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

Iowa News

Mental health forum gives residents a chance to voice concerns about closing facility
The Mount Pleasant Health Institute is scheduled to close, leaving one less option for mental healthcare in southeast Iowa. But a group of lawmakers and community leaders are pushing to save it. Democratic Senator Rich Taylor says the facility is an important resource for Southeast Iowa and if it closes, it could put the people who need care the most back on the streets. (WGEM)

Des Moines physician forms fundraiser to help Nepal earthquake victims
Emergency relief agencies are already on the ground in Nepal but a metro doctor is planning a way Iowans can help from home. Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines physician Dr. Richard Deming is organizing a fundraiser for relief agencies. Deming said once he heard the news of the massive earthquake, he was tempted to fly to Kathmandu to help treat victims. Instead, he said the country needs more financial assistance. (WHO-TV)

UnityPoint Sioux City official chairs national panel
Mike Schmidt, director of Business Health & Rehabilitation Services at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s, has been appointed to a three-year term as president for the National Association of Occupational Health Professionals Advisory Board, or NAOHP. NAOHP provides continuing education, training and communications resources to enhance the health and safety of employees. Employers receive resources on work injury care, screening service recommendations, and equipment information. (Sioux City Journal)

Q-C women are project engineers on Genesis building job
Both Lauren Wiest and Bo Weber knew at a young age that they wanted to grow up and build something. They just didn’t imagine it would be one of the largest construction projects in Davenport history. Weber, 27, and Wiest, 26, are two of the engineers working on the $138.5 million construction and renovation project at Genesis Medical Center along East Rusholme Street in Davenport. The young women are engineering school graduates of Iowa State University in Ames, and both of them chose engineering as a career after growing up in the Quad-City area. (Quad-City Times)

Ankeny medical startup raises $2.5 million
An Iowa-based investment fund is backing an Ankeny startup that has entered the growing market of telehealth and remote monitoring of patients. The startup, 1Comm Medical, has raked in $2.5 million in an investment round led by Next Level Ventures, officials with the company and investment fund told The Des Moines Register. Started about two years ago by a group of four partners, 1Comm has developed a cloud-based portal to remotely connect doctors and nurses with patients testing their blood at home. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Hospitals pursue patient perspectives for better care
Jane Maier was among a select group of patients invited in early 2012 to help Partners HealthCare, Massachusetts’ largest health system, pick its new electronic health record system — a critical investment of close to $700 million. The system, which is now being phased in, will help coordinate services and reshape how patients and doctors find and read medical information. The fact that Partners sought the perspective of patients highlights how hospitals increasingly care about what their customers think. (USA Today)

Nursing homes starting to supplant hospitals as focus of basic care
The notion that a hospital remains the safest place for old patients dies hard. Many families still believe their aging relatives belong in a hospital when they’re ailing. But 20-plus years of research have documented the risks of hospitalization for older adults, particularly those frail or ill enough to need nursing home care. (New York Times)

Insurers take first steps to change how WI doctors, hospitals are paid
A nationwide initiative to make the fragmented and costly health care system more efficient could affect the more than 340,000 people in Wisconsin enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans. Most probably are unaware that anything has changed. But there’s a chance their care could be more coordinated, adhere more closely to clinical guidelines and cost less because of the initiative. Humana and UnitedHealthcare — two of the largest health insurers that offer Medicare Advantage plans — are striking agreements with what are known as accountable care organizations. (Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel)

Health systems rush to partner with booming retail clinic market, report says
Health systems have formed more than 100 partnerships with retail health clinics, according to a new study published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Manatt Health, as consumer interest in easy-access, lower-cost care is changing the market. The bulk of the estimated 1,800 retail clinics are owned by pharmacies and big-box retailers, with the six largest being CVS MinuteClinic, Walgreens Healthcare Clinic, Kroger Little Clinic, Walmart Retail Clinics, Target Clinic and RiteAid RediClinic, according to the study. (Healthcare Finance News)

A hospital is already giving Apple Watch to its patients
The Apple Watch began arriving in homes and businesses across America on Friday. And in New Orleans, one doctor immediately strapped it to his patient’s wrist. “We need to fundamentally change behavior,” says that doctor — Richard Milani. “And the Apple Watch has the potential to [do] it.” Milani is the Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at Ochsner Health System, and overseeing what the hospital calls a first-of-its-kind trial: Giving Apple Watch to patients who struggle with high blood pressure. (Forbes)

