News

A scientific explanation for out-of-body experiences

New research finds that having an out-of-body experience (OBE) may not, as many believe, be the result of some paranormal phenomenon. Doctors at the University of Geneva have found that by stimulating a brain region called the angular gyrus, they were able to reproduce the feeling of an OBE in two patients. One woman claimed that she felt as though she was looking down on herself from the ceiling; another reported feeling as though someone was watching her. Both women were being treated for epilepsy but neither had a history of psychiatric problems.

Researchers say that this proves OBEs and similar phenomena have logical--rather than supernatural--explanations. It also opens up a new understanding of the relation between a person’s body and their sense of “self.” “The research shows that the self can be detached from the body and can live a phantom existence on its own, as in an out-of-body experience, or it can be felt outside of personal space, as in a sense of a presence,” Dr. Brugger notes in The New York Times.

RNs say ruling could cripple unionization efforts

The word is on the street today that a new NLRB ruling will broaden the legal definition of the term "supervisor," a move nursing activists claim is a tactic designed to bust unionization in their ranks. The NRLB has not officially released its ruling on the Oakwood Healthcare case, the most prominent of several pending cases touching on the right of RNs and other workers to …

IL hospital loses high-profile tax case

The Illinois Department of Revenue has moved to strip Urbana, IL-based Provena Covenant Medical Center of its tax-exempt status, contending that it neither provides enough charity care nor makes it clear that charity care is available. Provena has been under fire since at least 2003, when a Wall Street Journal piece took the hospital to task for its aggressive debt-collection practices. According to this week's WSJ article, Provena still hasn't cleaned up its act …

UC Davis mulls pharma freebies ban

Jumping on a trend that seems to be gathering momentum, the UC Davis Health System may be the next medical center to strictly limit how much pharma company swag doctors are allowed to accept. Interestingly, the initiative is being driven by Garen Wintemute, an emergency doctor and UC Davis professor, rather than a bioethics think tank or executive board looking to polish its reputation. The effort is also endorsed by many UC Davis medical students.

While the restrictions are only …

Study: Basic errors trigger missed diagnoses

MDs hate practice guidelines with good reason--after all, no professional wants to substitute a by-the-numbers approach for following their well-honed instincts. Still, studies like the following suggest that sticking to a formula does have its benefits. Research just published by the Annals of Internal Medicine has found that where patients were harmed by incorrect or late diagnoses, the problem usually occurred because the MD made a mistake at one of a few key steps in the …

CA caps self-pay hospital fees

Perhaps laws like these will let hospitals like Provena know what the government wants before it brings the hammer down. Following on the heels of New York, which passed a similar measure earlier this year, the state of California has passed a new law limiting how much the state's hospitals can charge uninsured, underinsured or self-pay patients. While California Healthcare Association guidelines already cap fees for families at 300 percent of the federal poverty line or below, …

SPOTLIGHT: MD says Texas tort limits work


With Texas med-mal insurers offering rebates and state MD licensing climbing, something is going right. Pediatric orthopaedic surgeon Stuart L. Weinstein, M.D., chairman of Doctors for Medical Liability Reform, argues that Texas legislation limiting non-economic damages to $750,000 per case has turned around the entire medical economy of the state. Article

ALSO NOTED: Part D plans to flee the market?; Groups promote stillbirth awareness; and much more...

> On the Hill, policy wonks are predicting that many health plans offering Medicare Part D drug coverage will leave the market next few years. Article

> A group of advocacy organizations and provider groups have joined together to promote awareness of the still-unsolved problem of stillbirth. The group says one in 150 babies are stillborn. …

Union blocks firm's India care plans

Carl Garrett was ready to go to India to get his shoulder surgery. But his trade union stepped in to prevent that from happening, touching off a debate about the appropriateness of routing employees offshore for cheaper care. Blue Ridge Paper Products of Canton, NC had begun working with Raleigh, NC-based IndUShealth to develop a program letting its workers get procedures done in India. Workers who agreed to make the trip were to get a healthy cut of the resulting savings. Garrett decided …

