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

Iowa News

Innovation helps address nurse shortage
At age 5, Courtnay Murphy-Barstad served as a “nurse” in her very own imaginary medical office, with a charting and filing system for “patients.” A self-described caregiver, Emily Brock remembers from a young age wanting to help people, an idea cemented her senior year in high school when nurses tended to Emily’s mother after a serious car accident. Drawn early to medicine and to the tenets of the profession, the women’s careers illustrate the challenges and triumphs of nursing in Iowa. (Des Moines Register)

Trooper, nurse partner in dramatic I-35 medical rescue
At first, a trooper had no idea what was happening inside a truck he was following on Interstate 35 at the east mixmaster in Des Moines. Trooper Tracy Bohlen thought it might be a rolling domestic fight, but instead it was a medical emergency. “I had my hand on my gun. Had to go in thinking the worst,” Bohlen said. But when he opened the door, Bohlen saw a frantic teenage boy. The entire scene was caught on video. (KCCI)

Iowa Works puts new focus on soft skills
Corridor employers want to hire people who can do more than drive a forklift or operate a computer numerical control machine, Iowa Workforce Development officials said. They want employees who will show up on time, work well with others and communicate effectively. But so many times, these skills aren’t taught. That’s why the state agency has put an emphasis on teaching underemployed and unemployed clients these so-called soft skills — professional qualities and attitudes that employees can use, such as problem solving and how to work as a team. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Hospital, college team up to offer EMS training to high schoolers
Hampton-Dumont decided to offer the class after some students approached Erran Miller, instructor and emergency medical services (EMS) manager at Franklin General Hospital in Hampton, about offering the course at the high school. However, with the class counting for seven college credit hours it was going to cost the school district around $1,500 per student to offer it. “We did some exploring and entered into a partnership with NIACC and the hospital, Franklin General Hospital,” said Tricia Christiansen, high school counselor. “The hospital stepped up and offered to pay the instructor costs. That was a huge relief right there.” (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Coach McCaffery’s crusade against cancer marches on
Fran McCaffery was in the middle of a media scrum Friday evening. Nothing new there. It was the message that was different. Iowa’s basketball coach wasn’t talking X’s and O’s. The subject matter was cancer. The Hawkeyes’ leader, who was appearing at the American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs. Cancer Kentucky Derby Gala Friday at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in Des Moines, is on a crusade to fight this disease. “For me, obviously, the fight is personal,” McCaffery said. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Pioneer ACO program saves Medicare $400 million
A pilot program created under ObamaCare to change Medicare’s payment system saved almost $400 million and will be expanded, the administration announced Monday. An independent report released by the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday finds that the pilot program saved Medicare more than $384 million across 2012 and 2013. The pilot program, called Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations, is part of an effort to shift Medicare to paying for quality instead of quantity of care. (The Hill)

Paying Medicaid enrollees to get healthy: Will it pay off?
When Bruce Hodgins went to the doctor for a checkup in Sioux City, Iowa, he was asked to complete a lengthy survey to gauge his health risks. In return for filling it out, he saved a $10 monthly premium for his Medicaid coverage. “Financial incentives are effective at improving healthy behaviors, though the effect of incentives may decrease over time,” said a report last year by the Center for Health Care Strategies, a research group based in Hamilton, N.J. (Kaiser Health News/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

With sickest patients, cost sharing comes at a price
The growth in health care spending is slowing down, and one reason might be that cost sharing is rising. The proportion of insured workers with at least a $1,000 deductible was 41 percent in 2014, quadruple that in 2006. Hidden in the numbers is the fact that increasing cost sharing for patients with chronic illnesses can backfire, causing their health care spending to go up, not down. When patients face higher cost sharing for prescription drugs, they tend to cut back on them. (New York Times)

Iora Health’s promise: Patients come first
A year ago, Jeffrey Davis had just about given up on going to the doctor. He was tired of waiting for physicians who always ran late, tired of being rushed through appointments, tired of never having diagnoses or treatment plans fully explained. Then a coworker suggested that Davis, 53, of Haverhill, check out the Iora Health practice in Burlington. There he found the attention, care, and personal interest that was so lacking in his past experiences. (Boston Globe)

America Hospital Association names Rick Pollack CEO
A 32-year veteran of the AHA, Pollack will succeed Richard J. Umbdenstock, who is retiring at the end of 2015, according to the AHA. Pollack will assume his new duties in September. Since 1991, Pollack has served as AHA’s executive vice president for advocacy and public policy responsible for the development, implementation and management of the association’s advocacy, representation and public affairs activities. (Healthcare Finance News)

