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

Iowa News

Clarinda hospital announces new partnership with Bryan Health
The Clarinda Regional Health Center Board of Directors has begun the process of establishing a network agreement with Bryan Health based in Lincoln. CEO Chris Stipe says the new arrangement will be a better fit for CRHC patients, given the fact that continued medical care by Clarinda area patients is most often sought in either Lincoln or Omaha. (KMA)

New Home Program offered for those with mental illness
Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health is offering a new Integrated Health Home program, Integrated Health Team, for adults with serious mental illness in Howard, Allamakee, Winneshiek, Clayton, and Fayette Counties. A statewide initiative by Magellan Health Services has created teams of health care professionals to help individuals navigate their mental health and physical health services. The free program is an expansion of the Medicaid benefits. (Oelwein Daily Register)

More seeing pluses of middle-skill jobs
The majority of Iowa jobs — 56 percent — are middle-skill jobs, such as welders, equipment operators or health care technicians, whose pay range is $35,000 to $60,000 a year, according to the Iowa Workforce Development report “Middle-Skill Jobs in Iowa.” Yet only 33 percent of Iowa workers possess such skills. Every manufacturer in the Iowa Association of Business and Industry membership is looking for middle-skilled labor, no matter the size of the plant or the town it’s in, said Mike Ralston, ABI president. (Des Moines Register)

National News

23 states still haven’t expanded Medicaid; Which could be next?
Thursday’s announcement that Pennsylvania will expand its Medicaid program brings the country one state closer to the original expansion outlined under Obamacare. But because of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision making the expansion a voluntary program, there are still 23 states that haven’t expanded public health insurance to all of their low-income residents. (Washington Post)

Hospitals’ hand washing strategies effective in reducing patient infection rates
A bacterial infection in 2010 that spread from the room of one patient to another served as the impetus of an intensive hand-washing program at MetroHealth Medical Center. Less than four years later, hospital officials are taking pride in the reduction of hospital-acquired infections. On any given day, 1 in 25 hospital patients has at least one infection they got from being in a health care setting. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Aging workforce affecting medical professions, too
The number of baby boomers retiring from high-skilled jobs is not just a problem for manufacturing and technology fields, it’s also affecting the health care industry. Jodi Johnson is the Vice President of Workforce and Clinical Practice for the Wisconsin Hospital Association. She says hiring has been flat in the medical field statewide since the recession, but that’s expected to change according to recent statistics. (WSAU)

Coverage for end-of-life talks gaining ground
Five years after it exploded into a political conflagration over “death panels,” the issue of paying doctors to talk to patients about end-of-life care is making a comeback, and such sessions may be covered for the 50 million Americans on Medicare as early as next year. Bypassing the political process, private insurers have begun reimbursing doctors for these “advance care planning” conversations as interest in them rises along with the number of aging Americans. (New York Times)

California mentally ill inmates get special units
State corrections officials on Friday agreed to shift mentally ill inmates into separate specialized housing that will offer them more treatment instead of placing them in the same isolation units as other inmates, a decision that marks a major shift in how the system deals with such prisoners. The agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento comes after a federal judge ruled in April that California’s treatment of mentally ill inmates violates constitutional safeguards against cruel and unusual punishment. (Associated Press/KWWL)

(From time to time, the blog features recipients of the IHA Iowa Hospital Heroes Award.  These outstanding hospital employees come from across the state and work at hospitals of every size.  They exemplify the courage, caring and community focus that are at the center of the hospital mission in Iowa.)

profile-photo-smallHospitals are the place to go when you break a bone, need surgery or have a baby; hospitals are not as well designed to heal the emotional and mental needs that many of our patients also bring with them.   Social Worker Maggie Martinez is the person that Buena Vista Regional Medical Center in Storm Lake turns to when patients need more assistance than medical training can provide.

Maggie is known to come in at any hour, vacation days and holidays to assist with those patients with mental or social needs.  She spends countless hours on the phone seeking out various resources that patients need after they are discharged from the hospital.  Physicians often make comments that she “ensures our patients are not lost once they leave the hospital.”

About a year ago a mentally disabled man with a chronic illness was admitted to the hospital.  He lived in an unsafe environment and had no family to help.  Maggie helped to secure a nursing home bed.  To accomplish this, she traveled to the man’s home and spent many hours on the phone with a judge, physicians and nursing homes.  She even accompanied him to the nursing home the day he was discharged because he was so frightened.  He remains living there today in a safe, clean environment he calls home.

Hero_MaggieM_8-2013-008smallRecently she dealt with a troubled teen whose parents could no longer handle and multiple programs and agencies would not accept. Maggie spent countless hours and days with this patient.  With persistence, she found a program that would accept the teen.

Maggie’s presence helps not only the patients but all the staff dealing with difficult situations. Our hospital employees are often involved with difficult cases that impact them emotionally.  The staff does what they need to do in each situation to provide the best outcome and experience for the patient and their family.  Maggie is crucial to making sure our staff learns how to deal with their own emotions regarding the event, enabling staff to provide the best care to patients.

