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

Iowa News

State launches health alert notification network
State officials say five Iowa health systems have launched a statewide alert notification network. The Statewide Alert Notification system provides real-time, secure notifications to care teams regarding emergency room visits, admissions and discharges of their members, according to a news release issued Friday by the Iowa Medicaid Enterprise and the Iowa Department of Public Health. The five systems in Iowa currently receiving alerts include Broadlawns Medical Center, Unity Point Health Partners, Iowa Health+, University of Iowa Health Alliance and Mercy Accountable Care Organization. (Quad-City Times)

Iowa can’t afford to wait for mental health reform
State policymakers and elected officials have long acknowledged that when it comes to mental health services, Iowa fails almost every conceivable test. A 2015 report estimates there are 120,000 people in Iowa with a serious mental illness, but only about 300 psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who can prescribe medication. Iowa now ranks last among the states in terms of the available state psychiatric beds. (Des Moines Register)

Five Iowa health centers win federal grants to provide dental care
Health centers in five Iowa communities have received nearly two million dollars in federal funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for dental care. HRSA spokesman Martin Kramer says the money is going to facilities in Council Bluffs, Fort Dodge, West Burlington, Urbandale and Ottumwa. “Health centers can use this funding to hire more staff, to increase their capacity to see more patients or to build or expand on oral health facilities. (Radio Iowa)

One of Iowa’s oldest pharmacies has been sold
Hammer Pharmacy in Des Moines, one of the state’s oldest drug stores, has been sold to GRX Holdings of West Des Moines. Hammer was founded in 1872 by Alvin Hammer and Russell Johnson Sr., partnered with Hammer in 1942 and eventually took over the business. It is now part of GRX’s group of 17 independent pharmacies. Hammer Pharmacy will continue to offer free delivery, immunizations and medication packaging, said Nicolle McClure of GRX. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Lawmakers should fix Washington’s mental-health system, not politicize it
Across the state, hospitals are proposing to add psychiatric capacity and open new psychiatric units. But despite strong community support and investment of state capital funds, these projects often get mired in state approval through the “certificate of need” process. Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner Craig Adams has scheduled a hearing to address issues in the mental-health system as a whole and wants to understand the impact on local hospitals and the Washington State Hospital Association. Washington’s community hospitals look forward to being part of the solution. (Seattle Times)

California program saving lives and saving money
In Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor, frequent health care users representing just one percent of the patient population account for about one-fourth of health care spending. That’s why health professionals across California have started targeting this problem group. The Illumination Foundation launched the program with the goal of breaking the vicious cycle into which these patients had fallen, then following them over a two-year period. The program saved $14 million in health care spending for just 37 people over two years. (Kaiser Health News)

Pay-for-performance program has improved Oregon’s health
Oregon Health Plan’s pay-for-performance program has resulted in three years of continued health care improvement for nearly all the state’s Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs). So says a new Oregon Health Authority report which indicates each of the state’s CCOs showed improvement in a majority of the health care goals tied to performance. For 2015, CCOs received a combined total $168 million in incentive payments based on the level of care they provided to low-income Oregonians. (Portland Business Journal)

How can hospitals improve patient satisfaction? By engaging their employees
For years, hospitals earned high (or low) ratings based almost entirely on the medical care they delivered. Today, providing a positive patient experience has become an equally important focus for hospitals around the country. A good way for hospitals to help their patients have good experiences is by focusing on their employees. Engaged employees do far more than simply show up on time and perform satisfactorily, and instead go the extra mile to care for patients. (STAT)

The challenge of taking health apps beyond the well-heeled
When you hear the phrase “digital health,” you might think about a Fitbit, the healthy eating app on your smartphone, or maybe a new way to email the doctor. But Fitbits aren’t particularly useful if you’re homeless, and the nutrition app won’t mean much to someone who struggles to pay for groceries. A small but growing effort is underway to use digital technologies – particularly cellphones – to improve the health of Americans who live on the margins. They may be poor, homeless or have trouble getting or paying for medical care even when they have insurance. (Iowa Public Radio)

