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Today’s NewsStand (April 29, 2011)

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

Iowa News

Iowa doesn’t require reports of medical errors
Public reporting of medical errors, including so-called “never events” like surgery on the wrong body part or discharge of infants to the wrong parents, reduces errors and helps patients shop for the safest hospitals, openness advocates said. But opponents of mandatory reporting say Iowa hospitals already voluntarily report their medical outcomes. (KCRG)

Maquoketa hospital makes changes on baby deliveries, surgeries
Maquoketa will no longer be able to be listed as a birthplace for babies in the future. Jackson County Regional Health Center discontinued its obstetrics department last year after Dr. Paul Koob lost his license from the state. Koob was the only physician delivering babies at the hospital. Since then, hospital officials have been trying to recruit a physician who delivers babies for the hospital. “We have not been able to recruit a baby doctor, but we are talking to a group out of the Quad-Cities who would be able to do consultations,” Curt Coleman, hospital administrator, said. (Quad-City Times)

UIHC works to expand plastic surgery division
The hospital hired Tom Lawrence, who started work in Iowa City 15 months ago, to rebuild a more or less dormant plastic surgery division from the ground up, with the long-term goal of establishing a new residency and research program. While most, if not all, Big Ten universities have a plastic surgery residency program, there are no training grounds for the specialty in Iowa. He has been charged with recruiting and assembling a team of plastic surgeons and is aiming for residency accreditation at UIHC within the next five years. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Mercy celebrates its new Mercy Air Med helicopter
Officials at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa welcomed the hospital’s new Mercy Air Med helicopter in a big way Thursday with a public barbecue and a blessing. “We’re here to celebrate a new partnership with Med-Trans Corp. and also the arrival of the new bird,” Mercy President/CEO Jim FitzPatrick told the crowd gathered outside the hospital on a chilly, windy day. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

U.S. News

Patient ratings to affect Medicare payments to hospitals
Patient gripes soon will affect how much hospitals get paid by Medicare. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is finalizing details for the new reimbursement method, required by last year’s health-care law. Consumer advocates say tying scores from patient-satisfaction surveys to payments will result in better care.  Hospitals in South Dakota, Nebraska, Louisiana and Iowa have been at the top of hospital patient reviews.  (Washington Post)

The right way to reform Medicare
The right way is to help bring costs down by making care better and improving our health-care system. Improving quality while reducing costs is a strategy that’s had major success in other fields. Computers, cars, TVs and telephones today do more than they ever have, and the cost of these products has consistently dropped. The companies that make computers and microwaves didn’t get there by cutting what they offer: They achieved success by making their products better and more efficient. We can do the same when it comes to health care. (Wall Street Journal

Businesses turn to ‘private exchange’ health insurance
Fed up with the unpredictable cost of health insurance for his small business, Mike Sarafolean last year made a dramatic change: Instead of picking a plan to offer workers, he now sends them to a “private exchange” or marketplace where they compare and choose their own insurance. And the amount his company pays toward coverage is capped. (USA Today)

Docs say health law will make ER crowding worse
Hospital emergency rooms, the theory goes, get overcrowded because people without health insurance have no place else to go. But that’s not the view of the doctors who staff those emergency departments. The real problem, according to a new survey from the American College of Emergency Physicians, isn’t caused by people who don’t have insurance — it’s caused by people who do, but still can’t find a doctor to treat them. (National Public Radio)

Oklahoma initiative targets optional early births
An increase in the number of early Cesarean deliveries and induced labor without a medical cause is a factor in Oklahoma’s high infant death rate, medical experts said at a news conference Thursday. Health Commissioner Terry Cline said inducing labor or scheduling Cesarean births before 39 weeks of gestation when there are no medical reasons to do so can have health and economic consequences for newborns and their families. (Oklahoma City Oklahoman)

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Reporters, editors and publishers enjoy talking about their supposedly sacred obligation to present facts and ferret out “the truth,” yet in the end most of what appears on front pages are exercises in storytelling, albeit as told by a supposedly disinterested third party through information, observations and opinions of others – all clearly attributed to credible sources.  Little might be settled in these articles, but at least the reader is left to decide. 