Twin Cities hospitals scrap pediatrics merger

It looks like "coopetition" just lost another round. After months of wrangling for position that went nowhere, three Twin Cities hospital systems have dropped plans to merge their separate pediatrics programs into a single, high-profile pediatrics hospital. On the surface, the deal made sense. Each of the individual players--The University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, Allina and Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota--was unhappy about the comparatively low volume of …

Baylor plans to build teaching hospital

Houston, TX-based Baylor College of Medicine has decided to build its own private teaching hospital, a significant change in direction after partnering with other independent hospitals for more than 50 years. Baylor has partnered with St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital since April 2004. Previously, it had partnered with The Methodist Hospital for 50 years. Now, Baylor officials have earmarked $10 million in initial spending for a new, integrated Baylor Clinic and Hospital that will serve as …

Program keeps older nurses in workforce

As the number of nursing vacancies continues to mushroom nationwide, keeping seasoned nurses on the job has become more important than ever. In Michigan, they're addressing the problem by training nurses to transition into less-taxing work rather than retire out of the workforce entirely. Next year, the Michigan State University College of Nursing and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation plan to launch a program which will train hospital nurses to work in alternate settings such …

New CT scanner breeds demand, controversy

In theory, the more detailed diagnostic image you can get, the better it is. But some specialists are up at arms over what they say is overuse of a new imaging technology. About 1,000 64-slice CT scanners have been installed worldwide since the technology was rolled out two years ago. Particularly popular since Oprah Winfrey got her cardiac health tested using a 64-slice CT last year, they've become an extremely hot item for cardiology practices that want to demonstrate that they're on …

SPOTLIGHT: Retail clinics put pressure on hospitals


One Georgia consultant argues that cheap generic drugs a la Wal-Mart and retail clinics will lead to "chaos" in the healthcare system. With many hospitals, particularly rural hospitals, on the edge financially, changes in consumer health services uptake could doom some hospitals to extinction, he suggests. Article

ALSO NOTED: CA passes drug discount law;CIGNA HealthCare creates WA provider network;and much more...

> The state of California has passed legislation allowing it to funnel Medi-Cal spending to pharma companies that provide drug discounts. It also passed a law requiring insurance companies to cover HPV testing as part of cervical cancer screening. Article and article

> Michigan has …

Editor's Corner


Physician Shortage: Recruit or Reorganize?

This week there was a lot of talk about the physician shortages, principally in the area of primary care. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, patients in a number of …

Judge: CMS can't reclaim refunds

Last month, a "data processing error" at CMS caused the agency to incorrectly refund 231,000 Medicare recipients a total of $50 million--an average of about $215 per beneficiary. At the time, CMS said it would reclaim the cash, but critics observed that some cash-strapped recipients might have difficulty returning the money. Now a federal judge has quashed CMS's attempts to reclaim the money, ruling that …

IN providers protest Medicaid plan

In Indiana, doctors and hospitals are protesting a plan to transfer the state's Medicaid patients to three private insurers. Providers are vehemently resisting the change because the insurers have proposed a 30 percent cut to physician reimbursement for Medicare patients. Doctors and hospitals say that the steep cuts will force physicians to limit the number of Medicaid patients they treat, leaving a high number of indigent patients to receive expensive emergency care. Insurance company …

Bariatric surgery to increase bottom line?

As obesity rates in America continue to skyrocket, more and more patients are turning to bariatric surgery as a last resort. The growing popularity of obesity surgery has caused many hospitals to explore the option of opening their own surgery program. It can be a very profitable venture: The typical surgery runs $25,000 and is often covered by insurers. Thinking that it could add to its bottom line, Arkansas-based Northwest Medical Center opened a bariatric program in 2004 to serve …

Tenet to undergo integrity monitoring

Hospital giant Tenet has agreed to five years of corporate integrity monitoring as part of its settlement with the Department of Health and Human Services. In June, the company was ordered to pay $725 million to resolve outstanding charges that it improperly billed Medicare and violated other federal rules governing hospitals. The five-year agreement establishes annual training requirements and compliance reviews by independent organizations in certain specific areas. The company must …