News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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New technology helps doctors link a patient’s location to illness and treatment
Washington Post

Epidemiologist David Van Sickle spent years studying asthma, but like many researchers of the chronic disease, he was frustrated by the obstacles to determining precise triggers of an individual attack. That frustration gave him an idea for a rescue inhaler topped with a GPS sensor. The invention would map the user’s location every time he took a puff and send that information back to his doctor.

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Hang On for Risk-Bearing Contracts, Rewards
Health Leaders Media

Of all the strategic shifts facing health systems in the coming years, none involves so many underlying fundamentals of the business as the shift away from a fee-for-service model of reimbursement to one based more on risk-bearing contracts and population health models. Roundtable panels of members at the HealthLeaders Media CFO Exchange and CEO Exchange, invitation-only events held last fall, described the shift as a great leap forward with both high potential and a big downside.

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California’s Premature Birth Rate Continues To Fall
KPBS

California’s rate of premature births declined slightly in 2011. A new report from the March of Dimes shows California’s rate has fallen five years in a row. The report shows overall, 9.8 percent of babies in California were born premature in 2011. Only four states have a lower premature birth rate: Oregon, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. In California, some populations had a much higher rate. For example, the premature birth rate among uninsured women was 25 percent.

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Rural doctors care for more than patients
Monterey Herald

On a morning in early January, the air is cold and Firebaugh’s main street is nearly empty. But the Sablan Medical Clinic is quickly filling up with people eager to see the physicians they affectionately call Dr. Marcia and Dr. Oscar.

Thirty years ago, Oscar Sablan and his wife, Marcia, made a plan: work in a rural area for three years and walk away without any medical school debt. So they moved from tropical Hawaii to dusty Firebaugh and started a practice in a trailer on the corner of O and 9th streets. They didn’t intend to stay.

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Capitol leaders offer legislation to expand Medi-Cal
Capitol Weekly

Democratic leaders of the Assembly and the Senate have proposed legislation to carry out a federal mandate starting in 2014 to expand eligibility to 1.6 million Californians for Medi-Cal, the state’s health care system for the poor. The action coincided with the beginning of a special legislative session called by Gov. Jerry Brown to focus on the complicated implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which expands coverage under Medi-Cal – California’s version of Medicaid — to everyone under age 65 with incomes that don’t exceed 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

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More knowledgeable patients cost less to treat: study
Modern Healthcare

Patients’ grasp of treatment choices and the confidence with which they manage their health and medical care may influence healthcare spending, a newly published study said.

Patients with the highest scores on a self-reported survey of “knowledge, skills and confidence” to make healthy choices and informed medical decisions were less costly than those with the lowest scores, based on projected spending for roughly 33,610 patients in 2010, researchers wrote in the latest issue of the Health Affairs.

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Momentum Builds in Sacramento for Better Medical Interpretation
Voice of San Diego

East African refugees in City Heights are fighting for better face-to-face medical interpretation. They say current phone-based interpretation services fall short — if they’re used at all — and put patients at risk. Now there’s momentum in Sacramento behind the cause. A group called Interpreting for California is working with Assembly Speaker John Perez to introduce legislation later this month that would drastically improve access to medical interpreters.

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Home health aides serve a growing population; here’s what you need to know
Washington Post

The demand for home-care aides — also known as personal-care aides and home health aides — is skyrocketing as the number of seniors continues to grow. The Department of Labor projects that in-home assistance will be the nation’s fastest-growing occupation by 2020. Those workers help seniors, the infirm and people with intellectual or developmental disabilities with personal hygiene, taking medication, preparing meals, doing household chores and other tasks.

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Along with flu and colds, winter brings more fatal heart attacks and strokes
Washington Post

Winter often brings the flu, coughs, ski injuries and shoveling strains. Add to these ailments a more deadly one: heart attacks. A recent study has found that more fatal heart attacks and strokes occur during the winter than at other times of the year. And it doesn’t seem to matter if the winter is occurring in the warmer climes of Southern California or the frostier ones of Boston.

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It may have a new name, but El Camino Los Gatos is still a community hospital
The Mercury News

On Dec. 17, 1962, Roberta “Robbie” Smith was admitted to Community Hospital of Los Gatos, where she gave birth to a daughter she named Sarah. It was undoubtedly a big day for Smith, but it was also an important day for Los Gatos, because it was the first day the hospital was open for business. Now, just over 50 years later, the hospital–located at 855 Pollard Road in the center of a triangle between Los Gatos, Saratoga and Campbell–is known as El Camino Hospital Los Gatos. And boy, have things changed since that first baby girl was delivered.

