Category Archives: Hospital News

Attention, shoppers: Prices for 70 health care procedures now online!

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By Jay Hancock
KNH

Buying health care in America is like shopping blindfolded at Macy’s and getting the bill months after you leave the store, economist Uwe Reinhardt likes to say.

A tool that went online Wednesday is supposed to give patients a small peek at the products and prices before they open their wallets.

Got a sore knee? Having a baby? Need a primary-care doctor? Shopping for an MRI scan?

Guroo.com shows the average local cost for 70 common diagnoses and medical tests in most states. That’s the real cost — not “charges” that often get marked down — based on a giant database of what insurance companies actually pay.

OK, this isn’t like Priceline.com for knee replacements. What Guroo hopes to do for consumers is limited so far.

Guroo.com Demo from Health Care Cost Institute on Vimeo.

It won’t reflect costs for particular hospitals or doctors, although officials say that’s coming for some. And it doesn’t have much to say initially about the quality of care.

Still, Guroo should shed new light on the country’s opaque, complex and maddening medical bazaar, say consumer advocates.

“This has the potential to be a game-changer,” said Katherine Hempstead, who analyzes health insurance for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “It’s good for uninsured people. It’s good for people with high deductibles. It’s good for any person that’s kind of wondering: If I go to see the doctor for such-and-such, what might happen next?” Continue reading

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How much does it cost?

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A new website, www.guroo.com, allows you to find out how much care for common conditions will cost. The site provides local, state and national average charges for these conditions. The site was created by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI), an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization that promotes research and analysis on the causes of rising US health spending.

Guroo.com Demo from Health Care Cost Institute on Vimeo.

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Seattle Children’s and Mayo Clinic team to slash genetic testing costs – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Seattle Children's Whale LogoSeattle Children’s hospital and Mayo Medical Laboratories are creating a partnership to develop ways for children’s hospitals around the country to decrease costs and errors that come from unnecessary lab testing.

via Seattle Children’s and Mayo Clinic team to slash genetic testing costs – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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Senator to hospitals: Stop suing poor patients

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Prompted by an investigation by ProPublica and NPR, Sen. Charles Grassley asks a Missouri nonprofit hospital to explain why it seizes the wages of thousands of its patients.

Senatore Chuck GrassleyBy Paul Kiel, ProPublica, and Chris Arnold
This story was co-published with NPR.

Sen. Charles Grassley said nonprofit hospitals could be breaking the law when they sue poor patients over unpaid bills and issued a stern warning to one Missouri hospital that he hopes reverberates nationwide.

Citing a ProPublica and NPR report, Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter Friday to Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri, that has seized the wages of thousands of lower income workers who were unable to pay their medical bills.

Under federal law, tax-exempt hospitals are supposed to provide care to those who can’t afford it, but the requirements are fairly vague. Even so, Grassley said the hospital, which recently rebranded as Mosaic Life Care, had, at a minimum, stretched the law to the breaking point.

In his letter to Mosaic’s CEO, Grassley wrote that the hospital “may not be meeting the requirements to be a nonprofit, tax exempt hospital.” He also asked a battery of questions about the hospital’s treatment of lower-income patients, its debt collection practices, and how it administers financial assistance.

“The practices appear to be extremely punitive and unfair to both low income patients and taxpayers who subsidize charitable hospitals’ tax breaks.”

“Reports detail a number of instances where Mosaic failed to identify patients who would qualify for financial assistance and who have since been subject to abusive billing and collection practices,” Grassley wrote. “The practices appear to be extremely punitive and unfair to both low income patients and taxpayers who subsidize charitable hospitals’ tax breaks.”

As ProPublica and NPR reported, the hospital has its own for-profit debt collection subsidiary, Northwest Financial Services, which files thousands of lawsuits each year. From 2009 through 2013, the company garnished the pay of about 6,000 people and seized at least $12 million.

In response to the story, the hospital announced a review of its debt collection practices. Tama Wagner, chief brand officer for Mosaic, said the hospital expected that new recommendations would be presented to the hospital’s board next month. “Our goal is to do the right thing,” she said. Continue reading

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Seven reasons why getting healthcare in the US is deadly – Vox

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Medical errors kill more people than car crashes or new disease outbreaks. They kill more people annually than breast cancer, AIDS, plane crashes, or drug overdoses. Depending which estimate you use, medical errors are either the 3rd or 9th leading cause of death in the United States. Those left dead as a result of their medical care could fill an average-sized Major League Baseball stadium — sometimes twice over.

To learn more go to Vox.com

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UW to legislators: WSU can have med school – without $5.9M set aside for UW – Spokesman.com – Jan. 28, 2015

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wsuIf Washington State University wants to start its own medical school, it should do so without using $5.9 million set aside to expand University of Washington’s Spokane medical program, UW officials told legislators on Tuesday.

via UW to legislators: WSU can have med school – without $5.9M set aside for UW – Spokesman.com – Jan. 28, 2015.

