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Today’s NewsStand (May 23, 2012)

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

Iowa News

Officials talk switch in mental health coverage
Johnson County officials expressed concern Tuesday about the local impact of the mental health reform bill passed by the Iowa Legislature before the session adjourned May 9. The law will transition the state into a regional system of delivering care as opposed to the county system that’s in place. The state will take over all Medicaid-funded services beginning July 1, a change that’s designed to ensure essential services are provided uniformly statewide. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Doctors performed ‘miracle’ in restoring Keith Sullivan’s damaged hands
Within two hours of the accident, Keith Sullivan and his hand were flown to Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, where Dr. Jeff Rodgers awaited. He had performed similar work with fingers during his fellowship, but never a hand re-attachment in practice. While Rodgers worked to reattach the left hand, his partner, Dr. Matt Weresh, reconstructed the right hand, which was nearly amputated. The surgeons finished work eight hours later. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa has gap to fill in ‘middle-skilled’ workers
Although half of the available jobs in Iowa fall into the category of “middle-skilled” labor - positions requiring a high school diploma or associate degree - only 33 percent of Iowa’s work force qualifies as middle-skilled workers. Iowa Workforce Development announced that statistic today in a report on skilled labor needs. The agency also called on the state to promote more technical training opportunities and science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. (Des Moines Business Record)

Grassley: Disabled Iowan led an inspirational life
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley today spoke about Katie Beckett on the Senate floor, calling her “the living embodiment of a person with disabilities participating and contributing in society.” Beckett, 34, spent her first 3½ years in a Cedar Rapids hospital before President Ronald Reagan cut through the Medicaid red tape so the program could pay her medical expenses at home. Her story led to changes in the Medicaid program that changed the future of thousands of people with disabilities. (Des Moines Register)

Hygienic lab, journalism school win with baby video
The State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa and the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication have been honored by Genetic Alliance with a Baby’s First Test Challenge Award for the production of a video about newborn screening. The short video, “Putting Babies First, “is intended to inform nurses and phlebotomists about proper techniques used to collect blood drops from newborns shortly after birth. From these few drops of blood, public health laboratories—including the State Hygienic Lab—screen for more than 29 different, potentially life-treating conditions. (University of Iowa)

National News

How rivals built an ACO
HealthPartners and Allina each own several medical clinics and at least one hospital in the Minneapolis area. HealthPartners also has a commercial health plan. The two formed Northwest Metro Alliance to focus on achieving the triple-aim of health care—better care, better health, and lower cost—for 27,000 high-risk HealthPartners commercial members who live in the northwestern suburbs of Minneapolis and receive their medical care at Allina’s Mercy Hospital or at the nine local medical clinics operated by either HealthPartners or Allina. (HealthLeaders Media)

Hospice being marketed as a cost-cutter for hospitals
Hospice marketers, exploring possibilities for new revenue to help continue the industry’s remarkable growth, are looking to exploit a provision in the 2010 health care law by persuading hospitals to send Medicare patients into end-of-life hospice care instead of readmitting them to the hospital. Such a move, the hospice marketers say, will enable hospitals to avoid paying the Medicare penalties required by the new law when hospitals discharge patients and then have to readmit them within 30 days. (USA Today)

E-prescribing reaches tipping point
New figures from Surescripts reveal that at the end of 2011, 58 percent (or 317,000) of office-based physicians were using e-prescribing tools to fill prescriptions, versus only 36 percent (190,000) in 2010. “The National Progress Report on E-Prescribing and Interoperable Healthcare, Year 2011,” which examined actual adoption and use of e-prescribing nationwide, also found that smaller practices led the way. Among practices with six to 10 physicians, 55 percent adopted the technology, as did 53 percent of practices with two to five physicians. The most significant growth in physician adoption of e-prescribing occurred among solo practitioners: from 31 percent in 2010 to 46 percent in 2011. (InformationWeek)

