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Today’s NewsStand (January 31, 2011)

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

Iowa News

Plan would restore mental-health providers’ funding
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad rejects former Gov. Chet Culver’s proposal to cut staff and beds at Iowa’s mental health institutions. If lawmakers don’t restore funds to the current year’s budget, the resulting cuts could trim 52 adult psychiatric hospital beds and 67 children’s welfare and psychiatric beds in the state. The beds allow a higher level of care for people suffering from severe mental illness. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

Cherokee MHI services, jobs to remain intact
Final word was received Thursday from Governor Terry Branstad’s staff that the proposed Department of Human Services budget cuts to the Cherokee Mental Health Institute and other Iowa MHIs would not be instituted. Senator Bill Anderson (R-Pierson) offered the following response: “Receiving final word that the Cherokee Mental Health Institute won’t need to make drastic cuts in bed numbers, services and staff is welcome news. (Cherokee Chronicle Times)

Waverly police charge man with being fake EMT
Police accuse a 24-year-old Waverly resident of twice pretending to be a paramedic. The case began Wednesday when officers responded to a medical emergency in Waverly that involved a serious injury. According to police, a worker at a manufacturing plant suffered a wound when a piece of metal ripped into his leg. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Iowa hospital investigating possible breach of players’ records
An investigation is underway into whether the medical records of 13 University of Iowa football players hospitalized have been accessed inappropriately. Officials at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City announced Friday that they had notified the players and families that some of their medical records may have been accessed in unauthorized ways. (USA Today)

Computers enable real-time charting
Registered Nurse Cindy Davis recalled entering a patient’s room at Burgess Health Center, Onawa, Iowa, chatting briefly, dispensing medications, checking vitals, and writing everything down. Since June 2010, Davis can converse longer with the patient, discussing care and concerns, because information is now posted in real-time, in a wall-mounted computer, complete with keyboard tray and mouse. (Sioux City Journal)

Pregnant inmates get top-notch care at UIHC
The metal shackles on her ankles tell the full story. Khrista Erdman, 32, of Des Moines, is a felon and one of 13 pregnant women in Iowa’s prisons last year. Prison pregnancies are rare, with fewer than 80 in the last five years in Iowa. When a pregnant woman is admitted to prison, the corrections department is charged with administering the same medical care expectant moms get on the outside. (Eastern Iowa News Now)

U.S. News

Florida judge rules against health law
A Florida federal judge on Monday ruled that a key plank of the health overhaul passed last March violates the Constitution, dealing a second judicial blow to the Obama administration’s signature legislative achievement. The case is considered the most high-profile of a series of federal lawsuits against the health overhaul. Attorneys general and governors from 20 states initially filed the lawsuit, and six more got behind it earlier this month. All but four of them are Republicans. (Wall Street Journal)

States may face showdown with feds over cutting Medicaid rolls
Financially strapped governors, Congress and the Obama administration could be headed for a showdown over the Medicaid health care program that covers 48 million poor, disabled and elderly people nationwide. Arizona’s governor has already asked for permission to drop people from the joint federal-state program, which states say is eating up huge portions of their budgets. But to do so, they need the green light either from Congress or the Obama administration. (Kaiser Health News)

Lessons learned from the largest civilian EHR system
Implementation of electronic health records continues across the nation as healthcare providers position themselves to take advantage of the federal government’s incentive payment program, which begins this year and can yield tens of thousands of dollars to those that demonstrate “meaningful use.” But implementation itself, from the acquisition of equipment, software, and services to training and utilization, can cost providers hundreds of thousands of dollars, so it’s nonetheless critical to make wise choices. (InformationWeek)

Staffing didn’t cause Minnesota hospital errors
In a recent commentary, Linda Hamilton, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, discussed the results of the Minnesota Department of Health’s recent report on “adverse health events” in the state. As an RN employed by a large metropolitan hospital, I thoroughly reviewed the report’s findings. The numbers actually revealed that patient care in the hospitals is exceptionally safe. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

