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

Iowa News

Cannabis oil ‘light years away’ for Iowa families
The Iowa parents who persuaded lawmakers last spring to approve the use of marijuana oil to treat epilepsy say they’re nowhere close to obtaining the medicine for their children. “I feel like it’s still light years away,” Sally Gaer said today. “We have a lot more work to do.” The West Des Moines mother helped persuade legislators to decriminalize possession of a marijuana extract for patients, like her daughter, who suffer seizures from epilepsy. (Des Moines Register)

Mental health and the criminal justice system
The inmate who shot a West Union deputy before turning the gun on himself had a history of mental illness. Steven Harreld’s family released a statement Tuesday saying they are saddened by the events, and expressed relief that the deputy wasn’t injured. Harreld’s family says that this incident, and others nationwide, shows that changes are needed in the criminal justice system when it comes to mental health. (KGAN)

National News

Nonprofit hospitals’ 2013 revenue lowest since recession, report says
Nonprofit hospitals last year had their worst financial performance since the Great Recession, according to a report released on Wednesday. The poor operating performance of many hospitals underscored some of the changes in the health care system as the federal government and private health plans became less willing to pay for hospital care and changed the way they paid hospitals in an effort to reduce costs. (New York Times)

Data analysts are needed to turn information into action
With the big push toward data collecting and using data to lower costs and improve patient care, healthcare organizations are finding themselves in need of data analysts. “The focus on quality and consistency of care” is driving the demand, said Kara Chacon, senior corporate recruiter at the National Committee for Quality Assurance in Washington, where more than half of the 300-member staff is involved in analytics, research and business intelligence. “It seems like every health care organization is looking for an analyst of some type.” (Healthcare Finance News)

Obamacare premiums in Arkansas projected to drop 2 percent in 2015
Insurance companies have proposed a net reduction in premiums of 2 percent next year for the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, the health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act. The Marketplace includes all of the plans used for the private option, the state’s unique plan which uses Medicaid funds to purchase private health insurance for low-income Arkansans. (Arkansas Times)

Blood pressure self-medication better than doctors in study
“Do-it-yourself” blood pressure measurements and medicine changes work better than usual doctor-office care in some patients, a study of older adults in England found. Those who did their own readings at home and adjusted their medicine as needed had healthier blood pressure levels after a year than those who got standard doctors’ care. (CBC News)

hands-in-prayerWith a love like Randy and Nancy Krueger’s, there wasn’t much they couldn’t conquer together, but when complications from cancer took their toll, they were thankful that UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s in Sioux City quickly became a part of their fighting team.

At the early age of 20, Nancy was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, and seven short years later she was also battling Large Cell Lymphoma.

Even though Nancy had been sick from the very start of Randy and her marriage, Randy says life with her was easy and wonderful.

“She was so strong, she was a tiny little thing, but she could fight,” he says.

Soon, date nights and fun-filled weekends were replaced with trips to the hospital and regular visits to see a familiar face, Dr. Craig Bainbridge, formerly of UnityPoint Clinic Pulmonary and Critical Care, now medical director of UnityPoint Health-Inpatient Palliative Care

“Dr. Bainbridge was the best caretaker ever,” says Randy. “He took care of my mother, my uncles-everybody; and we just felt like he was family.”

Bainbridge saw Nancy for more than 42 years, but just as much as he saw Nancy, Randy was always right there by her side.

“She came to really rely on Randy,” says Dr. Bainbridge; “They were like one person so to speak,” he added, “I think she anticipated his feelings, and he anticipated hers and they were really quite a team.”

As time went on, Nancy grew sicker and the visits became more frequent. Around Thanksgiving in 2013, Nancy came down with a severe case of pneumonia, so severe that Bainbridge and his nurse Dora started to talk to the family about end-of-life care.

“The talks he had about death and things like that were hard,” says Randy, “but the way he and Dora handled it was outstanding.” Those conversations, he says, “made it easier for both of us, talks you never want to have about your mate, but things you have to face.”