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

Iowa News

Iowa ranks high in report on well-being of children
When it comes to wellness, Iowa’s kids are better off than those in most other states, according to a new report, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The state ranked third nationally in the 2016 Kids Count Data Book, which looks at the health, education, economic well-being and communities of the country’s children. Even still, one out of every seven Iowa children is living in poverty — and that has a ripple effect. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Adel family goes to Capitol Hill to help kids with special health care needs
From visiting doctors to finding the right specialists, it can be difficult for parents to manage care for kids with complex conditions. One family from Adel is taking their story to Capitol Hill to talk to the Iowa delegation about how to make it easier for families to navigate. It’s part of the Children’s Hospital Association’s Family Advocacy Day. They’re encouraging lawmakers to pass a bipartisan bill called the ACE Kids Act, which stands for Advanced Care for Exceptional Kids. (WHO)

Record number of nurses apply for loan forgiveness program
Iowa College Aid has received a record number of applications for a loan forgiveness program for Iowa registered nurses and nurse educators for the 2015-16 academic year. The 331 applications mark an increase of 7.1 percent from 2014-15. Started in 2007, the program offers loan repayment assistance to registered nurses employed in Iowa and nurse educators teaching at eligible colleges and universities in Iowa. This year, 40 recipients qualified for loan repayment awards of up to $2,340, based on full-time employment. (Business Record)

Mercy Iowa City to close skilled nursing unit
Mercy Iowa City will shut down its skilled nursing unit at the end of June in response to declining demand, said Margaret Reese, the hospital’s spokesperson. Reese said Monday the unit will officially close June 30, although officials decided to close it several months ago and staff have already discharged the final two patients. “It really wasn’t necessary for us to keep it open,” Reese said. She said the hospital did not lay off staff as a result of the closure and transitioned the unit’s nurses into other nursing jobs. (Iowa City Press Citizen)

National News

Kansas committee seeks broader view of behavioral health efforts
Funding limitations and a sometimes-narrow focus have kept Kansas mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention groups from fully coordinating their efforts. Sarah Fischer, director of prevention and promotion services for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said a council subcommittee will now work with mental health, substance abuse, problem gambling and suicide prevention organizations to identify and focus on common concerns. (Kansas Health Institute)

A small town in Maine bands together to provide opioid addiction treatment
About 10 years ago, Bridgton, a town of just 5,000 residents in Maine, began showing signs of a serious drug problem. “I had a lot of young people calling the agency to come into treatment,” says Catherine Bell, director of Crooked River Counseling. Like so many states, Maine is facing a chronic shortage of treatment for opioid addiction. The problem is especially acute in rural parts of the state where there are no addiction doctors and the nearest methadone clinic is at least an hour’s drive away. (NPR)

New for-profit medical schools springing up across U.S.
For-profit medical schools are starting to pop up around the country, promising to create new family doctors for underserved rural regions. Rural states like Idaho need more general practitioners, with the baby boom generation aging and expanded insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act making health care more accessible. But critics of the new schools question whether companies can properly train the nation’s next crop of doctors. (Associated Press)

Replacement nurse alleges that Twin Cities hospital strike is hurting care
Tracy Mitchum, a replacement nurse from Georgia, stopped working at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids Wednesday, citing concerns about the quality of patient care while the hospital’s regular nurses are on strike. Allina Health replaced its 4,800 regular nurses at Mercy and four other Twin Cities hospitals with 1,400 temporary nurses when a seven-day strike, triggered by a dispute over health insurance benefits, started Sunday morning. “There are some nurses working out of their scope of practice that are completely lost,” Mitchum said. (Star Tribune)

CDC issues preparedness plan for locally acquired Zika cases
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week issued an interim plan for responding to locally acquired cases of Zika virus infection in the continental U.S. and Hawaii. As of June 15, only travel-associated cases have been reported in the continental U.S., including three infants born with birth defects and three pregnancy losses. The response plan outlines state and CDC activities to prevent and reduce local transmission once it has been identified. (CDC)

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

Iowa News

SARH ED Director Receives Scholarship
St. Anthony Regional Hospital (SARH) Emergency Department (ED) Director, Sara Roth of Wall Lake, has been awarded a $3,500 scholarship from the Iowa Hospital Education and Research Foundation. Roth is a 2005 graduate of Wall Lake-Lake View-Auburn High School and is currently attending Chamberlain College of Nursing, studying for a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. This is the second consecutive year Roth has been awarded the scholarship. (KCIM)

