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

Iowa News

Testimony calls into question Medicaid savings estimate
The $51 million in savings that Iowa has cited as a key reason to privatize its Medicaid program is a midpoint of wide-ranging estimates from unidentified experts, some of whom predict no savings, a state official has acknowledged in court testimony. In addition, a check by the Register with two other states that have privatized their Medicaid programs found that savings were elusive. Jean Slaybaugh, a fiscal manager for the Iowa Department of Human Services, testified last week that experts have predicted that privatizing management of Iowa’s annual $4.2 billion Medicaid program could save anywhere from nothing up to 15 percent. (Des Moines Register)

Meeting will air issues on Medicaid
State Sen. Amanda Ragan says Iowans have been blindsided by state plans to privatize Medicaid. Now, she is offering North Iowans to have their say on the issue. We commend her for planning a forum on the issue in Mason City, and urge North Iowans to express concerns and suggestions that Ragan can take back to Des Moines in her role as co-chairperson of the Legislature’s Health Policy Oversight Committee. Ragan says a lot of people are uncertain at the least. They’re worried that medical services won’t reach those who need them and that the people who provide the treatment will be shortchanged by the private companies. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Story Medical to break ground Monday
Story County Medical Center will break new ground to meet the growing needs of the communities it serves at 3 p.m., on Monday. The expansion grows the current Story County Medical Center to include new facilities for Story Medical family practice services, Story Medical Wellness and Cardiac Rehabilitation Services and 21st Century Rehabilitation. The facility expansion will also include a larger dining space, meeting room space, registration space and health information management space. (Ames Tribune)

Breast cancer survivor praises care, promotes early detection
In 2014, Mason City Clinic surgeon Dr. Steven Allgood sat down with Tiffani Ward of Clear Lake, who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. “He gave me a hug and said ‘We’ll get through this together,’” Ward said. As a Mason City Clinic surgeon and medical director of the Mercy Breast Center of North Iowa, Allgood is passionate about breast cancer care, since he has felt the effects personally. He lost his wife to breast cancer three years ago. “He’s the sweetest man I know,” Ward said. “I didn’t realize at the time he had been through it himself. He’s really passionate about breast cancer awareness in general.” (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Gentiva, Spencer Hospital, St. Croix explain how hospice ‘embraces life’
In order to better inform the public about end-of-life care and area hospice programs, St. Luke Home and the Highlands hosted a Hospice Public Forum Tuesday morning. Nine representatives from Gentiva Hospice, Hospice of Spencer Hospital and St. Croix Hospice, three regional hospice providers, conducted a panel presentation for family and professional caregivers. According to the hospice providers, hospice care is widely misunderstood by the public. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

Mental health concerns hit home
“When we think of mental health, I think lots of times mainstream society goes to the worst-case scenario but the majority of us kind of struggle or face what we would consider a mental health diagnosis,” Tonya Hotchkin, clinician at Tanager Place, said. Hotchkin said other factors contribute to violence; mental illness can be one of those factors. “Lots of times when people struggle from early childhood experiences that were traumatic or involved some kind of abuse, there’s some sort of adverse experience,” Hotchkin said. “A lot of times that can change the way a child’s brain develops.” (KGAN)

Iowans walked for health in all 99 counties Wednesday
Thousands of Iowans, including many in Siouxland, took steps toward a healthier lifestyle Wednesday. For the first time in the Healthiest State Walk’s five-year history, organized walks were held in all 99 Iowa counties. More than 970 walks were held statewide, including more than 20 in the Sioux City area. (Sioux City Journal)

National News

How the debate over health care is changing – just in time for the 2016 election
Making high-cost drugs affordable should be the top health care priority for the next president and Congress, three-quarters of Americans said in a nationwide survey this year. Most Americans also want their elected leaders to protect them from surprise out-of-network medical charges. They want government to ensure health plans have sufficient networks. And they want more information about the prices of doctors’ visits, tests and procedures, according to the poll, by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. By contrast, fewer than half the respondents want their elected officials to deal with concerns about the Affordable Care Act. Just a third want it fully repealed. (Los Angeles Times)

