn from human schedulers to anticipate bed flow and suggest which nurses to assign to C-sections and other procedures. While robots long have been used to perform small tasks, such as delivering linens or medications, they’re now taking on higher-level responsibilities that can include surgery and doing rounds. (Fierce Healthcare)

What a brain surgeon’s virtual reality tool and Pokemon Go have in common
Augmented reality may be grabbing headlines with the rise of the hit game Pokemon Go, but a New York surgeon is examining how this technology could be used to save lives during some of the most complex brain operations. Dr. Joshua Bederson, chairman of neurosurgery at Mount Sinai Health System, spent his Tuesday morning this week calmly working his way through the brain of a 47-year-old patient. On the walls of the operating room, scans of the patient’s brain were projected onto various screens. Two of the screens showed the view that Bederson could see through his surgical microscope, revealing how he slowly worked his way between two lobes of the brain. (ABC News)

Mobile health apps not keeping pace with privacy protections
A new government report finds “key gaps” in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) ability to protect personal information generated by wearable fitness trackers and other mobile apps. Mobile health technologies and health-related social media sites, on the other hand, fall under the category of “non-covered entities.” But that’s where increasing numbers of people share personal health information. Many people are confused or have a limited understanding of when their health data is protected by HIPAA and when it is not, according to the report. (Healthcare Dive)

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

Iowa News

Why more psychiatric beds aren’t the solution
The United States is in the midst of health care reform. As a part of this reform, many states — including Iowa — are redesigning their mental health care delivery systems to provide the best patient care in the least restrictive setting. While placing mental health patients in institutions was once considered the standard of care, clinical research has proven that non-institutional, community-based care provides better patient outcomes for most patients while reducing the cost of that care. (Des Moines Register)

County seeking mental health fund changes
An unfair taxing method may occur for mental health services if the Iowa Legislature doesn’t take action to solve the funding basis. According to Jones County Community Services Administrator Deborah Schultz, the Legislature’s failure to act could change mental health funding for Jones County and other counties in the region, which could result in fewer services. Schultz attended the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to discuss fiscal year 2018 funding for mental health services within the region. (Anamosa Journal-Eureka)

SMCH Announces Participation In Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative
Stewart Memorial Community Hospital (SMCH) will be implementing changes in its clinics as part of the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative as a member of the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative (IHC). IHC and its partners will receive up to $32.5 million during the four-year initiative to provide technical assistance to help equip clinics in Iowa, Georgia, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The initiative intends to increase the quality of care, patients’ access to information and help clinics spend health care dollars more wisely. (KCIM)

Spencer Hospital offering tours of new birth center
After months of anticipation, Spencer Hospital’s labor and delivery team is anxious to move into their new location on the west side of Spencer Hospital’s campus. Yet, first the public will get an opportunity to tour the new center prior to expectant moms moving in. “Just like new babies often start off as just a tiny idea then develop and grow into something wonderful, so did this project,” Jeannette Hasley, Spencer Hospital’s director of the birth center/women’s health, said. “And, after months of planning, design and construction, we’re thrilled to be moving in and opening our new birth center.” (Spencer Daily Reporter)

University of Iowa to close Sigourney clinic
University of Iowa (UI) Health Care will close its Sigourney clinic on July 27 after about 20 years of operation. “The decision was made to focus on providing specialty services for cardiology, orthopedics, pulmonary and urology in the area, with an eye toward expanding specialty care options there,” UI spokesman Tom Moore said. “It was also determined that staff from Keokuk County Health Center (KCHC) had the capacity to take on the primary care services for patients who elect to switch to KCHC’s care.” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Lack of Medicaid expansion adds to stresses in Southeast Kansas county
Kansas is one of 19 states that have not expanded eligibility for Medicaid. In Kansas, only adults with dependent children are eligible for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. Sheldon Weisgrau of the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved in Topeka said Montgomery County has more than 3,600 uninsured residents, including about 1,400 who would be eligible for Medicaid under expanded eligibility. (Kansas Health Institute)

Texas hospitals to get more than $9.5 million to expand health care workforce
Fort Worth’s Texas Christian University is one of nineteen organizations in the state that will receive federal funding to bolster training for health care professionals. More than $9.5 million in grants will be distributed to hospitals, health systems and other groups statewide. The awards announced Thursday are meant to help improve access to care in high-need areas, and are part of $149 million national effort of the Health Resources and Services Administration. Texas is one of several states facing a looming physician shortage and smaller counties have struggled to provide services to residents. (Dallas Morning News)

Mystery surrounds ‘micro-hospitals’ planned in Indianapolis area
A Texas company is planning to build at least four “micro-hospitals” around central Indiana but isn’t sharing many details about what to expect from the health care facilities. The micro-hospital model has been gaining popularity nationwide, and Indiana offers a good environment for them to crop up, said Brian Tabor, executive vice president of the Indiana Hospital Association. “There are a lot of models like this developing in a number of states across the country, so time will tell whether the ones we see in Indiana are similar,” Tabor said. (USA Today)

