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Today’s NewsStand (July 30, 2010)

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

Iowa News

Making the case for a C.R. medical mall
Ultimately, our logic is simple. No one comes to Cedar Rapids because we have nice hospital beds. They come here for our physicians, more specifically our specialists. And in an increasingly complex world of health care delivery, particularly post-reform, Cedar Rapids health care will be driven by our ability to attract and retain the best and greatest number of these specialists. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

UI continues planning on $73M medical clinic
The University of Iowa will ask the state Board of Regents next week for the OK to move ahead with a $73 million medical clinic in Coralville. The UI is seeking approval for the schematic design, project description and $73 million budget for an ambulatory care clinic in the Iowa River Landing district southeast of the Interstate 80-First Avenue interchange, according to documents released by the regents office Thursday. (Eastern Iowa News Now)

Make hospitals report medical problems
More than half of states require hospitals to report certain medical errors or criminal events - such as use of contaminated drugs or a patient abduction - to a state agency for further review or investigation. Iowa isn’t one of them. It should be. And the Iowa Hospital Licensing Board should vote to support such a requirement at its next meeting in November. (Des Moines Register)

U.S. News

Missouri ballot measures tests federal health care law
Missouri on Tuesday will become the first state to the test the popularity of President Barack Obama’s top policy accomplishment with a statewide ballot proposal attempting to reject its core mandate that most Americans have health insurance. The Missouri Hospital Association is mailing letters to hundreds of thousands of homes suggesting that hospitals could incur costs of about $50 million annually in treating the uninsured if the state proposal is passed and upheld in court. (Associated Press)

Missouri’s Proposition C will only encourage freeloading
The Missouri Hospital Association is nothing if not persistent. It keeps pushing this crazy idea that people should have health insurance. The hospital association is financing opposition to Proposition C. That’s the measure on Tuesday’s statewide ballot that seeks to tell the federal government that it can’t require Missourians to purchase health insurance if they don’t want to. (Kansas City Star)

Hospitals’ cost cutting pays off despite fewer patients
Over the past year and a half, keeping costs in check has helped the large hospital chains based in the Nashville area to increase quarterly earnings, even when seeing fewer patients come through their doors. The recent second quarter was no different. Cost controls fueled an 18 percent increase in net income at Franklin-based Community Health Systems, despite a decline in the number of patients. (Nashville Tennessean)

Twin Cities nurses: Union harassing us
Three Twin Cities nurses who crossed their union’s picket line say they resigned from the union before the 24-hour walkout in order to work behind the picket lines. Nonetheless, they received letters from the Minnesota Nurses Association saying they may be subject to reprimand, censure or expulsion. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

DC nurses to vote on work stoppage
More than 1,600 registered nurses at the 900-bed Washington Hospital Center, the largest non-profit hospital in the Washington, DC, area, will vote over the weekend on whether to go on strike. At issue is the hospital’s decision last winter to fire 18 nurses and discipline several more following severe snow storms in the region. (HealthLeaders Media)

Hospital social media and fundraising are a two-way street
As non-profit hospitals, we’ve had some fundraising events that we were promoting through these avenues. Of course it was slow going for a while, but a recent event for Hasbro Children’s Hospital taught us a lesson: not only can you gain more awareness of an event through social media, but in return you are more actively engaged with the community and you gain more fans/followers with whom you can engage. That’s a nice outcome that we didn’t see coming! (Hospital Impact)

Democrats under fire over health law reporting mandate
Congressional Democrats may water down or repeal new tax-reporting rules that are supposed to raise $16 billion for health-care legislation, facing a chorus of criticism about the rules. House Democrats were forced to postpone a vote late Thursday on a GOP motion calling for repeal of the reporting requirement. That, in turn, delayed action on an $11 billion bill that expands federally-subsidized bonds for infrastructure projects. (Wall Street Journal)

Aging hospital seen as a bargaining chip
California Pacific Medical Center, which operates St. Luke’s hospital in San Francisco, once planned to shutter the 139-year-old hospital and turn it into an outpatient facility. But California Pacific — a not-for-profit affiliate of Sutter Health, a Northern California hospital network — is keeping St. Luke’s open, using it as a bargaining chip in an ambitious strategy to overhaul how it offers medical care in San Francisco. (New York Times)

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Health Reform and Economic Impact, part 1 [VIDEO]

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On June 16-17, the Iowa Hospital Association hosted its summer leadership forum: Reform and the Road Ahead. Conference objectives were to discuss the current MedPAC recommendations regarding health care payment reform, how scale matters in health care and what the impact of the current U.S. economy will have on the entire health care industry.

The following video is the first in a two-part series of interviews conducted with a couple of the forum’s esteemed speakers. IHA had the chance to speak with Herb Kuhn, President and CEO of the Missouri Hospital Association (Jefferson, MO), on how health care reform will impact states like Iowa and Missouri.

