Survey: Employers report slowest growth in health benefit costs in 15 years    11/14/2012
Employers in 2012 limited the growth of health benefit cost per employee to 4.1%, down from 6.1% last year, and the lowest increase since 1997, according to the latest Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans released today. In 2012, the total health benefit cost per employee averaged $10,558. The annual survey, which includes public and private organizations with 10 or more employees, shows that employers expect a relatively low increase of 5% for 2013 after changes they plan to make to reduce costs. "Employers are very aware that in 2014, when the health reform law's provisions kick in, they will be asked to cover more employees and face added cost pressure," said Julio Portalatin, president and CEO of Mercer. "They've taken bold steps to soften the impact and it's paying off already." 
Mississippi health care organization wins 2012 Baldrige award   11/14/2012
North Mississippi Health Services of Tupelo was among the four organizations to win a 2012 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson announced today. In 2006, North Mississippi Medical Center, the flagship hospital and referral center in the NMHS system, received a Baldrige award in the health care category. Established by Congress in 1987, the Baldrige award honors outstanding performance in leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus, process management; and results. As part of a new recognition this year, the 25th anniversary of the award, three candidates for the award also were honored for best practices in Baldrige criteria categories. Maury Regional Medical Center of Columbia, TN, was recognized for best practices in strategic planning and workforce focus. The winners will receive their awards at a ceremony next April in Baltimore. To date, 93 organizations - including 16 hospitals and health systems - have received the award. "The AHA congratulates North Mississippi Health Services and Maury Regional Medical Center for their efforts to create healthier communities," said AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock. "Their ability to engage all stakeholders in the community to improve performance serves as an example for our field as hospitals across the country continuously pursue better outcomes for the patients they serve."
Congress examines meningitis outbreak   11/14/2012
The House Energy and Commerce Committee today heard testimony from federal and state officials and relatives of victims of the recent outbreak of fungal meningitis. Contaminated drugs from the New England Compounding Center have been linked to 32 deaths and more than 438 illnesses. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., outlined the agency's response to the outbreak and steps the administration thinks are necessary to ensure FDA has the authority to oversee compounding pharmacies. "FDA's ability to take action against compounding that exceeds the bounds of traditional pharmacy compounding and poses risks to patients has been hampered by gaps and ambiguities in the law, which have led to challenges to FDA's authority to inspect pharmacies and take appropriate actions," she said before introducing a proposed framework for further oversight. Barry Cadden, president and co-owner of NECC declined to testify citing his Fifth Amendment rights. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a separate hearing on the outbreak tomorrow.
Hearing looks at progress on EHR 'meaningful use'   11/14/2012
Physicians and hospitals are making strong progress toward "meaningful use" of electronic health records, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Farzad Mostashari, M.D., said today at a hearing on the EHR programs and interoperability, citing recent increases in the share of physicians and hospitals that have adopted EHRs. However, more needs to be done to ensure that the program has a lasting impact, Marc Probst, chief information officer and vice president of information systems for Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, told the Subcommittee on Technology of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. "We must set a clear road map and support an exchange infrastructure and the adoption of standards that will make it easier to share health information so clinicians and patients have the information in the form and time they need it to make appropriate health care decisions," said Probst, who also is a member of the Health Information Technology Policy Committee. "Presently, we lack a shared infrastructure and long?term plan to make this possible." He cited the Australian railroad as an example where implementing standards proved painful in the short-term but led to long-term gains for the system.
HHS names first external class of Innovation Fellows Program    11/14/2012
The Department of Health and Human Services yesterday named six external experts to its Innovation Fellows Program. The six fellows, who have backgrounds ranging from business and technology executives to lifelong entrepreneurs, will spend the next six-12 months working with HHS internal fellows on four specific projects focused on solving critical health care problems. Project topics include accelerating clinical quality measures for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; designing an electronic infrastructure to implement Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program eligibility requirements under the ACA; building technology that allows people to continue using their durable medical equipment during prolonged power outages in natural disasters; and devising electronic tracking and transport of the nation's organ transplant system.
2013 Dick Davidson Quality Milestone Award for Allied Association Leadership   11/14/2012
The AHA invites applications through Jan. 25 for the 2013 Dick Davidson Quality Milestone Award for Allied Association Leadership. Named after AHA President Emeritus Dick Davidson, the annual award honors a state, regional or metropolitan hospital association that demonstrates exceptional organizational leadership and innovation in quality improvement and has made significant contributions to measurable quality improvement in its geographic area. For more information and an application, click here.