BlueCross deal aims to simplify medical billing
When a BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee patient has a total knee or hip replacement at Tennessee Orthopaedic Alliance or Vanderbilt Medical Group, the state’s largest health insurer gets billed separately for a bunch of services. Bills arrive for the surgery, physical therapy and other care that happens weeks after the procedure. That is set to change under an agreement among BlueCross, Vanderbilt’s physician practice, the Nashville-based surgery group Tennessee Orthopaedic and two similar practices in Memphis and Knoxville. (Nashville Tennessean)

Stockholm uses city-wide mobile phone system to document elderly care
For nearly 2,000 care workers in Stockholm, a smart phone has become the most important tool in their daily operations. The goal is to make life easier for care workers and care providers and to give relatives access to various eServices that are provided via the city’s website. With all relevant information being digitized right away, the City of Stockholm can offer eServices to the elderly or their relatives. The care documentation can be accessed via a secure Web connection, so that relatives, for example, can see exactly what care was provided and when. (Healthcare IT News)

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Why I Care: From Coincidence to Calling

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Steve Long

When people think of health care and hospitals, they often think of nurses, doctors and others who give direct care.  But there are thousands of Iowans who work “behind the scenes” at hospitals who are just as dedicated to making sure the highest quality care is provided every day.  Steve Long, CEO at Skiff Medical Center in Newton, is one of those people.

I believe a career in health care is a calling, not a job.  I haven’t always believed this, though.  I grew up a preacher’s kid and understood the power of a calling in ministry.  I knew some folks who had been in the military and they also seemed to have a bond with their profession that made it seem more than a job.  I didn’t know anyone in health care, though; thus, I really never gave it a thought.

I received my undergraduate degree in the spring during one of those periods when jobs were hard to come by.  After a few months of searching, I finally landed a position working for a trucking company in dispatch.  It took about three days to figure out that a career in the trucking industry wasn’t for me and that I would much rather go to grad school and find a different option a few years down the road.  I was accepted to the MBA program, but the class I would be part of didn’t start until the following January, leaving me with several months to fill.

I had worked for the university in a student job that was very flexible and paid well and I wanted to keep the job for the fall semester.  The problem was that, in order to have a student job, I had to be … well, a student.  I searched through the course catalog trying to find a class that I had the prerequisites for – a much more difficult thing than I had expected.

Even while on vacation with his family at the famous Cadillac Ranch in Texas, health care and his favorite hospital are always close to Steve Long's heart.

In the end, I landed on a class called “Introduction to Health Care Management.” I had no idea what health-care management was, but I didn’t have much of a choice, so I signed up for it.  The instructor for the course was exceptional and my eyes were opened to a whole new world.

About halfway through the course, I learned that a dual-degree track (MHA and MBA) was available.  I was fascinated by this and decided that the extra time was worthwhile if it culminated in two graduate degrees.  At the time, I still thought my business degree would be the focus, but then I did a project for an administrator at the university hospital, which then led to an internship.  Taking the concepts I had learned in class and applying them in a real world environment sealed the deal for me – health-care management would be my career.

I have been working in health-care management for quite some time now.  I have had the opportunity to work in many different settings and constantly learn new things.  For many years I thought I had come across my career in health care by accident … sheer luck, really.  After all, had it not been for my three days at the trucking company, I could have easily been doing something else.

I no longer believe in accidents.  Even though I am not a direct caregiver, I have sat next to too many patient beds, held too many hands, and listened to too many stories of the difference our health-care organizations have made in the lives of people.  During the course of my career, each diverse experience has built upon the last in ways I would never have imagined, and each prepared me for the next challenge.

Health care is a calling, regardless of the position.  I am thankful to have been called.