But there is something relatively new under the media sun and it is called “advocacy journalism.”  In this scenario, the news writer openly discards the third-party ideal of traditional reporting and takes on the guise of social advocate – a role traditionally reserved for the opinion pages.  The high-minded assumption is that truth cannot be objectively pursued and that the reporter, having attained a certain level of expertise, can pick and choose among the facts so as to drive the fundamental direction and tone of the story.  In other words, the reporter has decided; the reader — and any hope for fair, balanced and thorough reporting — be damned.

Iowa’s health care providers got a rather large portion of advocacy journalism served to them – or, rather, blasted at them – this week in the form of several stories in the Des Moines Register advocating for an increase in state oversight of health care facilities. 

Of course, more oversight wouldn’t be needed if there weren’t problems, and so the Register obliged with sensational and lurid examples that would leave any reader wondering if Iowa’s health care system is spinning out of control.  If asked, Register editors would pooh-pooh the examples, politely agree that such occurrences are rare and isolated (which, of course, they are) and insist that health care providers should take no offense because the real issue is the need for more state inspections and the inspectors to do them. 

That thesis may be worth arguing, but it’s asking a lot of health care providers to allow their reputations to be mangled in the process.  Further, Register readers (outside of health care providers themselves) can’t possibly know if the thesis really has merit because no alternative thesis was offered and probably never will be.  That reality was reinforced (and providers’ reputations further mangled) when the Register published an editorial whose content and bias could not be distinguished from the earlier stories printed on the news pages. 

In that editorial, health care in Iowa – widely recognized and documented as a national benchmark for quality and value – was called “terrifying.”  “Oh, no,” the Register would surely say, “it’s the lack of oversight that was being described.”  That’s the point, the editors would insist.  Those are the facts

Oh, please.  Advocacy journalism, at least as it’s been demonstrated in the Register, isn’t about presenting facts, let alone pursuing truth.  It’s about going in for the kill, tearing away the red meat and ignoring any collateral damage because it’s all being done for the greater good (as defined by the newspaper, of course).  It does not thoughtfully provide insight that informs, but simply hacks away so as to serve up easy-to-swallow chunks, liberally seasoned with blatant sensationalism. 

It’s about shamelessly trying to create brand identity by calling agenda-driven, one-sided, over-simplified stories “investigative reporting,” publishing self-congratulating editorials and pushing it all out over and over again.  In other words, it’s marketing.  

Which means if you want a fair shake from “The Newspaper Iowa Depends Upon,” call the advertising department.  At least there you’ll probably get what you pay for..

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Today’s NewsStand (April 28, 2011)

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

Iowa News

Legislative session shutdown remains uncertain
Top lawmakers expressed optimism Thursday that progress is being made in reaching agreements that will end the 2011 session, but they conceded some non-budget issues may fall by the wayside and major stumbling blocks remain as they head into May. “I’m actually encouraged with some of the discussions that are going on,” said House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha. “I don’t have a guess as to when we’re going to be done for the year. Is it possible to be done next week? Yes. I actually think it is possible. Is it probable? I wouldn’t call it probable.” (Eastern Iowa Government)

Audit pinpoints problems with Epic at UIHC
An internal audit has found more problems involving a $61 million software suite for patient medical records and billing at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The latest audit, which was presented at an Iowa state Board of Regents meeting Wednesday in Ames, found that a physician in the Department of Pediatrics had not switched over to the Epic records system for issuing prescriptions. Epic went live at UIHC in May 2009. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Advocate seeks mental-health care changes for children
A national advocate of improved primary care for children with mental-health issues visited the Quad-Cities on Wednesday and promoted the idea of “medical homes.” A family-centered, team-oriented approach for a child’s preventative, acute and chronic-care issues is more effective and less costly than what’s being used, Dr. Jane Foy said during an appearance at the Genesis Heart Institute’s Adler Health Education Center in Davenport. (Quad-City Times)

