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

Iowa News

Legislators tackle questions on education and mental health
Mahaska Health Partnership CEO Jay Christensen addressed the legislators over Governor Branstad’s plan to close two of the states four mental institutions. The proposed closures would be the institutions in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. Christensen said he was concerned that there would be no real savings to the state, but would instead, “transfer where those costs are”. Christensen said that, at this point, his staff can spend 6 to 8 hours of time to find placement for long-term mental health patients. (Oskaloosa News)

Hospital welcomes community to join ‘challenge’
Over the course of 10 weeks, concluding April 3, teams of two to 10 people will track activity minutes and/or weight loss through the Live Healthy Iowa website. A new challenge to Clay County businesses is also being announced as part of the event. Along with the Live Healthy Iowa team challenge on the website, Spencer Hospital and area businesses will also be taking part in a Business-to-Business Challenge with representation from losing businesses taking an icy dip at the finale of the program. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

Children’s Miracle Network gives Siouxland families comfort, care
Braedon Dacers is a “miracle baby,” born three years ago at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s, one of 170 hospitals that belong to the Children’s Miracle Network. The nonprofit organization raises funds for designated facilities to support patient programs and the purchase of new equipment. At a celebration on Thursday, area sponsors had the opportunity to see how their contributions have made a difference in the lives of children like Braedon. (Sioux City Journal)

Sioux City physician named Iowa educator of the year
Dr. Michael Jung has been awarded the Educator of the Year 2014 from the Iowa Academy of Family Physicians (IAFP). Jung has been with the Siouxland Medical Education Foundation, also known as the Family Medicine Center, since July 1983 as a faculty physician working closely with family medicine residents and medical students in addition to having an active medical practice. He currently is the medical director of Child Advocacy Center at Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City. (Sioux City Journal)

National News

Vice president calls for renewed focus on patient safety
Gains have been made in improving hand hygiene and reducing central line infections, Joe Biden said. And a recent government report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 1.3 million fewer hospital-acquired conditions occurred – and 50,000 fewer deaths – in 2013 compared to 2010. “This is the time to double down on your commitment to patient safety,” he told the crowd of doctors, nurses, hospital executives and patient advocates. “We’ve gone from accepting the inevitable to showing what’s absolutely within our wheelhouse to be able to change.” (Kaiser Health News)

Arkansas governor: keep Medicaid expansion for two years, the reevaluate
In a much-awaited speech at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Asa Hutchinson said hospitals should not have to face “a traumatic cliff” every time the Medicaid expansion program known as the private option is up for renewal. He said he will ask the Legislature to continue the program through Dec. 31, 2016. “This avoids harm to the 200,000-plus on the private option, and it assures our hospitals and providers of financial stability,” Hutchinson said. (Arkansas News)

Measles outbreak changes game for Bay Area hospitals
Health care providers who have never seen a case of measles also are being trained on how to recognize the illness and what to do with patients who show up in clinics or emergency rooms with suspicious symptoms. “We don’t typically see measles cases, and that’s required a fair amount of education of our physicians, nurses, emergency departments, so they’re prepared and know what to look for,” said Dr. Stephen Parodi, director of hospital operations for Kaiser Northern California. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Cancer risk greater from e-cigs than regular cigarettes?
Researchers have found excessive levels of formaldehyde, an established carcinogen, in the vapor produced by e-cigarettes when the devices are used at high voltage. The cancer risk from this unexpected finding is much greater than from conventional cigarettes. This finding was reported in a research letter published online January 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Medscape)

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

Iowa News

CoOportunity Health to be liquidated
The state’s insurance commissioner announced Friday that he would seek liquidation of CoOportunity Health, a carrier formed with $146 million in federal grants and loans under the Affordable Care Act. CoOportunity, which was one of 23 such health insurance cooperatives nationally, covered a total of nearly 120,000 people in Iowa and Nebraska before hitting financial shoals late last year. Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart took over the faltering carrier in late December. (Des Moines Register)

Online portals help patients manage health care
Before she fell and broke her shoulder last March La Donna McMillin had heard about patient portals, but she had never used one. The injury landed McMillin, Mercy Medical Center-Sioux City’s medical affairs coordinator, in the hospital’s emergency department. After logging onto Mercy’s patient portal online, the 55-year-old Merrill, Iowa, woman read her radiology report and information about osteoporosis. (Sioux City Journal)

