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IHA Rolls Out Hospital Board Self-Assessment Tool

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IHA has launched a new Hospital Board Self-Assessment program, replacing the paper-based survey IHA has provided to members over the past several years.  The new system allows for both individual board member self-evaluations as well as an evaluation of the full board.  Hospitals that elect to utilize this tool will be able to use a survey with common questions for benchmarking opportunities as well as add custom questions unique to their hospital.

The survey tool will produce reports that provide hospitals with board data break-outs and comparative averages against other similarly sized hospitals statewide.

“It is a very easy to use program where the hospital designates a program coordinator who does initial survey set-up and any customization.  The survey is then initiated when the hospital is ready,” said Perry Meyer IHA senior vice president of information services.  “The survey program is available 365 days a year and can be administered as often as the hospital would like.  Obviously, the more hospitals that use the program the better for benchmarking.”

Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa has been using a similar online board assessment over the past few years, but is excited about moving toward a system that can benchmark against peers.

Kristin Kaiser, planning and marketing specialist with Mercy-North Iowa said the hospital uses the tool to ensure its board is functioning effectively.

“We use this to show the board what they’re doing well and what they need improvement on,” she said.  “This tool helps stimulate discussion at the board level and clarify performance expectations.”

Kaiser said that the response rate increased when the survey was put online as people are getting more and more reliant on technology and online communications.

The program is now live and hospital boards can begin using the system at any time.

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Today’s NewsStand (August 31, 2010)

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

Iowa News

Doctors to get help in shift to electronic records
When Dr. Robert Lee decided to install an electronic medical records system for his family practice clinic in Johnston in 2002, he had to choose from somewhere around 60 companies’ systems. “I could see electronic records were coming, so I decided to switch over when I started my new office,” Lee said. “It was so intimidating; there weren’t enough sites that had already installed one in Iowa that I could visit.” (Des Moines Business Journal)

Plans progressing for PCI’s medical mall
A portion of Second Avenue SE will close in April under plans for constructing Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa’s new medical mall. Mike Sundall, the group’s CEO, said PCI is working with the city on finalizing the development agreement for the mall, which includes tax increment financing. (Eastern Iowa Health)

U.S. News

Even with malpractice insurance, doctors opt for expensive, defensive medicine
Most malpractice suits turn out to be against doctors who were not at fault. Of every 100 malpractice claims filed, only 17 appeared to involve a negligent injury, such as a medication overdose resulting in death, according to a 2004 New England Journal of Medicine review. This means that patients and lawyers appear to be suing the doctors and hospitals for non-negligent injury 83 percent of the time. (Washington Post)

US urges nearly all to get flu shots
It’s flu-shot season already, and for the first time health authorities are urging nearly everyone to get vaccinated. There is even a new high-dose version for people 65 or older. Last fall, crowds lined up for hours for scarce shots during the swine flu pandemic, when infections peaked well before enough vaccine could be produced. This year, a record vaccine supply is expected — an all-in-one inoculation that now promises protection against that swine flu strain plus two other kinds of influenza. (Boston Globe)

Support slips for health reform law
Public support for the health overhaul declined in August, a development sure to stir concerns among the Obama administration and congressional Democrats seeking to shore up support for the law in the months leading up to the mid-term elections. The latest Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found that 43 percent of Americans viewed the law favorably – down from 50 percent in July – while 45 percent held unfavorable views. (Kaiser Health News)

About 2,000 employers to draw health funds
Almost 2,000 employers and unions will be eligible to submit retirees’ medical bills for reimbursement by a $5 billion federal fund, the Obama administration will disclose Tuesday, suggesting the fund will be spread widely but thinly. General Motors Co., General Electric Co., Procter & Gamble Co., PepsiCo Inc., Alcoa Inc., Intel Corp., and Pfizer Inc. are among the large corporations that the White House will say can submit retirees’ health bills for reimbursement. The list also includes the United Auto Workers union, state and local governments and universities. (Wall Street Journal)

HHS authorizes first firms to certify electronic health record systems
The Obama administration on Monday named the first two companies with the power to approve the electronic health record (EHR) systems soon to be required of all providers. The Chicago-based Certification Commission for Health Information Technology and the Drummond Group Inc. of Austin, Texas, can begin certifying the products of EHR vendors “immediately,” said David Blumenthal, the Department of Health and Human Services’s national coordinator for health information technology. (The Hill)

Nebraska governor says health reform a threat to state education funding
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman is calling on the state’s education advocates to support a repeal of the Democrats’ new health reform law — or risk getting fewer dollars in the future. The Republican governor says the looming expansion of Medicaid will steal funding directly from the state’s education coffers. (The Hill)

ER visits for concussions soar among kid athletes
Emergency room visits for school-age athletes with concussions has skyrocketed in recent years, suggesting the intensity of kids’ sports has increased along with awareness of head injuries. The findings in a study of national data don’t necessarily mean that concussions are on the rise. However, many children aren’t taken for medical treatment, so the numbers are likely only a snapshot of a much bigger problem, doctors say. (Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette)

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Decorah Nurse Finds Military Service a Good Fit


Providing health care at a community hospital is often a tough, demanding job that comes with high expectations and high pressure. It requires people who are well trained, highly confident and deeply motivated and who work well in a team-oriented environment.  There is another place that could be described similarly – a military unit. 

