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Today’s NewsStand (September 30, 2010)

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

Iowa News

Iowa hires company to curb Medicaid spending
Iowa is to pay $14 million to hire a company to reduce the state’s Medicaid spending. The state will pay the money over the next three years to the Minnesota company Ingenix. Company spokesman Steve Puleo says the effort will save Iowans “millions and millions” of dollars. The Des Moines Register reports that the company will use computer programs to identify questionable spending. (WOI)

Obama official: Health reform will strengthen primary care
A top Obama administration health-care official traveled to Des Moines to dole out grant money and promote primary medical services. Dr. Mary Wakefield, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, started her day by presenting a $1.9 million, five-year grant to Iowa Health-Des Moines (Des Moines Register)

Principal to drop medical insurance
Des Moines-based Principal Financial Group Inc. announced today that it will exit the medical insurance business and eliminate approximately 1,500 positions, including about 650 in Greater Des Moines. Principal has entered into an agreement with UnitedHealth Group Inc. to renew medical insurance coverage for its customers during a 36-month transition period. The company did not disclose the financial terms of that agreement. (Des Moines Business Record)

Harkin announces nearly $19 million to improve Iowa health care facilities
A large portion of the assistance includes a loan of $18 million to help construct a new Community Memorial Hospital in Sumner, Bremer County, on the site of the current hospital. The project will construct, equip and furnish the new 53,000 square foot full service hospital with 12 private patient rooms. The new facility will include large, private rooms and a significant expansion of the rehabilitation services, outpatient specialty clinics and ambulatory surgery facility. (IowaPolitics)

New IowaCare site makes health care more accessible
We’re always glad to see health care made more accessible to those whose financial situation compound their medical problems. The Cerro Gordo County Free Health Care Clinic in Mason City has been a godsend to some patients without health insurance. Now, more help is becoming available a little more than an hour away. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Free socks encourage local women to get mammograms
Leading national sock manufacturer Fox River and its hometown Mitchell County Regional Health Center in Osage partner to encourage local women to get a mammogram and raise area awareness during breast cancer awareness month with an offer of free women’s socks to women receiving mammograms during the month of October. (Pitch Engine)

U.S. News

Lawsuits to undo key parts of health-care law move forward, so far
President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23. Within minutes, 14 state attorneys general filed lawsuits in federal courts in Virginia and Florida challenging the constitutionality of the law’s “individual mandate,” which will require nearly every American to buy health insurance or face annual fines. Although the individual mandate doesn’t kick in until 2014, legal challenges to the mandate have been met with some sympathy in court. (Christian Science Monitor)

Patients’ choices may narrow as insurers adjust standards for health care providers
The new federal health care law is bringing additional demands by insurance companies that doctors and hospitals be held to higher quality standards. Although this push by insurers on quality implies that consumers will get better care because doctors and hospitals will be measured against the best performers, there may be an unintended consequence: It could leave patients with fewer choices of medical care providers, depending on which health plans they purchase. (Los Angeles Times)

McDonald’s may drop health plan
McDonald’s Corp. has warned federal regulators that it could drop its health insurance plan for nearly 30,000 hourly restaurant workers unless regulators waive a new requirement of the U.S. health overhaul. The move is one of the clearest indications that new rules may disrupt workers’ health plans as the law ripples through the real world. (Wall Street Journal)

Leaving hospice prematurely may hike health expenses
Terminally ill cancer patients who choose to leave a hospice center incur significantly greater health care costs than patients who remain in hospice care until death, new research shows. About 11 percent of the patients ultimately left their hospice, the researchers noted. Of these, nearly 34 percent went on to be admitted to an ER, compared with about 3 percent of those who stayed in hospice. (Businessweek)

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Today’s NewsStand (September 29, 2010)

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

Iowa News

Obama takes on House GOP tax plan during Des Moines backyard event
In Des Moines, President Obama took pointed questions about health care and spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama defended the health care bill he signed in March, saying neither it, nor the stimulus package nor the automotive industry bailout last year was responsible for the size of the federal deficit to the extent that tax cuts were. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa health efforts get $720,000 in federal money
HIV surveillance, tobacco prevention and infectious disease responses are among the Iowa projects that will receive about $720,000 in funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Iowa Department of Public Health Director Tom Newton says the money will allow for the “development and expansion” of programming. The money will be divided among the three efforts. (Sioux City Journal/Associated Press)