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

Iowa News

Iowa’s Medicaid shift draws potential benefits, concerns
The manner in which health care is delivered to more than a half million low-income and disabled Iowans is undergoing a vast transformation. Proponents say shifting management of Iowa’s Medicaid program to private organizations will lead to better patient outcomes and reduced state costs. But many are concerned the change will upset patient care. (Sioux City Journal)

Program helps nurses transition from classrooms to hospitals
That initial transition year continues to prove so daunting that many new nursing graduates find themselves sinking rather than learning to swim. In recent years, as many as one out of three new graduates have left their first nursing jobs within one year — with many never returning to the profession, according to a 2011 report on “The Future of Nursing” by the Institute of Medicine. That’s why the UI College of Nursing, working with The Future of Nursing Iowa Action Coalition and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has developed an online nursing residency program to help smooth that transition. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Stier named to guide Iowa Medicaid program
The Iowa Department of Human Services has a new state director for its Medicaid program. DHS Director Charles Palmer announced Friday that Mikki Stier has been appointed director of the Iowa Medicaid Enterprise, which oversees the $4.2 billion program serving more than a half a million Iowans each year. Stier is currently vice president of government and external relations at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines. (KCRG)

Senator Joni Ernst tours Regional Health Services of Howard County
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst visited northern Iowa Friday as part of her 99-county tour. She stopped by the newly renovated Regional Health Services of Howard County for a personal tour, while exchanging ideas and feedback on what rural hospitals need to survive, thrive, and better serve their patients. “Regional Health Services puts more than $9 million into the Howard County economy, and without the facility, there would be a big hole in this community,” said hospital CEO Robin Schluter. (KTTC)

Local organizations raise awareness with Mental Health Expo
Several community organizations gathered at North Grand Mall on Saturday to help raise awareness for Mental Health Month. The first Mental Health Expo was held and included tables from groups such as Eyerly Ball, Creative Counseling Services and Central Iowa Psychological Services. (Ames Tribune)

National News

Retail clinics in rural areas would widen primary care
Retail clinics embedded in grocers and pharmacies dot Tennessee’s metropolitan areas, yet hold promise as a model to bring health care to rural and underserved parts of the state. Clinics are more common in Tennessee’s urban areas but could be an important access point for care in other parts of the state as the health care system undergoes an evolution to a patient-centric model that emphasizes patient outcomes instead of volume at hospitals and doctors’ offices. (Nashville Tennessean)

Contrary to goals, ER visits rise under Obamacare
Such hikes run counter to one of the goals of the health care overhaul, which is to reduce pressure on emergency rooms by getting more people insured through Medicaid or subsidized private coverage and providing better access to primary care. A major reason that hasn’t happened is there simply aren’t enough primary care physicians to handle all the newly insured patients, says American College of Emergency Physicians President Mike Gerardi, an emergency physician in New Jersey. “They don’t have anywhere to go but the emergency room,” he says. “This is what we predicted. We know people come because they have to.” (USA Today)

PA governor acts to ensure federal health care subsidies
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said on Friday the state will set up its own healthcare exchange if needed to save insurance subsidies for thousands of residents under the federal government’s 2010 Affordable Care Act. The announcement comes ahead of a ruling expected in June from the U.S. Supreme Court in a lawsuit concerning the eligibility of tax subsidies for people in states where the federal government runs health insurance marketplaces. (Reuters)

Insurance covers four in five visits to CVS and Walgreen clinics
Insurance coverage for retail health clinics, once a cash-only proposition, now accounts for more than four in five visits reimbursed at such centers run by CVS Health (CVS) and Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA). Commercial coverage and reimbursement from the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly and Medicaid programs for low income Americans are becoming more common. (Forbes)

Rural Indiana struggles with drug-fueled HIV epidemic
HIV cases had been few and far between in this rural patch of southern Indiana. But, in January, the number of confirmed cases jumped to 11, then to 40, and now more than 140 people are infected. It’s the largest HIV outbreak in Indiana’s history and the largest seen in rural America in many years. Dr. William Cooke is Austin’s only physician. He says the conditions for an outbreak have been ripe for a decade. (Kaiser Health News)

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

Iowa News

Iowa lawmakers heading for overtime
Leaders of the Iowa Legislature are hitting today’s target date for adjournment of the 2015 session far apart on budget agreements to fund education and human services in the fiscal year that begins July 1. “This is a debate between what’s legal and what’s wise,” said House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha. “We think it’s a wise decision on behalf of the taxpayers of Iowa to make sure that we balance the ongoing revenue with ongoing expenses.” (Quad-City Times)