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Today’s NewsStand (May 22, 2012)

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

Iowa News

Even ERs need to be run like a business
To hear Ryan Sundermann, running the emergency department of a big hospital in some ways is not that different from any other business that has clients — people, trucks, ships, packages — coming in and clients going out. “Once the rooms are full, it’s all about throughput and moving patients through the department,” said Sundermann, St. Luke’s Emergency Department medical director in Cedar Rapids. “From 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., we staff to support every single one of our 34 rooms, and we rarely have any sitting open after 11 a.m. Once the rooms are full for the day, it works like a restaurant. You expect to get in without reservations, but on a Friday night, you’re going to be standing in line for an hour.” (Business 380)

Ida Grove hospital closes OB department after much deliberation
At the May 21, monthly meeting of the Horn Memorial Hospital (HMH) Board of Trustees, the board, Dr. Albert Veltri and administration made the decision to discontinue obstetrical (OB) services effective June 1. Dr. Veltri is currently the only physician delivering babies at HMH. This was a very difficult decision; and in light of that, the board and administration felt it was important to provide additional information to area residents through this public notice. (Horn Memorial Hospital)

Katie Beckett, advocate for disabled children being allowed to live at home, dies in Iowa
Katie Beckett, whose struggles with childhood disease and federal bureaucracy brought landmark changes to the federal-state Medicaid program allowing children with disabilities to live at home, has died in Iowa, her mother said. Katie Beckett died at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids on Friday after suffering digestive problems, Julie Beckett said. She was 34. Her case led to development of the “Katie Beckett waiver,” under which Medicaid pays for home care for disabled children. The U.S. law was passed in 1982, and Iowa’s version took effect in 1984. (Washington Post)

National News

A long view on health care: Think like an investor
Could health care costs be reined in by improving access to preventive care? It’s an idea that appeals to policy makers and many public health experts, but the evidence for it is surprisingly hard to pin down. Of course, preventing diseases is better than waiting for them to occur and then treating them. But there are questions about which diseases can actually be prevented, how effective preventive measures might be, and what they would cost. We put some of these questions to Dana Goldman, director of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California and founding editor of the Forum for Health Economics and Policy. (New York Times)

Hospitals struggle to provide translators
For the 25 million people in the United States with limited English proficiency, the potential for medical mishaps is multiplied. Too often, however, interpreter services at hospitals and other medical settings are inadequate. According to a study published in March, ad hoc interpreters make nearly twice as many potentially clinically significant interpreting errors as do trained interpreters. (Washington Post)

Hospitals prepare for a plus-size future
Hospitals and clinics are preparing for a future in which almost half of the population will be obese. “Obesity is just rampant,” said Trudy Ivins, bariatric program director at Memorial Hermann-Memorial City, who has helped the hospital incorporate furniture and equipment for heavier patients and their families throughout its facilities. The annual cost for obesity-related illnesses is estimated at $190 billion, but that doesn’t count the price tag for plus-size furniture and equipment, which can cost 50 percent more than conventional equipment. Economists say those expenses ultimately will be passed on to everyone in the form of higher medical bills. (Houston Chronicle)

Initiative aims to limit pay for CA hospital’s executives
Top executives of El Camino Hospital could see their compensation slashed by tens of thousands of dollars if South Bay voters approve a measure backed by an employees union. The El Camino initiative, which has received enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, would limit the compensation of executives, managers and administrators at the hospital and the district to twice the annual salary of the governor of California, which is currently $174,000. (The Bay Citizen)

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Today’s NewsStand (May 21, 2012)

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

Iowa News

Iowa Ranks high for low hospital cost
A new national study of Medicare costs has told Cedar Rapids hospital administrators Ted Townsend and Tim Charles something they already know — Iowa is ahead of the curve. Townsend, CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital, and Charles, CEO of Mercy Medical Center, say they aren’t surprised by a study that shows Iowa’s cost of providing health care to Medicare patients is ninth-best in the nation in cost-efficiency. Out of 34 hospitals surveyed in the state, not a single one was at or above the national median. (KCRG)

