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Updated: 1 day 7 hours ago

House Calls Key to Pioneer ACO Success

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 07:02

Placing an emphasis on case management for patients with the most serious conditions and co-morbidities has paid off for two participants in the Pioneer ACO program.

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Readmissions: No Quick Fix to Costly Hospital Challenge

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 06:54

A pair of research studies reveals high hurdles providers face as they try to reduce readmission rates and avoid reimbursement penalties.

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CDC issues new guidelines for Ebola care

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 06:47

Federal officials announced new guidelines on Monday evening for the protection of hospital workers caring for patients infected with Ebola--guidelines that might have prevented the infection of two nurses had they been in place a month ago.The new guidelines, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, follow broad revisions announced just last week. The new recommendations provide considerably more detail, however, and have been reviewed by specialists at American hospitals that have successfully cared for Ebola patients. The procedures are based on the very strict protocols used for years by Doctors Without Borders, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the CDC's executive director, said during an unusual late-evening telephone news conference.

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Diagnosing Ebola: Why isn’t there a rapid, reliable test?

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 06:45

"Diagnosing Ebola is very different from treating Ebola." That assessment, by Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer at Texas Health Resources, during testimony before a Congressional panel on Thursday, sums up a critical concern at the heart of the current Ebola scare. It was the challenge faced by staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas as they struggled in late September to identify and manage the case of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient ever diagnosed with Ebola on American soil. Duncan, a Liberian national, died of the disease on Oct. 8. The problem: the absence of an accurate, rapid test for Ebola, even in the disease's symptomatic stages.

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CA nurses' union pulls Ebola into contract talks

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 06:43

The powerful California Nurses Association has put Ebola on the bargaining table in its negotiations for a new contract with Kaiser Permanente. Contract talks have been going on for months and the nurses' most recent demands are all about Ebola — better training, more staffing, protective gear that goes beyond what's recommended by federal officials and even a special life insurance policy. "We'd like to have an extra supplemental coverage, for specifically Ebola, if we were to contract Ebola while we're at work," says Diane McClure, a nurse at Kaiser Permanente's hospital in Sacramento, where a patient suspected of having Ebola was treated in August. He later tested negative for the virus.

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OSHA's new rules for Ebola and other diseases could be years away

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 06:40

The messy handling of the first Ebola case in the U.S. prompted the nation's largest nurses' union to urge stricter federal safety standards for hospitals. National Nurses United wants at least two full-time nurses assigned to each Ebola patient and full-body hazmat suits—and, above all, a concerted effort by the federal government to ensure rules are followed. "There is no enforcement," NNU Co-President Jean Ross said in a recent interview. "There is no one to say, 'You will do what the CDC says.'" At least one federal agency is considering new regulations that, while not specifically targeted toward Ebola, would raise standards for workplace safety from infectious disease.

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Could robots aid in the Ebola fight?

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 06:38

Could robots be the next line of defense in the fight against Ebola? Roboticists the world over have started pondering that question in earnest, with a number of intriguing possibilities emerging: Mortuary robots to respectfully transport those who've died from the virus and are still highly contagious. Waste-handling bots to dispose of biowaste from Ebola patients. Robots that deliver humanitarian supplies to widely infected areas. Early next month, robotics experts and medical and relief workers will convene at a workshop on safety robotics for Ebola workers to more formally explore ideas.

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Poll: Most doctors give Obamacare low grades

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 06:35

A recent survey of doctors by the Physicians Foundation finds that most give low grades to Obamacare. Some 46% of the doctors polled gave Obamacare a grade of "D" or "F" and 29% gave it a "C." Only 25 percent give it an "A" or a "B," including just 4% who gave it the highest grade. It's possible that some of the doctors who chose C really meant to say that it was at least reasonably good. But in modern America, thanks to grade inflation, a C is generally considered a very bad grade. Thus, it seems likely that a large majority of doctors have strongly negative view of the program.

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Few motives to fix busted health data

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 06:32

Someday, doctors will have our data at their fingertips and will use it to prevent drug reactions, nip diabetes and cancers in the bud and lengthen our lives while preventing unpleasant and costly hospital stays. But for most doctors, that free-flowing information highway is a beautiful dream that doesn't pay the bills. Many hospitals don't have any incentive to improve the clunky $30 billion federal electronic health records program: They still make most of their money by filling beds. Most doctors still get paid through procedures and visits. So a new 10-year plan for fixing the system from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT may have a hard time getting off the ground.

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New doctors site rates for experience, quality

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 06:25

The first comprehensive physician rating and comparison database launches Monday in time for open enrollment on federal and state health exchanges, as well as for many employer-provided plans. The new version of the website uses about 500 million claims from federal and private sources and patient reviews to rate and rank doctors based on their experience, complication rates at the hospitals where they practice and patient satisfaction. The new way to find the best doctor comes at a time when many health insurance plans offer fewer choices of doctors and hospitals. Users can sort and compare physicians based on where they live and their insurance plans.