Construction Begins at Palo Alto County Health System
After a year or more of planning, Palo Alto County Health System is excited to begin the much anticipated $9 million construction project. Preliminary work is already beginning and some of this will affect parking and entrances at the hospital. “The year 2015 will be challenging for us as we put these changes in place”, commented Desiree Einsweiler, Administrator at PACHS. “Yet, we are excited that these changes will help us serve our patients with more security, increased privacy, and with additional services.” (Emmetsburg Reporter-Democrat)

Stalled medical marijuana bill causes acrimony at Iowa Capitol
A debate over medical marijuana legislation is getting acrimonious at the Iowa Capitol, and is even spilling over into a fight over anti-abortion legislation. Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, opened the bidding on Monday by declaring that House Republican legislative leaders have a “moral obligation” to permit a vote on Senate File 484, which was approved earlier this session by the Senate. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Expanding Medicaid trims hospitals’ costs of caring for the uninsured
One of the goals of the Affordable Care Act was to reduce the burden of charity care, which totaled nearly $85 billion in 2013. A new study by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that Medicaid — a government health insurance program that covers many people who don’t make much money — might be doing just that. (Iowa Public Radio)

Medicaid expansion is a boon for New Hampshire economy
New Hampshire businesses, hospitals and health care providers, organizations representing patients, and working families across New Hampshire have united in support of continuing this coverage program. The New Hampshire Health Protection Program is projected to bring more than $800 million in federal funds into our state’s economy over the upcoming two-year state budget period. The overall economic impact of these reclaimed federal dollars circulating throughout New Hampshire’s economy is a staggering benefit. (New Hampshire Business Review)

Rural hospitals struggle to stay open, adapt to changes
A total of 50 hospitals in the rural U.S. have closed since 2010, and the pace has been accelerating, with more closures in the past two years than in the previous 10 years combined, according to the National Rural Health Association. That could be just the beginning of what some health care analysts fear will be a crisis. An additional 283 rural hospitals in 39 states are vulnerable to shutting down, and 35 percent of rural hospitals are operating at a loss, according to iVantage Health Analytics. (Associated Press/ABC News)

Medicare data show contrast in generic, brand prescribing
The most-used medicines in Medicare’s prescription drug program are generics, but the program spends the most on brand-name drugs, led by the heartburn treatment Nexium, according to an unprecedented release of government data on Thursday. That contrast sheds light on prescribing practices and how they might be used to save money, specialists say. (Associated Press/KWWL)

Many patients unaware of risks that go with some medical scans
More than half of people receiving medical scans such as X-rays do not know if they are exposed to radiation and many have unanswered questions even as they are waiting to undergo the test, a small U.S. survey found. Previous studies have shown that when patients have more information and can share in the decision-making process, they have less anxiety and more satisfaction with their treatment, the study authors write in the Journal of the American College of Radiology. (Reuters)

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

Iowa News

Iowa ombudsman raises question over Medicaid oversight
Iowa Ombudsman Ruth Cooperrider raised concerns Wednesday that if the state privatizes its Medicaid system, it becomes unclear which office has the authority to investigate patient complaints. Currently, the Office of the Ombudsman can investigate any state agency, including the Department of Human Services. The organization receives and investigates complaints about delays or denial of services from patients enrolled in the state Medicaid program. (Des Moines Register)

Report cites Iowa in making case for Medicaid expansion
Iowa and Missouri share a border, but the states have taken very different approaches to Medicaid expansion. Iowa has expanded it while Missouri has not, costing that state’s hospitals money and harming the quality of life for its residents, according to Families USA, a not-for-profit group based in Washington, D.C., that pushes for access to health care. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Hospitals provide a pulse in struggling rural towns
(Beatrice, Nebraska) has lost a lot of the energy of its heyday…But it has yet to lose its economic pulse, thanks in large measure to the Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center, housed in a sprawling new building of concrete and green glimmering windows on the outskirts of town. The hospital has become an economic anchor for the area. (New York Times)

The prognosis for U.S. health care? Better than you think
Bernard Tyson, chairman and chief executive of Kaiser Permanente—the $56 billion non-profit health insurer and hospital operator—is more optimistic about America’s healthcare system than he’s ever been. That’s saying something, given that the fate of the Affordable Care Act hangs in the balance pending a Supreme Court ruling due in June. He paints a mostly rosy picture of the modern, efficient health system he sees in America’s future—though he did note a few pain points that stand in the way. (Fortune)

Report: Obamacare ruling would disproportionately affect small businesses
Small businesses are among the most vulnerable to steep cost increases in health care coverage if the Supreme Court rules against ObamaCare, according to new data from the Urban Institute. In addition to the 7.5 million people who could lose their insurance subsidies if the Obama administration loses the case, nearly 3.5 million people on small-business plans would also face “substantially” higher premiums, Linda Blumberg, senior fellow for the Urban Institute, will tell a Senate panel on Wednesday. (The Hill)