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

Iowa News

Extended session likely for Iowa Legislature
The Iowa Legislature’s 2015 session appears headed toward an extended run as House Republicans and Senate Democrats remain deadlocked on developing a new state budget, particularly school spending for the upcoming academic year. There is no rule requiring the Legislature to adjourn by a specific date, but lawmakers need to approve a state budget before the new state fiscal year begins on July 1, 2015. (Des Moines Register)

Senate lawmakers try to keep mental health facilities open
A proposed health services budget in the Democratic-controlled Senate has funding to save two state mental health facilities slated to close this year, lawmakers said Wednesday, though it’s unclear whether such a legislative move would garner enough support from either the House or Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City and vice chairwoman of the Senate Human Resources Committee, said there is about $11 million in a proposed health and human services budget bill to keep the facilities in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant open. (Associated Press/Marshalltown Times-Republican)

Students explore health care hands on
An 80-year-old “patient” who was not breathing and had no heartbeat was brought into Floyd Valley Hospital Wednesday. Ambulance personnel relayed to emergency room staff the patient was in V-fib, or ventricular fibrillation, a life threatening abnormal heart rhythm. As six Le Mars Community School students looked on, the patient, a mannequin, was rushed into the emergency room. (Le Mars Daily Sentinel)

New endoscopy suite open at Knoxville hospital
Sharon Campbell, surgery manager, explained that the endoscopy suite is joined by a processing room for equipment handling after use. The endoscopy suite improves efficiency during procedures and having a separate processing room enhances patient safety by immediately removing used equipment from the operating environment. “We have a more spacious and comfortable area now to accommodate the growing volume of outpatient procedures,” said Campbell. (Knoxville Journal Express)

National News

Rural hospitals struggle to stay afloat
There are a lot of small, rural hospitals in Kansas. Without them, many Kansans would have to travel long distances for care. What’s more, in many small towns, the hospital is one of the largest employers — making it vital to the local economy. But declining populations, combined with changes in the way hospitals are paid for their services, are making it more difficult for many small hospitals to survive. (High Plains Public Radio)

Know what’s really sick? Missouri, Kansas being stupid on health care
It’s too bad more people didn’t show up at the massive free medical clinic at Kansas City’s Bartle Hall on Saturday. Granted, about 1,500 persons came to see a doctor or dentist. And about as many volunteers sacrificed a Saturday to help out. But if Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback stopped by, I missed him. I also didn’t see Missouri Sen. Rob Schaaf or Kansas Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, two of the most strident voices against Medicaid expansion in their respective states. In fact, I didn’t spot any politicians at all. (Kansas City Star)

Appeals of denied Medicare claims mean high costs for hospitals, low risk for RACs
Increased scrutiny and denial of hospital inpatient claims by Medicare’s recovery audit contractors over the last few years has been followed by growing numbers of denials being overturned in the hospitals’ favor. But instead of being more careful and selective about which claims to audit, three separate RAC agencies have continued to audit ever larger numbers of Medicare claims. (HealthLeaders Media)

More whistleblowers say health plans are gouging Medicare
Privately run Medicare plans, fresh off a lobbying victory that reversed proposed budget cuts, face new scrutiny from government investigators and whistleblowers who allege that plans have overcharged the government for years. Federal court records show at least a half dozen whistleblower lawsuits alleging billing abuses in these Medicare Advantage plans have been filed under the False Claims Act since 2010, including two that just recently surfaced. (National Public Radio)

Americans are drinking more heavily, especially women
Whether quaffing artisanal cocktails at hipster bars or knocking back no-name beers on the couch, more Americans are drinking heavily – and engaging in episodes of binge-drinking, concludes a major study of alcohol use. Heavy drinking among Americans rose 17.2 percent between 2005 and 2012, largely due to rising rates among women, according to the study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health. (Kaiser Health News)

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

Iowa News

Mental health workers lament Iowa facility closings
Former and current employees at Iowa mental health institutes targeted for closure Wednesday refuted claims that the facilities in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda are antiquated. They questioned whether mentally ill Iowans will be better served in other settings. “We have a mental health crisis in Iowa right now,” said Cindy Fedler, a nurse clinician who recently was laid off at the mental health institute in Mount Pleasant. She was one of four MHI employees who told Senate Oversight Committee members the facilities are a crucial last resort for patients suffering from an acute mentally illness. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