 

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Q & A about Public Health’s investigation of an endoscope associated outbreak

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Tcrehe Seattle Times reported this morning that there had been an outbreak of multidrug-resistant “superbug” infections spread by contaminated endoscopes between 2012 and 2014 in which at least 32 patients at Virginia Mason Medical Center were infected .

Neither the hospital nor health officials notified patients or the public, the Seattle Times reported.

In response to the paper’s report, Public Health – Seattle & King County has posted the following  Q & A on its Public Health Insider blog:

Q & A about Public Health’s investigation of an endoscope associated outbreak

Voluntary reporting by Virginia Mason Medical Center led to identification of an outbreak of multidrug resistant bacterial infections in 2013. After months of investigative work, Public Health—working with Virginia Mason Medical Center, Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC)—linked the outbreak to a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholanCREgiopancreatography (ERCP). Since discovering the risk from this procedure, our Communicable Disease Epidemiology staff has taken a leadership role in drawing national attention to this issue in the medical community. Dr. Jeff Duchin, Interim Health Officer and Chief of Communicable Disease Epidemiology answered questions about this outbreak.

What is an ERCP used for?

The ERCP procedure uses a scope, or tube, that goes through a patient’s mouth and throat to reach their upper small bowel and bile duct system. ERCP is used in persons with serious medical problems including cancers and other diseases that cause obstruction or narrowing of the bile ducts.

What kind of bacteria caused the infections?

Infections were caused by two closely-related types of bacteria that are resistant to many antibiotics. In some cases, the bacteria were also resistant to powerful antibiotics called carbapenems.  These bacteria are referred to as CRE (carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae).

Was the outbreak caused by a CRE “superbug?”

No. The type of CRE that has caused outbreaks in other healthcare facilities has been referred to as a “CRE superbug.” It usually produces an enzyme that inactivates carbapenem antibiotics. The outbreak we investigated was not caused by this type of CRE, which did not have a carbapenemase enzyme.

What is the role of Public Health in this investigation? Continue reading

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Hospital prices grow at slowest rate in a decade – Modern Healthcare

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Hospital Entrance SignThe price for acute-care hospital care increased last year at its slowest pace in the 10 years for which comparable data is available, Producer Price Index figures show.

The Producer Price Index for acute-care hospitals increased 0.7% in the 12 months that ended in December. That’s well below the annual average of 2.7% recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics since 2004.

via Hospital prices grow at slowest rate in a decade – Modern Healthcare.

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Only a few Obamacare experiments to cut readmissions successful so far

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Illustration of a lightbulb lit up

Photo: Steve Woods

By Jay Hancock
KHN

Obama administration officials have warned that ambitious experiments run by the health law’s $10 billion innovation lab wouldn’t always be successful. Now there is evidence their caution was well placed.

Only a small minority of community groups getting federal reimbursement to reduce expensive hospital readmissions produced significant results compared with those from sites that weren’t part of the $300 million program, according to partial, early results.

The closely watched program is one of many tests to control costs and improve care being run by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which was created by the Affordable Care Act.

Dozens of community agencies on aging, from Ventura County, Calif., to southern Maine were offered money to try to ensure that seniors leaving the hospital received care that reduced their chances of being readmitted within a month.

But an early evaluation found that only four groups out of 48 that were studied in the Community-based Care Transition Program significantly cut readmissions compared with those of a control group. Continue reading

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Public health appoints new interim Local Health Officer

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Duchin

Jeffrey Duchin

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, MD, was appointed today as Interim Local Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Duchin is a familiar figure in the health field, having held the position of chief of the department’s Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Immunization Section since 1999 and frequently serving as a department spokesperson.

In his new role, Duchin will provide leadership in developing priorities and setting strategies for the health department, with a particular role as the key science advisor on program and policy development.

Duchin will split time between his Health Officer duties and his continued direction of communicable disease and immunization activities. He will also maintain an affiliation with the University of Washington as a Professor of Medicine.

As part of his Health Officer duties, he will work with other health officers in Washington State on health issues that cross county borders.

In addition, Duchin will represent Public Health – Seattle & King County on external committees, task forces, and as a liaison to regional and national professional organizations.

Duchin’s is currently the Chair of the Public Health Committee of the Infectious Disease Society of America and has served in many other advisory roles, including the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Institute of Medicine.

The Interim Local Health Officer reports to Patty Hayes, Interim Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County.  Prior to Duchin, the position was held by the previous Director, Dr. David Fleming.

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Which Washington hospitals penalized for having high rates of medical mistakes?

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Kaiser Health News

Medicare is penalizing 721 hospitals with high rates of potentially avoidable mistakes that can harm patients, known as “hospital-acquired conditions” or HACs

Penalized hospitals will have their Medicare payments reduced by 1 percent over the fiscal year that runs from October 2014 through September 2015.

To determine penalties, Medicare evaluated three types of HACs.