During this difficult time, Randy and Nancy also grew close to UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Chaplain Stacey Gerhart. Randy said they had conversations about everything.

“It was almost like Chaplain Stacey had known Nancy for years,” says Randy.

Even after all of their preparation for end-of-life, Randy was still hopeful that Nancy was going to overcome her illness, fighting like she had with everything else. She did for six more months. On May 31, Nancy passed away at age 64.

It was a loss the UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s team wasn’t going to let Randy face on his own. Randy says the team has “always just been there for us and they continue to call me,” he adds. “It’s just been a blessing to have them.”

Randy makes trips to UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s to catch up with the team and even continues to seek out Gerhart’s words of spiritual guidance. Now however, he hears those words as a member of the congregation at Gerhart’s church. It’s a new Sunday tradition that Randy says Nancy would be proud of.

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

Iowa News

Officials worry over rise in unvaccinated children
Iowa health officials are concerned about an increase in the number of parents who are opting not to vaccinate their children. Parents received vaccination exemptions in the 2012-13 school year for nearly 8,000 children, which is more than triple the number from 12 years ago, The Des Moines Register reported. While the figure represents less than 2 percent of all Iowa children, health leaders say they are worried about the rise in unvaccinated children. (Associated Press/Clinton Herald)

New anti-tobacco ads aim to shame celebrities who smoke
Iowa’s attorney general is touting the power of a new anti-smoking tactic: celebrity-shaming. While young people around the world were watching MTV’s Video Music Awards show Sunday night, they got an eyeful of entertainers with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. The less-than-glamorous images flashed by in a new anti-tobacco ad that premiered Sunday and will be airing nationally. (Des Moines Register)

UIHC preparing for Ebola — just in case
Health care workers in Iowa City and throughout the state are preparing for possible treatment of Ebola patients, though the chances of a local outbreak are remote, an Iowa health department director said Monday. The planning comes as an estimated 2,615 cases of the disease exist in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization reported Friday. Of those cases, 1,427 were fatal. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Report shows Iowa’s not making the grade to reduce cancer
The American Cancer Society’s annual report card says Iowa’s getting bad grades in some areas. In fact, Iowa only met three of the report’s 12 benchmarks for fighting cancer. The report brought up a big concern when it comes to both tobacco prevention and breast and cervical cancer detection. Danielle Oswald with the American Cancer Society says currently prevention and cessation programs are only funded at $5.1 million, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends those programs to be funded at $30.1 million. That’s 17 percent of the recommended level. (KCRG)

National News

Probe: No proof VA delays caused Phoenix vets to die
The Veterans Affairs Department says investigators have found no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at a VA hospital in Phoenix, deflating an explosive allegation that helped expose a troubled health care system in which veterans waited months for appointments while employees falsified records to cover up the delays. The VA’s Office of Inspector General has been investigating the delays for months and shared a draft report of its findings with VA officials. (Associated Press/National Public Radio)

Technology adviser expected to leave White House post
Todd Park, President Obama’s top technology adviser and an important figure in the emergency effort last year to fix the federal government’s online health care marketplace after a disastrous beginning, is leaving the White House, a person familiar with the matter said Monday. Mr. Park, 41, who was only the second federal official to hold the title of chief technology officer, will return to Silicon Valley at the end of the month and continue to help the White House recruit engineers, this person said. (New York Times)

CEOs love talking about culture; here’s why they shouldn’t
So I’m a CEO of an institution that’s struggling. We aren’t making our numbers, morale is low and there are service or product errors. I seek out the help of other CEOs. They tell me I must improve the culture. That doesn’t really help me. “Everybody says it’s the culture, but what is the culture?” asks John Kenagy, MD, founder of Kenagy & Associates and a former practicing physician who has studied change management for more than two decades. “Culture is such a meaningless term; it really dodges the issue. Nobody’s talking about what it is.” (Becker’s Hospital Review)

