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

Iowa News

West Nile cases increasing in Iowa
Seven cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed in Iowa this summer since the first case was found in July, public health officials said Thursday. The Iowa Department of Public Health said cases have been confirmed in Buchanan, Clay, Crawford, Monona, Plymouth, Sioux and Woodbury counties. Additional cases are being investigated in Sac and Shelby counties. Officials said that two people were hospitalized but are now recovering at home. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Family hopes tragedy sparks understanding of mental illness
Relatives of a Strawberry Point man who took his own life after shooting a reserve sheriff’s deputy over the weekend are calling for a better understanding of mental illness. Authorities said 32-year-old Steven James Harreld was in custody at Palmer Lutheran Hospital in West Union, Iowa, on Saturday when he grabbed the deputy’s gun as the officer uncuffed him so he could change back into his jail uniform following medical treatment. (Quad-City Times)

CoOportunity Health board names Gold CEO
The insurance company CoOportunity Health has shifted leadership, with Cliff Gold taking over the chief executive officer job from David Lyon. Gold helped Lyons found the company in 2010 and was its chief operating officer. He previousley retired after a long career as an executive at Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield, which dominates Iowa’s health insurance market. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa traffic deaths again approaching historic lows
One area state officials continue to focus on is seat belt compliance. On one hand, Iowa boasts seat belt compliance rate of 92 percent. However, it’s that 8 percent that remains that is contributing to half of all fatalities this year, Hoye said. Of the 110 traffic deaths in 2014 where seat belt usage was known, 55 died while not wearing a safety belt. “Eight percent of the population account for 50 percent of the fatalities,” Hoye said. “If you ever need a stat to say, ‘Do seat belts work?’ They absolutely do.” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Report: Enrollees still face account problems on Healthcare.gov
ObamaCare enrollees seeking to verify their personal information with the government are facing problems that could jeopardize their health coverage, according to a new report. Hundreds of thousands of people have been asked to submit additional citizenship and immigration documents to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but technical hurdles with their accounts at HealthCare.gov are slowing down the process. (The Hill)

Freestanding ERs target suburbs, rural panel told
Freestanding emergency departments (ED) have been proposed in Georgia as a potential solution for struggling rural hospitals, or newly closed ones, that want to remain operational in downsized form to help patients in need. But the trend toward such standalone emergency rooms nationally is totally different from that picture, members of the Georgia Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee were told Monday. (Kaiser Health News/Georgia Health News)

Why are there so few doctors in rural America?
There are about 6,000 federally designated areas with a shortage of primary care doctors in the U.S., and 4,000 with a shortage of dentists. Rural areas have about 68 primary care doctors per 100,000 people, compared with 84 in urban centers. Put another way, about a fifth of Americans live in rural areas, but barely a tenth of physicians practice there. A few stopgap measures have aimed to fix the problem, at least temporarily. (The Atlantic)

Pennsylvania’s Republican governor expands Medicaid
Pennsylvania won federal approval to expand its Medicaid program to nearly 500,000 low-income adults on Thursday, becoming the ninth state led by a Republican governor to join the expansion under the president’s health-care law. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett had sought the Obama administration’s permission to use money authorized by the Affordable Care Act to purchase private health insurance for poor adults. (Washington Post)

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

Iowa News

Genesis offers vision for the future in operating room technology
Genesis Medical Center gave a sneak preview of future operating room technology and design Wednesday at its East Rusholme Street campus in Davenport. Surrounded by high-definition TV screens, LED lights, a computerized pharmaceutical delivery system and other high-tech gear, the news media received a tour of an operating room mock-up. (Quad-City Times)

UI to honor AirCare, Emergency Department
Iowa’s only comprehensive academic medical center will celebrate 35 years of service by AirCare, the state’s first hospital-based helicopter ambulance service, during a public open house. The event also marks the 10-year anniversary of the University of Iowa Department of Emergency Medicine becoming a formal academic department. (Iowa Now)

National News

Medicare: Not such a budget-buster anymore
You’re looking at the biggest story involving the federal budget and a crucial one for the future of the American economy. Every year for the last six years in a row, the Congressional Budget Office has reduced its estimate for how much the federal government will need to spend on Medicare in coming years. The latest reduction came in a report from the budget office on Wednesday morning. (New York Times)

