News

SPOTLIGHT: NY awaits release of hospital ratings


A New York state commission will release data on its hospitals as part of an inquiry into the state's hospital industry. The ratings process is being closely watched by hospital executives across the industry who fear low scores could hurt business. Article | Web site

ALSO NOTED: IBM distributes computing effort to help fight AIDS; Increase in employer healthcare costs slowing; and much more..

> IBM announced a major distributed computing effort designed to help fight AIDS. Article

> The rate of increase in employer healthcare costs slowed to 6.1 percent in 2005. The trend reflects the growing tendency among employers to pass health care cost along to workers. …

Editor's Corner


This week the most convoluted program in the history of Medicare began. I've heard comments from friends, neighbors and people in the press saying that they can't make heads or tails of the new drug benefit.

Whether you like it or loathe it, there are some interesting parts of the Medicare Modernization Act, including the HSA provision and the disease management provisions. …

In close vote, House rejects health spending measure

In a surprise decision, the House of Representatives rejected a health and education spending measure in a close (224-208) vote yesterday. The $142.5 billion plan included $900 million in cuts to healthcare services. Democrats and some Republicans who voted against the bill said they objected to provisions  which would have cut funding for the CDC and reduced aid to low income victims of Hurricane Katrina. Some observers see the unwillingness of moderate Republicans to vote …

In-hospital WiFi now used to track people, equipment

Now that cell phones and WiFi have been proven safe and essential for healthcare facilities, there's a race to get signals into those buildings. This has some interesting possibilities, but it is also causing some technical challenges to hospital technology managers. Frequently, buildings are too dense to allow strong cell phone signals, while increased demand for WiFi and VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) is putting pressure on the ad-hoc WiFi networks being built in many …

Senate passes Health IT legislation

In a unanimous vote, the Senate passed the Wired for Health Care Quality Act (S.1418), legislation that would increase federal funding for healthcare IT. The legislation, which has enjoyed broad bipartisan support, grants official recognition to Dr. David Brailer's Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology and authorizes spending on health IT projects. Some critics have charged the bill doesn't go far enough, reasoning that government spending must be increased …

Alvarado Medical Center case goes to jury

In San Diego, the jury is out in a closely-watched case involving Tenet's Alvarado Medical Center. Federal prosecutors accuse the hospital of violating federal kickback statutes by paying relocation bonuses to out-of-state doctors. The hospital and former chief executive Barry Weinbaum both face charges in the case. Tenet continues to insist it did nothing wrong, and that the incentives were necessary to attract physicians to San Diego at a time when real estate prices in the area were …

FDA probing deaths linked to Avian Flu drug

The FDA said it is investigating 12 deaths linked to the antiviral Tamiflu. According to authorities in Japan, the drug is linked to a number of adverse events and could be a factor in two suicides in Japan. An FDA spokesperson said the agency is not yet requiring any label changes, but may warn against a skin reaction caused by the drug. Maker Roche issued a statement saying no there is no evidence of any dangerous link.

- see this article from The New York Times

SPOTLIGHT: Emdeon cuts 2006 forecast, Tony Holcombe resigns


More problems at Emdeon as the company (the former dot-com known as WebMD) reports president Tony Holcombe will leave to pursue "other business opportunities." The company also revised its forecast downward for 2006. Although Emdeon is largely focused on its content business, it also offers a relatively popular Web-based claims service for physicians. Article

ALSO NOTED: Chutes & Ladders: Triad CFO steps down to join HMA; Cerner sets new highs on Oracle rumors; and much more...

