Visit our website ⇒

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

Iowa News

Iowans getting healthier, state report shows
The Iowa Department of Public Health released its 2014 Healthy Iowans Progress Report on Friday afternoon, highlighting advances the state has made toward improving residents’ health as well as remaining barriers. The state began working on a health improvement plan in May 2011, which connected health planning efforts underway across the state in the private and public sectors. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Lung and kidney recipient to speak
Born with cystic fibrosis, an inherited and chronic disease that affects many organ systems but particularly the lungs, Steve Ferkau had little hope of surviving beyond age 40 without a lung transplant. He received his gift of life on April 8, 2000, when he was given a double-lung transplant from Algona teenager Kari Westberg, who had died unexpectedly after telling her parents of her desire to be an organ donor. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

National News

Report projects health care costs to dip slightly
The Affordable Care Act’s health insurance subsidies will cost a little less than previously thought, according to a new report released Monday. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that health insurance subsidies under the so-called “Obamacare” plan will total a little more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, instead of almost $1.2 trillion initially estimated. CBO said the 8 percent cut results largely from tighter cost controls by insurance companies offering plans on health care exchanges. (Associated Press/ABC News)

Providers lag as consumers set agenda
Health care consumers appear willing to dump the doctor’s office for cheaper and more convenient retail and remote alternatives that could amount to tens of billions of dollars in lost revenues for traditional providers if they fail to adapt, according to a report from PwC’s Health Research Institute. Despite controlling nearly 20 percent of the economy, traditional health care is years if not decades behind other industries when it comes to adopting a business model and technologies that assess and meet consumer needs. (HealthLeaders Media)

What a physician-led ACO can teach us about getting it right
When compared to larger, hospital-sponsored ACOs, rural and small physician-led ACOs face a tough challenge, because despite limited resources they need to come up with substantial upfront capital and infrastructure investment to establish a strong ACO foundation. To help ease this burden, 35 ACOs were selected to participate in the Advanced Payment Model ACO demonstration through a grant program from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. (The Health Care Blog)

Doctors overlook lucrative procedures when naming unwise treatments
When America’s joint surgeons were challenged to come up with a list of unnecessary procedures in their field, their selections shared one thing: none significantly impacted their incomes. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons discouraged patients with joint pain from taking two types of dietary supplements, wearing custom shoe inserts or overusing wrist splints after carpal tunnel surgery. The surgeons also condemned an infrequently performed procedure where doctors wash a pained knee joint with saline.  (Kaiser Health News)

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

Iowa News

New hope for liver cancer patients
A new surgical technique that takes advantage of the regenerative capability of the liver is giving new hope to patients with advanced liver cancer. The procedure is known as Associating Liver Partition with Portal Vein Ligation for Staged Hepatectomy, or ALPPS. The method has been used internationally for about five years and Iowa Methodist Medical Center is one of only a handful of hospitals in the United States to offer it. Dr. Qasim Chaudhry, transplant surgeon with The Iowa Clinic, performs the surgery at the Iowa Methodist Transplant Center. (Des Moines Register)

Filling the gap: Siouxland faces paid caregiver shortage
UnityPoint at Home, Arnold said, is partnering with St. Luke’s College to give nursing students an opportunity to spend time training in the home environment. Mike Stiles, the college’s chancellor, said he doesn’t think hospitals will struggle to find certified nursing assistants and nurses in the near future as much as home care companies will. “I think there will be a lot more care provided in places and settings other than the hospitals, and that’s where we’re going to have shortages, particularly because the skill sets that are necessary haven’t been fully determined yet,” he said. (Sioux City Journal)

As sales of painkillers grow, so do overdose deaths
Many experts say the trend began about 15 years ago, when national officials urged doctors to consider pain a “fifth vital sign,” to be considered as seriously as breathing, pulse, temperature and blood pressure. The Trust for America’s Health, a national group that tracks prescription-drug problems, reported last year that Americans’ purchases of prescription painkillers had quadrupled since 1999. Iowa’s prescription-drug problem is not as severe as many other states’. The Trust for America’s Health last year estimated Iowa had the seventh-lowest overdose death rate in the country. (Des Moines Register)

Mental health services revamped in north Iowa
Referrals are being accepted for mental health services for Medicaid-eligible children and adults being initiated in eight North Iowa counties. Magellan Integrated Health Home support services is available for Medicaid-eligible adults with serious mental illness and children covered by Medicaid who are experiencing serious emotional disturbances, said Anne Marie Wadle, director of the new Integrated Health Team at the Mental Health Center of North Iowa. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

National News

Sebelius praises Obamacare, concedes rollout was botched
Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Sunday that the health insurance exchanges that are now up and running across the country have given uninsured Americans a true choice of insurance plans with price comparisons. “People have competitive choices and real information for the first time ever in this insurance market,” Sebelius said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” (Los Angeles Times)