GOP to finally get its chance to grill controversial Medicare appointee
President Obama’s re-nomination of Don Berwick to lead the Medicare agency means that the controversial healthcare leader will finally have to face the public grilling that Republicans have been aching to give him. Berwick, who has been panned by Republicans for what they describe as his radical views on healthcare rationing, was able to avoid a Senate Finance Committee hearing before his recess appointment in July. (The Hill)

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Today’s NewsStand (January 28, 2011)

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

Iowa News

Clarinda wins in Branstad budget
Gov. Terry Branstad’s state budget proposal provides emergency funding to keep staffing and services at the Clarinda Treatment Complex intact for the remainder of the current fiscal year. (Omaha World-Herald)

Taking the Guessing out of Health Care Costs
Patients have an increased need to understand the costs associated with their care.  Iowa Health System is aiming to address that need by having open conversations with patients about the financial side of their care. Trinity Regional Health System in the Quad-Cites, Trinity Regional Medical Center in Fort Dodge and St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids have all implemented programs to assist patients with preplanning for the expense of their care. (Iowa Health System)

Ottumwa hospital pumped about cath lab
Officials believe Ottumwa Regional Health Center’s new lab is something to brag about. Now they want to show the public why they’re excited.  “We think everybody from around the region would be interested to see the new services they previously had to leave town for,” said Jeff Atwood, vice president of communications at RegionalCare in Brentwood, Tenn., which owns the hospital. (Ottumwa Courier)

St. Luke’s goes red for heart month
St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids is hosting a unique fashion show — featuring employee creations to show their support and spirit for “Go Red Day,” which is Feb. 4. This event is one of many St. Luke’s is hosting to raise awareness during American Heart Month. (Eastern Iowa Health)

U.S. News

Barack Obama fires up the health team
President Barack Obama may have said “let’s fix it and move on” in his State of the Union address, but the president is sending messages that he is ready to roll up his sleeves and keep fighting the health care battle as long as he needs to. Obama will address the annual conference of Families USA today, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will release a new report that shows health insurance premiums will be 14 percent to 20 percent lower in 2014 than they would have been without the law. (Politico)

House GOP considers privatizing Medicare
Months after they hammered Democrats for cutting Medicare, House Republicans are debating whether to relaunch their quest to privatize the health program for seniors. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is testing support for his idea to replace Medicare with a fixed payment to buy a private medical plan from a menu of coverage options. (Associated Press)

Prospects for private insurance
A new report from Booz & Company, the management consulting firm, suggests that much of the worry that private health insurance will disappear is misplaced. The report, titled “The Future of Health Insurance: Demise of Employer-Sponsored Coverage Greatly Exaggerated,” argues that while times will be certainly be challenging for the insurance industry, employers are likely to remain a large buyer of coverage for their workers. (New York Times)

No easy answer for states’ Medicaid woes, Berwick says
With a majority of the states asking the federal government to ease Medicaid requirements, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Don Berwick said his agency is engaged with the states to find funding solutions “while protecting beneficiaries.” “Everyone in the room knows there’s no simple answer,” Berwick said to the annual conference of the pro-healthcare reform group Families USA. “What we can commit to is a process.” (The Hill)

What can we expect for Stage 2 of Meaningful Use?
Survey data released this month by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) showed promising figures in terms of adoption of electronic health records during the first stage to achieve meaningful use. In survey data prepared by the American Hospital Association, 81 percent of hospitals said they plan to achieve meaningful use of EHRs and take advantage of incentive payments. About two-thirds of those hospitals (65 percent) responded that they will enroll during Stage 1 of the incentive programs during 2011-12. (Fierce EMR)

Economic growth strengthened to 3.2% by end of 2010
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, rose at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday, below analysts’ expectations but up from 2.6 percent in the third quarter.  GDP growth would have been much higher if businesses had not cut back aggressively on their inventories. (Washington Post)

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Today’s NewsStand (January 27, 2011)