For rural Georgia county, a potential health care game-changer
Albert Trawick died on the helicopter pad at the old Hancock County Hospital site. And while Trawick likely would not have survived, his plight highlights a trifecta of bad luck for residents of Hancock and other rural Georgia counties — no transportation system, no hospital, and insufficient alternative care to treat residents plagued with chronic illnesses. Now, a team of health care experts, state legislators and city and county leaders are hoping a program they’ve launched not only will make a difference, but will set an example nationwide. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Texas program aims to reduce physician shortage
A report by the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that the U.S. will face a significant physician shortage by 2025 — a shortage West Texas already is seeing, according to education professionals. Staff from the University of North Texas Health Science Center spoke Friday during a MC-sponsored luncheon to discuss the new partnership between UNT, MC and Midland Memorial Hospital. The aim of Primary Care Pathway is to bring more primary care physicians to the area. (Midland Reporter-Telegram)

Kansas’ political clash on possible reform of Medicaid escalating
An aide issued a statement outlining the Governor Brownback’s moral opposition to adding more than 150,000 low-income Kansans to Medicaid while the state struggles to clear disabled people from waiting lists for services. Merrick’s staff sent a memorandum to Republican colleagues offering talking points for those inclined to reject expansion. In turn, the Kansas Hospital Association developed a document rebutting “many of the statements contained” in commentary distributed by KHA and a second statement addressing views of the governor. (Topeka Capital-Journal/Garden City Telegram)

Opioid painkiller abuse soars in Missouri
The Missouri Hospital Association found hospitalization for opioid abuse has grown more then 130-percent in the Show Me State between 2005 and 2015. Sally Gibson, director of operations for addiction Services at Burrell Behavioral Health, helps opioid addicts with recovery, starting with those at the age of 12. “It started with painkillers,” said Gibson. “It started after a medical procedure but he said he started to use them immediately after that– and got them even if they weren’t prescribed.” (Ozarks First)

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

Iowa News

Genesis implements video interpreter service
Healthcare terms and technology can be confusing and frightening in any language, creating possible gaps in vital communication between healthcare providers and patients. As the local patient population becomes more global, Genesis Health System is responding with a global solution. Genesis is working with Stratus Video Interpreting of Clearwater, FL. to bridge communication gaps with patients, no matter what language is their “first’’ language. (Genesis Health System)

Mercy dedicates new birth center
Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City is unveiling its latest addition this one aimed at improving care for pregnant women. Mercy officially cut the ribbon on its new obstetrics unit at a ceremony Monday afternoon. The changes to the newly-renovated Family Birth Center include new patient rooms, equipment and staff trained in Electronic Fetal Monitoring. (KMEG)

National News

Tenet forms joint venture with Baptist Health System in Alabama, merges 5 hospitals
Hospital giant Tenet Healthcare Corp. on Sunday said it has formed a joint venture with the Baptist Health System in Birmingham, Alabama. Under terms of the deal, the joint venture includes all four of Baptist’s hospitals as well as the Brookwood Medical Center, a Tenet hospital. Monetary terms of the deal were not announced. Baptist’s Citizens Baptist Medical Center, Princeton Baptist Medical Center, Shelby Baptist Medical Center and Walker Baptist Medical Center will form a new organization with Brookwood, though officials did not say what the new system would be called. (Healthcare Finance News)

6 CEOs name the biggest challenges they’re facing today and 5 years out
All hospitals and health systems feel the effects of regulatory and policy changes, but these challenges affect each region, market and organization in different ways. Hospital, health system and hospital association CEOs have told Becker’s Hospital Review about some of the biggest challenges they are facing today, and ones they anticipate down the road. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

Congress, Obama Administration seek ways to limit increase in Medicare premiums
Congress and the Obama administration are frantically seeking ways to hold down Medicare premiums that could rise by roughly 50 percent for some beneficiaries next year, according to lawmakers and Medicare officials. The administration has criticized commercial insurance companies for seeking rate increases much smaller than that. Aides to Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, and Speaker John A. Boehner are quietly exploring a possible deal that would limit the expected increase in Medicare premiums. The cost of avoiding such big premium increases, $7.5 billion by some estimates, could be a problem for conservative Republicans. (New York Times)