Here are the biggest problems for Obamacare’s next leader
If Sylvia Mathews Burwell is confirmed as the next secretary of Health and Human Services, it puts her in charge of a sprawling health-care overhaul that’s still gaining its footing and is under constant attack from opponents. The Obama administration is celebrating the more than 7.5 million people who have signed up for coverage in Obamacare health insurance marketplaces, but there are big implementation challenges for the next HHS leader. Here are the major challenges the next HHS chief will face. (Washington Post)

How will Boomer, Gen-X, Millennial doctors respond to healthcare changes?
With American health care in the midst of rapid transformation, both doctors and patients will be forced to adapt to changes stemming from the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” Of course, everyone responds to change differently. But is it possible to predict how doctors will adapt to health care reform based on the year they were born? The answer may surprise some patients and even force them to think differently about who provides their care in the future. (Forbes)

Medicaid expansion debate good for insurers
Some of the biggest health insurance companies in the country are poised to benefit from the debate over expanding Medicaid in Virginia, regardless of its outcome. If Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the Democratically controlled Virginia Senate prevail, the state will expand Medicaid eligibility to about 400,000 low-income residents. The money to insure them — hundreds of millions of dollars a year — will be paid by the federal government to private insurance companies. Understandably, those insurers strongly favor this option. (Washington Post)

With new health law, insurers target diabetics
As hundreds of thousands of diabetics get health coverage under the federal law, insurance companies are aggressively targeting this glut of new patients, who are expensive to treat and often lax in taking medications and following their diet. Insurers are calling diabetics when they don’t pick up prescriptions or miss appointments. They are arranging transportation to get them to the doctor’s office and some are even sending nurses on house calls in an effort to avoid costly complications that will have big impact on their bottom lines. (Washington Post)

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

Iowa News

House approves health, welfare funding
Iowa House lawmakers on Thursday set aside controversial proposals restricting abortion to approve $1.86 billion in spending on health and welfare programs for the coming year.  The chamber passed House File 2463 on a 51-47 vote, funding the state’s Medicaid health care program for the poor among many other state agencies and services.  When the bill came up for debate, it included two proposed amendments concerning abortion: one prohibiting Medicaid funding of abortions for any reason except to save the life of the mother and another denying state funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood, whose services include abortion. (Des Moines Register)

How a Cedar Rapids Emergency Room Saved Millions, and What it Means for the Whole
State

Emergency Rooms are often the catch-all of the medical world, where patients can receive care at any hour, regardless of their ability to pay.  But physicians and hospital administrators say it’s an expensive and disjointed way for people to receive care, particularly when patients visit the ER multiple times a
year.  A pilot program to manage care for ER ‘super users’ in Cedar Rapids is now in its third year—and administrators say it saves St. Luke’s Hospital about a million dollars annually. (Iowa Public Radio)

National News

Sebelius Resigns After Troubles Over Health Site
Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, is resigning, ending a stormy five-year tenure marred by the disastrous rollout of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.  Mr. Obama accepted Ms. Sebelius’s resignation this week, and on Friday morning, he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her, officials said. (The New York Times)

HHS: ObamaCare enrollment hits 7.5M
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday told lawmakers that enrollments in ObamaCare’s exchanges have reached 7.5 million.  This figure includes the 7.1 million people who signed up as of March 31 and an additional 400,000 who have taken advantage of a special enrollment period that will end April 15. The 400,000 may also include state-based enrollees who were not reported on March 31.  Sebelius made the comment before the Senate Finance Committee, where she appeared to testify on President Obama’s proposed HHS budget for 2015. (The Hill)

Doctors’ Billing System Stays Stuck In the ’70s For Now
For doctors, hospitals and insurance companies, all the complexities of medicine get boiled down into a system of codes.  These codes are used to track and pay for every procedure – like an 813.02 for mending a broken forearm, or an 800.09 for treating a concussion. But this coding system is now four decades old, and it doesn’t meet the needs of the medical system today. It was scheduled to be upgraded this October, but Congress delayed it last week. JaeLynn Williams, for one, is seriously bummed out.  “It’s kind of like looking forward to Christmas, and it doesn’t come,” she says. (Kaiser Health News)

Health care workers wash hands more when patients are watching
Patients were asked to observe and record the hand hygiene habits of their health care providers, who were aware that they were being watched.  During the project, nearly 97 percent of the health care workers washed their hands before direct contact with their patients, according to the study in the April issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.  The researchers also found that 58 percent of health care providers said they changed their hand hygiene practices, 88 percent said they were more motivated to wash their hands and 33 percent said they had more conversations with patients about infection prevention and control. (CBS News)

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

Iowa News

Mental care advocates rally at Iowa Statehouse
Advocates for people with mental disabilities or brain injuries gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday to decry years-long waiting lists for support services.  The advocates said 7,700 Iowans are waiting for “Medicaid waiver” services, partly because Gov. Terry Branstad last summer vetoed $8.7 million that legislators had approved to clear such waiting lists. (Des Moines Register)

