Category Archives: Hospital News

Patient education event about brain tumor management


All are welcome to attend Swedish’s Seattle First Annual Innovative Approaches to Brain Tumor Management Patient Education Course set for Friday, March 18, 2016 from 5:30 to 8 a.m. at the Seattle Science Foundation.

Leading experts in the field will come together to discuss the future of brain tumor management including the progress in personalized medicine and implications of immunotherapy in specializing treatment.

The event is free. To learn more and to register go here.


Inslee calls for public health approach to gun violence


GunFrom the Office of the Governor

Gov. Jay Inslee today signed an executive order that launches a statewide public health initiative to reduce and prevent gun-related fatalities and injuries.

The order uses the same data-driven public health approach that has significantly reduced motor vehicle deaths over the past two decades.

The initiative will help the state understand the people and places most at risk of gun violence or suicide, determine the best approaches to reducing gun violence and work with its partners to develop strategies and actions to prevent gun violence.

“This will be a data-driven approach that helps us identify the people and places most susceptible to gun crime and suicide,” Inslee said. “Gun crime is a scourge that has scarred thousands of families in every corner of our state. It’s a scourge we can, should and will help prevent.”

Between 2012 and 2014, 665 people died in Washington state from firearm injuries, compared to 497 deaths from automobile accidents. Approximately 80 percent of the firearm deaths were suicides.

Inslee’s order requires the Department of Health and the Department of Social and Health Services, in collaboration with the University of Washington and other state and local agencies to collect, review and disseminate data on deaths and injury hospitalizations related to firearms, as well as recommend strategies to reduce firearm-related fatalities and serious injuries.

Inslee said he also wants to further strengthen the background check law approved by Washingtonians in 2014. He is directing the state Office of Financial Management to analyze the effectiveness of information sharing between state agencies, the courts, local jurisdictions, law enforcement and other entities to determine if there are ways to improve the effectiveness of the system.

He is also requesting the Attorney General’s office to analyze current enforcement practices to make sure those attempting to purchase a firearm illegally are held accountable.

He is also asking them to update a 2007 white paper regarding access to firearms for those with mental illness. The white paper included recommendations that have yet to be implemented such as a centralized background check system.

Inslee is directing agencies to submit recommendations by October of 2016. Continue reading


Push on to open up medical records to patients


Shelves packed with medical records

Push On To Make Transparent Medical Records The National Standard Of Care

By Michelle Andrews

Perched on an exam table at the doctor’s office watching the clinician type details about their medical problems into their file, what patient hasn’t wondered exactly what the doctor is writing?

In an experiment, 100 primary care doctors volunteered to open up their notes to 20,000 of their patients at three medical institutions, including Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

As many as 50 million patients may have a chance to find out in the next few years, following the announcement this week of $10 million in new grants to expand the OpenNotes project, which works with medical providers to expand patient access to clinician notes.

OpenNotes started in 2010 as a research project to examine what would happen if patients had easy access to their doctor’s visit notes, which may include a summary of their conversation, the symptoms patients describe and their doctor’s findings from a physical exam.

Although patients have a legal right to their medical records, getting those documents is often difficult and expensive.

In that experiment, 100 primary care doctors volunteered to open up their notes to 20,000 of their patients at three medical institutions: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

At the end of a year, according to survey results published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, more than 90 percent of patients said they thought open visit notes were a good idea. More than two-thirds of physicians who participated in the program agreed, though more than half said they thought opening up their notes to their patients would cause them more worry. Continue reading


Norman E. Breslow, key figure in public health and biomedical research, dies at 74


Norm Breslow head shot 2007From the University of Washington

The public health community at the University of Washington and around the world was saddened by the loss of Norman E. Breslow on Dec. 9, 2015. Dr. Breslow, 74, died in Seattle after a long illness.

During Dr. Breslow’s nearly 50-year career at the University of Washington as a scholar, mentor, and scientist, he helped build the modern field of biostatistics, which is the basic science of learning from biomedical data.

He played a significant role in enhancing the quality and rigor of biomedical research and public health.

Breslow’s work in statistical methods for medical research transformed the field of epidemiology.

“For all of us in Seattle, Norm was a giant, and one who defined the ideals that characterize a scholar and mentor,” said current University of Washington Biostatistics Chair Patrick Heagerty, “I was blessed to work with him for 20 years, and will always have his commitment, courage, and passion for inspiration.”

As noted by his colleagues at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, his work in statistical methods for medical research transformed the field of epidemiology. Continue reading


Many hospitals neglect practices to combat ER overcrowding, study


Sign for an emergency room.By Michelle Andrews

Crowded emergency departments have been vexing patients and hospital staff for years as consumers have increasingly sought care there.

But a new study finds that many of the busiest facilities have yet to adopt several well regarded measures to reduce the wait and minimize delays.

The study, published in the journal Health Affairs this week, measured crowding based on patients’ length of stay in the emergency department and then divided hospitals into quartiles from least to most crowded.

Overcrowding in the emergency department can lead to worse outcomes for patients, including more complications and higher mortality rates.