So it’s no surprise that people who find reward and success in the hospital setting also flourish in the military. And it’s also why Iowa hospitals wholeheartedly support their employees who have made that commitment to serve. 

Carrie Riley poses by an Air Force medical evacuation plane

One of those employees is Carrie Riley, a nurse at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah.  Like many medical professionals who have joined the military, Riley wanted to support those on the front lines who put their bodies and lives harm’s way every day.  “When I joined, the war had been going for a while. This just seemed like a way I could use my own skills to take care of them (injured soldiers),” she recently explained to the local newspaper, the Decorah Public Opinion

But unlike most others, Riley is twice as old as the soldiers she treats.  At age 45, those soldiers are like her own children, who are in their early and mid-20s.  “I think this is a remarkable feat for a woman in her early 40s to opt to join the military, let alone serve in a war zone,” said Riley’s husband, Bruce, who is also a military veteran. 

Riley’s war-zone deployment began in early August when her unit, the 109th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron of the Minnesota Air National Guard, went overseas with the mission of stabilizing and caring for wounded soldiers who are being flown out of Afghanistan and Iraq to military hospitals in Europe.  The transports, which use Air Force cargo planes that have been converted into massive high-tech air ambulances, typically take nine hours each way. 

“It’s a fluid environment. You’re moving constantly. We have a place to stay, but you carry enough stuff with you to last a couple of weeks,” she explained. 

Riley said she is thrilled to be part of the military effort and is inspired by those she cares for.  “They have these awful injuries, yet they have the best attitudes. It’s amazing really, but it’s also why it’s so great to take care of them,” she said. “I just want to contribute to helping the troops. No matter how you feel about the war, people are over there still getting hurt and injured.” 

The experience is also made positive by the support she gets from her employer, Winneshiek Medical Center.  “The staff has been awesome. I’ve been doing this for three years and they’ve been really supportive. I’ve been gone three or four weeks at a time and my coworkers have covered for me.” 

“Carrie is an inspiration of service to her colleagues and peers at Winneshiek Medical Center as well as to myself,” said Dan Wener, the hospital’s CEO.  “She is using her expertise and compassion to benefit our soldiers, while placing herself in harm’s way.  Carrie’s love of country is evident in her actions, I am proud someone of such character is part of Winneshiek Medical Center.”

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Today’s NewsStand (August 30, 2010)

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

Iowa News

Sioux City man guilty of making false claims to Medicaid
Vincent Stroman Sr., 44, pleaded guilty earlier this month to a felony charge of fraudulent practices. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay $155,338 in restitution to the Iowa Department of Human Services. Stroman was the treasurer of We Care Wheelchairs, a Sioux City company his family formed in 2006 to provide local transportation services to the elderly and the disabled. At one time, the company employed 13 people. (Des Moines Register)

Washington County Hospital Provides More Than $1.5 Million In Free And Discounted Care
Washington County Hospital and Clinics says a new study of 2009 figures shows it has provided over $1.5 million in free and discounted benefits. The hospital says those services were specifically implemented to help Washington County residents, and in addition to $1.3 million in uncompensated care, community benefits include programs such as Lifeline, support groups, and community education.  The Iowa Hospital Association completed the report. (KCII)

Vinton hospital plans open house events to mark expansion
Virginia Gay Hospital will unveil the hospital’s recent $8.5 million expansion project with a series of events scheduled September 15-18, 2010. A re-dedication deremony is planned for September 15, and a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will be held Thursday, September 16.  Invited VIPs for the events include Iowa Hospital Association President Kirk Norris. (Eastern Iowa Health)

Time to invest in cancer center for area
With all the uncertainties surrounding health care reform, the time has come to invest in the future of cancer treatment in Cedar Rapids and the surrounding communities. We must ensure that those who are diagnosed with cancer can find the care they need right here — at home. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

U.S. News

Nonprofit hospitals juggle earning with charity mission
Today’s nonprofit hospitals, which make up slightly more than half of the nation’s 5,000 community hospitals, are trying to juggle the demands of making money with being a charitable organization. “You’re supposed to show a good bottom line, but at the same time you’re supposed to show that you lost tons of money by giving charity care,” said Jessica Berg, a law professor at Case Western University who has studied the nonprofit-hospital system and its tax structure. (Washington Post)

Cash-poor governments ditching public hospitals
Faced with mounting debt and looming costs from the new federal health-care law, many local governments are leaving the hospital business, shedding public facilities that can be the caregiver of last resort. Officials in Lauderdale County, Ala., this spring opted to transfer their 91-year-old Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital and other properties to a for-profit company after struggling to satisfy an angry bond insurer. (Wall Street Journal)

Midlevel providers fill primary doctors’ shoes
Increasingly, the doctor is not in when it comes to delivering primary care. But the nurse practitioner or physician assistant is often taking the doctor’s place. “We are ideally suited for it. And it’s so cost-effective compared to any other form of medical provider,” says Jim Love, a physician assistant from rural Pittsfield, Maine. “We need to be educating a lot more of us.” (National Public Radio)

