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

Iowa News

6 months in, tri-state residents express frustration with new Medicaid system
During a meeting Thursday night, area families and health care providers expressed frustration and shared their struggles with Iowa’s transition to a privatized Medicaid system. About 50 people attended a listening and help session Thursday night at the Northeast Iowa Community College Town Clock Business Center. The event was hosted by Senator Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque). Attendees were given the opportunity to share their experiences with the new Medicaid structure, as well as meet with representatives of the managed care organizations that have been overseeing the program since April. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

St. Anthony Breaks Ground On New Assisted Living Complex
St. Anthony Regional Hospital (SARH) and Nursing Home announced the development of a new assisted-living facility this week at a ground breaking ceremony in Carroll. The planned 36-unit facility, named Garden View, will complement current St. Anthony Senior Living offerings and will be located on the southeast side of the St. Anthony campus. Ed Smith, St. Anthony President and CEO, says this facility brings many benefits to Carroll. The facility has a number of amenities that future residents will be able to enjoy, such as a chapel, a salon, library and even a pub. St. (KCIM)

St. Luke’s Hospital provides support for mothers facing postpartum depression
1 in 5 mothers will face postpartum depression in their lifetime. A new baby can bring a lot of changes in a mother’s life including emotional. St. Luke’s Hospital offers a support group to help mothers facing anxiety and depression by talking in a casual setting with others who are going through similar experiences. Postpartum is a step above the common “baby blues.” I can cause a mothers to spiral into a deep depression which only progresses without treatment. St. Luke’s Maternal Child Education Coordinator Deb Oldakowski said there’s one thing a mother dealing with this needs to remember. (KCRG)

Volunteers start work on Lullaby Lane
Parents grieving an unexpected miscarriage will soon have a permanent place to memorialize their child. At Elmwood Cemetery, members of this year’s Leadership North Iowa class spent Tuesday morning helping to lay pavers in a path for Lullaby Land. Parents who lost children to miscarriage under 20 weeks will have the option of having their child’s name and date of loss engraved on a paver there to be installed in the pathway. When finished, it will be a space for “people be able to memorialize their child,” said Mercy Medical Center Bereavement Coordinator Andrea Campbell. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Miracle Riders take off from Sioux City for the first time ever to raise money for children
Sioux City witnessed a first this week as Miracle Riders rode out on motorcycles for St. Luke’s Miracle Network. Their thousand-mile journey helps to raise money for babies and their families. “We’re trying to raise $50,000 to buy two new crib units,” says lead Miracle Rider Matt Thompson. The ride will be anything but boring as the motorcyclists have asked patients to give them fun challenges along the way. “We’ve put a call out to all the children in Siouxland and the children at the hospital to think of ideas for us like scavenger hunts for us riders to do, ” said Thompson. (Siouxland Matters)

National News

Medicaid backlog cost Kansas at least $2.3 million and counting
Kansa has spent an additional $2.3 million on staffing to handle thousands of backlogged health insurance applications for people with low incomes or who are severely disabled, according to an audit. The audit looked into ongoing problems with the state’s Medicaid application backlog. Medicaid is the state and federal health insurance program. Kansas has a privatized Medicaid system called KanCare. The audit also discovered that as of mid-August, nearly 35,000 people have renewal applications pending and are waiting to find out if they will continue to receive services. (Wichita Eagle)

Neighborhoods influence health, for better and for worse
Doctors are waking up to a reality: To save lives, it simply isn’t enough to provide the best clinical care. As health care transitions from fee-for-service care to population health management, providers must look beyond the walls of hospitals and into the communities where people live their daily lives. Providers need to collaborate with community leaders and organizations providing social services, making themselves part of the neighborhoods they serve. Many hospitals and clinics are already experimenting with innovative approaches that link the clinic to the neighborhood. (Wall Street Journal)

‘Genius Grant’ winner is a genius at inspiring students
When the phone rang, Rebecca Richards-Kortum thought it was a telemarketer. Instead, it was the MacArthur Foundation calling her at home to tell her she’d just won a grant totaling $625,000, often dubbed the “genius grants.” They’re given out each year to 20 to 30 people who show “exceptional creativity.” In announcing Richards-Kortum as one of this year’s 23 fellows, the MacArthur Foundation noted her commitment to “improving access to quality health care for all the world’s people. Richards-Kortum is not only developing novel solutions but also training and inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists to address our shared global challenges.” (NPR)

