KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Hospitals Facing Pressure To Hold Down Costs And Cut Infections; Drug Shortages Reported

News outlets examine a variety of issues facing hospitals and patients.

The New York Times: Medicare Plan For Payments Irks Hospitals
For the first time in its history, Medicare will soon track spending on millions of individual beneficiaries, reward hospitals that hold down costs and penalize those whose patients prove most expensive. The administration plans to establish "Medicare spending per beneficiary" as a new measure of hospital performance, just like the mortality rate for heart attack patients and the infection rate for surgery patients (Pear, 5/31).

Earlier, related KHN story:  From California To The New York Island, A New Understanding Of Higher Medicare Spending (Rau, 3/8).

Kaiser Health News: Hospitals Face New Pressure To Cut Infection Rates
Under laws in more than two dozen states and new Medicare rules that went into effect earlier this year, hospitals are required to report infections, risking their reputations as sterile sanctuaries, or pay a penalty. That's left hospital administrators weighing the cost of 'fessing up against the cost of fines. For Clark Todd, CEO of Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, there's only one way to go: "If we hide from the public then the tendency to keep the status quo is stronger than ever," he said. "And that's just not going to get the job done" (Varney, 5/28).

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: The Use Of Freestanding Emergency Departments Is Growing
Emergency departments are struggling to keep up with demand, serving a growing number of people at the same time that their numbers are shrinking. One increasingly popular option to improve access to services is the freestanding emergency department, a facility that, as its name suggests, isn't physically located with a hospital (Andrews, 5/31).

The Associated Press: Hospitals Hunt Substitutes As Drug Shortages Rise
A growing shortage of medications for a host of illnesses - from cancer to cystic fibrosis to cardiac arrest - has hospitals scrambling for substitutes to avoid patient harm, and sometimes even delaying treatment. … The problem of scarce supplies or even completely unavailable medications isn't a new one but it's getting markedly worse. The number listed in short supply has tripled over the past five years, to a record 211 medications last year. While some of those have been resolved, another 89 drug shortages have occurred in the first three months of this year, according to the University of Utah's Drug Information Service (Neergaard, 5/30).

The Seattle Times: Today's Hospital: Spacious, Single Rooms, Talking Beds
Issaquah's new hospital - the first one built on the Eastside in 34 years - is turning the concept of hospital on its head, putting food and spa and wellness products up front, and rooms - literally and figuratively - out back. "It's not your father's hospital," jokes Kevin Brown, senior vice president and chief administrative officer for Swedish Medical Center, whose latest project - Swedish/Issaquah - is to begin a phased opening in July. For sure, your father's hospital didn't open into a five-story atrium surrounded by a mall. His hospital's lobby, you can bet, didn't include a fireplace and a destination restaurant - no hospital cafeteria here - with a wood-burning oven. And nobody thought of Ye Olde Hospital as a place where anyone would want to go for fun. Behind the radical new design for Swedish/Issaquah is a concept of hospital that's evolving to be less foreboding fortress on the hill and more community center (Ostom, 5/30).

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