Nearly half of Connecticut hospitals – 14 out of 31 – will lose a portion of their Medicare payments in 2017 as a penalty for having too many patients who acquired preventable infections and injuries while hospitalized. The hospitals are among 769 nationwide that will lose one percent of their Medicare reimbursements this year as part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program. The CMS program, now in its third year, penalizes the lowest-performing hospitals where a relatively high number of patients got infections from hysterectomies, colon surgeries, urinary tract catheters and central line tubes. It also takes into account patients who suffered from blood clots, bed sores or falls while hospitalized. New this year, CMS also factored in the incidents where antibiotic-resistant bacteria – namely, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C.
Lapses in cleanliness, infection-control procedures and in the treatment of patients with behavioral health problems were among the most common violations found in Connecticut hospitals inspected by the state health department in 2015, reports collected by C-HIT show. Inspection reports from the state Department of Public Health, spanning 2013 through 2015 – posted in C-HIT’s Data Mine section — show a mix of citations for poor physical conditions, such as mold and fungus in pharmacy preparation areas, and inadequate patient care, including improper evaluation and treatment of psychiatric patients and use of restraints. The state DPH inspects hospitals, which are all Medicare-certified through the federal government, once every four years. Inspections also occur when the DPH receives a complaint against a facility or is following up to ensure compliance with a corrective action plan. C-HIT’s database, based on DPH records through late 2015, includes reports on all 29 acute-care hospitals.
All but one of Connecticut’s acute-care hospitals will lose Medicare reimbursement in 2015-16 as a penalty for high readmissions of discharged patients, new federal data show. The penalties against 28 hospitals mean Connecticut has one of the highest percentages nationally – more than 90 percent — of hospitals facing Medicare reductions. Only the Hebrew Home and Hospital of West Hartford escaped penalties; the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is exempted from the federal program. None of the state’s hospitals faces the maximum 3 percent reduction to Medicare reimbursement, but seven face reductions of more than 1 percent. They are: Milford Hospital (1.70 percent); Middlesex, in Middletown (1.38); Johnson Memorial, in Stafford Springs (1.27); Charlotte Hungerford, in Torrington (1.19); St.
A new program offering free ultrasound screenings to young black women aims to raise awareness about the high incidence of aggressive breast cancers in African Americans. The Connecticut Breast Health Initiative has awarded a $33,350 grant to begin a five-year breast ultrasound screening study involving black women ages 25 to 39. “We need to get the word out,” said Dr. Kristen Zarfos, a breast surgeon at the Hospital of Central Connecticut who applied for the grant. “Young African American women are developing aggressive tumors and nobody understands why.”
The study will examine the effectiveness of breast ultrasound as an early detection tool for aggressive tumors in young black women. Women can get the screenings at two sites: the Medical Arts Center in Plainville adjacent to the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at the Hospital of Central Connecticut and the Imaging Center of West Hartford.
Candid online posts describing the challenges of breastfeeding fill the Facebook page of Breastfeeding USA’s Connecticut chapter. The daily stream of anecdotes, questions and comments alternate in tone from exasperated to celebratory. “Small victory for today. I actually breastfed in the open with my husband and day care provider in the same room (with a nursing cover, of course), but I haven’t done that yet, so I feel good about it. “
Missed Wednesday’s chat on breast cancer? If you did, you can view the discussion with Dr. Kristen Zarfos by going to courant.com/beyondpink. Zarfos, the director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Program at The Hospital of Central Connecticut, division of the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, answered questions on mammography, genetic testing and lifestyle risks, among others. This live chat was a collaboration of the Conn. Health I-Team (www.c-hit.org), which in October held a forum on breast cancer, and the Hartford Courant.
US Rep. Rosa DeLauro and leading breast cancer experts from The Breast Center-Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven and the Hospital of Central Connecticut will be the featured panelists at a unique community forum organized by the Connecticut Health I-Team (www.c-hit.org), a non-profit news service that provides in-depth coverage of health care issues. The forum – “Beyond The Pink Ribbon: New Frontiers In Screening, Treating and Preventing Cancer” – will focus on the latest inroads and challenges in breast cancer detection and treatment. The event is open to the public, and early registration (at www.c-hit.org) is encouraged. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit The Breast Center – Smilow Hospital and C-HIT’s ongoing health journalism. Speakers include: Dr. Anees Chagpar, director of The Breast Center – Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, who led the effort for Yale to become the first NCI designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Northeast to have a nationally accredited breast center; Dr. Regina Hooley, a radiologist and researcher at the Yale Cancer Center who specializes in ultrasound screening, mammography and breast density; and Dr. Kristen Zarfos, a renowned surgeon and women’s health specialist at the Hospital of Central Connecticut who led a successful grassroots campaign to ban “drive-through” mastectomies in Connecticut.
Connecticut’s acute-care hospitals ended the last fiscal year in slightly better financial health than in the prior year, with just five of 30 hospitals reporting losses, according to a new state report. Data filed with the state Office of Health Care Access (OHCA) shows that six hospitals had operating losses in the 2012 fiscal year – the same number as in 2011, but fewer than in 2010. When non-operating gains and losses are included, five hospitals had negative total margins, or deficits – down from eight in 2011. The annual OHCA report paints a positive picture of the overall financial health of hospitals, highlighting that Connecticut’s hospitals had a total gain from operations of about $513 million in the last fiscal year – a substantial increase, of close to 70 percent, over the prior year. Total hospital net assets also increased.
Three months after a new children’s advocacy office opened at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Alice Rosenthal has conquered bedbugs, kept utilities from being shut off, and helped get adequate school support for a kid with severe medical needs. “We’re off to a fast, great start,” said Rosenthal, the attorney on site for the venture. The office is a partnership between the hospital and the Hartford-based Center for Children’s Advocacy, a nonprofit that advocates for the legal rights of children who suffer from abuse, neglect or lack of access to critical services. The partnership takes a holistic approach to care by tackling not only kids’ medical problems, but the issues at home and school that might be preventing them from getting well. Rosenthal, representing the Center for Children’s Advocacy, works with the hospital staff to identify and resolve those issues.
At Bridgeport Hospital, “talking bed rails” programmed to speak to patients in the geriatric psychiatric unit are helping to reduce the number of alarms that sound when a patient at risk for falling tries to get out of bed. At the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, health care professionals are adopting techniques from aviation safety experts to reduce the chances of a catastrophic event happening before a clinical alarm goes off. These are among the many ways Connecticut hospitals are tackling a phenomenon known industry-wide as alarm fatigue. Health care experts worry that medical devices with built-in alarms – such as heart monitors, infusion pumps and ventilators – designed to alert caregivers that patients are in danger could potentially put patients at risk because caregivers are desensitized by the sheer number of alerts and false alarms and fail to respond in a timely fashion. Research shows alarms in intensive care units are accurate less than 10 percent of the time, and 90 percent are false alarms.
Solutions for combating alarm fatigue range from alarm integration technology that sends alerts to a caregiver’s telephone to the development of a new generation of “smart alarms,” including ones designed to monitor multiple vital signs.