House panel advances six public health bills
The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced a half-dozen public health-related bills Wednesday. The six bills were approved unanimously by the committee on voice votes, and covered a range of topics from mental health first aid to classifying some synthetic drugs. In the Senate, similar bills are working their way through the committee process. “Collectively, these bipartisan bills will improve the health of Americans across a large spectrum of issues,” Chairman Fred Upton (R-Michigan) said in a statement. The six bills now await action on the House floor. (Morning Consult)

McConnell releases stopgap spending bill, anti-Zika funds
The Senate’s top Republican on Thursday unveiled legislation to prevent a government shutdown next weekend and provide more than $1 billion to battle the Zika virus. It also would provide $500 million to help Louisiana rebuild from last month’s devastating floods. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the stopgap measure was “clean” of controversies. But Democrats immediately blasted the proposal for failing to fund one of their top priorities: money to help Flint, Michigan, repair its lead-tainted water system. (PBS Newshour)

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homeless-oneIn 2014, county and city leaders decided that something needed to be done about central Florida’s alarming homeless population. The issue plagued not just the region’s streets, but also emergency rooms (ERs), health centers and first responders, as homeless people turned to ERs for regular care. Some of the region’s homeless visited the hospital dozens of times in a single year, racking up millions of dollars in services ultimately paid by the hospital systems and taxpayers.

Florida Hospital’s answer: an unprecedented $6 million to support the “housing first” model to end chronic homelessness.

Traditionally, the battle against homelessness has been fought by tracking down the homeless wherever they could be found (if, indeed, they could be found) and offering basic needs (food, water, clothing, first aid) and services such as case management and counseling. In fact, Florida Hospital created a special program, the Homeless Outreach Partnership Effort (H.O.P.E.) Team, to do just that. But the traditional approach put adequate, permanent housing down the list as a “maybe” rather than a “must.”

“Housing first” flips this model, where those who qualify are first given a home and then offered wraparound services aimed at better health, job training and eventually re-entering the workforce to be able to sustain themselves. Those who suffer from severe mental illness and are unable to work also receive priority because they are the highest users of health and public services.

As of last month, 79 formerly homeless Floridians have been placed into permanent housing. And while only a quarter of the $6 million pledged has actually been spent, Florida Hospital and its partners have already seen significant change. Residents now see primary care physicians on a regular basis, are able to manage their chronic conditions and have case managers checking in to make sure they are able to afford their medications. No longer having to worry about where to sleep, they focus on their health, their skills and thriving with dignity.

It’s notable that Florida Hospital, with 2,200 beds and nearly 18,000 employees, is one of the largest in the US, which may cause rural-state hospital leaders to scoff at trying to duplicate the housing first model. Suffice to say, like hospital size, the homeless problem – and the broader adequate housing problem – is relative to location, as would be any response. What’s not in contention is how firmly connected access to housing is to health, overall quality of life and the cost of health care.

Can hospitals solve the homeless problem? No, not even a giant like Florida Hospital can. But that’s not the point. Effective health care is moving steadily from the reactive – trying to fix what homelessness breaks – to proactive – mitigating homelessness as a health issue with preventive care or, ultimately, by supplying permanent, adequate housing.

Of course hospitals can’t fix homelessness, but along with countless other upstream health issues – from childhood trauma to drug abuse to education to nutrition – hospitals are best positioned to form and lead the coalitions necessary to implement lasting solutions. In fact, in the new health care paradigm, there really is no other option.

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Children in Chariton learn basic CPR from Lucas County Health Center staff.

Children in Chariton learn basic CPR from Lucas County Health Center staff.

Results of IHA’s 2015 Community Benefits Survey have been released and show Iowa hospitals provided community benefits valued at more than $1 billion including more than $246 million in charity care. All 118 of Iowa’s community hospitals participated in the statewide survey which is distributed by IHA annually.

Community benefits are activities designed to improve health status and provide greater access to health care and include services and programs such as health screenings, support groups, counseling, immunizations, nutritional services and transportation programs. The total value of these services, as reported in the survey, reaches nearly $172 million.

“Iowa hospitals are uniquely positioned to deliver these programs and services,” said IHA President and CEO Kirk Norris. “No other public or private entity could possibly fill in for hospitals in terms of both assessing and responding to specific community needs.”

Uncompensated care (which is made up of both charity care and bad debt) also plays a role in overall community benefit for services provided by hospitals. Total uncompensated care in 2015 was valued at nearly $520 million. The survey also showed total Medicare and Medicaid losses (at cost) of nearly $370 million.