Cedar Rapids hospital will be illuminated in pink
Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids plans to mark national breast cancer awareness month by illuminating the exterior of the building in pink. The pink lighting will be switched on at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, then remain lit throughout October. Hospital officials say the lighting is meant to increase awareness of breast cancer issues, such as the importance of early detection. (Associated Press/Chicago Tribune)

Rehabilitating patients for 25 years
For 25 years, Diane Mahoney has helped patients at Iowa Methodist Medical Center’s Younker Rehabilitation recover from brain injuries and other debilitating medical conditions. Once they leave, she may see them again in her volunteer work with the Brain Injury Association of Iowa. Mahoney, a rehabilitation supervisor, is active in the state and local levels of the Brain Injury Association, serving as president of the Central Area Support Group and organizing its annual awareness walk. (Des Moines Register)

Low-income patients can get health care closer to home
Effective Friday, low-income adults living in Northwest or north-central Iowa will be able to receive IowaCare health benefits much closer to home, state Department of Human Services officials said Tuesday. Instead of having to travel to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, IowaCare patients will now be able to receive routine care and disease management at designated clinics in Sioux City and Waterloo, DHS officials said. (Sioux City Journal)

U.S. News

Omaha hospital shooting victim center of manhunt
A Nebraska man who had eluded police early Wednesday was shot and critically injured by Omaha officers hours later inside the Creighton University Medical Center. The man was identified as Jeffrey Layten, 39. He reportedly shot at two Omaha officers as they approached him near the cafeteria inside the medical center. One or both officers shot Layten in the chest. He was taken to surgery. Sources indicated earlier this morning that Layten had died. They now say he remains in surgery. (Omaha World Herald)

New ‘innovation chief’ comes from ‘model’ health care system
Richard Gilfillan can draw deeply on his experience at Geisinger Health Plan in his new job at the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. He is the former president and chief executive officer of Geisinger Health Plan and also served as executive vice president of insurance operations for Geisinger Health System, the Pennsylvania-based integrated health system that lawmakers often pointed to during the health debate as a model of how medical care could be better coordinated and cost-effective. (Kaiser Health News)

Groups sue Colorado to halt decision on rural hospital anesthesia
Groups representing anesthesiologists and doctors have sued to block a state policy change allowing advanced-practice nurses to administer anesthesia without a physician’s supervision in rural hospitals. The Colorado Society of Anesthesiologists and the Colorado Medical Society filed the suit in Denver District Court on Tuesday, one day after Gov. Bill Ritter announced his decision to opt out of the federal Medicare rule. (Denver Post)

Mayo Clinic looks to train other hospitals in social media
Mayo Clinic has created a social media center that will train other hospitals in the use of social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Mayo is billing the new venture as “a first-of-its-kind social media center focused on healthcare,” according to a statement from Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo. (MedCity News)

Grassley demands GPOs prove they save money for hospitals
Following a new study on group purchasing organizations by the Government Accountability Office, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he wants proof GPOs save money for Medicare and Medicaid, according to a release by Sen. Grassley. “There is no empirical data that GPOs provide any savings for Medicare and Medicaid,” he said. “There’s no data with which to independently verify the effect, one way or another, and that’s a shortcoming in the current system.” (Becker’s Hospital Review)

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Featured Employee: Sara Fleecs, BSN, RN



Sara Fleecs

Sara Fleecs, BSN, RN
Clinical Staff Educator/Simulation Coordinator
St. Anthony Regional Hospital, Carroll

Why did you choose this as your career? I have wanted to work in health care as long as I can remember; from running a “hospital” with all my dolls and stuffed animals, to getting a job as a CNA as soon as I was old enough to drive to the nursing home. I enjoy taking care of people and teaching people how to take care of themselves or their loved ones. 