Iowa needs plan for mental health care
As a nurse and as a person suffering with a mental illness, I am deeply concerned with the governor’s unilateral move to eliminate 113 psychiatric inpatient beds when the truth is that we need more acute care inpatient psychiatric beds, especially in southern rural Iowa. The question should be asked: Is there a need for these mental health institutes? The answer is obvious if one honestly looks at the type of patients that utilize this valuable service. (Des Moines Register)

Children’s Miracle Network in Sioux City kicks off new campaign
A Sioux City hospital is banking on local businesses to help them make miracles. UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s and the Children’s Miracle Network have been making life-saving differences in the lives of Siouxland children. Thursday, families and their miracle children had a chance to meet cooperate sponsors and partners who help provide vital services. (KTIV)

National News

Hospitals’ Medicare quality bonuses get wiped out by penalties
What Medicare gives with one hand, it’s taking away with another. Most government quality bonuses to hospitals this year are being wiped out by penalties issued for other shortcomings. The government is taking performance into account when paying hospitals, one of the biggest changes in Medicare’s 50-year-history and one that’s required by the Affordable Care Act. (National Public Radio)

Incentives proposed for care providers who work in rural areas
More health care providers could be encouraged to work in underserved areas of Washington state under a pair of bills to be introduced in Olympia next week that would help those providers pay back their student loans. Senate Bill 5010 and House Bill 1080, which have bipartisan sponsors and are supported by a number of Washington state health organizations, would restore and increase a currently underfunded state loan repayment program for health professionals working in rural areas. (Puget Sound Business Journal)

6 reasons why doctors are so afraid of measles
Measles is one of the most infectious diseases known to humanity. Now, it’s spread in Disneyland, a theme park visited by millions from all over the world, any of whom could have carried the potentially deadly virus back home. The first case in Arizona was reported Thursday. Here are six reasons doctors are afraid of measles: 1. It floats in the air — and stays there for hours after the sick person has left. Remember all the rumors about Ebola, most of which turned out not to be true? They are true for measles. (NBC News)

Restored hospital restores hope in Haiti
The Catholic Health Association has recently completed the reconstruction the St. Francis de Sales Hospital in Haiti, restoring and improving health services for the poor there. Sister Carol Keehan, President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association or CHA, explains, “Members of the Catholic Health Association donated more than $10.1 million to the reconstruction of St. Francis de Sales Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, destroy in the 2010 earthquake.” (Forbes)

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

Iowa News

Iowa to hire private firms to help run Medicaid
Gov. Terry Branstad plans to hire a private managed-care company or companies to help run the state’s Medicaid program, legislators and administration officials said Tuesday. Details are scarce on how the plan would work, but Branstad projects it would save $51.3 million from January through June 2016, its first six months. (Des Moines Register)

What mental health institutes’ closures mean for southern Iowa
Rick Shults, mental health and disability services division administrator at the Iowa Department of Human Services, says the facilities in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda will slow admissions come February. That means the southern third of the state will lose more than half of its in-patient psychiatric beds. Nancy Hale is the executive director for Iowa chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She says, while the institutes are far from a perfect solution, private community-based mental health services can’t completely cover the state’s needs. (Iowa Public Radio)

Shenandoah hospital set to launch $20 million renovation
The weather forecast for a major ground breaking event at the Shenandoah Medical Center on Wednesday is a good one. And according to Chief Executive Officer Karen Cole, the staff and management of the Shenandoah Medical Center is hoping for a big turnout at noon Wednesday to witness the next chapter of the hospital’s rich history. (KMA)

Blood centers overcoming critical shortage
Recent donations to area blood centers and at blood drives have helped alleviate a critical shortage caused by a period of bad weather. Nicole Hanger of the LifeServe Blood Center in Des Moines said the period of bad weather followed a time when donations are traditionally low because of the holidays. LifeServe provides blood to Virginia Gay Hospital in Vinton. “We had that and then following the holidays we had some pretty severe winter weather,” said Hanger. “That brutally cold temperatures also had an impact on our blood supplies.” (Vinton Newspapers)