It helps to have a hospital room with a view
Hospitals are, by their nature, scary and depressing places. But they don’t have to be ugly as well — and there’s ample evidence that aesthetics matter to patient health. When the University Medical Center of Princeton tested a mock-up room with nice views, a sofa for guests and no roommates, it found that patients asked for 30 percent less pain medication, reports the New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman. This result shouldn’t be surprising. (Bloomberg/Chicago Tribune)

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

Iowa News

Woodbury County sheriff renews call for more jail nurses
Perla Solis is part of a three-person medical staff contracted by the county from Mercy Medical Center-Sioux City. For 15 hours each weekday, two nurses oversee the medical condition of everyone in the 234-bed facility. The rest of the time – overnight and on weekends – it’s up to the jail staff to address inmates’ medical issues. Those with serious health problems are taken by ambulance the few blocks to Mercy. The arrangement, which dates back years, has become a source of conflict between sheriff’s officials who oversee the jail and the County Board, which provides funding. (Sioux City Journal)

Cedar Rapids schools may shift models for mental health services
If Cedar Rapids school board members approve new agreements with the Iowa Department of Human Services and the Abbe Center for Community Mental Health, school-based therapy largely will be replaced in favor of assessments and consultations. The vote will take place during the board meeting slated for 5:30 p.m. Monday. “At first we were trying to do everything for everyone, when money wasn’t such an issue,” said Rhoda Shepherd, director of health services for Cedar Rapids schools. “Now, mental health services and health care have changed so much in the last three years that Abbe really had to focus on billable services.” (KCRG)

New pain center offers chronic sufferers more options
Broadlawns Medical Center has a new option for patients seeking relief from chronic pain. The Interventional Pain Center opened in June to manage diverse areas of pain. Dr. Salman Iqbal, a board certified anesthesiologist and pain specialist, runs the center and was previously in private practice in Des Moines. With the specialty experiencing major cuts in reimbursement rates, he was looking for other avenues to continue his practice. Since the move, Iqbal said he’s been impressed with the facility, staff and dedication to patient care at the hospital. (Des Moines Register)

Branstad will again seek broadband legislation
An effort to improve access to broadband Internet in rural Iowa failed in the Legislature this spring, but Gov. Terry Branstad is optimistic that a revised proposal can succeed next year. Branstad has offered a rebooted version of his broadband proposal, which he’ll pursue if re-elected. It’s dubbed “Connect Every Acre” and among the goals is to focus on farmland and to provide incentives to get broadband infrastructure into areas with profitable agricultural operations. (Associated Press/Quad-City Times)

National News

Hospitals look for new ways to collect unpaid medical bills
Patients who end up with hefty medical bills now have another payment option: an interest-free loan without the worry of a credit check. As patients’ deductibles continue to rise, leaving them unable to pay for services in one lump sum, health finance experts say hospital officials are looking for creative ways to collect on patient balances. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Help wanted (a lot): home health aides
No major segment of the workforce is expected to expand faster in coming years than that of the paid caregivers who assist aging Americans at home. The jobs typically don’t require a high-school diploma, there is little required training and the average workweek is 34 hours. The U.S. Labor Department predicts the profession will grow by nearly 50 percent, or the equivalent of nearly a million new jobs, by 2022. That is nearly five times the average for all occupations and above the coming demand for retail, restaurant or construction workers specifically. (Wall Street Journal)

Blood industry shrinks as transfusions decline
Changes in medicine have eliminated the need for millions of blood transfusions, which is good news for patients getting procedures like coronary bypasses and other procedures that once required a lot of blood. But the trend is wreaking havoc in the blood bank business, forcing a wave of mergers and job cutbacks unlike anything the industry, which became large scale after World War II, has ever seen. (New York Times)

As investors buy struggling hospitals, big change comes to NJ health care
Bayonne Medical Center wasn’t just bragging about efficiency when it posted a big digital clock on a highway billboard a few years ago to show the real-time waits in its emergency room. It wanted patients to come to its ER. Lots of patients. It didn’t matter if the hospital was in the patient’s insurance network. On the contrary, to the businessmen who had recently purchased the medical center, those “out-of-network” patients held the key to reversing Bayonne’s fortunes. (