St. Luke’s receives awards for stroke care
St. Luke’s Health System was recently honored with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines — Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award and designated as a primary stroke center from Det Norske Veritas Healthcare. The Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award is the highest level of recognition awarded by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association for stroke care. The award marks the second year in a row the hospital has received the honor. (Sioux City Journal)

U.S. News

Alabama hospitals see more than 1,500 patients from storms
Officials at the Alabama Hospital Association released information this morning about the number of patients seen, treated and released at the state’s hospitals as a result of Wednesday’s storms. Many hospitals in and around the affected areas have worked through the night with local emergency management agencies and other community responders to assist those injured by the storms. (Montgomery Advertiser)

Few seniors support GOP Medicare plan
The survey this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found just 30 percent of seniors supported the idea of restructuring Medicare into a system where seniors are given government subsidies to shop for private coverage. In contrast, 62 percent of seniors said they wanted Medicare to be left alone with the program continuing to guarantee the same benefits to all enrollees. Fifty percent of respondents say they wanted Medicare to remain as is while 46 percent said it should be changed. (Kaiser Health News)

Checklist assesses hospital social media policies
The latest social media gaffe by the health care industry comes from Rhode Island, where a physician was fined $500 this month for posting online, information about her experiences at work. So, control the urge to post any information on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media sites that could indirectly identify your patients. Or, just never post anything about your hospital duties at all in any public venue. Easier said than done, right? (HealthLeaders Media)

Should you doctor be on Facebook?
There are those who view a doctor with a Twitter account as pretentious, just as I viewed my own attending 20 years ago with his flashy e-mail address. But the iterations of online technology are likely to mutate faster than our staid medical institutions can adapt. In a few years these same doctors who have embraced Twitter may be seen as hopeless Luddites. The next generation of medical students will look at us with a collective eye-roll, unable to believe that we could persist in something so artless and archaic. (New York Times)

Medical community works to trim hospital errors
National health officials and local hospital executives on Wednesday unrolled an Obama administration initiative to save as many as 60,000 lives by reducing medical errors and patient complications after they leave a hospital. The event at Hackensack University Medical Center was one of 11 nationwide to highlight the national Partnership for Patients, which enlists the support of hospitals, employers, health plans, doctors, nurses and patient advocates to “make the best care normal care for all patients,” said Rima Cohen, counselor to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. (New Jersey Herald)

Seven employees donate kidneys at Chicago hospital
Kindness seems to be contagious at Loyola University Medical Center. Five of the Maywood hospital’s employees have donated kidneys to complete strangers since last year, and two others were good Samaritan kidney donors to casual acquaintances. (Chicago Sun-Times)

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Today’s NewsStand (April 27, 2011)

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

Iowa News

Official challenges criticism of hospices
Hospice of North Iowa is inspected every two or three years and is a licensed facility, a spokeswoman for the facility said Tuesday. Dixie Kavars, executive director of Hospice of North Iowa, was responding to recent charges by Toby Edelman, a policy attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, who told The Des Moines Register that most of Iowa’s hospices are inspected once every 20 years. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

State GOP announces plan to cut property taxes
A sweeping Iowa property tax reform bill that merges many of the ideas proposed by Gov. Terry Branstad and House Republicans was unveiled Tuesday to the groan of critics who say it would wash away the autonomy of local governments. “It completely eliminates home rule,” said Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, referring to the rights of city and county governments to self-government. “What we’re doing is pulling Big Brother.” (Des Moines Register)

