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Today’s NewsStand (May 31, 2011)

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

Iowa News

VA offers lessons for U.S. health care
Health care leaders have consistently observed that the best care requires an integrated health care system, one that treats the whole patient and coordinates care across the full continuum of services from primary care to acute specialized care, from post-surgery rehabilitation to nursing home and end-of-life care. We know that the best care comes from comprehensive integrated delivery systems - systems just like VA health care. (Des Moines Register)

Veterans’ care not part of Iowa mental health reform
Snow still covered the Capitol grounds this year when roughly 300 veterans met in the rotunda to lobby legislators for better mental health care. Many left with the idea that the coverage they sought — state funding to cover any mental health treatment costs not covered by insurance or other programs — would be included in an upcoming bipartisan mental health reform package. It wasn’t. (Sioux City Journal)

Rebuilt hospital feels like home
Nurses, receptionists and other hospital workers have to fill myriad roles on a daily basis, but for the past few years those at Guttenberg Municipal Hospital have taken on one more — building designers. All 110 workers played a role in planning the renovation of the hospital. “We blended vision from the hospital and main trends in the medical industry,” said Stephen Mulligan, the hospital’s architect, who works for Invision Architecture. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

St. Luke’s dedicates SAFE Room
St. Luke’s has unveiled a new safe haven for sexual assault victims. The new Frances Kline Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Room, or SAFE Room, was dedicated on Friday. The hospital has four nurses specifically trained in sexual assault forensics, who will help examine victims and help law enforcement with evidence. The room was built with warm furnishings and healing artwork to help make a difference in the care of sexual assault victims. (KMEG)

Ottumwa hospital shows off new ambulances
In a crisis, emergency personnel admit you may not be checking features on the ambulance that comes to your rescue. But while things were relatively calm, paramedics wanted to show off Ottumwa’s two new rigs. “These are the only ambulances of their type in the state,” said Steve Wilbur, director of Emergency Medical Services at Ottumwa Regional Health Center. (Ottumwa Courier)

National News

Medicare plan for payments irks hospitals
For the first time in its history, Medicare will soon track spending on millions of individual beneficiaries, reward hospitals that hold down costs and penalize those whose patients prove most expensive. The administration plans to establish “Medicare spending per beneficiary” as a new measure of hospital performance, just like the mortality rate for heart attack patients and the infection rate for surgery patients. (New York Times)

Hospitals face new pressure to cut infection rates
What’s worse: Losing face or losing money? Under laws in more than two dozen states and new Medicare rules that went into effect earlier this year, hospitals are required to report infections — risking their reputations as sterile sanctuaries — or pay a penalty. That’s left hospital administrators weighing the cost of ‘fessing up against the cost of fines. (National Public Radio)

Mobile unit treats patients outside tornado-damaged hospital
St. John’s Hospital in Joplin remains in tatters. Doctors and nurses have sat on the sidelines for a week, but Sunday they began helping patients again. Doctors, nurses, and medical staff mobilized into action, navigating tunnels of triage units; a makeshift hospital inside a reinforced tent. A military team built the facility in two days. Because Joplin looks like a war zone, the tent is nicknamed the M.A.S.H. unit. (News On 6)

Emergency departments are being established separate from hospitals
Since 1990, the number of hospital-based emergency departments has declined by 27 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in May. Meanwhile, the number of visits to hospital emergency departments has been on the rise, increasing 30 percent between 1998 and 2008. One increasingly popular option to improve access to services is the free-standing emergency department, a facility that, as its name suggests, isn’t physically located within a hospital. (Washington Post)

In shift, feds target top execs for health fraud
It’s getting personal now. In a shift still evolving, federal enforcers are targeting individual executives in health care fraud cases that used to be aimed at impersonal corporations. The new tactic is raising the anxiety level — and risks — for corporate honchos at drug companies, medical device manufacturers, nursing home chains and other major health care enterprises that deal with Medicare and Medicaid. (Associated Press)

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Today’s NewsStand (May 27, 2011)

