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

Iowa News

UNI seeking to sell 50 acres of campus for replacement hospital
The University of Northern Iowa is seeking to sell 50 acres of campus property to a local hospital looking to build a new facility, according to agenda documents released Tuesday by the Iowa Board of Regents. The property is located on the southwest corner of the Cedar Falls-based university’s campus. The land would be purchased for $4.3 million by Sartori Memorial Hospital, a 100-bed, full-service hospital providing care in the Cedar Falls area. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Story County Medical Center expansion set to start this fall
Work on a 32,000-square-foot, $15 million addition to Story Medical Center’s south campus is set to begin this October. When the new hospital was completed in 2009, the addition was already identified as the second of three phases for the overall facility. The third phase will be the eventual move of senior care to the south side of town. The addition planned for this fall will bring the Story Medical primary care clinic; physical, occupational and speech therapy; and cardiac rehabilitation services and wellness programs. (Ames Tribune)

Mercy in Sioux City celebrates 125th anniversary
Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City is celebrating 125 years of serving Siouxland and it’s bringing in a special guest to do that. The former Bishop of Sioux City Bishop and now Archbishop of the Houston Galveston Diocese, Daniel DiNardo, is in town for that celebration. Wednesday afternoon he was at a reception held at Mercy Medical Center. DiNardo says he’s happy to be back in Siouxland. (KMEG)

Iowa: Who we are by the numbers (as of 2014)
Every year the Iowa Department of Public Health compiles a statistical profile that tracks vital records such as the state’s population count, the number of births and deaths and other demographic information. Preliminary data is released in a condensed, at-a-glance format with more specific data provided later after more complete collection and a detailed analysis of information within a historical context. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Congress overwhelmingly approves bill bolstering Medicare hospital patients’ rights
The U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation Monday night requiring hospitals across the nation to tell Medicare patients when they receive observation care but have not been admitted to the hospital. It’s a distinction that’s easy to miss until patients are hit with big medical bills after a short stay. The vote follows overwhelming approval in the U. S. House of Representatives in March. The legislation is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama, said its House sponsor, Texas Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett. (Kaiser Health News)

Task force recommends primary care providers screen all adults for depression
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that all adults be screened for depression in a primary care setting “with adequate systems in place to ensure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and appropriate follow up.” The task force will accept comments on the draft recommendation through August 24. It assigned a “B” grade to the recommendation, meaning all copays and deductibles for the screenings would be waived under the Affordable Care Act. (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force)

CMS releases FAQs to clarify plan to ease ICD-10 transition
On Monday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released answers to frequently asked questions to help clarify recently announced measures that aim to provide physicians with some flexibility as they transition to the new ICD-10 code sets. U.S. health care organizations are working to transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 code sets to accommodate codes for new diseases and procedures by October 1. On July 6, CMS and the American Medical Association jointly announced measures designed to help ease physicians’ transition. (iHealth Beat)

Dying care: ‘Improved’ guidelines proposed
England’s health watchdog has put forward new draft guidance to improve the care of adults in their last few days of life. It comes after concerns that misuse of the previous system – the Liverpool Care Pathway – led to some patients being deprived of water and food. The guidelines encourage staff to involve patients and relatives in decisions and to communicate well. The Department of Health and charities welcomed the move. (BBC)

In 1965, experts warned of Medicare-induced crisis
The predictions were dire: hospitals overflowing with desperately ill elderly patients; chronic shortages of doctors and nurses; nursing home beds in critically short supply. Medicare, worried doctors said, would turn once smoothly functioning hospitals into warehouses filled with sick people who had nowhere else to go. This was the vision of Medicare advanced in U.S. News & World Report on July 26, 1965. (U.S. News & World Report)

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

Iowa News

Hospital just announced $13 million expansion
Story County Medical Center announced Tuesday that it’s planning a $13 million addition. Officials said the project will move all outpatient services to the South Campus located at 640 S 19th Street in Nevada. “We have seen growth in our clinics and at our hospital,” said Tim Ahlers, CEO in a news release. “Our emergency room and outpatient surgery procedures have seen record growth in the past year. Consolidating our services onto one campus will improve our patients’ experience while providing easy, convenient access to state of the art facilities.” (KCCI)

4 questions with Palo Alto County Health System CEO Desiree Einsweiler
Palo Alto County Health System CEO Desiree Einsweiler knows about the challenges of rural healthcare, but in spite of it all, she believes change in healthcare today makes it an exciting place o be. Ms. Einsweiler was named to Becker’s list of “50 rural CEOs to know” in 2014 and 2015. She was also one of Becker’s “130 women hospital and health system leaders to know” in 2013 and 2014. She has served as CEO since 2012. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