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

Iowa News

Report: 68 percent of Iowa jobs will require postsecondary education by 2025
Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds have announced a goal for 70 percent of Iowans to have attained education or training beyond high school by 2025. Currently, 60 percent of Iowans have some education or training beyond high school. The administration made the announcement in conjunction with the release of a new report, “Iowa: Education and Workforce Trends Through 2025,” which estimates that 68 percent of all jobs in Iowa are expected to require education and training beyond high school by 2025, which positions Iowa 18th among the states and three percentage points above the national average. (Des Moines Business Record)

Official: Partnership between NIACC, University of Iowa is paying off
Five years ago Don Kamps, who had recently retired after many years as the evening dean at North Iowa Area Community College, returned to campus in a new position: partnership coordinator for NIACC and the University of Iowa. He believes one reason the program is so popular is because hospitals around the state — including Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa — are encouraging nurses to go beyond the associate degree level and get bachelor’s degrees due to the increase in responsibilities for nurses. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

King, Carroll residents tour St. Anthony’s $2.9M addition
Ed Smith delighted in the role of tour guide this week, taking Carroll-area patients and supporters of St. Anthony Regional Hospital — and U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron — through the west-central Iowa medical center’s new $2.9 million rehabilitation services wing. The services area, opened on June 17, employs 27 health-care professionals and consolidates physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, exercise physiology, athletic training and sports performance. (Carroll Daily Times Herald)

School nurses evolve with education in Burlington
The practice of school nursing can be traced to the early 1900s, when a New York City school hired a nurse in an effort to reduce student absences. A student’s health is related directly to his or her ability to learn, as children with unmet health needs have a tough time learning. Through assessment, intervention and follow-ups, nurses support students’ success. (Burlington Hawk Eye/Des Moines Register)

National News

The evolution of ACOs and what it may look like in the future
Despite the frequent changes, the Accountable Care Organization model is definitely here to stay. Indeed, the Department of Health and Human Services’ recent announcement that it will tie half of fee-for-service payments to alternative payment models by 2018 has made the model more significant than ever. And despite many exits from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Pioneer program, even among its top performers, CMS is betting big on the model, announcing an expansion of Pioneer ACOs after they saved nearly $400 million in the first two years of the program. (Fierce Healthcare)

Telemedicine expands despite uncertain financial prospects
Say you’re a rural Midwestern farmer in bed recovering from a major illness at your local hospital. It’s time for nurse’s check in, but there’s no knock on the door. At Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, just over the foot of the bed, a camera whirls around and a monitor lights up to show a smiling face with a headset on. “Good afternoon, this is Jeff with SafeWatch. Just doing my afternoon rounds,” he said in this training exercise. Watching the video nurses in action, it’s a little hard to shake the Jetsons vibe, but this kind of health care is already alive and growing. (Kaiser Health News)

Mercy debuts new $54 million virtual care center
Registered nurse Cara Edmunds’ eyes dart back and forth between the six oversized screens at her desk. On one screen she uses software to turn on a camera stationed above a patient’s bed — in Arkansas, 800 miles away from her station in Chesterfield. The patients can also see and talk with Edmunds. The nurse around the corner from Edmunds’ desk is monitoring 28 hospitals across the country, waiting to assess potential stroke patients. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

ICD-10: Post implementation challenges
No matter how smoothly the switch to ICD-10 may have transpired, after 36 years of using ICD-9-CM as the backbone for payment data, reports, and diagnosis and inpatient procedure coding, healthcare there are bound to be a few problems, experts say. “Depending on how prepared the organization or facility is, they could see different issues,” says Melanie Endicott, senior director of HIM practice excellence at the American Health Information Management Association. (HealthLeaders Media)


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

Iowa News

Wellmark to sell policies on Obamacare exchange for 2017
Iowa’s dominant health-insurer, which has declined to sell policies that would qualify for Obamacare subsidies, has agreed to start doing so a year from now. Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield has not participated in the Affordable Care Act’s online health-insurance marketplace, which was launched in the fall of 2013. The main effect was that moderate-income Iowans could not choose Wellmark insurance if they wanted to purchase policies that qualified for new federal subsidies that help pay premiums. Other insurers have participated in the marketplace, also known as an exchange. Three carriers are selling policies statewide for 2016. (Des Moines Register)