National News

High court considers if providers can sue states for higher Medicaid pay
In Armstrong vs. Exceptional Child Center, several providers for developmentally disabled Medicaid patients sued the state of Idaho after officials failed to increase Medicaid payments as required under a formula approved by the federal government. An appellate court upheld a judgment in favor of the providers last year, noting that Idaho had conceded that it held rates flat since 2006 for “purely budgetary reasons.” (Kaiser Health News)

MedPAC floats 3.5% hike in hospital reimbursement, freeze of physician rates
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has recommended a 3.5 percent increase in the rates paid for inpatient and outpatient hospital procedures in 2016. The group also wants to level the field between what is paid to hospitals and physician offices. MedPAC, in a statement, said it wants Congress to flatten the rates so they are the same for long-term care as well as acute care hospitals for cases where patients are not considered “chronically ill.” (Healthcare Finance News)

Forum: Unhealthy behavior, repeat hospital stays spur health costs
A wide range of unhealthy behavior and poor management of chronic illnesses are among the leading factors driving New Jersey’s high healthcare costs, according to healthcare experts who gathered at Kean University yesterday. The group was gathered by Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Morris, Somerset and Union) to discuss potential policy solutions to problems with the healthcare system. (New Jersey Spotlight)

Obama proposes U.S. spending to research personalized cures
President Barack Obama will urge Congress to spend U.S. taxpayers’ money for research in “precision medicine,” a burgeoning field of care in which treatments are tailored to an individual patient. “I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine—one that delivers the right treatment at the right time,” Obama said in his State of the Union address. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

FDA approves appetite-zapping implant for obese patients
Federal regulators have approved an appetite-suppressing implant designed to treat obesity by zapping nerves that connect the stomach and the brain. The Maestro Rechargeable System uses electrodes implanted in the abdomen to stimulate the vagus nerve, which signals to the brain that the stomach is empty or full. Patients and doctors can adjust the device settings using external controllers. (Associated Press/Des Moines Register)

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

Iowa News

Flu has contributed to at least 12 Polk County deaths
Polk County’s medical examiner has seen four times as many death certificates listing flu as a contributing cause of death so far this winter as he saw all last winter. Dr. Gregory Schmunk said Friday that since November, his office has received 12 death certificates listing flu as a main or contributing cause, and one more listing a viral illness that also could have been the flu. His office received just three death certificates in all of last winter listing flu as a contributing factor. “And we’re not even into the height of the flu season yet,” he said. (Des Moines Register)

Wheaton Franciscan spending $54M on Epic Systems project
Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare has embarked on a $54 million Epic Systems Corp. electronic medical records project that will link the system’s inpatient centers and hospitals both for clinical records and business functions. The Glendale-based system’s medical group and physician offices have run their clinical records on Epic since September 2012. The new project will link clinical records from those offices with Wheaton Franciscan’s hospitals. (Milwaukee Business Journal)

Branstad, lawmakers seek to close gap on anti-bullying bill
Marizen Ramirez, an assistant professor in the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health, said schools must develop cultures that seek to prevent bullying, and teachers and administrators must have the proper resources so they are prepared for action when it is required. “When we look at how we intervene and prevent and respond to bullying, it’s key that the school plays a role,” Ramirez said. She said community collaboration with schools also helps “improve a culture of acceptance.” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Vinton business sheds light on nutrition
Alexa Schirm wants to expose the myths around good nutrition. “You don’t have to eat crazy health food to be healthy,” she said. “I want people to understand that eating whole foods is a realistic lifestyle.” Schirm’s desire to help people sift through the ever-changing and often contradictory information about how much and what they should be eating is the foundation of her business, Simple Roots Wellness. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Accountable care organizations: Like HMOs, but different
In pursuit of greater efficiency in the United States health system, public programs and private insurers have begun to pay some hospitals and physicians differently. These new payment models take many forms, but they all impose greater responsibility for cost control and quality improvement on providers and bear some resemblance to failed health care financing arrangements from the 1990s. However, there are some distinctions that could make all the difference. (New York Times)

RAC reform leaves providers skeptical
The reforms include a dozen measures designed to ease the administrative burden on providers such as requiring Recovery Audit Contractors to have a “contractor medical director” who is a physician. “While we’re pleased that CMS has acknowledged the administrative burden on providers, they’re still tinkering around the margins,” says Melissa Jackson, senior associate director for policy at the Washington, DC-based American Hospital Association. “Financial incentives drive RACs to make inappropriate denials of claims. Change won’t come until RACs face financial penalties for poor performance.” (HealthLeaders Media)