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

Iowa News

Allen College breaks ground for new Winter Hall
Allen College is growing. On Thursday a groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of construction for Winter Hall, the campus’s third academic building. The new facility will help keep pace with new programs and expanded enrollment. “The end result is we need more space,” said John Knox, president and CEO of Allen Health System. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Health care reform could help small businesses, official says
Marshalltown businesses Wednesday received a primer on the new health care reform law as it begins to be implemented across the country. Judy Baker, director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region 7, said one of her primary missions was to dispel the misinformation that exists about the health care law. Her region includes Iowa. “I’m finding there’s a lot of misrepresentation,” she said. (Marshalltown Times-Republican)

Branstad defends budget-cutting plan from US House GOP
“I guess that’s what aggravates me about the people that come out against everybody that’s got an idea to try and reduce the federal…deficit. It takes a lot of courage to recommend that,” said the Iowa governor. “I guess that’s why I was very complimentary of Paul Ryan because he at least has come out with a comprehensive plan. And there are a lot of people that want to criticize it, but what’s their alternative?” (Radio Iowa)

National News

Joplin tornado injuries put strain on health system
Bob Denton, director of emergency medicine at the Freeman Health System, said nothing could have prepared him for the hours following this week’s devastating tornado. Patients began arriving with severed limbs, lacerations, compound fractures and head injuries. They filled the emergency department, waiting rooms and lobby and overflowed into the parking lots. “Everyone appeared to be critical, and it was overwhelming even for the most seasoned staff,” Denton said. “I can’t begin to describe the magnitude of the injuries. My colleagues in the emergency department worked tirelessly.” (Tulsa World)

Memo to GOP: Cutting Medicaid is unpopular, too
Not that there was much doubt left, but Tuesday’s uphill victory by Democrat Kathy Hochul has made it pretty clear that the budget blueprint approved by House Republicans last month, which would effectively privatize Medicare, isn’t so popular with lots of actual voters. But with health care still the No. 1 one issue driving the nation’s long-term budget problems, advocates for seniors and the poor are worried that would-be budget balancers will set their sites on the vast Medicaid program for the poor instead. (National Public Radio)

Are nurse practitioners the solution to shortage of primary care doctors?
In the last four decades, the number of nurse practitioners has risen to more than 140,000. And more and more are working on their own, especially in poor inner-city neighborhoods and rural areas, where there are few doctors in private practice. The scope of what nurses can do medically has also been growing for the past decade, at a time when the pool of primary care, or family doctors, has been shrinking. And now the need for professionals to do basic family medicine has never been greater. (PBS NewsHour)

Under Arizona plan, smokers and obese would pay fee for Medicaid
Arizona, like many others states, says it is no longer able to adequately finance its Medicaid program. As part of a plan to cut costs, the state has proposed imposing a $50 fee on childless adults on Medicaid who are either obese or who smoke. In Arizona, almost half of all Medicaid recipients smoke; while the number of obese people is unclear, about one-in-four Arizonans is overweight. (New York Times)

Johns Hopkins receives $10 million to open patient safety institute
Johns Hopkins plans to use a $10 million gift to launch an institute for patient safety, aiming to reduce medical mistakes that have long troubled health care facilities around the nation. The Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality will conduct research and develop methods for use at Hopkins and other hospitals around the globe that could prevent infections, misdiagnoses, improper treatments and other errors. It may be the first of its kind in the country. (Baltimore Sun)

Vermont governor signs health care law
Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill on Thursday that sets Vermont on a path to creating the nation’s first publicly financed health care system. The law calls for something close to a single-payer system, with doctors and hospitals billing one entity, the state government, for their services. (New York Times)

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Today’s NewsStand (May 26, 2011)

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

Iowa News

Iowa volunteers amazed by scope of damage in Joplin
Andy Swanson walked into the gymnasium at Ozark Christian College shortly after dawn Wednesday, not sure what the day would bring. Maybe he would work for a Red Cross first-aid station, where Swanson, a 61-year-old emergency medical technician at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, could treat wounds and help dispense prescriptions. Or maybe he would be part of a three-person condolence team, visiting people who’d lost family members in Sunday’s EF-5 tornado, which killed at least 123 people, a number that could rise in coming days as the 1,500 people reported missing are found – or aren’t. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa workers called to assist in Joplin
Dan Kinney’s job is helping people prepare for and respond to disasters, but that doesn’t make seeing the devastation firsthand any easier. He had only been home a week and half from working eight days in tornado-damaged Alabama when he was called down to Joplin, Mo. Kinney works for EMS Innovations – a company that specializes in disaster mitigation products. His focus was to provide assistance to St. John’s Regional Medical Center, which took a direct hit from Sunday’s tornado. (Des Moines Register)