Judge declines to intervene in Iowa’s Medicaid plan
Iowa can forge ahead with a quick-moving plan to privatize management of its annual $4.2 billion Medicaid program despite ongoing allegations that nepotism, fraud and inaccuracies played into the state’s selection of for-profit companies to take over the system, a Polk County judge ruled late Friday. Aetna Better Health of Iowa filed a petition last month seeking a court injunction to prohibit the state from signing contracts on Oct. 9 with four companies in line to take over Medicaid management. Aetna wanted to postpone the signings until after questions about the bidding process are resolved. (Des Moines Register)

Reunion at St. Luke’s celebrates former NICU patients
Most children celebrate their birthdays each year, but a few get to attend a special party with their families — and the nurses and doctors who helped guide them to health. The annual St. Luke’s Auxiliary Neonatal Intensive Care Unit reunion was Sunday, filling the atrium of the hospital with colorful balloons, games and sweets for kids and their parents. Children who were born prematurely, or who suffered complications at birth and had to remain in care, were the guests of honor at the party. (Sioux City Journal)

Mercy’s Especially for You Race fills Cedar Rapids streets
Karen Vander Sanden with Mercy Medical Center was at the finish line of the 2015 Especially for You Race on Sunday morning, watching participants pour in. “We are looking at near-record or record participating this year, so we’re super excited,” she said. An estimated 15,500 people took part in this year’s event. Through registration fees and other donation sources, every pair of feet that crossed the finish line means more money to help people in need of preventive care and treatments. (KCRG)

National News

Hospitals add 15,500 jobs in September
Employment at the nation’s hospitals rose by 0.32 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted 4,939,400 people, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week. That’s 15,500 more people than in August and 145,900 more than a year ago. Without the seasonal adjustment, which removes the effect of fluctuations due to seasonal events, hospitals employed 4,939,700 people in September – 10,400 more than in August and 146,400 more than a year ago. The nation’s overall unemployment rate was unchanged in September at 5.1 percent. (American Hospital Association News)

The Harvard contest that’s trying to improve health care delivery
In the fall of 2014, the HBS-HMS Forum on Health Care Innovation launched the inaugural Health Acceleration Challenge — a “scale up” competition that focuses on compelling solutions to problems in health care delivery that have already been implemented at a small scale and have the potential for wider dissemination. The contest produced some useful innovations. Many of them are easily adoptable by other organizations, proving our assertion that there is no shortage of innovations in health care; rather the problem is that they take too long to be adopted by others. (Harvard Business Review)

Wellness programs: Early alarm for workers’ health or recipe for over-testing?
Half of large employers offering health benefits have wellness programs that ask workers to submit to medical tests, often dubbed “biometrics,” that can involve a trip to a doctor’s office, lab or workplace health fair. While aimed at uncovering potential health risks early to head off serious and costly problems, the programs that involve those biometrics are also controversial. Will the screening exams actually improve health, or merely add to a culture of over-testing that is helping drive up the cost of health care? (Kaiser Health News)

Nurses have been my best teachers
I became a doctor because Maxine White, the mom of a good friend, suggested it was something within my reach. She was a nurse, the first of many nurses who influenced my career. As a medical student, my internal medicine attending, Dr. Goodhope, shaped my initial perception of nurses. Introducing us to the ward charge nurse, Mrs. Muhm, he said, “Nurses are the most overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated members of the health care team. You must respect them.” Mrs. Muhm stood by her desk. In her white nurse cap with the black stripe, tall in her white orthopedic shoes, her arms folded, she looked at us over the top of her glasses. She grinned and said nothing. We did not for one second think of doing other than to follow Dr. Goodhope’s advice. (KevinMD)

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

Iowa News

Iowa study: Working individuals are largest group benefiting from Medicaid expansion
More than 70,000 Iowans benefiting from the state’s decision to accept Medicaid expansion work in industries that are the foundation of the state’s economy, with jobs ranging from sales and food service to construction and health care, according to estimates in a study released today by Families USA. This projected group of working Iowans represents an estimated 68 percent of the state’s residents who benefit from Iowa’s Medicaid expansion, which went into effect last year. (Families USA)

Assaulted by a spider? New medical coding system launches
If someone has assaulted you with a venomous spider, there’s a medical code for that. “The training has been exhaustive, as you can imagine,” said information services administrator for Genesis Health System Betsey Tibbitts. Or maybe you got bit by some kind of reptile. “We have toxic effects from venom of a Gila monster,” she said. This is all part of a new coding system for medical billing called ICD-10 and it launched in doctor’s offices across the nation. “I can code if you had a stressful day at work,” said Tibbitts. (KWQC)