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

Iowa News

‘Pretty severe reductions’ predicted with Branstad’s proposed budget
Gov. Terry Branstad expects “pretty severe reductions” throughout most of state government under his proposed budget, his top budget staffer said this morning. Casinos would pay more state taxes, but commercial property owners and corporations would pay lower taxes, under budget Branstad, a Republican, is proposing for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Meanwhile, fully 36 state programs would be discontinued. (Des Moines Register)

UIHC considering $1.1 billion overhaul
UI officials first unveiled a 10-year project highlighted by a conversion to private patient rooms, a new UI Children’s Hospital tower and a new critical-care tower to the Iowa state Board of Regents in February 2008. The project was to cost up to $850 million. As the economy faltered, UI officials proposed scaling back the project to about $550 million, and then it went on the back burner as the hospital grappled with revenue problems. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Hospitals invest in venture capital fund to spur R&D
Three leading hospital companies and two major hospital systems are investing in a new venture capital fund focused on research and development to improve healthcare delivery, Tennessee-based Community Health Systems has announced. Along with Community Health, LifePoint Hospitals, Vanguard Health Systems, Iowa Health System and Trinity Health-representing more than 400 hospitals nationwide-will invest at least $10 million in Heritage Healthcare Innovation Fund LP. (Fierce Healthcare)

‘People will die’ if paramedics cut, sheriff warns Linn County supervisors
Under the “budgeting for outcomes” approach adopted this year, supervisors instructed department heads to cut their spending by 1.5 percent for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Ideas for additional spending are then presented as “offers” for supervisors’ consideration; they have about $1.8 million for such discretionary spending. On Tuesday, supervisors turned down the sheriff’s request for $299,000 to fund the rescue division, the only such full-time service for much of the county. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Mayo Clinic: health care should go on a diet
Overuse of services bloats the U.S. health care bill. This must be drastically reduced, particularly because there is little evidence that higher service use translates into better patient results. In fact, data from the Dartmouth Institute and the Commonwealth Fund continue to show that lower cost care is of higher quality. (Des Moines Register)

U.S. News

Medicare official doubts health care law savings
Two of the central promises of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law are unlikely to be fulfilled, Medicare’s independent economic expert told Congress on Wednesday. The landmark legislation probably won’t hold costs down, and it won’t let everybody keep their current health insurance if they like it, Chief Actuary Richard Foster told the House Budget Committee. His office is responsible for independent long-range cost estimates. (Associated Press)

Minnesota health CEOs taking a whack at Medicaid
Concerned that the Legislature and governor might get it wrong, CEOs from seven major health plans and providers have drawn up their own plan to streamline Minnesota’s massive Medicaid program — and carve $1.8 billion from the projected $6.2 billion deficit. The plan is sure to draw political fire. It suggests up to $170 million in cuts to state-funded services that help keep the elderly and disabled out of institutions, for example, and captures $280 million in higher taxes on tobacco and alcohol. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

CBO projects U.S. budget deficit to reach $1.5 trillion in 2011, highest ever
The still-fragile economy and fresh tax cuts approved by Congress last month will drive the federal deficit to nearly $1.5 trillion this year, the biggest budget gap in U.S. history, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday. (Washington Post)

Quick ruling promised on challenge to health law
A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., announced Wednesday that it would expedite its consideration of a lower court ruling against a key provision of the Obama health care act. The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said it would hear arguments between May 10 and May 13 in the Obama administration’s appeal of a ruling last month by Judge Howard E. Hudson of Federal District Court in Richmond. (New York Times)

Fixing the failure at physician compare
The launch of Medicare’s Physician Compare website at year-end should have been a watershed event in the long campaign for health care transparency and patient empowerment. Instead – and it pains me to write this – Physician Compare is a case study in how the interests of the average citizen can be shunted aside by indifferent government, lazy journalists and solipsistic special interests. That remains true despite all of those involved being Good People Trying To Do The Right Thing. (Kaiser Health News)

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Today’s NewsStand (January 26, 2011)