Air ambulance flies through rainstorm to get patient
Mercy Medical Center officials said their air ambulance helicopter used new flight technology Tuesday to make a flight in poor weather conditions. The Wide Area Augmentation System assisted the pilot in flying during rainy conditions and reduced visibility of 500 feet. The WAAS is the latest in air navigation technology, officials said. (KCCI)

Mercy Air Med is a great service to northern Iowa
Mercy-North Iowa will celebrate helicopter service and its new partnership with Med-Trans Corp. in a special event Thursday. Mercy Air Med provides state-of-the-art technology in its new aircraft — satellite communication technology, night vision goggles for the crew and, because it is new, increased speed. Mercy Air Med complements the outstanding ambulance and EMS services available in our area. In an emergency, help is just minutes away, and for that we can be thankful. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

90-year-old former nurse never stops caring
People who volunteer through Trinity Muscatine Friends — the hospital auxiliary — get as much as they give, according to the group’s leader, Sandie Hook of Muscatine. If that’s true, then Muscatine resident Pauline Curry, 90, must be a woman blessed with extraordinary possessions. (Muscatine Journal)

U.S. News

More states moving to managed-care plans for Medicaid
Lobbying battles are being fought in state capitals across the country as more than a dozen governors try to contain the cost of Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor and those with disabilities, by requiring more people to go into managed-care plans. With billions of dollars at stake, insurance companies, hospitals and doctors are fighting over money and control. (McClatchy)

House GOP members face voter anger over budget
In central Florida, a Congressional town meeting erupted into near chaos on Tuesday as attendees accused a Republican lawmaker of trying to dismantle Medicare while providing tax cuts to corporations and affluent Americans. At roughly the same time in Wisconsin, Representative Paul D. Ryan, the architect of the Republican budget proposal, faced a packed town meeting, occasional boos and a skeptical audience as he tried to lay out his party’s rationale for overhauling the health insurance program for retirees. (New York Times)  

MU lesson: Watch data capture
Heart & Vascular Center in Arizona thought it was on course to meet medication reconciliation criteria because its patient portal enables access to a clinical summary of care, including a medications list. But because the meaningful criteria specifically addresses transitions of care, all providers had to be trained to use a specific code to identify a post-op visit as a “transition of care” event. “That was a hurdle for us,” administrator Barbara Watkins says. “We had to stop what we were doing and make sure everyone was doing it the same way.” (Health Data Management)

Former U.S. senators find common ground on health IT
Two former U.S. senators, one a Republican, the other a Democrat, do not have to cross the aisle to work together. Tom Daschle, the Democrat who represented South Dakota from 1987 to 2005, and Bob Bennett, the Republican who represented Utah from 1993 to 2011, pretty much see eye to eye these days – at least on the subject of health information technology. (Healthcare IT News)

Maine nurses risking five-day lockout as they plan second strike
With the second nursing strike in six months looming next week, the rhetoric is heating up between administrators at Eastern Maine Medical Center and the approximately 830 unionized registered nurses who work there. The nurses’ threatened one-day strike is set for May 5, with a previously scheduled contract meeting planned for May 3. (Bangor Daily News)

UW to punish doctors who gave sick notes to protesters
The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health said Tuesday that it will take disciplinary action against its physicians who wrote doctor excuse notes for protesters at the state Capitol during rallies in February. The doctors face discipline ranging from a written reprimand to loss of pay and leadership position, the medical school said in a statement. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

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Today’s NewsStand (April 26, 2011)

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

Iowa News

Harlan hospital redesign, tech upgrade on track for bid opening
The Myrtue Medical Center board of trustees voted unanimously to proceed with the estimated $15.8 million redesign and technology upgrade following its public hearing on Tuesday, April 12. The Medical Center will now embark upon one of the largest construction projects in its history. The plan includes redesigning a major portion of its medical campus to enhance patient care, accessibility and convenience. (Harlan Online)