  • One is central-line associated bloodstream infections, or CLABSIs.
  • The second is catheter-associated urinary tract infections, or CAUTIs.
  • The final one, Serious Complications, is based on eight types of injuries, including blood clots, bed sores and falls.

Here are the Washington state hospitals that are being penalized:

Cascade Valley Hospital Arlington WA Snohomish
Deaconess Medical Center Spokane WA Spokane
Harborview Medical Center Seattle WA King
Kadlec Regional Medical Center Richland WA Benton
Multicare Auburn Medical Center Auburn WA King
Multicare Good Samaritan Hospital Puyallup WA Pierce
Northwest Hospital & Medical Center Seattle WA King
Peacehealth St Joseph Medical Center Bellingham WA Whatcom
Providence Holy Family Hospital Spokane WA Spokane
Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center Spokane WA Spokane
Providence St Mary Medical Center Walla Walla WA Walla Walla
Swedish Medical Center – First Hill/Ballard Seattle WA King
Swedish Medical Center / Cherry Hill Seattle WA King
Trios Health Kennewick WA Benton
Valley Medical Center Renton WA King
Wenatchee Valley Hospital Wenatchee WA Chelan
Yakima Regional Medical And Cardiac Center Yakima WA Yakima

Please contact Kaiser Health News to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column.

khn_logo_lightKaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Medicare Cuts payments to 721 hospitals with highest rates of infections, injuries

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Physician and Nurse Pushing Gurney

By Jordan Rau
KHN

In its toughest crackdown yet on medical errors, the federal government is cutting payments to 721 hospitals for having high rates of infections and other patient injuries, records released Thursday show.

Medicare assessed these new penalties against some of the most renowned hospitals in the nation, including the Cleveland Clinic, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa.

One out of every seven hospitals in the nation will have their Medicare payments lowered by 1 percent over the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and continues through September 2015. The health law mandates the reductions for the quarter of hospitals that Medicare assessed as having the highest rates of “hospital-acquired conditions,” or HACs.

These conditions include infections from catheters, blood clots, bed sores and other complications that are considered avoidable.

The penalties, which are estimated to total $373 million, are falling particularly hard on academic medical centers: Roughly half of them will be punished, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.

Continue reading

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How safe are outpatient surgery centers?

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Popularity Of Outpatient Surgery Centers Leads To Questions About Safety

Woman_doctor_surgeonBy By Sandra G. Boodman
KHN and Washington Post

Wendy Salo was alarmed when she learned where her doctor had scheduled her gynecologic operation: at an outpatient surgery center.

“My first thought was ‘Am I not important enough to go to a real hospital?’ ” recalled Salo, 48, a supermarket department manager who said she felt “very trepidatious” about having her ovaries removed outside a hospital.

Before the Sept. 30 procedure, Salo drove 20 miles from her home in Germantown, Md., to the Massachusetts Avenue Surgery Center in Bethesda for a tour. Her fears were allayed, she said, by the facility’s cleanliness and its empathic staff.

Salo later joked that the main difference between the multi-specialty center and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital — where she underwent breast cancer surgery last year — was that the former had “better parking.”

Salo’s initial concerns mirror questions about the safety of outpatient surgery centers that have mushroomed since the highly publicized death of Joan Rivers.

The 81-year-old comedian died Sept. 4 after suffering brain damage while undergoing routine throat procedures at Yorkville Endoscopy, a year-old free-standing center located in Manhattan.

Federal officials who investigated Rivers’ death, which has been classified by the medical examiner as a “therapeutic complication,” found numerous violations at the accredited clinic, including:

  • a failure to notice or take action to correct Rivers’ deteriorating vital signs for 15 minutes;
  • a discrepancy in the medical record about the amount of anesthesia she received;
  • an apparent failure to weigh Rivers, a critical factor in calculating an anesthesia dose;
  • and the performance of a procedure to which Rivers had not given written consent.

In addition, one of the procedures was performed by a doctor who was not credentialed by the center.

Continue reading

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Boeing, Starbucks demand and get better healthcare for their workers – LA Times

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starbucks-logoSeattle’s big companies have pushed local hospitals and doctors to meet the kinds of rigorous standards they use to build airplanes or brew coffee, reports The Los Angeles Times. Also in the news are a look at the SHOP exchanges for small businesses and the rate increases some of those employers are facing.

Where employers use quality control to shape healthcare – LA Times.

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King County man found not to have Ebola, released from hospital

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Map of SeattleThe King County resident who had been tested for Ebola has been found not does not have the virus, according to the results from the Washington State Public Health Laboratory, Public Health – Seattle and King County said Monday.

The man had developed a fever and a sore throat after traveling in the West African nation of Mali and had been admitted to UW Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center for evaluation. By late Sunday afternoon, his symptoms had improved and he was able to go home.

Following the CDC’s protocol for anyone arriving from Mali, his health will continue to be actively monitored by our Communicable Disease and Epidemiology staff until he has cleared the time frame in which Ebola could develop.

Learn more about Ebola: www.kingcounty.gov/health/Ebola

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