New Genesis program supports babies, families
A crying, screaming infant who can’t be consoled can be so scary and worrisome for some parents that they end up taking the baby to a hospital emergency room. Perhaps that expensive visit could have been avoided if the parents had more instruction and support in dealing with their child. Providing that help is the purpose of a new initiative announced Tuesday at Genesis Medical Center-East Rusholme Street, Davenport. (Quad-City Times)

UI Clinic focuses on helping LGBTQ patients
At the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, members of a long-ostracized community are finding a safe space, the UI LGBTQ Clinic. As the only service of its kind in Iowa, the clinic — founded in 2012 — has experienced a boom in clientele that can mean long waiting lists for patients. “All of our spots are being occupied,” said Nicole Nisly, a UI clinical professor of internal medicine and the founder of the clinic. “We’re definitely not idle. Patients are booking months in advance.” (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

National News

‘Jaw-dropping': Medicare deaths, hospitalizations AND costs reduced
The U.S. health care system has scored a medical hat trick, reducing deaths, hospitalizations and costs, a new study shows. Mortality rates among Medicare patients fell 16 percent from 1999 to 2013. That’s equal to more than 300,000 fewer deaths a year in 2013 than in 1999, said cardiologist Harlan Krumholz, lead author of a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. “It’s a jaw-dropping finding,” Krumholz said. “We didn’t expect to see such a remarkable improvement over time.” (USA Today)

CMS projects higher health care spending growth through 2024
The historically low growth rates of national health spending over the last several years may be history. CMS officials say the Affordable Care Act’s insurance expansion, an improving economy, an aging population, and expensive new drugs are pushing up health costs once again. U.S. health spending is expected to grow 5.8 percent annually between 2014 and 2024, according to projections from CMS economists and actuaries published Tuesday in Health Affairs. (Modern Healthcare)

Hospital leaders urge Congress to support unique needs of rural patients
Hospital leaders Tuesday urged the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens and support federal policies critical to maintaining access to care in rural communities. At the hearing, rural hospital leaders urged Congress to support legislation to prevent the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services from enforcing a Medicare condition of payment for Critical Access Hospitals that requires a physician to certify that a beneficiary may reasonably be expected to be discharged or transferred to another hospital within 96 hours. (American Hospital Association)

Lawmakers seek to change Medicare payment requirements for rural hospitals
A House Ways and Means subcommittee met Tuesday to discuss two Medicare payment requirements that the panel’s Republicans called “bureaucratic red tape” for rural hospitals. “Our constituents are seeing first-hand the difficulties caused by overregulation and bureaucracy. And it is our rural neighbors who pay the price when it comes to access,” said Health Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, in his opening statement. (Agri-Pulse)

Rethinking mental health’s role in the rural health care system
A new partnership in southwest Kansas aims to build mental health services and help strengthen a couple of rural hospitals at the same time. The nonprofit United Methodist Health Ministry Fund is leading an effort to make the health system work better for people in rural Kansas. The fund’s president, Kim Moore, said the current structure based on small, low-volume hospitals isn’t likely to survive long-term. (High Plains Public Radio)

Hospital checklists are meant to save lives — so why do they often fail?
Some hospitals have been unable to replicate the impressive results of initial trials. An analysis of more than 200,000 procedures at 101 hospitals in Ontario, Canada, for example, found no significant reductions in complications or deaths after surgical-safety checklists were introduced. A cadre of researchers is working to make sense of the discrepancies. They are finding a variety of factors that can influence a checklist’s success or failure, ranging from the attitudes of staff to the ways that administrators introduce the tool. (Nature)

Primary care compensation rising faster than specialties, but…
A survey from Medical Group Management Association provides further evidence that primary care physician compensation is rising at a faster rate than that of specialists. However, the survey also shows that specialists earn nearly twice as much. The findings, gleaned from comparative data from nearly 70,000 providers, found that primary care physicians reported a median compensation of $241,273 in 2014, a 3.56 percent increase since 2013. Median compensation for specialists rose to $411,852, a 2.39 percent increase since last year. (HealthLeaders Media)

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

Iowa News

Iowans with disabilities want to work
Federal contractors including Rockwell Collins have obligations to hire some people with disabilities. Some are doing more than others. However, smart employers are bringing in real talent with disabilities because it’s good for the business bottom line. For example, Des Moines Area Community College, Hy-Vee, Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Lucas County Health Center, Mercy Medical Center and others are already training young people with disabilities for success. (Des Moines Register)

Spencer Hospital to provide hospitalist service
In recognition of changing trends in the care of hospitalized patients, Spencer Hospital is launching a hospitalist program beginning Aug. 3. A hospitalist is a physician who specializes in the practice of hospital medicine and whose primary professional focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. “Hospitalists care for patients the same way that family physicians in Spencer have for many years,” Brenda Tiefenthaler, the hospital’s vice president of patient care, explained. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