3 ways insurers can discourage sick from enrolling
Insurers can no longer reject customers with expensive medical conditions thanks to the health care overhaul. But consumer advocates warn that companies are still using wiggle room to discourage the sickest — and costliest — patients from enrolling. Some insurers are excluding well-known cancer centers from the list of providers they cover under a plan; requiring patients to make large, initial payments for HIV medications; or delaying participation in public insurance exchanges created by the overhaul. (Washington Post)

Urgent care centers opening for people with mental illness
The goal of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Mental Health Urgent Care Center is to stabilize and treat people in immediate crisis while connecting them to ongoing care. Run by Exodus Recovery, it will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can serve up to 16 adults and six adolescents. During their stay of up to one day, patients will undergo a psychiatric evaluation, receive on-the-spot care such as counseling and medication and be referred for longer-term treatment. (Kaiser Health News)

Journal questions validity of autism and vaccine study
A study published earlier this month on an alleged link between vaccines and autism has been removed from the public domain pending further investigation, according to Translational Neurodegeneration. In an online statement, the scientific journal said the paper had been removed “because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions.” (CNN)

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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)

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

Iowa News

Officials worry over rise in unvaccinated children
Iowa health officials are concerned about an increase in the number of parents who are opting not to vaccinate their children. Parents received vaccination exemptions in the 2012-13 school year for nearly 8,000 children, which is more than triple the number from 12 years ago, The Des Moines Register reported. While the figure represents less than 2 percent of all Iowa children, health leaders say they are worried about the rise in unvaccinated children. (Associated Press/Clinton Herald)

New anti-tobacco ads aim to shame celebrities who smoke
Iowa’s attorney general is touting the power of a new anti-smoking tactic: celebrity-shaming. While young people around the world were watching MTV’s Video Music Awards show Sunday night, they got an eyeful of entertainers with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. The less-than-glamorous images flashed by in a new anti-tobacco ad that premiered Sunday and will be airing nationally. (Des Moines Register)

UIHC preparing for Ebola — just in case
Health care workers in Iowa City and throughout the state are preparing for possible treatment of Ebola patients, though the chances of a local outbreak are remote, an Iowa health department director said Monday. The planning comes as an estimated 2,615 cases of the disease exist in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization reported Friday. Of those cases, 1,427 were fatal. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Report shows Iowa’s not making the grade to reduce cancer
The American Cancer Society’s annual report card says Iowa’s getting bad grades in some areas. In fact, Iowa only met three of the report’s 12 benchmarks for fighting cancer. The report brought up a big concern when it comes to both tobacco prevention and breast and cervical cancer detection. Danielle Oswald with the American Cancer Society says currently prevention and cessation programs are only funded at $5.1 million, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends those programs to be funded at $30.1 million. That’s 17 percent of the recommended level. (KCRG)

National News

Probe: No proof VA delays caused Phoenix vets to die
The Veterans Affairs Department says investigators have found no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at a VA hospital in Phoenix, deflating an explosive allegation that helped expose a troubled health care system in which veterans waited months for appointments while employees falsified records to cover up the delays. The VA’s Office of Inspector General has been investigating the delays for months and shared a draft report of its findings with VA officials. (Associated Press/National Public Radio)

Technology adviser expected to leave White House post
Todd Park, President Obama’s top technology adviser and an important figure in the emergency effort last year to fix the federal government’s online health care marketplace after a disastrous beginning, is leaving the White House, a person familiar with the matter said Monday. Mr. Park, 41, who was only the second federal official to hold the title of chief technology officer, will return to Silicon Valley at the end of the month and continue to help the White House recruit engineers, this person said. (New York Times)

CEOs love talking about culture; here’s why they shouldn’t
So I’m a CEO of an institution that’s struggling. We aren’t making our numbers, morale is low and there are service or product errors. I seek out the help of other CEOs. They tell me I must improve the culture. That doesn’t really help me. “Everybody says it’s the culture, but what is the culture?” asks John Kenagy, MD, founder of Kenagy & Associates and a former practicing physician who has studied change management for more than two decades. “Culture is such a meaningless term; it really dodges the issue. Nobody’s talking about what it is.” (Becker’s Hospital Review)

It helps to have a hospital room with a view
Hospitals are, by their nature, scary and depressing places. But they don’t have to be ugly as well — and there’s ample evidence that aesthetics matter to patient health. When the University Medical Center of Princeton tested a mock-up room with nice views, a sofa for guests and no roommates, it found that patients asked for 30 percent less pain medication, reports the New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman. This result shouldn’t be surprising. (Bloomberg/Chicago Tribune)

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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)

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