What are the challenges and rewards in your work? I currently work in education and strive to develop experiences that will meet the educational needs of the staff working front line with patients and residents. It is challenging to keep education fresh, applicable and founded in evidence-based practice. The rewards are many and come from staff reporting that a training experience met their needs and they feel confident returning to work to perform skills included in the training. I have seen first-hand that training and education positively impact patient care. Health care requires that all members of the team be committed to life-long learning and it is great to be a part of that process. 

Sara Fleecs (center) explains details of the simulation lab at St. Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll.

What are your plans  for the future?

I will graduate from Briar Cliff University in May 2011 and will take my certification exam to be a family nurse practitioner. The IHA Health Care Careers Scholarship helped me to achieve this goal. I am looking to practice in rural Iowa with a focus on gerontology. 

How has the hospital supported your career? The hospital has supported not only my career goals, but also my educational goals. I have been challenged to think outside of the box with education and then given the freedom to change how we offer education and skills verification from acute care to long-term care. The hospital has invested in the education of staff through state-of-the-art training supplies and time allotted for training.

I have been encouraged and financially supported to continue my education to grow professionally in the nursing field. It has been a pleasure to take the information from my educational program and apply this to my staff development work at the hospital.

About Sara Fleecs

Education: Grand View College, Des Moines, bachelor’s degree in nursing

Briar Cliff University, Sioux City, master’s degree in nursing/family practice nursing (current student)

Years at hospital: four

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Today’s NewsStand (September 28, 2010)

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

Iowa News

New IowaCare clinics to open in Sioux City, Waterloo
Effective Friday, low-income adults living in northwest or north-central Iowa will be able to receive IowaCare health benefits much closer to home, state Department of Human Services officials said Tuesday. Instead of having to travel to University Hospitals & Clinics in Iowa City, IowaCare patients will now be able to receive routine care and disease management at designated clinics in Sioux City and Waterloo, DHS officials said. IowaCare is the state’s health-care program for adults who are not eligible for Medicaid but whose income does not allow them to buy insurance. (Sioux City Journal)

Hospital Auxiliary Quilt Auction raises more than $22,500
The 33rd Annual Hospital Auxiliary Quilt Auction was held this past weekend during the Norman Borlaug Harvest Fest. The event, in its 33rd year, was held under the “Big Tent” to a crowd of enthusiastic bidders and onlookers. (Cresco Times)

Genesis employees “Scrub The Hub” to prevent central line infections
Genesis employees should not only be excused, but encouraged if they are heard saying “scrub the hub” to themselves as they visit patient rooms. A unique educational video introduced to all Genesis employees last week at the annual Horizon Summit update stresses the importance of eliminating central line infections. (Quad City Times)

U.S. News 

Health Insurers Finally Get Some Oversight
In the last two weeks, my department has been accused of “thuggery” (this editorial page) and “Soviet tyranny” (Newt Gingrich). What prompted these accusations? The fact that we told health-insurance companies that, as required by law, we will review large premium increases and identify those that are unreasonable. There’s a long history of special interests using similar attacks to oppose change. In the mid-1960s, for example, some claimed Medicare would put our country on the path to socialism. But what is really objectionable about these comments is not who they’re attacking, but what they’re defending. These critics seem to believe that any oversight of the insurance industry is too much, and that consumers would be better off in a system where they have few rights or protections. (Wall Street Journal)

How States Can Improve the Health Care System
State and local governments currently spend about $300 billion annually on health care, and health care accounts for nearly one-third of state budgets. This high level of medical spending, combined with the increased need for services and reduced revenues driven by an economic recession, creates enormous financial difficulties for states, as their experience with budget shortfalls over the past few years illustrates. States have an urgent need to modernize the medical care system to improve the quality of care while simultaneously lowering its cost. (Center for American Progress)

New Study Suggests Physicians’ Goal in EHR Investment is Improved Efficiency Over Incentives
A study published by CapSite, a healthcare technology research and advisory firm, suggests physicians’ purchases of electronic health records are largely driven by the goal of making their practices more efficient and not receiving stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to a CapSite news release. The “2010 U.S. Ambulatory EHR and Practice Management Study” surveyed more than 2,000 groups across the country. Researchers say the ambulatory EHR market is on pace to more than double purchasing activity from 2009, and the market opportunity for ambulatory EHRs is in excess of $3 billion over the next 24 months, according to the report. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

