News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Specialty drugs, Medicaid expansion drive jump in prescription spending
Modern Healthcare

Spending in the U.S. on prescription drugs rose by 13% in 2014, driven largely by increased spending on new breakthrough medications, according to a report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. And Medicaid patients’ spending on drugs rose much faster in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act compared with those that did not, the report found.

The IMS’ annual analysis on prescription drug use found medication spending reached its highest level since 2001, totaling more than $373 billion in 2014, with more than 4 billion prescriptions filled.

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Military-style Workflow Boosts Cancer Clinic Patient Volume 30%
HealthLeaders Media

At the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center clinic, a multidisciplinary approach to care combined with “military” style efficiency has resulted in an increase in daily patient volume and a decrease in patient ED visits. It’s also freed up physicians to focus more directly on patient care.

According to researchers Shereef Elnahal, MD, and Joseph Herman, MD, the Military Acuity Model (MAM) is a workflow that’s similar to the Lean management philosophy, but doesn’t focus on physical resources in the same way.

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CMS imposes record number of Medicare Advantage fines in first quarter
Modern Healthcare

The CMS has fined Medicare Advantage plans at a record pace so far in 2015, as the agency attempts to live up to its promise of cracking down on bad practices.

Almost $2.5 million in civil money penalties have been levied on 10 Advantage plans in the first quarter of 2015, according to the latest CMS data. In comparison, there was a single $50,000 fine in the first three months of 2014. The CMS also lifted enrollment sanctions on three companies that had fallen far out of compliance, saying their deficiencies had been rectified.

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Digital Tools For Health Come With ‘Hope, Hype and Harm’
National Public Radio

Dr. Robert Wachter has long been an advocate for patient safety and a keen observer of trends in medicine. Years ago, Wachter coined the term “hospitalist” and predicted the rise of these doctors who specialize in caring for hospitalized patients.

Wachter, associate chair of University of California, San Francisco’s department of medicine, has a new book out: The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age.  In it, he turns his attention to the rise of technology in health care, and the risks and rewards as we digitize everything from medical records to office visits. Here is an edited and condensed version of our recent conversation about it.

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Big Bills A Hidden Side Effect Of Cancer Treatment
National Public Radio

Anne Koller was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer in 2011 and has been fighting it since. But it’s not just the cancer she’s fighting. It’s the bills. “Think of those old horror flicks,” she says. “The swamp creature … comes out and is kind of oozy, and it oozes over everything.”

Koller, who just turned 65 years old, is petite, and sports a stylish auburn wig. When she was able to work, Koller was in the corporate world and safely middle-class, with health insurance and plenty of savings.

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Population Health and the Revenue Cycle
HealthLeaders Media

Most hospitals and health systems still operate mainly in a fee-for-service environment, but payment reform is on the horizon.

As the healthcare industry evolves toward risk-based reimbursement structures and clinical protocols designed around population health management models, the role of the revenue cycle is changing as well. Some hospital leaders are accessing claims data housed within the billing system to strengthen their organization’s ability to provide high-quality, low-cost care and are redesigning finance functions to create processes that can adapt quickly to changing needs.

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Roche grabs ‘liquid biopsy’ startup aimed at cancer
San Francisco Business Times

Health care powerhouse Roche bought a startup led by a team of Stanford University oncologists and industry veterans, the company said Monday. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. But the deal pushes Roche, the Swiss parent company of South San Francisco’s Genentech Inc., deeper into the world of cell-free DNA technology to detect and monitor cancer or early insights into potential problem pregnancies.

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Blue Shield’s tax exemption loss could trigger cascade
FierceHealthcare

It came as a bit of a shock when Blue Shield of California–not only one of the state’s largest insurers but one of its largest not-for-profit organizations–lost its state tax exemption. But it begs the question–which healthcare entities may be next on the chopping block?

State regulators in California cut off Blue Shield’s tax exemption last year, although it was disclosed just in recent weeks.  A former Blue Shield executive said that the health plan would have to surrender a significant proportion of its assets in order to redeem itself and hope to recapture its tax-exempt status anytime soon.

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Sacramento nursing home care gets more pricey
Sacramento Business Journal

Nursing home care in the Sacramento area, already above the national average, got more expensive in the last year.

The median annual cost of a semi-private room rose slightly to $94,535 a year, while private rooms jumped to $150,000 from $116,000.

These figures compare to median statewide rate of $89,396 for a semi-private room and $104,025 for a private room, according to the 2015 Cost of Care survey by Genworth Financial.

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Marin County Planning Commission gets early look at plans for new hospital building
Marin Independent Journal

Preliminary plans for a new main hospital building at Marin General Hospital were presented to the Marin County Planning Commission on Monday in advance of the filing of a formal design review application.

Vertran Associates, the project manager, is attempting to coordinate county approval of the building plans with approval from the state’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD), which also has to sign off on the building.

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Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital Earns Two Awards for Outstanding Wound Management
Santa Barbara Independent

The Center for Wound Management at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital is the recipient of the 2015 Center of Distinction Award and the Center of Excellence Award presented by Healogics Inc. in recognition of outstanding clinical and patient satisfaction results.

The Center for Wound Management earned the Center of Distinction Award for achieving outstanding clinical outcomes for 12 consecutive months.

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Sutter Health East Bay Rehab Center for Adolescents Faces Possible Closure
East Bay Express

The East Bay’s only residential drug and alcohol treatment center for adolescents could soon close its doors, prompting protests today against the facility’s operator, Sutter Health, one of the largest nonprofit healthcare corporations in California. The Thunder Road Adolescent Treatment Center in Oakland has long provided a range of mental health and medical services for Alameda County teens and provides a critical opportunity for rehabilitation for youth caught up in the criminal justice system.

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Cottage Hospital May Sell Off Santa Barbara Outpatient Surgery Center
Noozhawk

Cottage Health System announced Monday that it will explore the sale of its Santa Barbara Outpatient Surgery Center.

The divestment is intended to alleviate Federal Trade Commission unease about the hospital system’s proposed merger with Sansum Clinic.

In June 2013, the two nonprofit health-care providers unveiled plans to develop an integrated health system that would unite Cottage, the South Coast’s only inpatient hospital, with Sansum, the region’s largest outpatient clinic.

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Report: SVH is good medicine for economy
Sonoma Index-Tribune

Sonoma Valley Hospital generates more than $100 million in total economic activity every year, and currently provides 658 direct and indirect jobs in the immediate area. These are the conclusions of the recently completed Economic Impact Report, commissioned by SVH, which makes the case the health-care facility is an important part of the region’s economy. The figures are found in the study conducted by Philip King, a San Francisco State University economist.

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Tahoe Forest Hospital board appoints new interim leader
Tahoe Daily Tribune

The Tahoe Forest Hospital District Board of Directors has appointed an internal candidate to replace outgoing interim CEO Virginia “Ginny” Razo.

Chief Information Officer Jake Dorst beat out one other internal candidate for the job.

The board announced the appointment after closed session at a special Monday meeting, when directors considered internal candidates for the position.

The name of the other candidate isn’t being released by the district since it’s a personnel issue.

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