Future of MinnesotaCare remains uncertain
The future of a health care program for low-income Minnesotans is at stake in the debate over how much the state should be spending in a year of a budget surplus. The Minnesota House passed a bill Tuesday night that funds the health and human services department. It would eliminate MinnesotaCare, a health care program for people who earn too much for medical assistance but can’t afford private insurance. (St. Cloud Times)

ONC brief describes positive trends in hospital EHR adoption
Hospital adoption of technology with advanced functionality increased significantly. “Fewer hospitals are using Basic EHRs without Clinician Notes” and “[h]ospital adoption of Comprehensive EHR systems has increased eleven-fold since 2009.” A vast majority of acute care hospitals (97 percent) possessed a certified EHR technology in 2014, increasing by 35 percent since 2011. (National Law Review)

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

Iowa News

Poll: Iowans reject Branstad’s plans for Medicaid, closing MHIs
Gov. Terry Branstad’s plans to save money by privatizing Medicaid and closing state mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda are strongly opposed by a majority of Iowa voters, according to a national opinion research firm. A survey by Public Policy Polling of 1,219 Iowa voters found that only 22 percent of Iowa voters back Branstad’s plan to hire private managed-care companies to run the state-federal Medicaid health insurance program for low-income Iowans. Fifty-two percent are opposed. (Des Moines Register)

Cedar Rapids and Iowa City agencies’ merger comes ahead of switch to managed care
Two of Eastern Iowa’s largest mental health agencies plan to merge to save money in preparation for the state’s switch to managed care. The board for the Community Mental Health Center for Mid-Eastern Iowa, commonly known as Iowa City Community Mental Health Center, voted last night to join the Abbe Center for Community Mental Health in Cedar Rapids. (KCRG)

Cedar Rapids MedQuarter names executive director
Philip Wasta will oversee the MedQuarter, a 50-block district that includes Mercy Medical Center, UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital, and Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa. “The commission unanimously selected Phil from a quality pool of candidates because we all believe he has the ability to very quickly jump-start district development,” Ted Townsend, chairman of the Medical Self-Supporting Municipal Improvement District Commission, said in a news release. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Mental illnesses most common hidden diseases at colleges
Nancy Reasland has seen it in her 20 years as Cornell College’s student health services director in Mount Vernon. Students with mental illness struggle when academic pressures get high, adding to their stress levels. “That switch from high school to college is big in a lot of ways,” she said. “Sometimes in high school, the parents are very involved in helping the student with time management, helping the student with medication schedules, just kind of running interference.” (Des Moines Register)

National News

Physician burnout heavily influenced by leadership behaviors
Physician burnout is prevalent throughout the U.S. health care system—experienced by nearly half (46 percent) of physicians, according to data published in JAMA last year. But effective leadership appears to alleviate it, according to new research from Mayo Clinic and published in the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. In 2013, nearly 3,000 physicians and scientists across Mayo Clinic’s three campuses in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota responded to a survey about their wellbeing in the workplace. (HealthLeaders Media)

Senators warn Medicare appeals system ‘buckling under its own weight’
The Senate Finance Committee is demanding more attention on the growing backlog of Medicare appeals claims, which federal officials are continuing to blame on a lack of funding. The Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals is receiving a record number of appeals, with the processing time for each claim more than quadrupling over the last five years to an average of 550 days. (The Hill)

Dallas Fire-Rescue program helps reduce 911 calls by frequent EMS users
Assistant Chief Norman Seals said the Mobile Community Healthcare Program, which treated its first patient a year ago, has successfully helped cut the amount of calls from some of those frequent fliers from more than two a month to almost none a month. Rather than simply responding to emergency calls, paramedics regularly visit the patients at their homes to teach them to care for themselves — and to use the 911 system properly. (Dallas Morning News)

ApplePay added to InstaMed medical payment system
Healthcare payments manager InstaMed on Monday said it added ApplePay to its payment methods, the first health care company to integrate Apple’s big bet on mobile payment technology into its service. The news means patients will be able to use Apple smartphones enabled with ApplePay at healthcare providers, payers or online to pay medical bills. (Healthcare Finance News)

Patients who text message just prior to surgery end up needing less pain medication
When someone goes in for surgery, even if it’s minor, it can be scary and unsettling. Pain medication will be administered regardless, but a new study shows that the social support a patient experiences by text messaging before a procedure can reduce the need for supplemental pain relief – even if it’s texting a stranger. Researchers at RTI International, Cornell University and LaSalle Hospital (Montreal, QC), recently published a study in Pain Medicine that indicated the influence mobile phones have in the clinical setting. (MedCity News)