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

Iowa News

Woodbury County’s mental health budget in jeopardy
Iowa’s mental health services could eliminate county control depending on what Governor Terry Branstad’s two-year budget looks like when he unveils it to state lawmakers on Thursday. Tuesday, Woodbury County supervisors made at least a 2% cut to many department budgets. But, one department that won’t get any money at all is mental health. (KTIV)

Methodist seeks to be Level I trauma center
Iowa Methodist Medical Center is working on improving and expanding its research efforts and will seek a Level I designation in the fall. It had been a Level I trauma center until 2009, when the criteria for research changed and the hospital was bumped to a Level II center. Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines has no plans to seek Level I trauma center designation. (Des Moines Register)

Mercy-Cedar Rapids updates Destination Cancer Center design
Mercy Medical Center announced today the design plans for its new destination cancer center, which will house advanced and integrated cancer services in one central location, giving patients direct access to a treatment team dedicated to coordinated cancer care. The plan will result in the largest, comprehensive cancer healing environment in Cedar Rapids by connecting to existing radiation oncology services, private inpatient rooms and advanced surgical suites. (Eastern Iowa Health)

Coralville approves River Landing plans
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Coralville city councilors voted to unanimously approve two plans to move the project forward. The River Landing will include the Antique Car Museum of Iowa, the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, the Johnson County Historical Society, and the River Bend; a new luxury commercial and residential complex. The area will also include a new hotel and a $72 million, 167,000-square-foot University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics outpatient facility. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

U.S. News

Health gets little time, big reaction
President Barack Obama made two things clear about health care in his State of the Union speech: he is willing to change it around the edges and he is ready to put it in the rearview mirror. “Instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and move forward,” Obama said. The president spent less than 300 words on health care - but he elicited the evening’s first groan when he brought it up, followed quickly by a laugh when he said he’d heard “rumors” that some in the room had concerns about the law. (Politico)

Health industry and lawmakers move against Medicare spending board
Lobbyists for doctors, hospitals and drug companies are urging lawmakers to derail a planned government panel that health industry officials fear will sharply curb Medicare spending — a critical revenue source for them. The American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America are among many groups that want to weaken or kill the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was created by the health law to cap the growth of Medicare spending beginning in 2015. (Kaiser Health News)

Newspaper files suit to open Medicare database
The publisher of The Wall Street Journal filed suit Tuesday to overturn a decades-long court order barring public access to a confidential Medicare database it says is essential to rooting out fraud and abuse in the government health-care program. The American Medical Association, the doctors’ trade group, successfully sued the government in 1979 to keep secret how much money individual doctors receive from Medicare, and the ruling still stands. (Wall Street Journal)

Giving ‘super-utilizers’ more care can lower medical costs
Is it possible to lower medical costs by giving complex patients better care? The Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, which relies exclusively on home visits and phone calls, has cared for 36 “super-utilizers,” of health care. Their number of hospital and ER visits dropped by 40 percent-from 62 visits to 37-after joining the program. What’s more, their hospital bills dropped by 56 percent-from an average of $1.2 million per month down to just over $500,000. (Fierce Healthcare)

Doctor incentives don’t improve patient care according to study
Researchers from Britain, the United States and Canada assessed the impact of incentivised targets on quality of care and health outcomes in around 470,000 British patients with hypertension and found that they had no impact on rates of heart attacks, kidney failure, stroke or death. “No matter how we looked at the numbers, the evidence was unmistakable; by no measure did pay-for-performance benefit patients with hypertension,” said Brian Serumaga of Britain’s Nottingham University, who led the research. (Reuters)

Smoking, obesity why US lifespans lag a bit
That may sound surprising, considering that public smoking is being stamped out here while it’s common in parts of Europe. And obesity is a growing problem around the world. But the U.S. led those unhealthy trends, lighting up and fattening up a few decades ahead of other high-income countries. And the long-term consequences are life expectancy a few years shorter than parts of Europe and Japan, the National Research Council reported Tuesday. (Washington Post)

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Today’s NewsStand (January 25, 2011)

