News

Study examines primary care doc satisfaction

A new Merritt Hawkins study reports that most family practitioners, internists and pediatricians are unhappy with their salary, which averages $150,000 annually. Sixty-eight percent of physicians reported that they were satisfied with their jobs, but the remainder said they "somewhat dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied." Despite the fact that most primary care physicians like their job, however, only 37.6 said they would choose to go into primary care again if they had a second chance. …

Spitzer: Albany med center must revamp billing

New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer has announced that Albany Medical Center in Albany, NY will change its billing practices after receiving a number of complaints from patients. Individuals reported receiving bills from the Albany Medical center before the hospital even checked to see if insurers covered the treatment in question. Though the problems weren't widespread, the hospital has agreed that it won't bill patients until an insurance company denies their claim.

The …

Doc fights high costs with fake prescriptions

As healthcare costs rise and coverage decreases, many physicians feel as though they have lost their autonomy to insurance companies that dictate what physicians can treat and how much they can spend treating it. Stephen A. Hoffmann of New Canaan, CT is one such doctor who feels like his hands have been tied by the healthcare system. He's frustrated by restrictions that make it difficult for him treat his patients the way he knows they need to be treated. And so when one of his patient's …

Wellpoint, STS roll out P4P program

WellPoint is initiating a program that will reward surgeons for heart bypass surgery and other cardiac procedures if their patients experience positive outcomes. WellPoint has enlisted the help of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) for the project, an organization that counts 5,000 as members. STS will provide the insurer with performance information from hospitals and medical groups (but not individual surgeons) that perform the procedures, marking the first time STS has agreed to …

Conn. tackles hospital-acquired infections

A new Connecticut law requires that all hospitals report infection rates by 2008. In the United States, hospital-acquired infections and other medical mistakes account for 98,000 deaths annually and increases healthcare costs by $4.5 billion. It's an important step, because hospitals rarely report infection rates on their own. Last year the Connecticut Hospital Association revealed only three infections statewide, yet the CDC estimates that at least 21,000 of the state's patients pick up …

Less ambulance diversion means more profit

Adding additional hospital beds to the ICU improves emergency care, reduces patient risks and increases hospital revenue. This is according to a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, in which researchers spent two years monitoring the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. The study reports that every hour of ambulance diversion time cost the hospital a hefty $1,100 dollars. But when more beds were added, the hospital earned an additional $175,000 monthly …

End-of-life care drains healthcare spending

A new study from the Mayo Clinic reports that intensive care accounts for 30 to 40 percent of hospital spending, with the majority of care given to elderly patients with chronic conditions. In Olmsted County, NY, where the Mayo Clinic is based, patients in the last year of life accounted for one of every four days spent in the ICU. Treatment in this expensive setting contributes to the overall rise in healthcare costs. In another recent conducted study by the Center for the Evaluative …

Study assesses nurse satisfaction

A new study aims to assess nurse satisfaction in a number of areas, including  nutrition, housekeeping, facilities management, patient transport, patient lift teams, security, supply management and clinical equipment maintenance staff. The purpose of the project is standardize metrics that chief nursing officers can use to evaluate nurse satisfaction and, in turn, retention. The American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) hopes that the standards will "build a collaborative …

Fitch reports high not-for-profit margins

Fitch Ratings reports that not-for-profit hospitals are enjoying their highest margins since 1998. Operating margins improved 33.3 percent to 2.8 percent in 2005 from 2.1 percent in 2004.

This is both good and bad news for the not-for-profit sector, which could face backlash from the IRS if it appears as though the hospitals aren't providing enough charity care to maintain their tax-exempt status. The issue is clearly front-of-mind for the IRS: Last month the tax agency launched an …

SPOTLIGHT: Consumer's take on surgeon ratings

Rating surgeons is a tricky business. Reader responses to a The Wall Street Journal on surgeon ratings reveal that consumers, not just doctors, find the practice controversial. As one reader observes, "Can you imagine how expensive bypass surgery would become if only the best two-thirds of the surgeons and facilities continued to practice?" Comments (sub. req.)