In 2010, half of patients in the least crowded quartile of emergency departments spent less than 93 minutes there, while in the most crowded quartile of EDs half of patients had a length of stay of more than 160 minutes.

Overcrowding in the emergency department can lead to worse outcomes for patients, including more complications — especially for cardiovascular patients — and higher mortality rates.

The study examined hospital implementation of 17 practices to reduce crowding in emergency departments and counted how many of them hospitals adopted from 2007 to 2010.

The data came from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, an annual survey that includes approximately 36,000 hospital-based emergency department visits.

The interventions included separating patients with minor problems from those more seriously harmed to improve workflow, computer-assisted triage systems and hospital protocols to move admitted patients out of the emergency department to inpatient areas to await room assignment rather than “boarding” them in the emergency department.

During the study period, the number of measures that hospitals put in place to reduce crowding grew by 25 percent, on average. In addition, more crowded emergency departments generally adopted more interventions than did less crowded ones. But among the emergency departments in the most crowded grouping, significant numbers didn’t adopt effective interventions, the study found. Continue reading


Medicare penalizes 758 hospitals for safety incidents


Physician and Nurse Pushing Gurney

By Jordan Rau

The federal government is penalizing 758 hospitals with higher rates of patient safety incidents, and more than half of those places had also been fined last year, Medicare records released late Wednesday show.

Among the hospitals getting punished for the first time are some well-known institutions, including Stanford Health Care in Northern California, Denver Health Medical Center and two satellite hospitals run by the Mayo Clinic Health System in Minnesota, according to the federal data.

The fines are based on the government’s assessment of the frequency of several kinds of infections, sepsis, hip fractures and other complications. Medicare will lower all its payments to the penalized hospitals by 1 percent over the course of the federal fiscal year, which runs through September 2016. In total, Medicare estimates the penalties will cost hospitals $364 million.

Penalized hospitals in Washington state:


The penalties, created by the 2010 health law, are the toughest sanctions Medicare has taken on hospital safety, and they remain contentious. Patient safety advocates worry the fines are not large enough to alter hospital behavior and that they only examine a small portion of the types of mistakes that take place. Medicare plans to add more types of conditions in future years.

“I think the penalties are important,” said Helen Haskell, a prominent patient advocate. “I think it’s the only thing that gets people’s attention. My concern is the measures stay strong or even be strengthened.” Continue reading


Macular Degeneration: a leading cause of blindness


Learn Basics about the Leading Cause of Blindness in the U.S.


Dr. Connie Chen

By Guest column Connie Chen, MD
Virginia Mason 

Stephen King, Georgia O’ Keefe, Sam Snead, Bob Hope and Edgar Degas all have something in common — loss of vision due to a condition called macular degeneration.

As many as 11 million Americans have some form of the disease and it is the leading cause of blindness in the United States.

The part of the eye affected is the macula, the area of the retina that is responsible for the sharp, central vision we need for reading and tasks that require seeing things in detail, such as sewing.

Although macular degeneration sometimes occurs in younger people, the condition mainly affects people 65 and older, so it is generally referred to as age-related macular degeneration or AMD.

Symptoms of AMD

The onset of AMD is so gradual that early in the course of the disease most patients don’t notice any loss of vision. As a result, early AMD often goes undiagnosed until the individual has an eye exam.

However, as the disease progresses, vision may become blurred and objects may appear distorted. Individuals with AMD may first notice they are missing letters in words when they read or have difficulty seeing smaller print.

In more severe cases, there may be a significant loss or graying of central vision, while peripheral vision remains unchanged. A person’s ability to adapt to different lighting environments may also be affected.

Causes of AMD

Drusen (yellow spots) in the retina

Drusen (yellow spots) in the retina

The loss of vision is associated with two major changes in the retina. First, there is a build up of cellular debris within the retina, which produces yellow deposits called “drusen.” Second, in some cases the retina releases chemicals that stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, a process called “neovascularizaiton.” The new blood vessels, however, are weak and often leak blood and fluid that damages the surrounding retinal tissue.

Risk factors for AMD

Continue reading


Kaiser Permanente acquires Group Health


Group Health IconFrom Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente and Group Health Cooperative announced today they have signed a definitive agreement for Kaiser Permanente to acquire Seattle-based Group Health.

The combination will advance the growth of the integrated model for health care and coverage together and expand Kaiser Permanente’s reach, adding nearly 590,000 members, Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and CEO, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals said.

“This agreement is a natural extension of our long, successful working relationship with Group Health and it provides us with the opportunity to expand access to high-quality, affordable care and coverage,” Tyson said.

Pending approvals by Group Health’s voting membership and regulatory entities, the organization would become fully integrated with Kaiser Permanente and operate as a new, eighth region. Like other Kaiser Permanente regions, the Washington region will be managed locally while taking full advantage of Kaiser Permanente’s national resources.

Washington would join Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Mid-Atlantic States (Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C.), Northern California, Northwest (Oregon, Southern Washington) and Southern California, enabling the combined organization to service communities along the West Coast from San Diego to Seattle. There will be no immediate changes to the coverage and care currently provided by either organization.