Majority still support single-payer option, poll finds
More than five years after the single-payer system was scrapped from ObamaCare policy debates, just over 50 percent of people say they still support the idea, including one-quarter of Republicans, according to a new poll. The single-payer option – also known as Medicare for all – would create a new, government-run insurance program to replace private coverage. The system, once backed by President Obama, became one of the biggest casualties of the divisive healthcare debates of 2009. (The Hill)

New Americans struggle with health inequities
When Dr. Kathie Culhane-Pera started caring for Vietnamese immigrants in the 1990s, she found built-in trust from patients — who called her “Bác si” and followed her guidance on diet, exercise and medication for chronic diseases such as diabetes. That wasn’t the case as Hmong refugees arrived in Minnesota, despite the fact that she can speak one Hmong dialect and understands the history of the mountain-dwelling people who were persecuted after the Vietnam War for supporting the Americans. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

After Aurora shooting, a ‘new way of responding’ to mental crises
It’s been two and a half years since the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting in which James Holmes allegedly killed 12 people at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Jury selection for the 2012 incident is scheduled to start Tuesday. One of the reasons why it took so long to get to court was the battle over Holmes’ psychiatric evaluations. After the shooting, Colorado legislators approved $20 million to change how people going through a mental health crisis can get help. (Iowa Public Radio)

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

Iowa News

Iowa’s rural health systems face their own challenges
In Iowa, the rural health care system is made up of 82 Critical Access Hospitals — a special Medicare designation for smaller 25-bed facilities — and 142 rural health clinics, making it one of the largest rural health systems in the country. These facilities care for the more than 1.4 million people — or about 46 percent of the state’s population — living in a rural community and are vital economic drivers in the communities they serve. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

It’s time to rethink rural health in Iowa
Finding sustainable ways to provide high-quality, accessible health care to our shrinking rural populations will require flexibility in vision and tactics, keeping at the forefront the specific needs of the communities and people they serve. But it’s necessary for our residents, our medical professionals and our critical rural areas. Iowa’s rural population may be shrinking, but the need for rural health and wellness services is as strong as it’s ever been. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Grinnell Regional raises $3 million toward campaign goal
Grinnell Regional Medical Center is “Moving at the Speed of Life” to raise $7.5 million for several capital projects. To date, the campaign has raised $3 million from individuals, families, businesses, and foundations. “The support for our community hospital from our entire area is truly remarkable,” says Debby Pohlson, co-chair, Moving at the Speed of Life comprehensive campaign, and past chair of the GRMC Board of Directors. “It really is an investment in something that we all rely on to be here for us.” (Tama News-Herald/Toledo Chronicle)

National News

Rural hospitals plead for Medicaid expansion
Kansas hospital officials are pleading for the state to expand the Medicaid program for low-income people as allowed under the new federal health care law. Without a change, the hospital officials told a legislative committee during the first week of the session that they face tremendous economic challenges. “We’re in the roughest time we’ve ever been in,” said Dennis Franks, CEO of Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center in Chanute, who was among several people who testified Wednesday before the House Vision 2020 Committee. (Associated Press)

California strike highlights larger issues with mental health system
This past week, more than 2,000 mental health workers for the HMO health care giant Kaiser Permanente in California went on strike. The strike was organized by the National Union of Healthcare Workers. The union says Kaiser Permanente patients have been the victims of “chronic failure to provide its members with timely, quality mental health care.” (National Public Radio/Iowa Public Radio)

Boston hospital officials say they can handle Olympic challenges
With much written in the past year about hospitals’ preparedness to handle emergencies like the Ebola crisis, the recent news that Boston may host the 2024 Summer Olympics has highlighted the fact that infectious disease outbreaks aren’t the only event that can put healthcare facilities to the test. (FierceHealthcare)

Technologies, apps for therapy on the go
Twelve years into a struggle with bulimia and anorexia, Jessie Joachim says she still feels guilty whenever she tells her therapist out loud that she has purged a meal. But a smartphone app designed for people with eating disorders and body image issues has given her another way to stay accountable: Along with seeing a therapist each week, she uses the app to record whether she purges or restricts how much she eats each day. (USA Today)