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Sutter Davis Hospital snags state performance award
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Davis Hospital will receive the Governor’s Award for performance excellence from the California Council for Excellence at a ceremony in Irvine Monday night. The award goes to organizations that have been gold award winners for three years. The state awards program emulates the national Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, which recognizes organizations that demonstrate superior performance in seven key business areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; process management and results.

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Primary care faces hurdles on shared decisionmaking: study
Modern Healthcare

An eight-site demonstration project has revealed some of the biggest challenges facing primary-care practices seeking to implement shared decisionmaking, according to a study in the February issue of Health Affairs. Launched in July 2009 and led by the Boston-based Informed Medical Decisions Foundation, the demonstration project supported and followed early adopters as they planned and put in place a number of decision aids to better engage patients in their care.

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Palo Alto treads toward health care reform
Palo Alto Online

As medical costs continue to soar, Palo Alto officials are exploring ways to revamp the health care plans the city offers to its employees and retirees — an effort that is already creating anxiety and threats of lawsuits from labor unions. The Palo Alto City Council discussed the deeply contentious topic of rising health care costs at length on Monday night.

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A Patient’s Guide: How To Stay Safe In a Hospital
Pro Publica

Propping up a patient’s hospital bed at a 30-degree angle can help prevent hospital-acquired pneumonia. Using alcohol wipes kills staph bugs, but you need bleach wipes to kill C. diff germs. High-protein snacks can help prevent bed sores. However, most patients don’t know these things. And doctors and nurses can easily overlook these basic care practices.

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Patients taken off life support as part of lung surgery at UCSD
San Diego Union-Tribune

UCSD’s Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center is a world leader in a lifesaving surgery called Pulmonary Thromboendarterectomy.

The procedure is unique because the patient is actually taken off life support for 20 minutes; not once but twice.

Jeff Eckhoff, 57, and his wife, Gayle, will never forget that day on their Oklahoma cattle ranch in 2010 when a cow charged at Jeff by surprise.

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Two hospitals trying out bundled payments for care
Sacramento Business Journal

Marshall Medical Center in Placerville and Sutter Medical Center Sacramento have been selected by federal health officials to test bundled payments that pay for an entire episode of care rather than test by test, treatment by treatment. Authorized by the Affordable Care Act, the new approach hopes to improve coordination of care and cut costs for Medicare, the federal health care program for seniors.

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Business Group Pushes for Health Prices
Workforce Management

In the ongoing quest to crack the lock box of health pricing, a nonprofit group hopes to exert some big-business pressure. Late last year, the Catalyst for Payment Reform issued a statement calling on plans and health providers to provide more data to enrollees and do it in a consumer-friendly format that breaks it down by hospital or physician. Self-insured employers also should be allowed to share their claims data with an outside vendor if they prefer to develop their own cost-calculating tools.

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Our View: All eyes are on California health reform
Merced Sun-Star

The November election ensured that the most ambitious health care reform since the creation of Medicare in 1965 will take full effect in January 2014. California, like other states, is gearing up to ensure affordable insurance is available when the individual mandate kicks in, requiring Americans to maintain health insurance coverage so they don’t pass their costs to others. We are far ahead of most states in setting up a marketplace — an “exchange” called “Covered California” — where people can buy health insurance if their employer doesn’t provide coverage.

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Getting Pay-For-Performance Right
The Health Care Blog

Over the past decade, there has been yet another debate about whether pay-for-performance, the notion that the amount you get paid is tied to some measure of how you perform, “works” or not. It’s a silly debate, with proponents pointing to the logic that “you get what you pay for” and critics arguing that the evidence is not very encouraging. Both sides are right. In really simple terms, pay-for-performance, or P4P, can be thought about in two buckets: the “pay” part (how much money is at stake) and the “performance” part (what are we paying for?).

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Malpractice insurer The Doctors Co. says Utah merger is no go
San Francisco Business Times

The Doctors Co., a medical malpractice insurer based in Napa, said Monday its planned acquisition of the Utah Medical Insurance Association “has been terminated.” The deal, announced Oct. 29, is dead, the med-mal insurer said, without providing details. In its earlier announcement, the Doctors Co., headed by longtime chairman and CEO Richard Anderson, M.D., said the Utah association provides medical malpractice coverage to 3,000 physicians in Utah, Montana and Wyoming.

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