A look at rural hospital closures and implications for access to care
The number of rural hospital closures has increased significantly in recent years. This trend is expected to continue, raising questions about the impact the closures will have on rural communities’ access to health care services. To investigate the factors that contribute to rural hospital closures and the impact those closures have on access to health care in rural communities, the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured and the Urban Institute conducted case studies of three hospital closures that took place in 2015. (Kaiser Family Foundation)

CMS previews how hospitals will fare on new star ratings
Ahead of the release of its much-anticipated star ratings for overall hospital quality, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published data Thursday showing how those star ratings are distributed according to hospital characteristics, such as size and status. The agency said it planned to post overall hospital star ratings “shortly” on its Hospital Compare website. “We hope that by releasing our analysis of the impact of the overall star rating on different types of hospitals, we are able to clarify our ratings and address any questions or concerns about the data from stakeholders.” (Modern Healthcare)

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

Iowa News

Mental health is roundtable focus
The front lines of mental health in Iowa frequently aren’t in a psychologist’s office. They’re with emergency rooms and family doctors, and that’s a concern for professionals in the field. It’s a concern for United States Representative Dave Loebsack, too. On Wednesday he met with area health professionals at what was dubbed a children’s access to mental health services roundtable. Loebsack is pushing a bill that would accelerate funding for mental health to help underserved areas hire doctors and provide access. If anything, calling southeast Iowa underserved may be an understatement. (Ottumwa Courier)

Mental health care provider offering outpatient care to address ‘growing need’
Addressing a growing need for mental health resources in the Metro, Employee & Family Resources (EFR) has announced a new outpatient therapy program. The provider has offices both in downtown Des Moines and West Des Moines. Until now, EFR only offered counseling to students and employees of schools and businesses it partnered with. In addition, care was short-term, meaning those in need could only see a counselor for one-to-six sessions, before being referred to another, long-term provider. Now, EFR will accept any and all patients who are seeking treatment for a mental illness. (WHO)

New HIV diagnoses up 27 percent in Iowa
The Iowa Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) annual HIV Surveillance Report for 2015 finds there were 124 new HIV diagnoses last year, an increase of 27 percent from the 98 cases reported in 2014. “This increase marks a return to the levels we saw in 2013 and is a reversal from the drop in cases from 2013 to 2014,” said IDPH HIV/AIDS Surveillance coordinator Jerry Harms. IDPH and its community partners are currently creating Iowa’s 2017-2021 Comprehensive HIV Plan, which will be released this fall. (Iowa Department of Public Health)

National News

Illinois hospital’s three-pronged approach to quality care
Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Illinois is paving a path toward high-quality, efficient patient care, by taking steps to reduce stroke deaths, cut costs and promote a patient-centered model. The hospital was able to lead the charge to quality care by emphasizing three culture changes: a culture of performance improvement, a culture of health care innovation and a culture that focuses on patient-centered care. (Fierce Healthcare)

Crew resource management training improves perceptions of safety in Ohio
Two years of training on team communication, leadership and decision-making practices raised the perception of a culture of safety among employees of one Ohio medical center. A study found that crew resource management (CRM) is one way to improve the perception of a culture of safety by hospital employees. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is an academic medical center with more than 1,300 beds. Two years after implemented CRM at its six hospitals and two campuses, employees’ perceptions of the organization’s patient safety culture showed improvement. (HealthLeaders Media)

Further Medicaid expansion depends on elections in 2016
Voters’ decisions in this fall’s elections could determine Medicaid expansion in three key states. Of the 19 states that haven’t expanded the program, three—Missouri, North Carolina and Utah—will elect a governor in 2016. Medicaid expansion was introduced as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and makes states eligible to receive increased federal funding for Medicaid services. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court said the federal government cannot require states to expand Medicaid, and the expansion became optional. But election of a new governor can make a difference in states grappling with expansion. (Bloomberg)

How are telemedicine companies aiding medical boards for proper use?
Some may not be happy with the pace of change surrounding health systems, especially since a lot of the change involves adopting telecommunications technology for remote treatments and diagnoses – also known as telemedicine. Generally, in the telemedicine industry there needs to be an understanding of guidelines and standards around the proper use of telemedicine. But the regulatory landscape of telemedicine can be tricky. State medical boards generally work with experts in a medical specialty to determine best practices for providing quality care using evidence-based research. (Healthcare Dive)

Costs of Zika among the many unknowns of the virus
History buffs and infectious disease experts have already drawn links between the rubella outbreak in the 1960s and the current spread of Zika. But drugmakers today face greater regulatory hurdles and the federal government has yet to dedicate funding to address the Zika epidemic. That means a vaccine and successful methods to stop transmission of the virus may be a long time coming — factors that affect how much the U.S. may end up spending on combating and dealing with the effects of the disease. (Modern Healthcare)