Apple hints at a push into health care, let’s all hope that happens
The United States’ health care system is extremely complex, but many doctors and experts believe it’s also inherently broken. Hospitals are routinely criticized for overcharging patients, while the drug and insurance companies continue to rake in mammoth profits. Meanwhile, individuals with lower income often lack sufficient access to proper health care. Doctors and patients alike are unhappy with the current health care system, and a big part of that has to do with efficiency. (Business Insider)

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

Iowa News

Pella Regional – More than $7 million in community benefit
Pella Regional Health Center provided more than $7 million in community benefits last year, according to a recently completed assessment by the Iowa Hospital Association. That amount, based on 2013 figures, includes more than $4.5 million in uncompensated care such as charity care, bad debt and unpaid costs of Medicaid. (Ottumwa Courier)

KHC adds $1.8 million in community benefits
“Knoxville Hospital & Clinics is committed to serving our community, supporting health and wellness for everyone,” said Kevin Kincaid, hospital CEO. “In previous years, it has been very apparent that our community, state and country continue to face very difficult financial times. It remains evermore important that we not lose sight of the importance of fundamental health care needs for everyone and we continue to tackle the challenges and help improve the lives of individuals, families and the whole community.” (Knoxville Journal Express)

‘Visionary’ new diabetes research center to open at University of Iowa
A new research center will be dedicated this weekend at the University of Iowa which promises to be innovative in its goal of finding treatments and a cure for diabetes, an epidemic that afflicts one in every 12 Iowans. The center’s director, Dr. Dale Abel, says there will be 15 separate labs in the single facility that will all be working independently — yet together. (Radio Iowa)

End of summer has blood centers looking for donors
As summer is winding down, blood centers in Eastern Iowa are looking for donors. One of them is the DeGowin Blood Center in Iowa City. DeGowin collects blood for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the UI Children’s Hospital. They are in need of platelets as well as O negative and O positive blood types, but all blood types are encouraged to donate. The blood drive coordinator said it is typical to see shortages throughout summer months. (KCRG)

Mental Health First Aid benefits farmers
Mental Health First Aid is a course to train people to assess warning signs of behavioral health concerns that is gaining advocates in the United States. It can have particular benefits for farm and other rural residents where there is a shortage of behavioral health professionals and sometimes a reluctance to seek mental health and substance misuse treatment. (Iowa Farmer Today)

National News

First wellness program firing suit filed by U.S. agency
Orion Energy Systems Inc. was sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly punishing, then firing, a worker who refused to participate in a company wellness program. The complaint filed in Green Bay, Wisconsin, federal court is the first to challenge a wellness program under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EEOC said in a statement. Orion, a maker of energy-efficient lighting systems, is based in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. (Bloomberg)

Medical professionals carefully embrace social media
Social media has become ubiquitous as sites like Facebook and Twitter allow users to stay in touch with friends and many others. But for professionals like teachers, police officers and doctors, there are ethical issues to consider before sending out a tweet or accepting a friend request. For some, navigating the virtual and real worlds can be a challenge, as well as a risk. (Minnesota Public Radio)

Half of all primary care, internal medicine jobs went unfilled in 2013
The demand for primary care physicians and advanced practice nurses continues to grow, and hospitals are beefing up recruiting efforts as the competition intensifies. The Association of Staff Physician Recruiters’ just-released benchmark survey details more than 5,000 physician and advanced practice nurse searches by 145 health care organizations across the country in 2012-2013. Nearly 70 percent of organizations searched for a family medicine physician in 2013; the most common physician search, followed by hospital medicine and internal medicine. (HealthLeaders Media)

Apple steps up health push as it begins talks with insurers
Apple has been in talks with U.S. health insurance firms, it has emerged – notably those that have already taken steps to integrate data from wearables into insurance policies. Apple has been preparing the ground for the launch of its Health application, which will debut alongside iOS 8 later this year. Besides recent talks with US healthcare providers and developers of health-related apps, Apple has also been courting large US health insurance firms. (ZDNet)