News

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 …

Shands cuts out insurers, seeks Medicaid enrollees

Shands HealthCare--a health systems in the southeast that includes nine hospitals and more than 80 affiliated physician practices--announced that it will roll out it's own Medicaid offering in an attempt to attract 80,000 possible enrollees in the Jacksonville, FL area. "We have essentially had to develop all the core functions of an insurance company--claims processing, provider relations, benefits plan design, utilization management, disease management," Doug Chaet, vice president of …

Senators ask CMS to delay DRG changes

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) are asking CMS to delay planned changes to Medicare payments. In April, CMS proposed changes to the diagnostic-related groups (DRGs), the system used to classify patient cases that determines how much Medicare will reimburse the hospital. Changes would include payments based on costs rather than charges and would be adjusted for the severity of each case. CMS wants to initiate the changes for fiscal year 2007, but the Senators want to wait …

GAO finds Part D info inaccurate

Investigators for the Government Accountability Office have found that companies that offer drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries often provide inaccurate or incomplete data. This is important because the premise of Part D is that out of dozens of plans, patients will choose the one that best fits their needs. But this isn't possible if they're receiving inaccurate data. The GAO also found that customer service reps often misquoted how much the plan would cost annually and that …

SPOTLIGHT: Working with informed patients

At some point, most doctors to deal with know-it-all patients who actively seek to inform themselves about their health issues and aren't afraid to question their physician's decisions. When physicians are willing to open a dialogue with patients, patients often experience better doctor-patient communication. But despite some people's willingness to do what it takes to learn about their health (an encouraging sign for supporters of CDHP), it's important to note that the information …

ALSO NOTED: Harvard honors VA for EMRs; Shortage of bilingual health workers; and much more...

> Harvard University has honored the VA for its advancements in the area of electronic medical records. The VA maintains records on 5 million vets and despite recent security issues, the program has successfully increased care quality and reduced cost. The agency will receive a $100,000 grant as part of the University's Innovations in American Government Award. Report

> Cook …