The faces of organ donation
Some of the nearly 5,000 organ recipients were invited back to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Transplant Center to help plant several cypress trees on the medical campus. They’ll serve as a living monument to all those touched by the lifesaving efforts here since the first kidney transplant nearly 50 years ago. Transplant Surgeon, Dr. Alan Reed, says while 5,000 may be the headline, it’s important to look behind the numbers for this incredible milestone. (KGAN)

Broadlawns buying properties for growth along Hickman
Broadlawns Medical Center is positioning itself for a potential expansion on the south side of Hickman Road. Since November, it has acquired five houses and one vacant lot directly across the street from the medical center, 1801 Hickman Road, a review of Polk County assessor’s records shows. Broadlawns isn’t announcing any specific plans for the properties. It acquired them for “future growth and expansion,” Mikki Stier, the hospital’s vice president of government and external relations, said. (Des Moines Register)

How teen daughter helped save the life of her dad, Jamie Pollard
Annie Pollard is a hero. But don’t tell her that. She wants nothing to do with it. Just like she takes umbrage with her father, Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard, mentioning during a 20-minute press conference he’s indebted to her. That she was instrumental in saving his life when he suffered a heart attack in March. (Ames Tribune)

National News

Bill to repeal health insurance tax gains steam in House
A bipartisan bill to help health insurance companies avoid fees under ObamaCare is now backed by a majority of House lawmakers, its sponsors announced Wednesday. The bill would repeal an ObamaCare provision commonly called the “health insurance tax” (HIT), which charges insurers an annual fee to help pay for the healthcare law. (The Hill)

Medicare weighs options for reining in hospice costs
Medicare officials are considering changes in the hospice benefit to stop the federal government from paying twice for care given to dying patients. But patient advocates and hospice providers fear a new policy could make the often difficult decision to move into hospice care even tougher. (Kaiser Health News/Healthcare Finance News)

Why many doctors don’t follow ‘best practices’
Dr. Steven Brown, a professor of family medicine at the University of Arizona, has studied doctors’ reasons for ordering unnecessary tests before a scheduled surgery. A lot of it has to do with perceived safety, he says. “They think, somehow, that this is going to make the patient more likely to do well in surgery,” he says. “It’s not.” Brown says some doctors don’t know the latest guidelines, which is somewhat understandable, since there can be hundreds to follow. (National Public Radio)

Health care crunch: Patient costs rise, ability to pay drops
Americans last year were hit both with “skyrocketing” costs for some popular medical procedures, and with health insurance deductibles that are rising at a rate well above inflation. At the same time, the amount of revolving credit that people can tap to help pay some leading health-care costs decreased, according to a study released Wednesday by TransUnion Healthcare. (CNBC)

Once cash cows, university hospitals now source of worry for schools
Teaching hospitals have long been points of pride for major universities, and in recent years revenue from medical services has served as a lifeline for some schools that have struggled with falling state aid and pressure to slow tuition increases. Now the marriages between universities and their cash-cow clinical operations are starting to fray as changes stemming from the 2010 health-care law threaten to make university hospitals less profitable. (Wall Street Journal)

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

Iowa News

State unemployment rate drops to lowest level in nearly 7 years
The state unemployment rate continued its slow trend downward in March. “The Iowa unemployment rate dropped to 4-percent and that’s the lowest it has been since 2008,” according the Ed Wallace of Iowa Workforce Development. The March rate is down from the 4.1-percent in February and its the sixth straight monthly drop. Wallace says part of the drop in unemployment is driven by six straight months of increases in non-farm jobs. (Radio Iowa)

New test helps doctors tailor treatment for individual patients
The Iowa Institute of Human Genetics is offering a new test that will ensure that patients who may require specific pain medications, or need blood-thinning drugs to prevent heart attack or stroke, will receive medicine that is safe and effective, based on the patient’s own genetic make-up. Variations in a person’s DNA can alter the way they metabolize certain drugs. These changes in metabolism can cause drugs to be less effective than expected or even raise the risk of dangerous side effects. (University of Iowa)

Newell, Skiff Auxiliary give generous donation toward medical technology
Through the generosity of Louise Katherine Newell, who named the Skiff Medical Center Auxiliary in her will, the auxiliary has been privileged to join with the Skiff Foundation in the purchase of a pain management radio frequency generator, estimated to cost $29,484.80, for use by Matt Biggerstaff, the new pain management physician who began seeing patients in Newton recently. (Newton Daily News)