West receives IHERF scholarship
Mahaska Health Partnership’s (MHP) Summer West, RN, is the recipient of a $3,500 scholarship from the Iowa Hospital Education and Research Foundation (IHERF). “This is West’s third scholarship awarded this month,” MHP Chief Nursing Officer Darlene Keuning shared. The IHERF scholarship was established in 2004 by the Iowa Hospital Association (IHA) to help encourage quality health care personnel to stay in Iowa. IHA President and CEO Kirk Norris said, “We are proud to help these high-achieving students fulfill their career goals at Iowa hospitals.” (Oskaloosa Herald)

Cedar Falls twins go to Washington to talk health care
Today, an eastern Iowa family is in our nation’s capital to talk to lawmakers. One Cedar Falls family traveled to the capitol along with many other kids from across the nation. They’re there for the 13th annual Speak Now For Kids Advocacy Day. Twins Berne and Maren Denison will be talking with lawmakers about what it’s like to live with Cystic Fibrosis and about how the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has helped them. They hope that by sharing their story in D.C., lawmakers can see how important hospitals and health care is for children like them. (KWWL)

Mercy Ottumwa Medical Clinic expanding services with new clinic
Mercy Ottumwa Medical Clinic is expanding its primary care presence and adding an Urgent Care Clinic in Ottumwa to improve access to care and to help achieve the highest quality outcomes for patients. The clinic, which serves people from Ottumwa and surrounding areas, will provide family medicine, internal medicine, urgent care and physical therapy and will have the latest digital technology necessary to support those services. (Ottumwa Post)

Medical center construction nears completion
The two-year, $26 million campus development project at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center (BVRMC) is now nearly complete. A grand opening event is being planned and is likely to be held in late summer or early fall. “We actually had a group that researched the different things hospitals can do to create a healing environment,” said Katie Schwint, BVRMC Director of Communications. “It’s really fun to start seeing the finishing touches going into place and we’re very excited and anxious to be able to announce a moving date into the new construction, and a grand opening for the public,” she said. (Pilot Tribune)

National News

State contractor oversight criticized in wake of Kansas Medicaid mistake
News of a mistake that dropped several thousand Kansans from state Medicaid backlog reports has advocates and Democratic lawmakers questioning the state’s oversight of the contractor blamed for the error. Susan Mosier, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, sent a letter to federal officials June 10 to let them know that the reports they had been receiving since February – which showed the state’s backlog of Medicaid applications steadily declining – were inaccurate. Mosier placed responsibility for the error on a state contractor not named in the letter. (Kansas Health Institute)

Expanded Medicaid may translate into fewer unpaid hospital bills
U.S. hospitals may be getting paid for more of the care they actually provide thanks to the Affordable Care Act, if research from Michigan reflects the situation around the country. While the study didn’t look directly at hospital finances, researchers found that the proportion of uninsured adults discharged from Michigan hospitals fell after public insurance options expanded in 2014. Researchers were surprised at how uniform the impact of Medicaid expansion seemed to be in hospitals across Michigan. (Reuters)

Decades into crisis, kids still suffer from shortage of psychiatrists
Seventeen years ago, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala sounded the alarm on a crisis that was leaving millions of ill children without proper care. The problem was a “dearth” of child psychiatrists that forced primary care doctors to treat mentally ill youngsters and a “triage” environment that it said needed to change. It hasn’t. Instead, the crisis is arguably getting worse as the U.S grapples with an increase in depression and suicides among young people and the number of child psychiatrists remains far too meager to help them. (NBC News)

Better mental health care is worth the expense
When more than half of people who need mental health care can’t or don’t get it — as is true in the U.S. — other problems arise. For sufferers, these include physical illness, lost earnings, substance abuse and suicide. For society, there is greater crime and homelessness. Adequate spending on mental health would save other social and government costs down the road. Left untreated, mental illness drains the public purse one way or another. So legislation in the House of Representatives meant to expand mental health care is welcome. (Bloomberg)

House republicans unveil long-awaited plan to replace Obamacare
Six years after promising a plan to “repeal and replace” the federal health law, House Republicans are finally ready to deliver. The 37-page white paper, called “A Better Way,” includes virtually every idea on health care proposed by Republicans going back at least two decades. It would bring back “high risk pools” for people with very high medical expenses, end open-ended funding for the Medicaid program and encourage small businesses to band together to get better bargaining power in “Association Health Plans.” What the plan does not include, however, is any idea of how much it would cost, or how it would be financed. (Kaiser Health News)