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

Iowa News

Mental health care advocates praise Branstad
Gov. Terry Branstad’s decision to safeguard jobs and beds at Iowa’s mental health institutions has prompted mental health advocates and agency leaders to hope that the new administration will place an emphasis on the services provided by their staff. “I’m very pleased that the governor is giving this a priority,” says Chris Hoffman, the executive director of Pathways Behavioral Services, the agency providing mental health and substance abuse and prevention services in Bremer, Butler and Chickasaw counties. “But the devil is in the details.” (Waverly Democrat)

Linn County hopes to head off deficit in mental health funding
Linn County’s fund for mental health services faces a $5 million deficit over the next year, but the program’s director is hopeful the state may have a fix. Craig Wood, the county’s director of mental health and developmental disability services, said a provision of House File 45 could restore some funding lost to budget-cutting over the past two years. The federal stimulus replaced $20 million cut from mental health services in 1999, but that will run out this summer. (Eastern Iowa Government)

Sanford $100 million gift to target breast cancer
A $100 million gift to Sanford Health from retired banker and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford will target breast cancer as part of a plan to establish a national institute fighting the disease. Brian Mortenson, president of Sanford Health Foundation, said an estimated 10 million women are living with diagnosed breast cancer. Sanford has given more than half a billion dollars to the former Sioux Valley Hospitals & Health System that became Sanford Health in 2007. (Sioux City Journal)

Iowa’s unemployment rate drops
Iowa’s jobless rate in December followed the national trend downward, dipping to 6.3 percent, the state said today. The drop from 6.6 percent in November is the largest monthly decline for the year, according to Iowa Workforce Development. A year ago, the jobless rate was 6.5 percent. (Quad-City Times)

U.S. News

Obama to call for nonsecurity spending freeze
President Barack Obama will call for a five-year freeze on nonsecurity discretionary spending in his State of the Union address Tuesday night “as a down payment toward reducing the deficit,” a White House official said. The freeze won’t touch some of the budget’s biggest items, such as Medicare, Social Security and defense spending, nor will it apply to homeland-security spending or foreign aid. (Wall Street Journal)

Psst, Mr. President: A little advice on your SOTU remarks
Much of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address will deal with the economy, but the speech also offers him another opportunity to tout the benefits of the new federal health law as the GOP continues to seek repeal. Republicans say Obama should use the speech to forge a compromise and offer significant changes. Kaiser Health News reporter Jenny Gold asked nine health policy experts to share their views on what points they would like President Obama to make in his speech. (Kaiser Health News)

A State of the Union challenge: Health reform
President Barack Obama will have two challenges when he talks about his signature health care law Tuesday night: Get the public back on his side, and don’t spend too much time on it. It will be Obama’s first State of the Union address since he signed health care reform into law in March, and the public is still deeply divided over his biggest legislative accomplishment. Anything he says will be picked apart by groups on the left and the right – not to mention the entire health care industry – for clues about how strongly he’ll stand behind the law. (Politico)

Republicans’ budget man draws fire
Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican point man on spending cuts and designated responder to the State of the Union address, has emerged as the latest chew toy among Democrats. They spent Monday beginning a campaign to portray him as the architect of fiscal policies that they view as unwise and hope will prove unpopular among voters, including plans to partially privatize Social Security and Medicare. (New York Times)

As doctors age, worries about their ability grow
Many doctors, of course, retain their skills and sharpness of mind into their 70s and beyond. But physicians are hardly immune to dementia, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and other ills of aging. And some experts warn that there are too few safeguards to protect patients against those who should no longer be practicing. “My guess is that John Q. Public thinks there is some fail-safe mechanism to protect him from incompetent physicians,” Dr. Norcross said. “There is not.” (New York Times)

How to get the most out of your clinical engineering department
Don’t underestimate your clinical engineering staff. Your hospital’s clinical engineering department may have a bigger impact on patient outcomes and patient safety than any other department outside of nursing and, of course, your physicians. When they develop innovative solutions to problems, they are often literally lifesavers. (Hospital Impact)

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