Regents must address ISU health horror stories
A large college campus is essentially a city of its own. The health center is a vital part of that community. It ensures everyone is vaccinated. It works to prevent sexual assaults, suicides and alcohol abuse. It must have the expertise to help students afflicted with everything from diabetes to depression. As the number of international students increase, staff must be aware of global pandemics. Access to care is imperative to ensuring students are healthy enough to be successful in school. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Medicare turns 50 but big challenges await
Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, has come a long way since its creation in 1965 when nearly half of all seniors were uninsured. Now the program covers 55 million people, providing insurance to one in six Americans. With that in mind, Medicare faces a host of challenges in the decades to come. Here’s a look at some of them. (Kaiser Health News)

Opportunities exist for hospitals, interventionists to stave off unnecessary re-admissions
Facing financial penalties for above-average readmission rates by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, health care professionals and researchers are looking more intently at how to prevent patients from unnecessarily returning to the hospital after their initial discharge. A major contributor to post-PCI re-admissions—and thus a prime target for quality improvement—is the cascade of events set off when anxious patients who have previously had an MI then return to the emergency department. (TCTMD)

Before that genomics revolution, we need interoperability, patient engagement and privacy
The White House’s Precision Medicine Initiative is widely viewed a harbinger of a genomics revolution – one that comes with massive potential, but with several challenges from both a technical and regulatory perspective. “As the technical limits to genomic research recede, institutional barriers are looming larger,” says a rich new whitepaper from the nonprofit Health IT Now Coalition. So how do we get things on track? The paper lays out three recommendations to get applied genomics on track: Improving interoperability, upping patient engagement and rethinking privacy. (MedCity News)

Number of babies born in withdrawal from prescription painkillers is on the rise
Each year, an alarming number of babies born in the United States spend their first few days withdrawing from drugs, often prescription painkillers their mothers took during their pregnancies. This problem, called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), has increased fourfold since 2004, according to a report published online yesterday in The New England Journal of Medicine. (Harvard Medical School)

Transgender people fighting for access to care
Transgender people are still fighting for access to crucial health services despite the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurance companies not deny coverage based on gender or health history. The issue stems from the fact that enrollees must check a single gender box when they sign up for a plan sold on the individual or small group markets, according to advocates and health care providers. (CNN)

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

Iowa News

St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids receives new cancer treatment tool
Saint Luke’s in Cedar Rapids got a big delivery Saturday. The Albert G. and Helen Nassif Radiation Center’s linear accelerator has arrived. They say new machine is the most advanced technology when it comes to treating cancer with radiation– and it can be used anywhere on the body. (KGAN)

The Disabilities Act at 25: Challenges remain
July 26 marks an important day in the life of Em Hillman. Although she was just a toddler at the time, that was the day in 1990 that the Americans With Disabilities Act was signed and insured that she had the civil rights belonging to all American citizens. It is an important day in my life, too. It was the day I saw years of hard work turn a dream, a dream that was inspired by my brother’s deafness, into a reality. Twenty-five years ago our nation recognized the civil rights of all people with disabilities to participate in all aspects of our society, and our country is better for it. (Des Moines Register)

Manchester program distributes free produce
What first appears to be a farmers market is set up every Thursday at the Watershed, a non-profit kayak and canoe rental and livery service next to the Maquoketa River. It’s not a farmers market, though. Share the Harvest Manchester, now a partner of the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, each week is distributing surplus produce to those in need. “It’s a godsend for me. I can’t afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Linda Printz of Earlville. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Are insurer deals good for consumers, employers?
An insurance industry with a few giant players isn’t necessarily the best scenario for consumers, but the two deals really just turn it from an industry with four big players to one with three (United Healthcare is the third). While it would be easier for the much-larger insurers to increase premiums to employers, they could really “squeeze payments to providers,” says Farzan Bharucha, a health care strategist with consulting firm Kurt Salmon. “Hospitals will feel a lot more pressure,” says Bharucha, who represents health care providers, including hospitals. (USA Today)

Health law experiment failed to show savings
A $57 million experiment to deliver better, more efficient care at federally funded health centers struggled to meet its goals and is unlikely to save money, says a new government report. The test to coordinate treatment for high-risk Medicare patients in hundreds of communities was one of many demonstrations run by the Department of Health and Human Services’ innovation center. (Kaiser Health News)

U.S. health care ailing, but Pa.’s is even sicker
The American health-care system is a paradox. We spend more than most other countries and yet have worse health outcomes by almost any measure – actual health, quality of care, access, efficiency, and equity. Pennsylvania’s health-care system is a conundrum wrapped in that paradox. Even in the high-cost, poor-quality United States, Pennsylvania stands out as even worse than average among all 50 states. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Brownback: Hospitals need innovation, not Medicaid expansion
Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday he’s unconvinced Medicaid expansion is an answer to the financial woes of rural Kansas hospitals and suggested they should innovate instead. During a news conference Friday, Brownback was asked about a Reuters story on the improving financial fortunes of public hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act versus the stagnation of hospitals in states that did not. (KCUR)