National News

TN, KS get warning: Expand Medicaid or risk hospital funds
Add Tennessee and Kansas to the list of states that have been warned by the Obama administration that failing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act could jeopardize special funding to pay hospitals and doctors for treating the poor. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services confirmed Tuesday that it gave officials in those states the same message delivered to Texas and Florida about the risk to funding for so-called “uncompensated care pools” — Medicaid money that helps pay the cost of care for the uninsured. (Kaiser Health News)

Texas bills on medical authority spark more ‘doc fights’
Every two years, it seems, lawmakers are asked to recalibrate a few delicate balances between groups of health professionals trying to keep others from encroaching into their business. More than a dozen bills this year — some moving, some apparently stuck — would give professionals like nurse practitioners and physical therapists more autonomy to operate independently from medical doctors. Others would expand the range of medical professionals like optometrists, allowing them to prescribe painkillers, or create new classes of non-doctor medical professionals, like dental hygiene practitioners. (Texas Tribune)

Can corporate wellness programs lower health care costs?
Corporate wellness programs aren’t new, but historically, some of them have been considered little more than “fluff” efforts to encourage healthy behavior. No one ever really gauged whether they worked. Instead, businesses would control health care costs by changing insurance plans. Employees saw their deductibles go up. They were expected to shell out more from their own paychecks for their policies. Their benefits may have been cut back. The Affordable Care Act, however, has made it increasingly difficult for companies, especially small ones, to save money by tweaking some of these variables. (Charleston Post and Courier)

A better nursing home
What Barry Berman planned was a multi-year project to build, from the ground up, a nursing home that would look totally different from the traditional model. It would be based on innovative experiments from elsewhere, and it would accept people of all different incomes, as well as non-elderly people with debilitating diseases such as ALS and MS. It would be a home, not a hospital, no matter how sick residents were, and it would allow them to make their own choices and live their own lives. (The Atlantic)

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

Iowa News

St. Luke’s, PCI team up for advanced cardiac care
Specialists from two of Cedar Rapids’ major health care providers are partnering to provide better cardiac care, officials said Monday. The Heart and Vascular Institute is made up of physicians from UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids — St. Luke’s Hospital and UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology — and cardiovascular surgeons from Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Mental health facility opens for parolees, probationers
Sitting empty more than six years because of a lack of funding, the Anchor Center — a residential treatment center for parolees and probationers with mental health and substance abuse issues — is finally open. The 26-bed mental health residential correctional center at 3115 12th St. SW in Cedar Rapids is intended to serve as a bridge to help offenders transition out of prison and back into society. (KCRG)

National News

Oscar, a health insurance start-up, valued at $1.5 billion
Sixteen months after going live, the insurance company Oscar has joined the elite group of start-ups known as unicorns, or those with billion-dollar valuations. The company plans to announce on Monday that it has raised $145 million from a group led by the billionaire Peter Thiel and his Founders Fund venture capital firm. Other investors in the round included the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Horizon Ventures, the Wellington Management Company and Goldman Sachs. (New York Times)

U.S. panel ‘clarifies’ mammogram advice
A committee that’s been attacked for its controversial mammogram recommendations for half a decade clarified that advice Monday, saying they have been misunderstood. The panel says women in their 40s can get mammograms every year if they want to, but said it really needs to be up to a woman to decide if she wants to risk the anxiety of getting a false positive result, one showing a breast lump that turns out not to be cancer, after all.  (NBC News)

Why 2015 could be the year of the health care hack
Two years ago, credit card companies were getting hacked. Last year, it was major retailers like Target. But 2015, said Srinivas Mukkamala of cybersecurity firm RiskSense Inc., will be the year that health care companies get hacked. “It’s not the health care providers they’re after, it’s the third party processors,” he said, or the companies that hold personally-identifiable data. (Memphis Business Journal)

New FDA head: ‘Full steam ahead’ on e-cig rules
The acting head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Monday that the agency is moving “full speed ahead” with its efforts to crack down on the use of e-cigarettes. Two weeks into his tenure, Dr. Stephen Ostroff said strengthening tobacco regulations is one of his top priorities. He pointed to alarming new federal data that showed the use of e-cigarettes among middle and high school students has tripled in the last year — a trend that landed on the front page of nearly every national newspaper. (The Hill)

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