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

Iowa News

West Nile cases increasing in Iowa
Seven cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed in Iowa this summer since the first case was found in July, public health officials said Thursday. The Iowa Department of Public Health said cases have been confirmed in Buchanan, Clay, Crawford, Monona, Plymouth, Sioux and Woodbury counties. Additional cases are being investigated in Sac and Shelby counties. Officials said that two people were hospitalized but are now recovering at home. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Family hopes tragedy sparks understanding of mental illness
Relatives of a Strawberry Point man who took his own life after shooting a reserve sheriff’s deputy over the weekend are calling for a better understanding of mental illness. Authorities said 32-year-old Steven James Harreld was in custody at Palmer Lutheran Hospital in West Union, Iowa, on Saturday when he grabbed the deputy’s gun as the officer uncuffed him so he could change back into his jail uniform following medical treatment. (Quad-City Times)

CoOportunity Health board names Gold CEO
The insurance company CoOportunity Health has shifted leadership, with Cliff Gold taking over the chief executive officer job from David Lyon. Gold helped Lyons found the company in 2010 and was its chief operating officer. He previousley retired after a long career as an executive at Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield, which dominates Iowa’s health insurance market. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa traffic deaths again approaching historic lows
One area state officials continue to focus on is seat belt compliance. On one hand, Iowa boasts seat belt compliance rate of 92 percent. However, it’s that 8 percent that remains that is contributing to half of all fatalities this year, Hoye said. Of the 110 traffic deaths in 2014 where seat belt usage was known, 55 died while not wearing a safety belt. “Eight percent of the population account for 50 percent of the fatalities,” Hoye said. “If you ever need a stat to say, ‘Do seat belts work?’ They absolutely do.” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Report: Enrollees still face account problems on Healthcare.gov
ObamaCare enrollees seeking to verify their personal information with the government are facing problems that could jeopardize their health coverage, according to a new report. Hundreds of thousands of people have been asked to submit additional citizenship and immigration documents to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but technical hurdles with their accounts at HealthCare.gov are slowing down the process. (The Hill)

Freestanding ERs target suburbs, rural panel told
Freestanding emergency departments (ED) have been proposed in Georgia as a potential solution for struggling rural hospitals, or newly closed ones, that want to remain operational in downsized form to help patients in need. But the trend toward such standalone emergency rooms nationally is totally different from that picture, members of the Georgia Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee were told Monday. (Kaiser Health News/Georgia Health News)

Why are there so few doctors in rural America?
There are about 6,000 federally designated areas with a shortage of primary care doctors in the U.S., and 4,000 with a shortage of dentists. Rural areas have about 68 primary care doctors per 100,000 people, compared with 84 in urban centers. Put another way, about a fifth of Americans live in rural areas, but barely a tenth of physicians practice there. A few stopgap measures have aimed to fix the problem, at least temporarily. (The Atlantic)

Pennsylvania’s Republican governor expands Medicaid
Pennsylvania won federal approval to expand its Medicaid program to nearly 500,000 low-income adults on Thursday, becoming the ninth state led by a Republican governor to join the expansion under the president’s health-care law. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett had sought the Obama administration’s permission to use money authorized by the Affordable Care Act to purchase private health insurance for poor adults. (Washington Post)

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

Iowa News

Genesis offers vision for the future in operating room technology
Genesis Medical Center gave a sneak preview of future operating room technology and design Wednesday at its East Rusholme Street campus in Davenport. Surrounded by high-definition TV screens, LED lights, a computerized pharmaceutical delivery system and other high-tech gear, the news media received a tour of an operating room mock-up. (Quad-City Times)

UI to honor AirCare, Emergency Department
Iowa’s only comprehensive academic medical center will celebrate 35 years of service by AirCare, the state’s first hospital-based helicopter ambulance service, during a public open house. The event also marks the 10-year anniversary of the University of Iowa Department of Emergency Medicine becoming a formal academic department. (Iowa Now)

National News

Medicare: Not such a budget-buster anymore
You’re looking at the biggest story involving the federal budget and a crucial one for the future of the American economy. Every year for the last six years in a row, the Congressional Budget Office has reduced its estimate for how much the federal government will need to spend on Medicare in coming years. The latest reduction came in a report from the budget office on Wednesday morning. (New York Times)

3 ways insurers can discourage sick from enrolling
Insurers can no longer reject customers with expensive medical conditions thanks to the health care overhaul. But consumer advocates warn that companies are still using wiggle room to discourage the sickest — and costliest — patients from enrolling. Some insurers are excluding well-known cancer centers from the list of providers they cover under a plan; requiring patients to make large, initial payments for HIV medications; or delaying participation in public insurance exchanges created by the overhaul. (Washington Post)

Urgent care centers opening for people with mental illness
The goal of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Mental Health Urgent Care Center is to stabilize and treat people in immediate crisis while connecting them to ongoing care. Run by Exodus Recovery, it will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can serve up to 16 adults and six adolescents. During their stay of up to one day, patients will undergo a psychiatric evaluation, receive on-the-spot care such as counseling and medication and be referred for longer-term treatment. (Kaiser Health News)

Journal questions validity of autism and vaccine study
A study published earlier this month on an alleged link between vaccines and autism has been removed from the public domain pending further investigation, according to Translational Neurodegeneration. In an online statement, the scientific journal said the paper had been removed “because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions.” (CNN)

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)