ALSO NOTED: USC transplant program in trouble; HealthSouth CFO's punishment too mild?; and much more...

> The Los Angeles Times reports that yet another transplant program--this time at USC University Hospital--is in trouble. Analysis of hospital statistics reveals that the USC liver transplant program's mortality rates are twice the national average. As FierceHealthcare readers already know, USC is just one of a growing number of hospitals facing transplant program problems. …

Medicare to offer CDHPs in 2007

In yet another sign that consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) are here to stay, CMS has announced that the plans will be available through Medicare in 2007. The CDHPs will be used in conjunction with medical savings accounts (MSAs) that are similar to health savings accounts (HSAs) but allow beneficiaries more flexibility. The program is designed to protect Medicare recipients from catastrophic costs and lower premiums. Medicare will even cover the amount below the deductible by …

Regulation tightens on Mo. malpractice rates

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt has signed into law a bill designed to lower physicians' medical malpractice premiums. The new law will allow the state's Department of Insurance to monitor the medical malpractice insurance industry and give the department more authority take action when malpractice rates are determined to be unfair or inadequate. In addition, the law now requires that insurance providers give physicians 60 days notice if a policy is going to be canceled or the premium amount …

Sen. Clinton wins healthcare industry backing

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) is finding support--and campaign donations--from doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers and insurers. This is a major turnaround for the Senator, whose proposed massive reforms to the industry in the 1990s won her the ire of the industry and made her the target of more than a few jokes about "Hillarycare." Yet in the last few years, Clinton has become more moderate in her views and has help pass several bills in support of healthcare providers. …

AHA: Low-impact, tech-friendly care coming

According to a recent report from the American Hospital Association, future patient care delivery should be more mobile, lower-impact and even more technologically driven then it has been in the past. Patients are opting for ambulatory care as opposed to receiving treatment in a traditional inpatient setting. Minimally invasive procedures are growing in popularity, particularly because of the short recovery time, which is much easier on the patient and doesn't generate the …

Health Care Choice Act gains support

In a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) and many health insurers and other businesses voiced their support for a bill that would allow consumers to purchase health insurance plans from any state in the nation. Currently consumers must purchase insurance in-state. But each state has a separate set of insurance mandates that drive up the cost of coverage, making insurance too expensive for some.

If the bill becomes a law, consumers could buy …

SPOTLIGHT: Quality focus key to improving healthcare system

improving healthcare
In a Q&A with Michael E. Porter, co-author of Redefining Health Care: Creating Value-Based Competition on Results, the Harvard professor discusses why the U.S. healthcare system just doesn't seem to be working well. "The United States has tried a lot of models. We tried managed care, gate keepers, co-pays and the like, and they failed." His solution? Rather than push massive regulatory reforms, Porter argues that the system can be changed from the bottom up by improving the quality of care. Article

ALSO NOTED: Duke to assess NY mental health initiative; Odyssey HealthCare settles DoJ/HHS action; and much more...

> Duke University will conduct an assessment of New York State's Assisted Outpatient Treatment initiative, a program designed to provide safe and effective treatment for mentally-ill patients. Report

> Odyssey HealthCare, a hospice care provider, has settled an investigation by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services. The investigations arose from two whistle-blower actions filed …

Nurses fear adverse NLRB ruling

Nurses nationwide are planning to weigh in loudly this weekend on an upcoming ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The ruling in question could potentially reclassify hundreds of thousands of nurses as supervisors. Should the NLRB decided to broaden the definition of supervisor, it would make many RNs ineligible for union representation. Needless to say, nurses are outraged by the situation. They view a negative decision as an erosion of their rights as workers, an attack …

RI hospital: BCBS owes us$4.5M

Landmark Medical Center of Woonsocket, RI is claiming that the state's largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, owes the hospital $4.5 million in unpaid reimbursement rates. After years of wrangling with the insurer, yesterday Landmark's board of directors voted to allow hospital president Gary Gaube to take the necessary steps to receive the reimbursements, including filing a lawsuit if needed. Landmark also wants higher future reimbursement rates, totaling an additional $4.5 million. A …