The community benefits reports display the social and economic importance of Iowa hospitals and health systems. Hospital leaders are encouraged to share hospital-specific data and details of their community benefit services and programs with local media, business leaders and community groups. These efforts help ensure the financial stability of hospitals, making it possible for them to provide the services and programs most needed by their communities.

More information about Iowa hospital community benefits, as well as other hospital quality, safety, economic and utilization data, is available at IHA’s health care consumer website,

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(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 the hallmarks of the hospital mission in Iowa. The 2016 Hospital Heroes will be introduced next month at the IHA Annual Meeting.)

ANIA RENTERIA smallerThough only 4 feet 11 inches tall, there are few who have a heart as big as Ania Renteria, an MRI technologist at Iowa Specialty Hospital-Clarion. Many heroes are defined by one single act that may only impact a few lives, but Ania is a hero of a different sort. She touches many lives, in big and little ways, every day. The impact of this type of hero is truly beyond measure.

Ania - Relay for LifeAnia’s entire life exemplifies serving the needs of others without expectation of recognition. She is someone who is selfless and acts out of the kindness of her heart. Knowing no inconvenience when it comes to helping others, she consistently goes above and beyond in all aspects of her life. Her job is no exception as Ania is the go-to person for the radiology department. She never shies away from a challenge, including being the first to volunteer when the hospital was slated to receive its first MRI and needed a certified technologist.

In addition, Ania is the example throughout Iowa Specialty Hospital for excellence in service and quality. With a warm and friendly personality, people are instantly comfortable around her. Even with a busy schedule, she treats every patient as if they are her only priority. Ania often comes in early and stays late to accommodate her patients’ schedules and is always willing to help out coworkers.

Just a few of her heroic deeds include when she personally went to a patient’s home to change the dressing on a wound, both before and after work, and when she called an anxious patient the day before a scheduled exam to have them tour the MRI suite, providing extra comfort and reassurance.

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Does this capture the Iowa “why”?

Even longtime Iowans might struggle to remember the “Iowa…A Place to Grow” slogan and its accompanying clover leaf-like symbol that Governor Robert Ray adopted more than 45 years ago. Now, what appears to be the last vestige of the campaign, a sculpture near the Statehouse, has been taken apart.

The “Iowa…A Place to Grow” marketing campaign continued for at least 20 years, maybe closer to 30. Because it wasn’t until 1999 that Governor Tom Vilsack unveiled “Iowa…Fields of Opportunity,” which is still seen throughout the state, most notably on welcome signs along the borders. That slogan may seem outdated in a state where fields are being replaced by suburban sprawl and gigantic data centers. But maybe that was and still is the point: fields of opportunity, fertile enough to keep growing with changing times (and massive tax incentives). Maybe “Fields of Opportunity” does a fair job of describing Iowa’s “why.”

The idea of capturing and promoting an organization’s “why,” its core reason for existing, stems from Simon Sinek’s bestselling book, “Start with Why.” Sinek’s central point is that while any organization (or member of that organization) can readily describe “what” they do and probably “how” they do it, very few can articulate “why.” That is, they can’t describe the thing that inspires the organization, those who work for it and those who support it.

Here is how Sinek explains it: “When an organization articulates their WHY and we believe it, then we go above and beyond to include their offerings in our lives. We embrace their beliefs, not because they’re necessarily better, but because they represent values that are important to us.”

As mission-oriented organizations, community hospitals are probably more attuned to their “why” than most other businesses. Yet that focus often gives way to the business of health care – the “what.” In fact, the hospital “what” is so engrained that there’s even a well-known axiom of the industry built around it: “No margin, no mission.”

Hospitals are unique in their communities, as is their mission. But that is changing, just as the very nature of health care delivery is changing. There are countless entrepreneurs and innovators that are pouncing on the opportunities these changes are offering, opportunities made all the more enticing as hospitals and other legacy providers are slow to move into these spaces.

Perhaps hospitals are just too big to be that nimble. Or perhaps there is a level of arrogance at work, a belief that hospitals – with their inherent positive and trusted image – are both too big and too beloved to fail. But critics (media, assorted ratings companies, politicians, advocacy organizations) and competitors (retail outlets, specialized clinics, Uber-like innovators) are lining up to contain, control and displace both traditional and emerging hospital roles – and the accompanying revenue.

To counter these challenges, Iowa hospitals must rally to their “why” and reaffirm their mission and vision with both clear words and visible actions. Even in these times of change and uncertainty, hospitals must be united in their values and the priorities those values create. Only then, when Iowa hospitals proclaim, “We Care About Iowa’s Health,” will our fellow Iowans nod in agreement and stand at our side.

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