Part two of the series will be posted next week and will feature David Swenson, Associate Scientist, Dept. of Economics at Iowa State University. (Update: click here for part 2)

YouTube link:

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Today’s NewsStand (July 29, 2010)

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

Iowa News

Mercy, St. Luke’s spend $25 million on community benefits
The two major hospitals in Sioux City provided a combined $25 million in community benefits. According to a statement issued Wednesday by St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center, it and Mercy Medical — Sioux City spent the money on charity care, subsidized health services or other community benefits in 2009. The totals also include losses incurred while treating Medicaid patients. (Sioux City Journal)

Clarke County Hospital staff puts life-saving skills to the test
As a Clarke County Hospital Auxiliary volunteer, Ron Riekena has spent scores of hours assisting people in getting to their appointments throughout Clarke County Hospital. He talks about the excellent care and great service they receive at CCH. His kind words aren’t scripted; they come from the heart – something he learned firsthand. (Osceola Sentinel-Tribune)

UIHC learns to be Lean
The theory behind the Lean method is simple: Eliminate unnecessary steps and wasted energy, and efficiency will increase. “It turns out that when you improve the efficiency, it improves the patients’ satisfaction and the quality of care,” physician Andrew Nugent explained. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

Finley Hospital cranks down water usage
The Finley Hospital used 16 million fewer gallons of water in 2009 than in 2004. That’s enough to fill Flora Pool 37 times. The hospital also enjoys natural gas and electricity savings. “We really improved our purchasing practices,” said Neil Erdmann, director of facilities. “Our new units have water-saving faucets and low-flow toilets. We eliminated areas where we had leaking equipment and tightened up our whole system.” (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

Skiff ends fiscal year with $4 million loss
Skiff Medical Center Trustees were being informed at today’s late morning meeting that the hospital lost more than $4 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, about a $700,000 increase from the loss recorded the fiscal year before. The statement of operations report provided to Trustees showed the city-owned hospital ending the fiscal year with revenue over expenses totaling a negative $4,012,642 compared to $3,365,368 loss at the end of fiscal year 2009. (Newton Independent)

U.S. News

Poll shows opposition to health care overhaul declining
Opposition to the landmark health care overhaul declined over the past month, to 35 percent from 41 percent, according to the latest results of a tracking poll, reported Thursday.  Fifty percent of the public held a favorable view of the law, up slightly from 48 percent a month ago, while 14 percent expressed no opinion about the measure, according to the poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Washington Post)

The hospital, your care coordinator
Hospitals aren’t known for making house calls. Once patients get their discharge papers, they take their chances with a family doctor or staffers at a clinic who may or may not know what happened inside the hospital’s walls. So Margaret Bennett’s experience is pretty rare. (U.S. News & World Report)

For budget chief, not all farewells are fond
Peter Orszag was the administration’s main proponent of “bending the curve” on health care expenditures. Frustrated that House Democrats wouldn’t accept some painful cost-cutting measures in the new health care law, Mr. Orszag pushed for and won a controversial provision to create something called the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This is an outside commission of 15 appointees who will, beginning in 2014, identify cuts to Medicare if the plan exceeds a preset rate for growth. Congress then has to either approve the cuts or propose an alternative. (New York Times)

Americans cut back on doctor visits
The drop in usage is showing up as health care companies report financial results. Insurers, lab-testing companies, hospitals and doctor-billing concerns say that patient visits, drug prescriptions and procedures were down in the second quarter from year-ago levels. (Wall Street Journal)

Dr. Atul Gawande: Make end of life more humane
Dr. Atul Gawande began researching hospice and end-of-life care options because he says he didn’t know how to broach the subject of death with his terminally ill patients. The surgeon and New Yorker staff writer writes about the difficulties faced by medical professionals who must decide when to stop medical interventions and focus on improving the final days of life in his article “Letting Go” in the August 2 New Yorker. (National Public Radio)

Patients, hospitals wrestle over tumor tissue
So who really owns this stuff and has the right to make decisions about it? You might think the obvious answer is the patient. But that’s actually not clear. C. Mitchell Goldman, a health-care lawyer at Duane Morris L.L.P., expects more lawsuits as more uses for tissue emerge. “There’s not a body of settled law around this issue,” he said. It’s “fertile for litigation once it becomes clear that having control of this tissue for future use will become important.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Wireless sensor watches blood sugar for diabetics
Researchers have developed an implantable sensor that measures blood sugar continuously and transmits the information without wires — a milestone, they said, in diabetes treatment. The device worked in one pig for more than a year and in another for nearly 10 months with no trouble, they reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. (Reuters)

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Today’s NewsStand (July 28, 2010)

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

Iowa News

Iowa licensing board skeptical about requiring hospital error reports
The Iowa Hospital Licensing Board expressed reservations Tuesday about requiring hospitals to report certain types of medical errors to regulators and the public. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals wants hospitals to begin reporting to the agency all unusual occurrences that threaten the health of patients. (Des Moines Register)

Sioux Center hospital building plan advances
Plans for a new hospital and medical clinic here took another step forward with formation of a steering committee that will play an advisory role in the project’s design and construction. Sioux Center Community Hospital and Health Center Avera’s building committee formed the 13-member committee to study evidence-based design practices. (Sioux City Journal)