After 3 years of decline, hospital injury rates level off, report


By Jordan Rau

The rate of avoidable complications affecting patients in hospitals leveled off in 2014 after three years of declines, according to a federal report released Tuesday.

Hospitals have averted many types of injuries where clear preventive steps have been identified, but they still struggle to avert complications with broader causes and less clear-cut solutions, government and hospital officials said.

Physician and Nurse Pushing Gurney

There were at least 4 million infections and other potentially avoidable injuries in hospitals last year, the study estimated. That translates to about 12 of every 100 hospital stays.

Among the most common complications that were measured — each occurring a quarter million times or more — were bed sores, falls, bad reactions to drugs used to treat diabetes, and kidney damage that develops after contrast dyes are injected through catheters to help radiologists take images of blood vessels.

The lack of improvement raised concerns that it is becoming harder for hospitals to further reduce the chances that a patient may be harmed during a visit.

The frequency of hospital complications last year was 17 percent lower than in 2010 but the same as in 2013, indicating that some patient safety improvements made by hospitals and the government are sticking.

But the lack of improvement raised concerns that it is becoming harder for hospitals to further reduce the chances that a patient may be harmed during a visit.

“We are still trying to understand all the factors involved, but I think the improvements we saw from 2010 to 2013 were very likely the low-hanging fruit, the easy problems to solve,” said Dr. Richard Kronick, director of the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, or AHRQ, which conducted the study. Continue reading


Small coastal California town fights to keep its hospital afloat

Mendocino, Calif., lures vacationing tourists and retirees. But the lone hospital on this remote stretch of coast, in nearby Fort Bragg, is struggling financially.

Mendocino, Calif., lures vacationing tourists and retirees. But the lone hospital on this remote stretch of coast, in nearby Fort Bragg, is struggling financially.

By April Dembosky, KQED

Board meetings for the Mendocino Coast District Hospital are usually pretty dismal affairs. The facility in remote Fort Bragg, Calif., has been running at a deficit for a decade and barely survived a recent bankruptcy.

But finally, in September, the report from the finance committee wasn’t terrible. “This is probably the first good news that I’ve experienced since I’ve been here,” said Dr. Bill Rohr, an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital for 11 years. “This is the first black ink that I’ve seen.”

Small, rural hospitals everywhere have been struggling to survive. Many people who live in these areas are older or low income — not a great customer base for a hospital that needs to make money

.The committee erupted in applause, even a few cheers. But the joy was short-lived. By the next month, the hospital was back in the red.

Things first started going badly for the hospital in 2002, when the lumber mill in Fort Bragg closed down. Many people lost their jobs — and their health insurance, which had paid good rates to the hospital.

Today, about 7,000 people are left in the blue-collar town, and the economy is propped up by tourists who come to the rugged Mendocino coastline to hike or fish.

By 2012, the hospital declared bankruptcy. Now it’s barely hanging on. And some locals are worried that the only hospital in the area might close for good. Continue reading


Virginia Mason to absorb Memorial Family of Services in latest Washington hospital affiliation – Puget Sound Business Journal


Virginia Mason VM ThumbIn the Puget Sound region’s latest affiliation deal, Seattle-based nonprofit Virginia Mason Health System announced Wednesday that it will affiliate with Yakima-based Memorial Family of Services.

Source: Virginia Mason to absorb Memorial Family of Services in latest Washington hospital affiliation – Puget Sound Business Journal


When things go wrong at the hospital, who pays?


Physician and Nurse Pushing Gurney

By Shefali Luthra
KHN/Washington Post

When Charles Thompson checked into the hospital one July morning in 2011, he expected a standard colonoscopy.

He never anticipated how wrong things would go.

Partway through, the doctor emerged and said there were complications, remembered Ann, Charles’ wife. Charles’ colon may have been punctured. He needed emergency surgery to repair it.

Charles, now 61, from Greenville, S.C., almost died on the operating table after experiencing cardiac distress. His right coronary artery required multiple stents. He also relies on a pacemaker.

If treatment makes things worse – meaning patients need more care – who pays? The answer, it seems, is that it depends.

“He’s not the same as before,” said Ann, 62. “Our whole lifestyle changed – now all we do is sit at home and go to church. And that’s because he’s scared of dying.”

When things like this happen in the hospital, questions arise: Who’s responsible? If treatment makes things worse – meaning patients need more care – who pays?

The answer, it seems, is that it depends. Continue reading


Health systems dipping into the business of selling insurance


H for hospitalBy Michelle Andrews

In addition to treating what ails you, a number of health care systems aim to sell you a health insurance plan to pay for it. With some of the most competitively priced policies on the marketplaces, “provider-led” plans can be popular with consumers. But analysts say it remains to be seen how many will succeed long term as insurers.

Doing so funnels more patients to a health system’s hospitals and doctors.

It’s not surprising that health systems might get into the insurance business. Doing so funnels more patients to a health system’s hospitals and doctors. And it makes sense that combining clinical and claims data under one roof could lead to better coordinated, more cost-efficient patient care. Continue reading