Preterm birth rate continues to fall   10/05/2012
The preterm birth rate fell for the fifth straight year in 2011, to 11.7%, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's 2% fewer births prior to 37 weeks of gestation than in 2010 and the lowest level in more than a decade. The cesarean delivery rate was 32.8%, about the same as the past two years, suggesting the prior upward trend has ended. Total U.S. births declined 1% (45,793) in 2011, to 3.95 million.
MedPAC discusses options for reforming outpatient therapy payment   10/05/2012
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission today discussed draft recommendations for reforming the Medicare benefit for outpatient physical and occupational therapy and speech-language pathology to control spending while improving care and access to services. Proposals include reducing the annual spending limits for beneficiaries while maintaining a manual exceptions process to accommodate additional therapy needs; including hospital outpatient services in the spending caps; reducing the practice expense payment by 50% when multiple therapy services are provided on the same day; and prohibiting therapy (v-codes) as the primary diagnosis when billing for outpatient therapies. The commission also discussed the recommendation for a standardized tool to classify patients by severity, assess the impact of therapies received, and set the stage for future payment bundling. Program integrity proposals include reducing the treatment plan certification period to 45 days from 90 days; targeting high-use areas and aberrant providers; imposing a moratorium on new providers and requiring current providers to re-enroll in the program. MedPAC must report its final recommendations to Congress by June 15, 2013.
CDC: Steroid drug may be contaminated    10/05/2012
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating 35 cases of fungal meningitis, including five deaths and several strokes, associated with three lots of epidural steroid medication prepared by New England Compounding Center in Framingham, MA. Six states have reported cases of the non-contagious infection since Sept. 21: Tennessee (25), Virginia (4), Florida (2), Maryland (2), Indiana (1) and North Carolina (1). Infected patients reported symptoms one to four weeks after injection, ranging from fever, headache and nausea to neurological problems consistent with deep brain stroke. The Compounding Center recalled the drug lots on Sept. 25. Physicians should contact patients who received injections from the lots to see if they have any symptoms, CDC said. CDC and the Food and Drug Administration also recommend that health care professionals cease using any product produced by the New England Compounding Center until further information is available. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/HAI/outbreaks/meningitis.html. 
Hospitals add 8,000 jobs in September   10/05/2012
Employment at the nation's hospitals rose by 0.17% in September to a seasonally adjusted 4,834,000 people, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. That's 8,000 more people than in August and 81,600 more than a year ago. Without the seasonal adjustment, which removes the effect of fluctuations due to seasonal events, hospitals employed 4,831,500 people in September - 200 fewer than in August but 80,600 more than a year ago. The nation's overall unemployment rate fell by 0.3 percentage point in September to 7.8%.
Hospitals honored for organ donor, transplant achievements   10/05/2012
The Department of Health and Human Services yesterday presented awards to  404 hospitals, 38 organ procurement organizations and 174 transplant programs for achieving and sustaining national goals for organ donation. "I applaud these award winners for bringing the 'gift of life' to so many," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, M.D. "Their tireless efforts to make improvements in the donation and transplantation field will continue to help save lives." HHS also honored 56 organ procurement organizations, Donate Life America affiliates, 15 state hospital associations, and 653 hospitals and transplant centers for their leadership in the Workplace Partnership for Life national hospital organ donation campaign, which enlists hospitals in increasing the number of registered organ donors. AHA is a national partner in the campaign and Donate Life America, a national alliance committed to increasing organ, eye and tissue donation. For more on these initiatives and their tools and resources for hospitals, visit www.aha.org/advocacy-issues/initiatives/organ-donor.shtml.