New technology helps hospital keep quiet
A Des Moines hospital is just one of 20 facilities in the country to use a new high-tech paging system to help keep hallways and the hospital quiet. The new touch-screen system installed in every patient’s room at Methodist West Hospital connects patients to their nurse and other staff. (KCCI)

60,000 more Iowa kids have health insurance
About 60,000 more Iowa children are covered by government-based health care now than three years ago, according to an analysis issued by the Iowa Fiscal Partnership on Tuesday. According to partnership documents, the percentage of Iowa children covered by the Medicaid or HAWK-I programs increased from 29 percent to 37 percent from April 2007 to April of this year. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Ambulance with patient sprayed by crop duster
An ambulance was sprayed with chemicals while responding to a medical call Tuesday. The Parkersburg ambulance was dispatched shortly after noon to a church in Parkersburg, located in Butler County. The ambulance reportedly was sprayed while traveling through Grundy County en route to Sartori Memorial Hospital in Cedar Falls. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

New reports says Culver’s I-JOBS employed 7,079 people in June
A telephone survey conducted this month of contractors and subcontractors doing work for Gov. Chet Culver’s I-JOBS program shows that at least 7,079 people were employed in June because of the public works program, a new report shows. Jobs were created or retained in every single county, according to the report, which was released by the Iowa Department of Management. (Des Moines Register)

U.S. News

Health care law has more doctors teaming up
Something unexpected has happened since President Obama signed the legislation in March. Spurred in part by the law, many independent providers across the country are racing to mold themselves into the kind of coordinated teams held up as models for improving care. In some places, the scramble is so intense that physician groups and hospitals are putting aside rivalries and signing new partnerships almost daily. (Los Angeles Times)

Census data reveal broad differences among states in rates of uninsured
The 2007 snapshot shows that Massachusetts, which has achieved near-universal coverage, had the lowest rate of uninsured people under age 65, about 7.8 percent. States with the highest rates of uninsured were in the South and West: Texas was at the top, with 26.8 percent, followed by New Mexico (26.7 percent) and Florida (24.2 percent). (Washington Post)

Texas battles health law even as it follows it
There are more uninsured residents of Texas — 6.1 million and counting — than there are people in 33 states. The state’s elected officials might be expected, therefore, to cheer a federal health care law that is likely to deliver billions of dollars from Washington to Austin and cover millions of low-income Texans. (New York Times)

Can CMS be a venture capitalist?
Regarding the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation: I don’t want to be a stick in the mud, particularly as my able friend Don Berwick takes charge of CMS, but I want to point out that previous efforts by the government to be innovative in other fields have failed. (The Health Care Blog)

Tobacco funds shrink as obesity fight intensifies
The steep drop-off in private funds illustrates the competition under way for money as public health priorities shift. In the race for preventive health care dollars, from charities and from federal and state government sources, the tobacco warriors have become a big loser. And the nation’s battle to shed pounds has in its corner the White House, with Michelle Obama leading a new campaign against childhood obesity. (New York Times)

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Hospitals Help Make RAGBRAI Happen


RAGBRAI, the mobile festival that each year crosses Iowa on 10,000 pairs of skinny bike tires (give or take a few thousand), is about halfway through its 2010 route as the mass of cyclists, support vehicles and vendors makes its way from Clear Lake to Charles City today.  

Perhaps the most recognized event in Iowa, RAGBRAI is a huge undertaking for everyone involved, particularly in the towns and cities at the end of each day’s ride. Hospitals play several important roles in that preparation. 

RAGBRAI is driven by volunteers. As pools for talent and manpower, few entities match up to hospitals. Inevitably, hospital employees – from CEOs to nurses to materials managers – end up participating on (and often leading) organizing committees. This is in addition to handling their most important mission: making sure the hospital can respond to the medical needs of the community at all times. 

This is a real challenge when RAGBRAI comes to town. For instance, take Charles City,   which is served by Floyd County Medical Center.  With a population of less than 9,000, the city will more than double in size when RAGBRAI is in full swing later today.  

The hospital’s 200 employees must be prepared to serve that population, which today will be particularly susceptible to injury and illness. At the same time, those hospital employees have been called upon to volunteer at their churches, schools and other organizations that are also working to make sure RAGBRAI is a success. Those activities are uniformly supported by hospital leaders; they recognize that the community needs the manpower. But it’s a difficult balancing act for hospitals, which, unlike other businesses, cannot easily down-staff or close for the day (or any part of it). 

It’s no coincidence that on every RAGBRAI route, year after year, nearly every overnight community has at least one hospital. But the hospitals provide more than health and safety for RAGBRAI participants; hospitals are also a big part of the economic health of their communities. Along this year’s route, hospitals employ more than 13,000 people and have an economic impact of nearly $700 million. 

This means that in addition to providing some of the best health care in the nation, these towns and cities have the quality of life and overall vibrancy that attracts RAGBRAI organizers and delights RAGBRAI participants.

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