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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)

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. (NewJersery.com)

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)

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

Iowa News

Baby dropped off at hospital under ‘safe haven’ law
According to the Iowa Department of Human Services a newborn baby boy was dropped off at a hospital under Iowa’s Safe Haven law. The baby was dropped off at a medical center on August 13 and was declared a Safe Haven baby. Under the law parents can hand over their children to authorities or health officials within the first 14-days of the child’s life with no questions asked. (WHO-TV)

Mercy touts new heart-pump implant program
Des Moines’ Mercy Medical Center has started installing implantable heart pumps into patients with severe heart failure. The pumps are offered as an alternative to heart transplants, or as a temporary measure until a donor heart becomes available. Until now, the only Iowa hospital performing the procedure was the University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City. (Des Moines Register)

Spencer Hospital celebrates 100th year with ice cream, movie in the park
Spencer Hospital, working in conjunction with Positively Spencer Youth, Eaton Corp. and the Grand Avenue Development Corporation, will host an ice cream social celebrating it’s 100th year of operation. The ice cream event, which will include music at the Grand Avenue Park, will begin at 5:30 p.m. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

National News

The secret committee behind our soaring health care costs
Some economists also point to our high administrative costs and the fact that pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers set their own prices, whereas in most other countries, these prices are negotiated by the government. Another explanation, debated by experts in health policy circles but less known to the public, lies with a secretive committee run by the American Medical Association which, with the assent of the government, has enormous power to determine Medicare prices by assessing the relative value of the services that physicians perform. (Politico)

U.S. hospitals have had 68 Ebola scares, CDC says
American hospitals and state labs have handled at least 68 Ebola scares over the last three weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitals in 27 states alerted the CDC of the possible Ebola cases out of an abundance of caution amid the growing outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Fifty-eight cases were deemed false alarms after CDC officials spoke with medical professions about patient exposures and symptoms, but blood samples for the remaining 10 were sent to the CDC for testing. (ABC News)

Poll: 69% favor Prop. 45 measure on regulating health insurance rates
A new poll shows 69 percent of California voters back Proposition 45, a November ballot measure giving the insurance commissioner the power to stop excessive health-insurance rate increases. The Field Poll released Wednesday indicates broad support statewide for Proposition 45 ahead of what’s expected to be a costly and contentious battle between consumer groups and health insurers. Overall, 69 percent of registered voters said they favored the health-rate regulation measure while 16 percent opposed it and 15 percent were undecided heading into the Nov. 4 election. (Los Angeles Times)

Minnesota town unites to fight heart disease
When her weight crept past 300 pounds last year, Denise Leitz, of New Ulm, knew something had to change. Her clothes didn’t fit. Airplane seat belts weren’t long enough to reach around her waist —and she was always in pain. “I would drop something on the floor and have to crawl to it,” Leitz said. “I mean it was horrible to be like that.” Leitz, 56, decided to change her life by participating in the Heart of New Ulm Project, a 10-year effort that aims to eliminate heart attacks in the community. (MPR News/Bemidji Pioneer)

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

Iowa News

Judge rules against use of telemed abortion system
A judge has ruled that Iowa regulators were within their authority when they voted to ban a first-in-the-nation videoconferencing system that allows urban doctors to dispense abortion drugs to women in rural clinics. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had sued the Iowa Board of Medicine, contending that the board’s decision to ban doctors from using its system was a blatant attempt to limit rural women’s access to abortions. (Des Moines Register)

New UI research center aims to fight diabetes
Researchers in Iowa City hope to be one step closer to curing diabetes with the official opening of the University of Iowa Diabetes Research Center slated for this weekend. The center’s director, Dr. E. Dale Abel, said multiple pilot programs have been in the works for three years or more aimed at treating and curing diabetes. Among them are research on glucose production, natural treatments for diabetic nerve disease and the drug FGF21, which Abel said has potent antidiabetic effects that may be used as treatment in the next three years. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

MCSA integrates mental health into its offerings
The news is both good and getting better. First, let’s address the good: In May, the Quad-Cities-based Robert Young Center opened what it calls an Integrated Health Home in two offices in the lower level of Muscatine Center for Social Action. Affiliated with UnityPoint Health–Trinity Muscatine, the Robert Young Center is a comprehensive community health center that serves more than 8,000 patients annually. It provides a full range of behavioral health services, including both inpatient and outpatient, for both adults and children. (Muscatine Journal)

Climate change may enable bugs, viruses to afflict Iowans
Environmental advocates are warning Iowans to prepare for more itching, biting and blood-sucking during their outdoor excursions, all thanks to global climate change. The National Wildlife Federation on Tuesday released a report trumpeting the effects that climate change will have on outdoor recreation, namely increases in populations of disease-bearing deer ticks and mosquitoes and the spread of more, and stronger, poison ivy. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Health care data breaches have hit 30M patients and counting
The recent theft of 4.5 million medical records by Chinese hackers highlights one undeniable truth about health care data: it’s valuable, and bad people want it. In this latest incident, hackers reportedly stole personal data from Community Health Systems patients, including their Social Security numbers, which is an especially coveted piece of information if you want to steal someone’s identity. But it appears that patients’ medical data and credit card numbers were not stolen in this case. (Washington Post)

Anthem Blue Cross sued again over narrow-network health plans
Health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross faces another lawsuit over switching consumers to narrow-network health plans — with limited selections of doctors — during the rollout of Obamacare. These types of complaints have already sparked an ongoing investigation by California regulators and other lawsuits seeking class-action status against Anthem and rival Blue Shield of California. (Los Angeles Times)

How can we turn the tide against inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions?
First and foremost, we need to directly attack the fear and uncertainty that are the root cause of the dilemma. We need to encourage the development, availability, and use of rapid molecular diagnostic tests that will tell both providers and patients, with certainty, which infections are bacterial and which are viral. This will be by far the most effective tool we have to overcome the tragedy of the commons. (MedScape)

PCORI announces $90 million to study treatment alternatives
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute has announced up to $90 million in funding to study practical comparative questions faced by patients, clinicians and other health care decision makers. Funding will support large clinical or observational studies that compare alternatives to prevent, diagnosis, treat or manage a disease or symptom; improve health care system-level approaches to managing care; or eliminate health or health care disparities. (Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute)

Livestrong $50M gift biggest since Armstrong exit
Lance Armstrong’s former charity made the largest investment in its history Tuesday by giving $50 million to the University of Texas, marking the group’s biggest splash since severing ties with the disgraced cyclist as it pushes to restore momentum and influence after a tumultuous two years. (Associated Press/Sioux City Journal)