Carroll hospital awards Stoolman scholarships
Saint Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll is awarding two scholarships on behalf of the Stoolman family. The Sheryl M. Venner Stoolman Scholarship Fund recipients are Denae Heithoff of Carroll and Ken Buelt of Breda. Heithoff currently works full-time at Stewart Memorial Community Hospital and part-time in the laboratory at Saint Anthony Regional Hospital.   Heithoff is completing her EMT-basic education from the University of Iowa through Carroll County EMS and is also training to be a Red Cross Volunteer. (KCIM)

She’s made a career with volunteers
Jere Ann “Jake” Powers is a professional Pied Piper. As adult volunteer coordinator at Jennie Edmundson Hospital, Powers leads an army of recruits in service activities. “I love to work with all kinds of people,” she said. “Another wonderful thing about the job is variety.” No two days are the same, she said. Altogether, she has about 355 volunteers. Most of the volunteers work shifts at the hospital, while others help with special events. (Council Bluffs Nonpareil)

Renovated library is an escape for UI Hospitals and Clinics patients
The library has been nine-year-old Xavier Roach’s saving grace. “It’s really amazing. Hospitals aren’t fun for anybody, really. This has made it a very fun experience. He is excited to come to the hospital,” said his mom, Amy Roach, 36, adding that they regularly borrow games, DVDs and laptops. That’s the hope for UIHC’s recently reopened patient library - to offer an escape for patients and visitors, whether they are young or old. UI leaders held a grand opening to show off the space recently.

Help support people with mental illness
When the mental hospitals were emptied in the 1960s, programs were to be implemented to treat individuals with mental illness. The results have been disastrous. A U.S. Justice Department 2007 study found that 56 percent of state prisoners, 45 percent of federal prisoners and 64 percent of local jail inmates suffer from mental illness. The corrections system has become the mental health institution system in our nation. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

U.S. News

Meaningful user: Attestation easy, registration
Successfully attesting to meaningful use of electronic health records when attestation opened on April 18 was easy for MedCentral Health System, a two-hospital delivery system. The difficult part was getting registered for the meaningful use program in early January-a process that because of Medicare bureaucracy didn’t actually finish until mid-March. “Get in the registration process early,” advises Mike Mistretta, CIO. (Health Data Management)

Meet our new hospital CEO…Oops, too late
The days of the CEO-for-life are vanishing, if they really ever existed. Back in 2006, an ACHE survey found that only a tiny fraction—3.4 percent—had served at the same institution as CEO for more than 20 years. The median tenure of a hospital CEO was just 43 months. If, as expected, that “churn” intensifies, it will be very hard on hospitals. All of which ought to be motivation enough for CEOs and board members now in place to keep a sharp eye out for young staffers or job candidates with leadership potential. (Hospitals & Health Networks)

The challenge of non-profit status in an era of accountable care
Non-profit hospitals like my own now face a more skeptical regulatory environment, challenging whether we give back enough to our communities to justify our tax-free status. While some of the criticisms of non-profits have been unfair, this is basically a healthy trend. It reaffirms our age-old commitment to care for the poor and support of the community. It brings us back to our roots. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

Three in four employers to increase health plan deductibles or copays
Employers will continue to shift healthcare benefit costs to employees either by increased contributions or plan design. The good news is that employers are committed to providing health care benefits to active employees and their dependents. Almost 77 percent said they recognized the value of the benefits while 96 percent responded that good benefits help attract and retain employees. More significantly, more than half the employers continue to believe they should shoulder the brunt of future health plan premium increases. (HealthLeaders News)

A fight over how drugs are pitched
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case, Sorrell v. IMS Health, that tests whether Vermont’s prescription confidentiality law violates the free speech protections of the First Amendment. The case is being closely watched not only by drug makers and data collection firms, but also by health regulators, doctors and consumer advocates who say the decision will have profound implications for doctors’ control over their prescription histories, and for information privacy, medical decision-making and health care costs. (New York Times)

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