University of Iowa home to more than half of state’s mumps cases
The Iowa Department of Public Health has reported 50 cases of mumps in the state so far in 2015. Of those, 30 have been reported on the University of Iowa campus. Students are required to have at least two MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccines, with the only exceptions for medical or religious reasons. Doctors said most of the current cases involve students who had met the university’s vaccination requirements. (KCRG)

Pediatric conference held in Sioux City
Doctors from across the Upper Midwest gathered in Sioux City this morning to learn about the latest in treating sick kids. This year’s Upper Midwest Regional Pediatric Conference is taking place at the Stoney Creek Inn downtown. This year’s conference is focusing on how to diagnose and treat uncommon conditions in babies, kids and teens. The seminar is sponsored by Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, UnityPoint Health St. Luke’s and Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City. (KMEG)

Many former foster youths don’t know they have health care
Laticia Aossey was flat on her back in an Iowa hospital bed with a tube up her nose, a needle for a peripheral IV stuck in one arm and monitors pasted to her body. It was early June 2014, a week after her 18th birthday, when a friend brought Aossey’s mail from home — including one ominous letter. Aossey’s health insurance was about to be discontinued. “My heart dropped. I just wondered to myself, ‘Are they going to pull this tube out, unhook me from everything and roll me down to the street?’ ” Aossey said. (Iowa Public Radio)

National News

How to teach people about health care pricing
Price transparency tools have quickly emerged in response to the notion that consumers now have a stake in the cost of health services (because they often pay out of pocket for them) and to the promise of big data, crowdsourcing, and web and mobile technologies. However, the enthusiasm and capacity for reporting prices has outpaced consumers’ readiness to routinely use that information (when they can obtain it) in making health care decisions. (Harvard Business Review)

Why a 3 percent rise in telehealth usage makes a big difference
What was once thought of as futuristic – conducting a virtual consult with a specialist in New York from your couch in California – is now a reality. Businesses across industries are utilizing technology to expand their reach and healthcare organizations are no exception. HIMSS Analytics’ recent Essentials Brief, the 2015 Telemedicine Study, found a 3 percent increase in the number of organizations using telemedicine solutions/services since 2014. While small, the increase indicates that organizations are turning to telemedicine to help expand their care reach, provide additional services and potentially lower the cost of care. (Healthcare IT News)

UMass Medical School shares $29m grant to aid rural health care
The grant, shared by the University of Connecticut, will help 5,400 doctors and other clinicians in Massachusetts and Connecticut, including those who work independently and those affiliated with large health systems. UMass staff will coach the medical practices on how to reduce costs and improve health quality scores — for example, by reducing unnecessary tests and hospital stays. The cost and quality of care is becoming more important as insurers adopt payment contracts that require health care providers to stay within a budget while keeping patients well. (Boston Globe)

To sell med students on joys of geriatrics, send in the 90-year-olds
When doctors told Robert Madison that his wife had dementia, they didn’t explain very much. His successful career as an architect hardly prepared him for what came next. “A week before she passed away her behavior was different, and I was angry because I thought she was deliberately not doing things,” Madison, now 92, told a group of nearly 200 students at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland. “You are knowledgeable in treating patients, but I’m the patient, too, and if someone had said she can’t control anything, I would have been better able to understand what was taking place.” (National Public Radio)

Surgeon General Murthy highlights five crucial health care areas for Americans
Since Dr. Vivek Murthy was appointed U.S. surgeon general last year, the U.K.-born doctor has made it his priority to fast-track the American public to a healthier lifestyle. In a conversation with HuffPost Live’s Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani last week, Murthy highlighted a number of important health issues facing the country, from nutrition to gun violence. Check out the best moments from Murthy’s conversation below. (Huffington Post)

Why health care companies need to crank up social media
From retail brands to media organizations, businesses large and small have been utilizing social media platforms to push their products. There is one industry, according to David Francis at RBC Capital Markets, that is missing the opportunities that social media provides: health care. “One of the new variables with which healthcare stakeholders are struggling is marketing to and communicating with their consumers using media, technologies and techniques that are largely foreign to their way of doing business,” wrote Francis in a note to clients. (Business Insider)