> Shares in Cerner were up sharply, rising over $96.50 before dipping in late morning trading. Rumors of interest on the part of Oracle persist. Article

> Chutes & Ladders: The CFO at Triad Hospitals said he is moving on while a major research group has downgraded the company to neutral. Burke Whitman jumps to rival Health Management Associates.  …

Report assesses economic impact of hospital-acquired infections

The latest in a series of reports by a Pennsylvania agency charged with monitoring hospital safety finds that hospital-acquired infections in the state cost taxpayers and insurers more than $1 billion last year alone. According to the report, in 2004 Medicare faced $1 billion in extra costs related to infections, and insurers were billed an additional $603.8 million. Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that require hospitals to report infections. The local hospital association is …

HHS announces digital records initiative for Gulf states

The Department of Health and Human Services announced a new initiative that will fund two programs in Gulf states hit by Hurricane Katrina. HHS will work with the Southern Governor's Association and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to modernize the information technology infrastructure in areas impacted by the disaster. As part of the initiative, Louisiana will develop its own health information sharing and electronic health record system. Supporters of electronic medical …

Kaiser Permanente puts patient lab results online

In northern California, Kaiser Permanente is giving patients online access to lab and test results, a step long called for by many patient advocates. The system will give Kaiser patients access to the information via a password-protected Web site. The initiative is part of Kaiser's closely-followed HealthConnect initiative, the non-profit giant's billion-dollar effort to modernize operations by emphasizing electronic medical records and other key new technologies such as …

Hospital bed manufacturer settles antitrust case

Hillenbrand Industries, a leading supplier of hospital beds, has settled a federal class action lawsuit. The lawsuit charged that the company violated antitrust law by unfairly setting the prices of its beds and offering discounts to providers that agreed to rent its specialty beds. Under the terms of the settlement, the Indiana-based company will pay $337.5 million to customers who purchased beds manufactured by its subsidiary Hil-Rom. The suit was brought in 2003 by Spartanburg …

Reporting system to monitor ER data at NC hospitals

Health officials in North Carolina say the state is testing a new disease monitoring system which will allow them to follow conditions in emergency rooms across the state. The system will continuously collect information on patient symptoms at emergency rooms in North Carolina on 24-hour basis. The data will allow public health officials to monitor possible emerging health threats such as an influenza outbreak or other epidemiological events. Emergency rooms will get updates every 15 …

SPOTLIGHT: Questions about liability delay bird flu vaccine

Legislation that would move billions of dollars into the research and development of new vaccines designed to offer protection from the avian flu and other pandemic threats is being blocked in Congress by a group representing trial lawyers. The American Trial Lawyers Association opposes language in the bill that would grant legal protections to companies involved in vaccine production. Article

ALSO NOTED: Johns Hopkins in deal with Emageon;MedCath reports Q4 numbers; and much more...

> Johns Hopkins said it has reached an agreement with Emageon, which will see the hospital use the company's digital image management system. Release

> Heart device maker St. Jude has acquired Advanced Neuromodulation Systems, a company that makes an implant for the treatment of depression. Article

> Troubled specialty hospital …

Cerner hits record high;whispers about Oracle?

Cerner stock hit an all-time high yesterday with shares rising as high as $94.80 before an afternoon sell-off brought them down to earth. The company's good fortune led to renewed rumors of interest on the part of a major player--possibly Oracle. The increased interest appears to have been triggered at least in part by a delayed reaction to the release of the company's third-quarter results and media reports which indicate plans to hire more workers.

- see this …

Medicare Part D site draws criticism

Early media reports suggest seniors may be finding the new Medicare Part D enrollment tools at Medicare.gov difficult to use and understand. Enrollment in Medicare Part D plans began yesterday. The Washington Post reports that users found the site "slow" and "non-responsive." Expect this story to gain momentum in weeks to come, and possibly lead to changes meant to simplify the site for users. Then again, supporters of Part D are likely to argue that harsh reviews …

JCAHO to back down over data mining dispute

The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) appears to be backing down in its dispute with the American Hospital Association over the reuse of data JCAHO collects on hospitals. JCAHO had wanted the right to resell some of the information it collects on providers to third parties. The organization had explored a deal with the Blue Cross Association which would have sold access to data the organization collects as part of the accreditation process. …