News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospital webcams keep parents connected to newborns
The Press-Enterprise

Bentley Kellman weighed less than 3 pounds when he was born prematurely at Parkview Community Hospital Medical Center. Instead of going home to Wildomar with his parents, Bentley was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). His parents drove back and forth from their home, spending six to eight hours at a time with their baby. A new technology at Parkview, however, allowed Bentley’s parents to see him anytime — even if they weren’t by his side.

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CMS’ Broome: Meaningful-use auditors seeking obvious targets
Modern Healthcare

Auditors evaluating the meaningful-use reports submitted by providers seeking incentive payments for their use of health information technology are utilizing risk-profiling to identify obvious targets, said Travis Broome, a CMS policy analyst.

“They’re not looking for low-hanging fruit, but fruit that has fallen on the ground,” said Broome, speaking to a room of more than 200 people in San Antonio at the MGMA-ACMPE’s annual conference. For example, he said, one provider reported the exact same numbers on all of the program’s quality measures.

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Kaiser Permanente CEO on saving lives, money
USA Today

George Halvorson built Kaiser Permanente into the nation’s largest managed care company and hospital system over 10 years as its chief executive. In an interview with USA TODAY reporter Jayne O’Donnell, Halvorson talked about the wisdom of empowering doctors to make health care decisions, why the rest of health care is not making the best medical choices and why he has the best job in health care but plans to retire next year anyway. These excerpts from the interview were edited for clarity and space.

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Sonoma County orders flu shots for some health workers
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Sonoma County Public Health officials said this week that hospital and nursing facility workers who work in a “high-risk settings” must now get a flu shot every fall. Those who decline the vaccine will be required to wear a surgical mask throughout the five-month flu season, which runs from Nov. 1 to March 31. This year, the rule takes effect Dec. 15.

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Healthgrades Revs its Hospital Scoring System
Health Leaders Media

With a revamped hospital safety and quality ranking system, Healthgrades takes its place among other groups scoring health systems: Leapfrog Group, Consumer Reports, U.S. News & World Report, Thomson Reuters, and Hospital Compare. Quality of care at 4,500 U.S. hospitals is being sliced, diced, scrutinized, and ranked yet again with a new and significantly expanded quality ranking system from Healthgrades.

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Serious birth complications rising in the U.S. – study
Yahoo! News

Severe complications from childbirth, including heart attacks and strokes, have been rising in the United States, although they still remain rare overall, according to a U.S. government study. In 2008-2009, there were 129 cases of severe complications – including heart attack, stroke, severe bleeding and kidney failure during or after childbirth – for every 10,000 women who delivered in a hospital, said researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC)

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Medical students develop EHR system targeting homeless, uninsured
Modern Healthcare

Medical students at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland have developed and implemented an electronic health-record system for homeless and uninsured residents who receive care at Baltimore Rescue Mission’s free clinic.

Based on hospital medical records, the system monitors what would be recorded in a typical patient encounter, including a history of a present illness; medical, social and family histories; results of a physical examination; and medication information.

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Smaller EHR vendors at play, too, in meaningful-use attestations
Modern Healthcare

The digital divide between large and urban hospitals and their smaller and more-rural counterparts may be closing, based on an analysis of a federal database of electronic health-record systems and the EHR vendors supplying products for hospitals participating in the Medicare EHR incentive payment program.

Mobile, Ala.-based Computer Programs and Systems Inc., a developer of EHR systems marketed to community, rural and critical-access hospitals, has moved up to the No. 1 position with the most hospitals (266) that are using a “complete EHR” system having attested to meeting the Medicare EHR incentive program’s meaningful use requirements.

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HHS inspector general’s office quizzes providers about EHR use
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals using electronic health records have until Friday to complete a survey from HHS‘ inspector general’s office asking myriad questions about how they use their EHR systems—questions that come at a time when critics have accused the industry of using the programs to increase revenue. The Oct. 11 electronic survey wasn’t mailed to all hospitals—only to those that attained EHR meaningful-user status in 2011, said Pamela McNutt, chief information officer and a senior vice president at Methodist Health System in Dallas.

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Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Invests In Digital, 3-D Mammography Technology
ChinoHills

So that all women in the Pomona/Inland Valleys and beyond have access to the most advanced mammography technology available, for the early detection of breast cancer, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC) has invested more than $1.8 million in 3-D breast imaging, called tomosynthesis.

The first of four 3-D mammography units has been installed at the Pomona Valley Health Center at Chino Hills and is now accepting appointments which coincide with national Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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Lack of dental care assistance puts patients, hospitals in painful cycle
HealthyCal.org

Dr. Jeffery Luzar will see up to fifteen patients a day in the Puente a la Salud Mobile Community Clinic, an auxiliary facility belonging to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange that provides dental services. Luzar has served the indigent population since starting his dental practice in 1997 and has watched their situation grow dire over the years. The clinic was started as a way to keep dental patients out of emergency rooms. Today, however, a number of them hop over to Puente a la Salud from St. Joseph’s emergency room.

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MGMA: Payment Uncertainty Dampens Physician Spending
Health Leaders Media

A time of “massive flux” from payment uncertainty leaves physician practices in a reductionist mode these days, according to Medical Group Management Association – American College of Medical Practice Executives President Susan Turney, MD. She shared her observations with attendees at the MGMA-ACMPE conference in San Antonio, Texas this week.

Doctors are trying to avoid red ink by significantly delaying delivery on new equipment, reducing charity care, and trimming clinical staff, Turney says.

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Many unprepared to care for elderly relatives, Sacramento County review finds
Sacramento Bee

The recession has led more people to take responsibility for elderly relatives, and they’re often unaware of the difficulties involved, according to a report released Tuesday.