Vaccination debate stirs up after measles case
As Dallas and Polk County Health officials try and contain the risk of measles spreading through central Iowa, the debate over vaccines is becoming a popular topic of conversation. “The best thing people can do is get vaccinated against disease. That’s the primary mode of preventing this disease which can have bad consequences in some people,” says Jeff Brock, an infectious disease specialist with Mercy Medical Center. (WOI)

Hyperbaric oxygen helps wounds heal faster
Shirley Anderson feels like she wants to break out the balloons. Is she graduating from school? No, the Sioux City woman is experiencing a graduation of a different sort. Anderson is graduating from six months of daily sessions, spent inside the hyperbaric chamber at Mercy Medical Center-Sioux City’s Comprehensive Wound Healing Center. (Sioux City Journal)

St. Luke’s raises awareness of stroke
Try an everyday task like getting dressed with control of only one arm and realize that it’s not so simple. “A lot of our patients who come in with strokes, that’s a reality for them,” said Heidi Mangold, a registered nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. Stroke is the nation’s third highest killer, yet the disease burden itself can be more significant. (KWWL)

National News

Is any Medicare reform plan political suicide?
The New York special election raises a new question for lawmakers: Will any plan that tries to produce Medicare savings automatically become a potent political weapon? Republicans recaptured the House last year running on a platform that accused Democrats of slashing Medicare in their health reform law. Then Tuesday’s win by Democrat Kathy Hochul in a solidly Republican district was seen as a strong rebuke of the GOP budget that changes the basic structure of Medicare. (Politico)

Patient safety checklists now law in Nevada
Checklists have been touted as a method of elevating quality of care in hospitals for years. Yet, the medical community does not fully embrace them. Even Atul Gawande, MD, who literally wrote a manifesto on the subject has said, “There’s a set of values in the idea of a checklist, and they’re in distinct conflict with some of the values we have in medicine.” Nevertheless, the Patient Protection Checklist bill, which requires Nevada hospitals and other medical facilities to develop state-mandated patient safety checklists, was signed into law on Wednesday. (HealthLeaders Media)

Jury awards record $58.6 million in malpractice case
A Norwalk couple was awarded $58.6 million Wednesday, a record for a single incident of medical malpractice in Connecticut, in a case involving an obstetrician accused of waiting too long to perform a cesarean section and a boy who was permanently brain-damaged. The jury at Superior Court in Waterbury sided with Domenic and Cathy D’Attilo, whose son Daniel, now 8, has had severe cerebral palsy since he was born on Feb. 2, 2003. He is fed through a tube, uses a wheelchair, is unable to eat, talk or walk and is incontinent. (Hartford Courant)

Some hospitals paid more for similar services
New health care data from the Patrick administration confirms that some Massachusetts hospitals are paid significantly more than others for providing similar care, but it shows that these differences are even more dramatic for certain common procedures like caesarean births. Cambridge Health Alliance was paid less than $5,000 each for 55 caesarean sections performed in 2009, while Massachusetts General Hospital was paid more than $10,000 each for 483 caesarean deliveries that year, state officials found. (Boston Globe)

Rates rise, health insurance execs bank big bucks
Top executives at health insurance companies banked large salaries in recent years while rates rose dramatically on individual policyholders in California, according to filings with the state insurance commissioner last month. In documents posted to the state’s website, Blue Shield of California reported that its chief executive officer, Bruce Bokaden, was paid more than $4.6 million in 2010. The San Francisco-based insurer raised rates on some policyholders by about 38 percent over 2010 and 2011. (Associated Press)

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Today’s NewsStand (May 25, 2011)

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

Iowa News

Sioux City hospitals prepared for tornado
We usually think of hospitals as a safe place, but clearly they’re not immune to tornadoes. Sioux City hospitals say they’re prepared. “As soon as they check and hear there’s weather, they’re constantly watching,” said St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center disaster preparedness coordinator Sally McMahon. (KTIV)