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How Hospitals Can Become 'Upstreamists'

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 07:27

Leveraging existing resources and strengthening relationships with community-based organizations can lead to "huge ROI" for hospitals, says public health innovator, Rishi Manchanda, MD.

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How Top-Ranked MA Plans Earn Their Stars

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 07:10

High-ranking health plans in the Medicare Advantage program share the strategies that have led to their success.

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Pentagon plans Ebola response team to assist US hospitals

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 07:02

The Pentagon plans to train a 30-person response team to assist hospitals in the event of a more serious Ebola outbreak in the U.S., officials announced Sunday. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said forming the team is a "prudent measure" to assure the Defense Department can respond quickly to a domestic outbreak if needed. U.S. Northern Command will form the team, expected to include 20 critical-care nurses and five doctors specializing in infectious diseases. An additional five trainers will be on hand to teach hospital staff the proper methods for containing the spread of Ebola.

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Hospitals sweat potential Ebola liability

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 07:00

As public health authorities moved to calm fears about the risk from Ebola, lawyers last week urged health care and other clients to take precautions against spreading the potentially fatal disease ? and to mitigate attendant lawsuits. Since the Oct. 8 death in Dallas of Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, questions have surfaced about whether the hospital and the doctors and nurses who treated him followed adequate protocols. Two nurses who treated Duncan have been diagnosed with Ebola. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has attempted to assure the public that the disease is under control, but its handling of the situation was assailed during a congressional hearing on Oct. 16. Meanwhile, hospitals and medical providers crafted contingency plans in case the virus arrives at their doorstep.

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CEO of TX hospital group apologizes for mistakes in Ebola cases

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:56

At least one chapter of the Ebola saga neared a close Sunday, as most of the dozens of people who had direct or indirect contact here with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola, had been told by officials that they were no longer at risk of contracting the disease. Mr. Duncan's fiancée, Louise Troh, who nursed him in their cramped apartment while he suffered from diarrhea and who was put under state-ordered quarantine, was set to be declared Ebola-free by officials at the end of Sunday. So, too, were the paramedics who drove an ailing Mr. Duncan to a hospital and health care workers who drew or processed his blood.

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'I can no longer defend my hospital': Dallas nurse says Texas Health Presbyterian unprepared for Ebola

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:52

A Dallas nurse who cared for a co-worker who contracted the Ebola virus at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said the facility was unprepared to fight the disease and she would "do anything" to avoid being treated there if she were ever to fall ill with the potentially deadly virus. "I can no longer defend my hospital," Briana Aguirre said Thursday on NBC's "Today" show. Aguirre claims that before Thomas Eric Duncan arrived at Texas Health Presbyterian nursing staff had not been trained in how to treat an Ebola patient beyond being offered an "optional seminar."

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US to issue new Ebola care guidelines, watch lists to shrink

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:50

The United States will issue strict new guidelines telling American health workers to cover their skin and hair when dealing with Ebola patients, a top health official said on Sunday, while some of the dozens of people being watched for possible exposure to the virus are expected to be cleared. In Texas, a lab worker who spent much of a Caribbean holiday cruise in isolation tested negative for the deadly virus and left the Carnival Magic liner with other passengers after it docked at Galveston early on Sunday morning. The new guidelines for healthcare workers and the precautions taken for the cruise passenger reflected widespread anxiety over Ebola in the United States, including calls from some lawmakers for a travel ban on West Africa.

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Medicare patients pay more for rural hospital services

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:46

An electrocardiogram, used to monitor heartbeats, will cost a Medicare patient about $5 at the average hospital but nearly $33 at a rural, critical access hospital. ECGs and nine other frequently provided outpatient services cost from two to six times more for Medicare patients at the nation's rural, critical access hospitals compared to other hospitals, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Inspector General. Critical access hospitals are typically more remote, have fewer beds and require shorter stays. Ohio has 34 of them, or 1 in 5 hospitals in the state.

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GA's rural hospitals teeter as solutions are debated

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:42

Eight rural hospitals in Georgia have closed or downsized and another 15 are teetering on the brink of closure and could be gone in the next year or two, according to a group representing rural hospitals. While some say expanding Medicaid could help, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said he is against expanding "entitlements" and would rather see more poor people get subsidies to buy private insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Rural hospitals have taken hits from every direction, from higher unemployment rates in their counties, to physician shortages, to Medicaid cuts that mean payment covers about 85 percent of costs, said Jimmy Lewis, the CEO of HomeTown Health LLC, which represents 70 rural hospitals in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

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Topeka hospitals look to partnerships to reduce supply costs

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:36

Topeka hospitals are looking for savings on the supplies they use every day through broader partnerships. Jan Ferdon, director of supply chain management at Stormont-Vail, said in a statement that the health system was one of the six first members of Mid-American Service Solutions, a purchasing group under Texas-based health company VHA that now includes about 120 Midwestern hospitals and health systems. MSS allows for contracts with larger groups, making it easier for hospitals to negotiate lower bulk rates and to consolidate services like distribution, reducing costs, Ferndon said.

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