Safe haven: Baby boy given up
The Iowa Department of Human Services says the state’s Safe Haven law was used successfully earlier this month, as a mother chose to give up custody of her newborn baby. Officials say the baby boy was born May 12 in an Iowa hospital and the mother asked that the child be declared a safe haven baby. The child has been placed with a foster family that intends to adopt. (WHO-TV)

University of Iowa part of new health collaborative
Knee replacement surgeries at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and other hospitals across the country, including the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, soon could be handled by a specialized operating room team as the result of a data-sharing project among health systems throughout the U.S. aimed at improving health care and lowering costs. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

College-hospital partnership to promote patient care
It’s a partnership that’s bringing a Sioux City hospital and a local college together in the name of patient care. Mercy Medical Center worked with Morningside College nursing students who did literature-based research and came back to them with some changes that may promote even better patient care in the hospital. (KTIV)

Nurse practitioners on the rise locally
When patients come to see Marcia Hillman at Arrowhead Medical Center, they sometimes call her doctor. Hillman gently corrects them — she’s actually an advanced registered nurse practitioner — but she understands their confusion. After all, family practice ARNPs like Hillman can see patients, diagnose and treat their maladies and prescribe medication, just like a family practice doctor. “They can’t tell the difference,” Hillman said. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

National News

Data trove may shed light on health care uncertainties
Compiled by the non-profit, non-partisan Health Care Cost Institute, the database will allow researchers to slice and dice more than 3 billion medical claims for more than 33 million individuals in search of answers. The previously confidential information, scrubbed of identifying details, is being provided by three of the nation’s largest insurance companies: Aetna, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare—whose combined customers account for about 20 percent of Americans under age 65 who are insured through an employer. (Washington Post)

Rethink the health care product to cut costs
Expand the scope of healthcare to include basic life necessities and bring care to where people live to lower health care costs, concludes a new report from Harvard doctors published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The report takes a cue from resource-limited regions and recommends the U.S. healthcare industry change how it views what the healthcare product is and the providers who deliver it, according to WBUR’s CommonHealth blog. For instance, in Brazil, providers send low-income children home from the hospital with resources for ongoing nutrition, sanitation and psychological support, the authors note. (Fierce Healthcare)

Massachusetts hospitals mobilize on health cost bill
The Harvard-affiliated  Partners HealthCare System Inc. has led the lobbying charge among hospitals deeply worried that the Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s expansive 278-page plan to tame healthcare costs and other bills—intended to bring relief to consumers and employers struggling to pay high health insurance premiums—could harm their ability to provide high-quality care and cost jobs. Last year, Massachusetts hospitals and medical organizations spent $9 million on lobbying politicians, more than any other sector, reflecting both the industry’s size and also the high stakes. Nearly $1 million of that total was spent by Partners, the largest provider network in the state with nine hospitals and 6,000 doctors. (Boston Globe)

Your stories of being sick inside the U.S. health care system
To get a feeling for what being sick in America is really like, and to help us understand the findings of our poll with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, NPR did a call-out on Facebook. We asked people to share their experiences of the health care system, and within 24 hours, we were flooded with close to 1,000 responses. The stories, often lengthy and detailed, echoed what our poll found: Americans with recent firsthand experience of the U.S. medical system are more likely than the general public to say there are serious problems with the cost and quality of care. (National Public Radio)

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Today’s NewsStand (May 18, 2012)

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

Iowa News

New health care payment system links costs, patients’ outcomes
In January, Trinity Regional Health Center in f Fort Dodge founded an accountable care organization, under which hospitals, doctors and other health care providers are paid partly on how well their patients fare. That’s a switch from the traditional system, which pays most medical providers by how many surgeries, high-tech scans and other services they perform, regardless of whether patients get better. The changes will mainly happen behind the scenes, but proponents say they could bring major improvements in the quality of care and could help hold the line on medical costs. (Des Moines Register)