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

Iowa News

Fewer Iowa teens are having babies, abusing drugs
The next time older Iowans start harrumphing about “kids these days,” they might want to look at how the state stacks up in a new national report about children’s health and well-being. Iowa kids get strong marks for avoiding pregnancy, remaining sober, staying in school and having health insurance. The state ranks third overall in the annual “Kids Count” report, released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. That’s up from fourth last year. Mike Crawford, Iowa director of the report, said the data demonstrate how public health efforts can succeed. (Des Moines Register)

Horn Memorial breaks ground in Ida Grove on new Inpatient Unit project
On May 23, the Horn Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, executive staff and the chief of the medical staff broke ground on the $9-million dollar, 13,000 square foot inpatient unit building project. The new inpatient unit will replace all of Horn’s dated, semi-private rooms with all private rooms, including a full bathroom with shower in every room. There will be ample room to accommodate family, with the ability for family to sleep in the room with a patient, if desired. The entire project is slated to take 12-14 months. (Mapleton Press)

SMCH names new CEO from within
The Stewart Memorial Community Hospital (SMCH) Board of Directors have announced that COO Cindy Carstens will be the new CEO. Carstens has more than 35 years of health care experience and began her career in Lake City with SMCH eight years ago as the vice president of nursing and ancillary services. She was named COO in 2015. In late May, current CEO, Heather Cain, announced her resignation effective mid-July. Carsten will take the reins from Cain and being her new role as CEO on July 16. (KCIM)

Allen nursing student awarded scholarship
Allison Flaucher of Jesup, an employee of Covenant Medical Center who is studying nursing at Allen College, has been awarded a $3,500 scholarship from the Iowa Hospital Education and Research Foundation (IHERF), which is supported by the Iowa Hospital Association. Flaucher is among 33 outstanding students from all over Iowa who have received assistance this year from the IHERF Health Care Careers Scholarship Program. She is the daughter of Kelly Flaucher, mammography supervisor at Covenant Medical Center. (Cedar Valley Business Monthly)

National News

Washington D.C.’s first heart hospital opens
It’s actually a hospital within a hospital. A wing of MedStar Washington Hospital Center has been renovated and transformed into a state-of-the-art cardiac care facility, called the Nancy and Harold Zirkin Heart & Vascular Hospital. Instead of being scattered throughout Washington Hospital Center, all patients needing heart and vascular treatment will go to this cardiac wing, which has 164 beds and a special cardiac intensive care unit capable of treating 44 cases. (WTOP)

New techniques reducing hospital stays New Hampshire hospital
The Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center touts quick, safe and less expensive hip-replacement surgeries, with doctors there expecting the amount of procedures to double this year. “The techniques have gotten less invasive because of medical advances,” said Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez. He says New Hampshire is ahead of the curve when it comes to anterior hip replacements and a muscle-sparing technique that enables patients to recover faster with less blood loss and instability. (New Hampshire Union Leader)

Your doctor will see you in this telemedicine kiosk
Today, telemedicine has become a more common method for patients to receive routine care at home or wherever they are — often on their cellphones or personal computers. A growing number of employers have provided insurance coverage for telemedicine services enabling employees to connect with a doctor by phone using both voice and video. One limitation of such phone-based services is physicians cannot always obtain basic vital signs such as blood pressure and heart rate. That’s where telemedicine kiosks offer an advantage. (Kaiser Health News)

How hospitals can leverage technologies to combat health care fraud
Hospitals must be on constant alert to identify and prevent fraud. Increasingly, organized rings are colluding to commit health care fraud, requiring hospitals and health systems to adopt increasingly sophisticated tools crack them. Whether they involve high-level executives or low-level staff, fraud accusations can tarnish a hospital’s reputation and bring costly lawsuits and fines. So how can health care organizations better detect and prevent fraud? (Healthcare Dive)

Interstate physician licensing compact gets federal funding boost
As state medical licensing agencies seek to accommodate new health information technologies such as telemedicine while preserving professional integrity and patient safety, they’ll be getting a funding boost from the federal government The Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded a $250,000-a-year grant for three years to support state medical boards as they implement the administrative and technical infrastructure of the Interstate Medical Licensing Compact. (Modern Healthcare)