Eastern Iowa hospitals have storm plans
Most hospitals have an emergency officer on staff and begin implementing a well-practiced plan  for storms once a tornado watch is issued. Hundreds of patients can be moved and evacuated in a matter of minutes. As recently as Sunday, that plan was put into motion. (KWWL)

Changes at Carroll hospital benefit residents and patients
St. Anthony Regional Hospital has made several upgrades to the hospital, nursing home and Alzheimer’s unit over the past decade and all of them were made to help provide better care for their patients and residents according CEO Gary Riedmann. He discusses some of the recent changes that have been made. (KCIM)

New EMT facility brings plenty of benefit to Sioux Center
Doctors and nurses at the Sioux Center Community Hospital will also benefit from the upgrades.”They can offer us some of our emergency nursing staff some training opportunities as well as for the EMTs with the new information room. The education room will be a big asset to all of us,” said Nancy Renes, director of patient care at the Sioux Center Hospital. (KTIV)

She’s a kids’ mental health advocate
Iowa’s 1st Five Healthy Mental Development Initiative builds partnerships between health providers and public services to enhance care for young children and their families. Sonni Vierling has been the state coordinator for the program since it began in 2007. About 75,000 children have received the assessments during well-child exams, Vierling said. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Harrowing scene at a Joplin hospital
Scores of people who had been injured in a massive tornado were arriving on the backs of trucks—some private and some police-department vehicles. Nurses in the backs of trucks were manually giving oxygen to people who had been on ventilators. Some nurses had dashed into rooms there filled with gas and water from broken pipes, carried patients down the stairs, loaded them on trucks and driven them to another hospital. Some of those nurses then remained with their patients at that hospital. (Wall Street Journal)

Budget talks eye $1 trillion in cuts
White House and congressional officials said Tuesday that they were moving closer to a budget deal that would make a “down payment” of more than $1 trillion in cuts to federal deficits over the next decade. But Vice President Joe Biden said he told Republicans that they would have to back down from their position that the deal avoid tax increases. “I made it clear today…revenues have to be in the deal,” Mr. Biden said. (Wall Street Journal)

Democrat wins GOP seat; rebuke seen to Medicare plan
Democrats scored an upset in one of New York’s most conservative Congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party’s plan to overhaul Medicare. The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether they should rethink their party’s commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability heading into the 2012 elections.  (New York Times)

Experts defend Medicare board
One hundred health policy experts and economists sent a letter, to congressional leaders early this week urging legislators to back off their many attempts to repeal the health reform provision. “We believe that an independent board is essential to promote, monitor and implement reforms that improve Medicare and the nation’s health care system,” they wrote. (Politico)

Health care workers delaying retirement
The uncertainties around a sputtering economy have prompted the nation’s healthcare workforce to delay retirement, a new study shows. Research by The Conference Board shows that the healthcare industry experienced the largest decline in retirement rates among all workforce sectors in the U.S. economy. In 2009-2010, only 1.55 percent of full-time workers aged 55-64 retired within 12 months, compared with almost 4 percent in 2004-2007. (HealthLeaders Media)

More employers offering on-the-job health care
“That’s where the money is,” Willie Sutton famously quipped when asked why he robbed banks. There’s a similar rationale for employers who hope to improve workers’ health and contain costs with workplace health clinics: That’s where the people are. Day in and day out, workers troop into the office, spending the better part of their waking hours there. What better place to have medical staff on hand? (Washington Post)

Health care goes unwired
When Dr. Jose Soler got a late-night call about a critically ill patient, he grabbed his iPad and checked the results of the electrocardiogram test that just had been administered. Thanks to an app that zooms within half a millimeter of every heartbeat rhythm variation, Soler made a diagnosis within two minutes. Before the Northwest Medical Center cardiologist began using the AirStrip Cardiology mobile application, he had to wait for a nurse to fax him a printout or log into a computer to load the data in PDF format, which was often hard to read. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

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Today’s NewsStand (May 24, 2011)