Tech firms help governments weed out fraudulent claims
Shaun C. Barry, director for fraud solutions in IBM’s public sector business, said his company began working with the state of New York after its tax department estimated it was losing $1 billion annually in improper tax refunds. So IBM built a predictive model that would score every refund request on the likelihood it was valid — the 4 percent of returns deemed the most questionable were rejected outright. Investigators examined others considered high risk to decide whether or not they were valid. (Washington Post)

Record number in government anti-poverty programs
More than 50 million Americans are on Medicaid, the federal-state program aimed principally at the poor, a survey of state data by USA Today shows. That’s up at least 17 percent since the recession began in December 2007. “Virtually every Medicaid director in the country would say that their current enrollment is the highest on record,” says Vernon Smith of Health Management Associates, which surveys states for Kaiser Family Foundation. (USA Today)

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Today’s NewsStand (August 27, 2010)

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

Iowa News

TRMC gets grant for cath lab gear
The $687,060 grant will be used to replace equipment in the cardiac catheterization lab that opened 10 years ago, according to Shannon McQuillen, a spokeswoman for the Fort Dodge hospital. ”Since then, there’s been significant advances in technology,” she said. The new gear, she said, will provide ”higher quality images at lower radiation doses.” The result will be increased accuracy for doctors providing the treatments and greater safety for patients, she said. (Fort Dodge Messenger)

Mercy selects local contractors to work on new cancer center
In an effort to provide the highest quality, innovative facility, Mercy has chosen general contractors Rinderknecht Associates, Inc. and Ryan Companies to work together, along with architectural partner OPN Architects, on the $10.7 million project.  Newly-formed patient focus groups will provide valuable input on design for a truly patient-centered environment. (Eastern Iowa Life)

Swimming advisories posted at 8 Iowa park beaches
Beaches at Iowa state parks continue to deal with high fecal bacteria levels this summer. Safety warnings have been posted at more than a half-dozen beaches. Bacterial readings higher than the swimming limit turned up this week in samples at eight beaches. The beaches are Backbone, Big Creek, Clear Lake, Emerson Bay, Lake Anita, Lake Keomah, Pine Lake and Prairie Rose. (Associated Press/Quad-City Times)

Reaching uninsured children: Iowa’s Income tax return and CHIP project
The State Health Access Reform Evaluation, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program, released a report that examines an innovative approach tested in Iowa – specifically the modification of tax forms to include a question about the health coverage status of each dependent child. This nontraditional approach could be a key learning for others as future CHIP federal funding allocations will be based on states’ net enrollment change. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

U.S. News

U.S. cracks down on health care fraud
During a health care fraud summit in Los Angeles, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said their agencies were jointly targeting fraud in the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs. They said the initiative, launched in May 2009, had so far produced more than 580 criminal convictions and recovered more than $2.5 billion in fraudulent proceeds. (Los Angeles Times)

Doctor doesn’t work hard to hide symptoms of Medicare fraud
When it came to Medicare, Dr. Shusil Sheth used two codes, each of which represents critical cardiac treatment and is reimbursed at a high rate. He sent 14,800 billings over five years to Medicare alone, billing for 24 hours or more of work every day of the year. It allowed for the purchase of multiple homes and numerous bank accounts and investments. When caught in 2007, Dr. Sheth confessed to getting $13 million in illegal payments. (New York Times)

Duluth nurses’ strike looks more likely
The possibility of a nurses’ strike in Duluth increased after a federal mediation session between nurses and SMDC Health System ended Wednesday without any agreement. According to a statement from the Minnesota Nurses Association, talks ended after three hours “as the hospital made it clear the contract offer SMDC nurses rejected by a 90 percent margin last week remains SMDC’s ‘Last and Best’ offer.” Union representatives and St. Luke’s are scheduled to meet with mediators on Tuesday. (Duluth News Tribune)

Future of primary care? Some say ‘medical home’
Imagine a place where your doctor doesn’t keep you waiting, does keep you healthy, and works with a whole team of other health care professionals. Oh, and imagine that place makes the doctor’s life easier and health care cheaper. In a nutshell, that’s the idea behind what’s called the “patient-centered medical home.” It’s an idea that’s spreading around the nation. (National Public Radio)

Is “hospital-in-a-box” the way to better health care?
Jon Weiner’s hospitals are a far cry from what you might be used to. There are no lengthy admissions forms to fill in. And the service you get might remind you of a five-star hotel. The cost? No more than any other hospital. The catch? They are all overseas. Weiner co-founded the New York-based startup OR International LLC with the goal of exporting a higher-quality American brand of health care throughout the world, with a primary focus on improving patient treatment. (Reuters)

States press workers on health care
On Thursday, a Michigan judge heard arguments in two of three lawsuits filed by public-school unions and retirees who opposed a new law that for the first time required them to contribute toward their health-care benefits. Michigan is among several states struggling with record budget deficits that want employees to take on a greater share of the burden of ballooning health-benefits costs. (Wall Street Journal)

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