Lawmakers soften on medical marijuana
Iowa Rep. Clel Baudler has gone from being on the Marijuana Policy Project’s list of worst legislators last year to backing the legalization of a marijuana derivative for treatment of seizure disorders.  “It’s time,” the Greenfield Republican and former Iowa State Patrol trooper said Wednesday afternoon after meeting with representatives of the Iowa Epilepsy Foundation.  The foundation has been lobbying lawmakers this session, often coming to the Capitol with their children who have seizure disorders. (QC Times)

Walk to raise dollars for heart health
People are invited to walk for heart health Saturday. The My Heart My Life Plymouth/Sioux County Heart Walk will start at 9 a.m. Saturday at the MOC-Floyd Valley High School. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. followed with a opening ceremony, all at the school, in Orange City. There will be children’s activities, blood pressures, physical fitness heart healthy brochures and other activities, according to a press release. (LeMars Daily Sentinel)

National News

Study Finds Sicklier Enrollees in Earliest Stage of Health Law
People who signed up early for insurance through the new marketplaces were more likely to be prescribed drugs to treat pain, depression and H.I.V. and were less likely to need contraceptives, according to a new study that provides a much-anticipated look at the population that signed up for coverage under the new health care law. (The New York Times)

Scientists trying to build functional human heart with 3-D printer
It may sound far-fetched, but scientists are attempting to build a human heart with a 3-D printer. Ultimately, the goal is to create a new heart for a patient with their own cells that could be transplanted. It is an ambitious project to first, make a heart and then get it to work in a patient, and it could be years — perhaps decades — before a 3-D printed heart would ever be put in a person. The technology, though, is not all that futuristic: Researchers have already used 3-D printers to make splints, valves and even a human ear. (StarTribune)

Should Academic Physicians Serve on Drug-Company Boards?
A study this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that of the 50 largest drug companies in the world, 40 percent have at least one board member who is also a leader in an academic medical center. Among U.S. drug companies included in the study, the percentage was even higher at 94 percent. And the fees that academic medical leaders are collecting for their service are not trivial, averaging over $310,000 per year. (The Atlantic)

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

Iowa News

Sioux City honors UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s for its local growth
The city of Sioux City is recognizing a local hospital for its investment in the area. UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s today received the Growing Sioux City Award, which honors businesses for their local support. “Our vision for this building is to put providers in one spot that convenient for patients and families. And also to, hopefully over time, reduce expense and improve service and quality by being under one roof,” said UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s CEO Peter Thoreen. (KTIV)

Cresco hospital board discusses possibility of on-site retail pharmacy
The Regional Health Services of Howard County Board of Trustees discussed the possibility of an on-site retail pharmacy at its recent meeting.  Regional Health Services CEO Robin Schluter noted an initial business plan for an on-site retail pharmacy was completed per the board’s request.  “The initial assessment was received favorably,” she said. “We are pursuing some consultant services and working on projections for space needs, remodeling costs, and to co-locate home medical equipment.” (Cresco Times Plain Dealer)

National News

Sliver of Medicare doctors get big share of payouts
In 2012, 100 doctors received a total of $610 million, ranging from a Florida ophthalmologist who was paid $21 million by Medicare to dozens of doctors, eye and cancer specialists chief among them, who received more than $4 million each that year. While more money by far is spent for routine office visits than any other single expenditure, one of the most heavily reimbursed procedures — costing a total of $1 billion for 143,000 patients — is for a single treatment for an eye disorder common in the elderly. (New York Times)

Many ‘Obamacare’ critics accepted its subsidies
Several big corporations have reaped millions of dollars from “Obamacare” even as they support GOP candidates who vow to repeal the law. Among the corporations is a familiar Democratic nemesis, Koch Industries, the giant conglomerate headed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. They and some conservative allies are spending millions of dollars to hammer Democratic senators in North Carolina, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and elsewhere, chiefly for backing President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. (Washington Post)

Lessons learned for 2015 from this year’s Obamacare sign-ups
President Obama was thrilled last week when he was able to announce that more than 7 million people have signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. “This law is doing what it’s supposed to do,” the president . “It’s working.” But that’s not to say it couldn’t work better. Among those suggesting ways to help is the consumer group. The group’s got a list of it says could improve outreach and make the overall process easier for people to navigate. (National Public Radio)

Hospitals safer than homes for births
A new analysis suggests that giving birth in a hospital is considerably safer than having a baby at home or in a birthing center. Researchers analyzed data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2006 to 2009 on almost 14 million births, including 130,000 non-hospital deliveries. Their results appear online in The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. (New York Times)

Physicians sound off on EHRs
I am a recently retired family physician and was formerly a physicist. Though not a computer expert, I am neither a technophobe nor a Luddite. My purpose in writing to you is to draw your attention to the elephant in the room. In brief, the rollout of electronic health records (“EHRs”) in the United States is a story of unremitting folly, lack of leadership, opportunities wasted, and a stiff dose of medical academic hubris. (The Atlantic)