Sacramento County’s Elder Death Review Team saw a number of cases in the last fiscal year that were the result of that lack of knowledge.

“What they don’t understand is how overwhelming the care can be,” said Marv Stern, an assistant chief deputy district attorney who serves on the team.

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Monterey County health officials say low-income program carries risks
Monterey Herald

Two top county health officials warned the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday about the potential risks of losing millions of dollars if a pilot low-income health program is implemented.

County Director of Health Ray Bullick and Natividad Medical Center CEO Harry Weis told the board that new information has emerged suggesting the county could be on the hook for nearly the entire $10 million to $12 million cost of the proposed program, Via Care. The program would serve as a kind of testing ground for the full implementation of national health care reform set for 2014.

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Disabled patients to benefit from Medicare change
San Francisco Chronicle

Thousands of Medicare patients with severe chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer’s would get continuing access to rehab and other services under a change agreed to by the Obama administration, advocates said Tuesday. The proposed agreement in a national class action suit would allow Medicare patients to keep receiving physical and occupational therapy and other skilled services at home or in a nursing home so they can remain stable, said Gill Deford, a lawyer with the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

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Obama administration agrees to ease in Medicare benefit rules
Yahoo! News

The Obama administration has agreed to relax Medicare’s requirements for skilled nursing and home health care, allowing beneficiaries to qualify for benefits even if their conditions are not expected to improve, according to court documents. A proposed settlement of a national class-action lawsuit, filed October 16 in U.S. District Court in Vermont, says the government will revise its Medicare manual to make benefits available when care would only “maintain the patient’s current condition or … prevent or slow further deterioration.”

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Medicare is imperfect, but it works for U.S.
Modesto Bee

David Brooks (“It’s past time to change Medicare,” Oct. 11) is right when he says Medicare costs are too high now and will get worse unless things change. But, no, Mr. Brooks, the solution is not in competition, free enterprise and market forces. Buying medical care is not like buying a car. If we bought cars the way we buy health care, the car salesman would tell us when we needed a car, what kind of car we need and how much it would cost.

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Sequoia Hospital’s Heart And Vascular Institute In Top 5% Of U.S. Hospitals For Cardiac Surgery
Sacramento Bee

The Heart and Vascular Institute at Sequoia Hospital has again been ranked in the top 5 percent of hospitals in the country for quality of patient outcomes in cardiac surgery. This is the fourth consecutive year the Hospital has earned this distinction from Healthgrades, the leading independent provider of information to help consumers make informed decisions about physicians and hospitals.

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Integrating Wellness Programs With Incentives
Workforce Management

The typical large employer has about 21 wellness programs available to its workers, the Pacific Business Group on Health says.

Overseeing these programs and tracking their efficacy and employee participation can be daunting for benefits managers. One company aims to make the management of employee wellness programs easier.

IncentOne bills itself as a “universal remote” for employer wellness offerings, says Mike Derner, CEO of the Lyndhurst, New Jersey-based company.

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One in 1,000 Men Battles Breast Cancer
KABC

Cecil Herrin kept asking his doctor for a mammogram, but the construction company owner was an unlikely candidate for the breast cancer screening test. “He said nothing was wrong with me,” said Herrin, recalling his doctor’s dismissal of the growing lump below his right nipple. “I knew there was something wrong.” Twelve months later, Herrin’s cardiologist spotted the lump during a routine check-up. “She said, ‘You need to get a mammogram and ultrasound,’” said Herrin, who lives in Grovetown, Ga. “I said, ‘I’ve been trying.’”

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Basic Health Plan Could Help Low Income Californians
KION

An estimated 800,000 of the one million new enrollees in California’s online healthcare exchange could be out of the exchange’s marketplace, before the program, set for a 2014 launch, even begins. If California passes the Basic Health Care Plan, a government run program for low income adults who barely earn above the Medi-Cal income level, threatening the exchange’s ability to stay competitive.

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Free advice offered on Medicare’s prescription drug coverage
Sacramento Bee

Free advice on Medicare Part D — the prescription coverage portion of Medicare — is part of a community health fair scheduled for Saturday at California Northstate University College of Pharmacy in Rancho Cordova. Free information on a range of other health issues, including diabetes, cholesterol and cancer, will also be available. Other free services at the fair include brown bag reviews of prescriptions, flu shots, blood pressure screening and the responsible recycling of expired medications.

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It’s a patient’s job to be informed too
Daily Pilot

Concurrent with my duties as a weekly columnist for the Daily Pilot, I provide business development guidance to physicians and dentists. Since 1998, this work has taken me behind the scenes at countless medical and dental offices, clinics and hospitals. I have consulted for solo practitioners, group practices and large medical facilities and recently spent two years managing my wife’s treatment for brain cancer.

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Blues CMO says there’s ‘no question’ medical-home model works
Modern Physician

Without hesitation, Dr. Allan Korn, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association’s chief medical officer and senior vice president for clinical affairs, declared that the patient-centered medical home has the potential to transform the U.S. healthcare system. “The things you want going up are going up, and the things you want going down are going down,” said Korn in an interview following his appearance Monday on a panel assessing the state of the healthcare industry presented in San Antonio at the MGMA-ACMPE’s annual conference.

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GOP blustering about EHR program – There they go again
Modern Healthcare

How can one respond to the news of four more Republicans writing another letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the federal electronic health-record incentive payment program other than to invoke Ronald Reagan? “There you go again.” In their Oct. 17 letter, Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) weren’t as lopsided in their argument or as inflammatory in their rhetoric questioning the program as were their House counterparts, who, in an Oct.4 letter accused the feds of “padding the numbers” of EHR adopters while alleging the program will squander taxpayers’ dollars.

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