KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Drop In Readmission Rates Can Be Attributed To Hospital Improvements, Study Finds

Researchers say facilities are not "gaming" the system by using observation care to hide patients returning to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. In local hospital marketplace news, media outlets report on developments in Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Massachusetts, Maryland and Florida.

Modern Healthcare: No, Hospitals Aren't Gaming Readmissions With Observation Claims, HHS Says
Fewer patients are returning to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, and it's not because hospitals are holding patients in observation units instead of admitting them as a means of avoiding penalties, according to new federal data. Readmission rates dropped significantly for more than 3,300 U.S. hospitals between 2007 and 2015. A small increase in the number of Medicare observation claims was also seen at that time. But researchers say the changes in observation stays can't account for the drops in readmission rates. (Rice, 2/24)

Georgia Health News: WellStar Closing In On Major Hospital Deals
WellStar Health System announced Wednesday that it has received regulatory approval from the state attorney general to add West Georgia Health to its system. The two organizations plan to sign a definitive agreement next month, with West Georgia expected to join WellStar, based in Marietta, on April 1. (Miller, 2/24)

North Carolina Health News: Rural Hospitals Scale To Fit Communities' Needs
At the beginning of this, the final, season of “Downton Abbey,” The New York Times published a mock issue of a 1925 Downton Times, the front-page headline of which asked: “Will Downton Cottage Hospital Be Swept Up in Tide of Change?” One century and an ocean removed, the fate of rural hospitals remains precarious. Smaller, relatively remote hospitals continue to face numerous challenges: declining, aging populations; dwindling margins; difficulties recruiting providers. (Sisk, 2/24)

The Boston Globe: Amid Backlash, Children’s Defends Expansion
It’s a story that doctors and executives at Children’s, the region’s dominant pediatric care center, tell again and again: They don’t have enough beds, surgeries are being delayed, patients are being turned away and sent to other hospitals. And it’s why executives say they need to complete a $1 billion expansion of their Longwood Medical Area campus, a project that would create an 11-story tower with more room for doctors and nurses to treat more patients. Yet the hospital’s message has been undercut recently by a group opposed to the proposal for reasons that have nothing to do with surgeries or beds. (Dayal McCluskey, 2/24)

The Baltimore Sun: St. Joseph, Closer To Profitably, Plans Overhaul Of Operating Rooms
University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center plans to embark on a roughly $100 million renovation of its operating rooms — its first major capital project since a scandal involving one of its former doctors plunged the hospital into financial distress. The Towson hospital is poised to post a profit in the fiscal year ending in June, and said it now can focus less on recovery and more on adding services and needed upgrades. (McDaniels, 2/23)

The Tampa Bay Times: Lawsuit Claims Tampa General Hospital Divulged Woman's HIV Status Without Her Consent
A Florida woman is suing Tampa General Hospital, saying hospital employees violated her privacy by unlawfully disclosing her HIV status to her family. The woman, who was not identified in the lawsuit, was admitted to the hospital as a maternal patient in December 2014. During her stay, a nurse mentioned she was HIV positive in front of her adult daughter, her attorneys said. (McGrory, 2/24)

The Miami Herald: Emergency Order Restricts License For Miami Doctor Specializing In Brazilian Butt Lifts
A Miami plastic surgeon who promises clients “the flattest possible stomach” and “the most curvaceous backside” repeatedly botched liposuction and other medical procedures, causing such significant injuries to four patients that the Florida Department of Health issued an emergency restriction on the doctor’s license this month. Dr. Osakatukei “Osak” Omulepu presents an “immediate serious danger” to the public health if he were allowed to continue performing liposuction and fat transfers to the buttocks, a procedure commonly known as a “Brazilian butt lift,” according to the order signed by Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong on Feb. 16. (Chang, 2/24)

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