Health turning point? Americans finally eating less
After decades of worsening diets and sharp increases in obesity, Americans’ eating habits have begun changing for the better. Calories consumed daily by the typical U.S. adult, which peaked around 2003, are in the midst of their first sustained decline since federal statistics began to track the subject, more than 40 years ago. The number of calories that the average U.S. child takes in daily has fallen even more — by at least 9 percent. (Seattle Times)

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

Iowa News

Health insurance rate complaints to be heard Saturday
Iowans facing big health-insurance premium increases will get the chance Saturday to appeal to regulators for relief. The Iowa Insurance Division is holding hearings for people who hold individual health-insurance policies and have been notified their carriers intend to increase premiums substantially for 2016. Most of the customers in question — about 77,000 people — buy relatively new policies from Coventry Health Care or from Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield. (Des Moines Register)

Local program offers potential opportunity for new medical outlook
The typical fee-for-service model of medical care may soon shift into a population-health model, a model that’s being tested through “demonstrations” — or pilot programs — across the nation. While many demonstrations are occurring in larger populated areas, the National Rural ACO (accountable care organization) is working to offer lesser populated areas of the country the opportunity to demonstrate a population-health approach to medical care. Through the National Rural ACO, Avera Medical Group of Spencer was invited to apply to become a demonstration site. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

Sioux City air ambulance on a mission to save lives
Sara Scott, who was convulsing, was taken to Mercy Medical Center by ambulance. At the hospital, a CT scan revealed she had a brain aneurysm that had ruptured. She doesn’t remember being flown by helicopter to University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha for emergency surgery because her condition had rendered her unconscious. Jason Scott remembers those moments waiting in Mercy’s emergency room for Mercy Air Care, a regional air ambulance service, to take off with his fiancée. He said the flight paramedic kept him updated on her condition by phone as he headed to Omaha. (Sioux City Journal)

Hospitals adding specialty clinics around Eastern Iowa
Mercy Medical Center plans to open a new Medical Park in Hiawatha with construction beginning in the next few weeks. The park will feature an 80,000 square foot building. Wolf eye clinic and a Mercy outpatient surgery center are expected to be tenants at the new park which is scheduled to open in spring of 2016. President of Mercy Care Clinics Dr. Timothy Quinn said these clinics are built to improve service to the community. (KCRG)

National News

Minnesota tallies $2 billion in wasted hospital spending
Minnesotans receive as much as $2 billion in hospital care a year that could be avoided, according to a new analysis that also estimates two of every three emergency room visits in the state are potentially preventable. The first-of-its-kind report, released Wednesday, was an effort by Minnesota health officials to quantify the waste, which amounts to 4.8 percent of state spending on health care per year, and to find the fat in the system that would be easiest to trim. It also appears to contradict the state’s reputation for efficient health care. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Health insurer Anthem to buy rival Cigna in $54 billion deal
Anthem is buying rival Cigna in a deal valued at $54.2 billion that will create the nation’s largest health insurer by enrollment, covering about 53 million patients in the U.S. The deal comes just three weeks after the insurer Aetna bid $35 billion for Humana in a buyout frenzy that will transform five massive U.S. health companies into three even larger ones. (Associated Press/NBC News)

Health care M&A tops full-year record – and it’s only July
Health care deal-making scaled a new peak on Wednesday with mergers and acquisitions so far in 2015 reaching $395.8 billion, topping the full-year record of $392.4 billion set in 2014, according to Thomson Reuters data. The scorecard was tipped into record territory by St. Jude Medical Inc’s decision to buy smaller rival Thoratec Corp for more than $3 billion, giving it more devices for patients with heart failure. (Reuters)

BCBS subsidiary agrees to pay Maryland $45M for failed exchange
Noridian Healthcare Solutions, a subsidiary of BCBS of North Dakota, has agreed to pay Maryland $45 million for an online health insurance exchange plagued with problems. It will pay $20 million upfront, paying the balance in $5-million installments over five years. Maryland’s health exchange crashed immediately after launching Oct. 1, 2013. (Healthcare Dive)

How to ensure a smooth care transition process
Last fall, a study by Healthcentric Advisors found that monitoring hospital staff adherence to standardized communications with a patient’s primary care provider and providing feedback to staff had a positive impact on care transitions and readmissions. Although the study focused on the care transition process with primary care providers, the findings also hold true for hospitals. The two biggest points that stood out were transparency and standardization – but how do you measure their practice? (MedCity News)

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