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Iowa News

Measles case confirmed in central Iowa, emergency declared
State health officials declared a “public health emergency” today after a test confirmed a case of measles in a Dallas County resident. Officials were asking people who might have been exposed to the person to check their immunization status. They said those possibly exposed include people who were on American Airlines Flight 3965 from Chicago to Des Moines at midday May 11 and people who were in the Des Moines airport’s main terminal or baggage area from 1 to 3:45 p.m. that day. (Des Moines Register)

Is Des Moines prepared for tornado disaster?
Metro hospitals are asked about their tornado preparations and if they feel ready should a tornado like the one seen in Joplin, Missouri should strike Des Moines. Staff members drill frequently and the hospitals meet often to plan for coordinated efforts. (KCCI)

Q-C hospitals work to protect patients when storms are near
Structurally, hospital buildings are made to withstand strong winds, but a direct impact such as the one in Joplin would knock out most windows. “We have a tornado plan in place that protects patients from flying glass,” said Dave Kelly, the emergency preparedness manager for Genesis Health System. He said broken and flying glass is the main worry at hospitals because patients cannot be evacuated quickly to a basement. (Quad-City Times)

2 Des Moines Red Cross workers head to Joplin
Andrew Swanson is headed to Joplin, Mo., as an emergency medical technician. But he knows providing medical care isn’t all he’ll be asked to do. “After I retired from the military, I felt this would be a good place for volunteer work,” Swanson said. “And it’s proving true.” Swanson, who works for Mercy Medical Center on its ground ambulance crew and dispatching helicopters, will spend two to three weeks in Joplin. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Inside Missouri hospital, mix of chaos and bravery
Jonathan Elliott had heard the tornado sirens blaring outside St. John’s Regional Medical Center for about a half-hour when things suddenly took a terrifying turn. The building started shaking, the lights began to flicker and 16-year-old Elliott could feel the wind coming up beneath the floor in his grandfather’s seventh-floor hospital room. It was time to make a move, he decided, and that’s what Elliott and his grandmother did, making a dash for the relative safety of an inside stairwell. Up to that moment, “we had no idea it was going to blow,” Elliott said. (CBS News)

Nurse was on duty at hospital when tornado hit
“As the wind was starting to die down, still heavy debris flying around, we had two gentlemen crawling through our destroyed ambulance doors and over trauma tables that had been blown around by wind, bleeding profusely, and they told me that they had been outside at the park across the street,” explained St. John’s Regional Medical Center nurse Angie Abner. “One of my patients had a brachial artery hitch. I grabbed bandages quickly, tourniquet, and the other gentleman, I tied a towel around his head where he was bleeding. And then, we moved from there. I collected other patients and made the dark walk down the back hall.” (National Public Radio)

As interest in ACOs wanes, it’s time to do the ‘next right thing’
Like many other hospitals, we have dropped plans for an ACO because the proposed regulations are too complex. However, we have not given up looking at the future or pursuing “the next right thing,” which would incorporate many of the objectives of ACOs without actually becoming an ACO. To do this, we need to go back to our fundamental goals, which are meeting the needs of the patient and moving toward integration of health services. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

Second GOP senator opposes Medicare plan
A GOP plan to overhaul Medicare faces its first vote in the Senate this week, presenting a test of just how risky Republicans view one of the party’s signature proposals. Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.), who is running for re-election next year in a heavily Democratic state, on Monday became the second Republican to announce opposition to the Medicare plan, joining Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. (Wall Street Journal)

When doctors are called to the rescue in midflight
Since the earliest days of commercial aviation, airlines have coped with medical emergencies in flight by calling on physicians who happen to be passengers. And as more people travel by air, the number of emergencies has risen accordingly. “Passenger health is becoming more and more of an issue, because of increased life expectancy and more people flying with pre-existing conditions,” said Dr. Paulo Alves. (New York Times)

D.C. hospitals ask for tax hike
With a D.C. Council vote on a budget for fiscal 2012 just two days away, District hospitals are offering to pay higher taxes to keep federal matching funds for Medicaid flowing into the city. Under the proposal being floated by the D.C. Hospital Association, the council would raise the per-licensed bed tax on inpatient hospitals to $3,788, up sharply from its current $2,000 level and nearly eight times the original $500 tax first imposed in 2010. (Washington Business Journal)

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