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

Iowa News

Mentally ill Iowans stranded for months in hospitals
No one who suffers a stroke, tumor or broken bone would expect to be stranded in a hospital for months after doctors cleared them to be released. But many Iowans with serious mental illnesses are being marooned that way. Such long-term patients clog hospital units that are desperately needed for new patients going through mental health crises. Hospital leaders say the bottleneck is worsening, and they blame it on a lack of options for patients who need supervision short of full hospitalization. (Des Moines Register)

States turn to former patients to fill mental health gaps
Mala Thomas brings unique experience to her job. The mental health care professional didn’t spend years in school learning about schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Instead, her knowledge comes largely from firsthand experience. Today, 17 years sober, she’s giving hope to people going through similar challenges. In at least 30 states, including Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and North Dakota, former mental health patients are being trained to help fill workforce gaps and improve care under a new certification known as peer support specialists. (Sioux Falls Argus Leader)

Bettendorf mental health proposal again delayed
Strategic Behavioral Health (SBH) of Memphis must wait a bit longer for an answer from the Iowa Health Facilities Council on its proposed 72-bed, $14 million for-profit psychiatric hospital in Bettendorf. SBH was scheduled to seek project approval from the five-member council on July 7. However, council member Amy Skinner resigned in May due to a move to South Dakota and another member now has surgery scheduled for that time. (Dispatch/Rock Island Argus)

For pregnant women battling opioid addiction, more at stake than just breaking the habit
Since 2002, the number of female heroin addicts has sky rocketed, rising 100 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2002 to 2004, only 0.8 out of every 1,000 women was addicted to the drug. But from 2011 to 2013, that number doubled to 1.6 per 1,000 women. Data from the Iowa Hospital Association shows that about 300 babies born each year have noxious influences — drugs or alcohol — affecting them. For these newborns and their families, treating the immediate health problems is the simple part. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Kansas Medicaid backlog now quadruple what state thought
The state’s Medicaid application backlog has more than quadrupled in size because of inaccurate reports. Kansas thought it had lowered the backlog to 3,480 people; it’s now up to 15,393. Of the new total, 10,961 applicants have been waiting for more than 45 days for the state to process their applications. Medicaid, called KanCare in Kansas, is the state- and federally funded insurance program for low-income or disabled residents. Sean Gatewood, with the KanCare Advocates Network, said the backlog has serious health implications for those awaiting services. (Kansas City Star)

Medicaid expansion hits Deep South
Louisiana is the 31st state—and the first in the Deep South—to extend Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act to adults with incomes up to 138 percent of poverty. The expansion, fully supported by the federal government through this year, will be partly paid for in future years by fees levied on Louisiana hospitals. The state’s hospitals generally welcome the expansion in terms of helping them serve patients better. “It will vary by hospital depending on the demographics of each hospital,” said Paul Salles, CEO of the Louisiana Hospital Association. (Modern Healthcare)

Rural hospitals look for ways to stay open
Since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2013, the list of hospitals in Tennessee that have closed their inpatient services — or completely closed — has grown to seven. Five of the seven have hit close to home, which raises concern for other rural hospitals in West Tennessee. “All we can do is voice we are for Medicaid expansion,” said Scott Barber, CEO at Decatur County General Hospital. “If the county commission decides they are not going to support us, there will come a time and date when we will have to cease operations at the hospital.” (Jackson Sun)

Telemedicine alone can bridge divide in urban-rural health care, says expert
Through telemedicine, high quality medical services can be brought to wherever patients are, rather than transporting patients to distant and expensive tertiary care centers, S. Geethalakshmi, vice chancellor of the Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University said. “Through cost effective video conferencing, expertise available in the cities could be transferred to suburban areas. This will help to improve health care in rural areas,” she said. (ETHealthWorld)

Rising drug prices squeeze hospital bottom lines
Ever-rising drug prices are beginning to put a serious squeeze on the bottom lines of hospitals, which do not see much wiggle room for negotiation at this point. Hospitals are getting hammered not only by the double-digit hikes by big pharmaceutical companies but by the practices of smaller companies such as Turing Pharmaceuticals that buy up patents to old-line drugs such as Daraprim and raising their prices 50-fold or more. That has prompted some hospitals to try and take significant actions to cut their drug costs. (Fierce Healthcare)

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