Medicare payment board merits repeal
By 2035, Medicare is expected to account for nearly 7 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product. In Iowa alone, Medicare spending grew by an average of about 7 percent a year between 1991 and 2009. In a misguided effort to address this problem, the 2010 health care reform laws created a board of 15 advisers given the task of laying down cuts in Medicare spending. The first problem is that these 15 members aren’t elected officials, but appointed bureaucrats. Though they are empowered to make binding decisions about Medicare finances and even to override decisions by Congress, they are accountable essentially to no one. (Des Moines Register)

Stroke rehab helps one eastern Iowan walk again
Thanks to rehabilitation at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, Scott Clements is now a miracle man to his wife. “There wasn’t too much motion in his leg at all. And he said he was gonna walk out of here,” said Edna Williams, a therapist assistant. Williams says attitude is everything and Scott is a pleasure to work with. “The attitude is the most important. If they feel that they can’t and they won’t, they won’t. I was so pleased with him and he’s the kind of person you really enjoy working with because anything I asked him to do he would do,” said Williams. (KWWL)

Iowa Cancer Consortium hopes to reach out to rural cancer patients, survivors
Medical professionals, healthcare providers, cancer survivors and more gathered at Ottumwa Regional Health Center’s McCreery Cancer Center for the Southeast Iowa Cancer Forum held by the Iowa Cancer Consortium Thursday. Iowa Cancer Consortium is a non-profit organization that works to collaborate with medical groups across Iowa to lower cancer rates in the state. (KTVO)

National News

Celebrities make pitch for NTSB-like patient safety panel
Actor Dennis Quaid has joined with patient safety and aviation experts to call for an agency akin to the politically insulated, independent National Transportation Safety Board to investigate cases of medical harm and report de-identified findings to physicians, hospitals and the public. “We do not have bad people, we have bad systems,” Quaid said in an article he co-wrote in the most recent issue of the Journal of Patient Safety. (American Medical News)

Tax-exempt reporting too burdensome, nonprofit hospitals say
The Internal Revenue Service guidance, particularly the Schedule H amendment, on reporting for tax-exempt organizations is too burdensome and overly prescriptive, the national collaborative for nonprofit healthcare organizations VHA testified at yesterday’s House Ways and Means Committee Oversight Subcommittee hearing. Among other nonprofit issues, Ways and Means looked at reporting requirements for tax-exempt hospitals. VHA urged Congress not to go beyond the original intent and to work with charitable hospitals to reduce governmental burden. (Fierce Healthcare)

‘Uninsurable’ patients could lose coverage if the health care law is overturned
Under President Obama’s healthcare law, cancer patient Kathy Watson and nearly 62,000 other “uninsurable” patients are getting coverage through a little-known program for people who have been turned away by insurance companies because of pre-existing medical conditions, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. Watson’s case illustrates the potential impact of tying everything in the far-reaching legislation to the fate of one provision, the unprecedented requirement that most Americans carry health insurance. State officials who administer the federal pre-existing condition plan in 27 states are trying to make fallback arrangements in case the law is invalidated and coverage suddenly terminates. (Washington Post)

Embattled hospital debt collector taps politicians for defense
Accretive Health has enlisted a veritable who’s who in health policy to come up with “national standards for how hospitals and other providers interact with patients regarding their financial obligations.” The group includes some well-connected heavy-hitters, including former Bush administration Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and Medicare chief Mark McClellan, former Senate GOP leader Bill Frist. There some prominent Democrats too, including former Clinton Administration HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle. (National Public Radio)

Cataloging wounds of war to help heal them
Each wounded or killed soldier was listed in a small but meticulous computer entry by Colonel Michael Wirt, a doctor intent on documenting how soldiers were wounded or sickened, how they were treated and how they fared. For those seeking to understand war and how best to survive it, the doctor on his own initiative created an evidence-based tool and a possible model. But there are concerns that the potential lessons from such data could be lost, because no one has yet brought the information together and made it fully cohere. (New York Times)

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