How Wireless Technology Will Change Global Health
There is a slick new television commercial advertising Apple’s iPad. It includes a cool medical application that can be used for medical imaging. The advertisement shows a trend in medicine: in the last two years there has been an explosion of growth in wireless medicine, which includes digestible smart pills, networked implantable devices, and smart phone applications. The United States is an innovator in this technology, which has the capability to connect patients and healthcare providers, empower patients (akin to the way the Internet changed information flow), and create a vast health network that can lead to faster cures. Investment in wireless medicine is an important way for the United States to continue its lead as a healthcare innovator. (Fast Company)

New Software for Defibrillators Lowers Risk of Unnecessary Shocks
Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) have saved the lives of tens of thousands of Americans at risk for sudden cardiac death because of serious heart rhythm abnormalities. But these medical devices have gotten a bad reputation in recent years, mainly because the electrical wires, or leads, that connect the ICD to the heart can sometimes fracture, causing patients to unnecessarily receive painful shocks. Now, a new study suggests that doctors can cut the relative risk of accidental shocks in half simply by downloading upgraded software into the ICD during a routine office visit. (Business Week)

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

Iowa News

New era of health care begins for Hamilton County
The doors of the old Hamilton Hospital building were closed late last night as the final stages of the move to the new Van Diest Medical Center were completed. The move marked the completion of more than two years of planning, design and construction on the new building. (Webster City Daily Freeman-Journal)

Manning Regional Healthcare Center receives safety award
ServiShare’s fall workers’ compensation program recognized Manning Regional Healthcare Center for going two years free of injuries to any employees related to falls.  Amy Dawson, chief nursing officer and safety committee chair at MRHC accepted the award on behalf of the facility during a special ceremony at the farm bureau auditorium in West Des Moines. (KCIM)

Reverse obesity
If enough people buy into ideas presented last week to a dozen community leaders, Muscatine County could help lead a social movement to eliminate obesity by making healthy living the norm nationwide. (Muscatine Journal)

U.S. News

As more hospital systems consolidate, experts say health care prices will jump
The action in the mid-Atlantic is being watched closely, with experts saying consolidation in other parts of the country has led to higher health-care prices - size is power, and commanding market share can give hospitals an edge in negotiations with insurers. That kind of leverage mirrors the advantage many big insurers have, which has prompted complaints from doctors and hospitals. Tensions between hospitals and insurers are running high as both face pressure to contain costs. (Washington Post)

Massachusetts recasting health payments
Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, Massachusetts secretary of health and human services, convened a small group of state officials and health care executives earlier this month to draft a first-in-the-nation blueprint for scrapping the current payment system, in which doctors and hospitals are typically paid a negotiated fee for every procedure and visit. This system, called fee for service, is widely viewed as lacking coordination and encouraging unnecessary tests and procedures. (Boston Globe)

Returning to the argument: Can health reform reduce costs
Here we are again, having yet another argument about whether health care reform can really reduce costs. The occasion this time is the recent announcement by several insurers of their intention to raise premiums on policies they sell directly to individuals. The increases are necessary, the insurers say, because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act forces them to enroll sicker patients and provide more benefits. And both changes will cost them money. (Kaiser Health News)

Many think health overhaul should do more
President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul has divided the nation, and Republicans believe their call for repeal will help them win elections in November. But the picture’s not that clear cut. A new AP poll finds that Americans who think the law should have done more outnumber those who think the government should stay out of health care by 2-to-1. (Associated Press)

Health care overhaul becomes a campaign weapon
In Florida, the health care overhaul was a hot issue even before the campaign season began. And it helped launch Rick Scott, the Republican nominee for governor, into politics. A former head of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain, Scott founded a group that ran ads opposing the president’s plan. Now, he’s using health care to attack his Democratic opponent, Alex Sink. (National Public Radio)

Grassley calls for release of Medicaid report
Senator Chuck Grassley is pressing the U.S. government to release a report on the fiscal situation of Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor, saying in a letter released on Friday it would give a sense of the pressures U.S. states are currently confronting. (Reuters)

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