Monday, July 30, 2012

Shore leave

I'll be away until Aug. 12. I'll be in Baltimore, on the campus of Goucher College, where I've been enrolled for the past year as a graduate student. I'll continue posting health stories published in the KNE, but don't expect any other new content on the blog; I can only focus right now on classes.
Many more health stories to come when I return.
- Nick

Health care ‘nosing into an air of turbulence’

An interview with Jennie Stuart CEO Eric Lee
CEO of Jennie Stuart Medical Center Eric Lee sat down with Publisher Taylor W. Hayes, Editor Eli Pace and Opinion Editor Jennifer P. Brown recently to answer questions about the hospital and the future of health care in Christian and surrounding counties. The interview lasted more than an hour, and in this, the first of a two-part series, the questions are primarily about the future of Jennie Stuart, the health care industry as a whole and how the Affordable Health Care Act will affect them going forward. Next week, the questions will focus more specifically on Jennie Stuart and the hospital’s role in the community.
Brown: You’ve had a long career, 24 years at Jennie Stuart. With your institutional knowledge of the hospital, the surrounding communities and the health care industry, how do you see Jennie Stuart changing in the next 10 years?
Lee: I really think heath care is nosing into an air of turbulence, and it all starts with the federal government.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

State's whooping cough increase could match 2010 level

Compared to the outbreaks other states have seen in cases in pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, the recent spike in Kentucky is relatively small. So far the state has received 164 reports of the illness, according to data provided by the state’s Department of Public Health.
Fayette County’s outbreak is now tapering off, the state’s epidemiologists said. Madison and Estill counties have also reported increases.
Mark Pyle, director of the Christian County Health Department, said no one has reported cases of the illness in this county so far. But the department still taking these measures to prevent the sickness’ spread.
As I reported in today’s paper, the most effective way to fend off whooping cough is to get a vaccination if you haven’t done so in recent years. The health department, Cayce’s Pharmacy, and Walgreen’s are all offering it without requiring a visit with a doctor.
The CDC recommends this video for a glimpse at how whooping cough affects people whom it infects. Look beyond the jump for charts on state historical data on whooping cough.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Forums scheduled on insurance exchange

The state has scheduled six educational forums to discuss the new health insurance exchange and the ramifications of the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Insurance and the Cabinet for Health & Family Services are putting these on. Credit to Tara Kaprowy at Kentucky Health News for this information.
The forum scheduled closest to Hopkinsville, by a slim margin, is the one happening in Paducah on Thursday, Aug. 16. Owensboro has one set for Aug. 17. Here’s the full schedule, as reported by Kaprowy:
Erlanger: 1-3:30 p.m. July 25, Northern Kentucky University, The METS Center
Louisville: 1-3:30 p.m., July 26, University of Louisville Shelby Campus
Prestonsburg: 1-3:30 p.m., July 27, Big Sandy Community and Technical College
Somerset: 1-3:30 p.m., Aug. 1, Somerset Community College
Paducah: 1-3:30 p.m., Aug. 16, West Kentucky Community and Technical College
Owensboro: 8:30-11 a.m., Aug. 17, Owensboro Community and Technical College

Monday, July 23, 2012

Digital records empower many medical patients

Just before Dr. Terry Fuqua closed his internal medicine practice in 2008, he ran ads in the New Era that encouraged patients to come pick up their medical records.
Only about a third of his patients took the offer. So Fuqua destroyed the records from patients who hadn’t visited in more than five years, and he brought the remaining 50 to 75 cases home and stored them in his garage.
He continues shredding records that pass the five-year mark.
He still has word processor documents with detailed notes from patient visits. But since his retirement, he estimates that fewer than a dozen former patients have called him for records.
Fuqua retired on the cusp of a new era. Technological developments are sweeping situations like this into the past. One day nearly all patient records, including those at hospitals and doctors’ offices throughout this area, will survive the way Fuqua’s notes have: on computer hard drives or in cyberspace.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hospital’s credit rating downgraded

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Because of decreases in business, a small revenue base and a large debt load, a rating agency downgraded the bond credit rating of Jennie Stuart Medical Center this week from BBB+ to BBB.
This means the hospital may have to pay a higher interest rate if it needs to borrow money in the near future.
But Sam Brown, Jennie Stuart’s vice president of financial services, said it won’t affect rates the hospital pays on current loans.
“It really has no impact on our financials at all, currently,” Brown said Thursday. “It’s a little disappointing that we had the downgrade, but it’s happening to a lot of hospitals around the country.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Guest blogger: Jodi Mitchell

Jodi Mitchell is executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition of medical providers, public health departments, development districts, and other organizations. It aims to improve Kentuckians’ access to health care and make the state’s medical system more efficient.
Jodi has worked in health policy for more than 10 years at the state and federal levels. This includes positions in lobbying, strategic counseling, government relations for medical associations, and legislative assistance. She and her husband live in Louisville.
In past New Era stories, she has weighed in as an expert on the condition of Kentucky’s health.
I’m proud to feature Jodi as KNE Health Beat’s first guest blogger.
The changing landscape in health care is not all politics
One thing is for certain about the world of healthcare in Kentucky, it is constantly changing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make life easy for the nearly four million Kentuckians who have to navigate our way through the health maze each day. As the healthcare landscape evolves, it is critical that individuals understand their roles and responsibilities as well as those of their providers, insurance carriers and the government. And most importantly, what all these changes mean in regard to their access to quality healthcare. 

Pennyroyal Center’s care takes teamwork

Its staff integrates physical, mental treatment on an unprecedented scale
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer

Several years ago, Shirley Porter’s depression and physical ailments were preventing her from keeping a job — and thus from affording medical treatment.
She knew she faced the risk of diabetes, and she knew her blood pressure sometimes shot up too high. But Porter, now 49, felt so lethargic some mornings that she struggled just to brush her teeth and comb her hair.
One day, she told her therapy group at the Pennyroyal Mental Health Center her head ached and her arm felt a little numb.
The Pennyroyal Center was in the early stages of developing its primary care center. A nurse checked Porter’s blood pressure. It was 217 over 135 — high enough to cause a stroke.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Blood trail

A circuitous journey from donors to patients
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Lisa Troutman gets an emotional lift each time she donates. She knows it saves lives, she says.
She just doesn’t know exactly how. After staff members bag up and seal her blood, Troutman never sees it again.
On the other end, patients at six Western Kentucky hospitals routinely have blood Troutman donated pumped into their veins.
They never find out where it came from, and few ever wonder where it went in between.

Pennyroyal Center opening clinic to public

By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Last year the Pennyroyal Mental Health Center opened a primary care clinic where psychiatrists could send clients who needed medical help.
With an expanded staff and a larger facility, the clinic is now swinging its doors open to the general public. Anyone who has insurance, including Medicaid, or money to pay out-of-pocket can get treatment there.
It will bring two full-time physicians, four physicians working on contract, an advanced practice nurse practitioner and a nurse care manager to the supply of local providers — a significant addition, considering this area’s shortage of doctors.
“We want service that anyone would be willing to go to,” said David Ptaszek, the Pennyroyal Center’s executive director. “I’ve got an appointment next Tuesday.”

Read the full entry here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rural health award

For the second consecutive year, the Kentucky Rural Health Association created a competition for health reporting. A panel of out-of-state judges graded entries on their relevance to rural health, quality of reporting,  and impact on health-care policy.
In the daily newspaper division, the judges chose my story on the local lack of leadership regarding sexual health issues as the year's best health article. KRHA announced the decision today.

JSMC credit rating downgraded

Fitch Ratings, one of the three major credit rating agencies in the U.S., downgraded Jennie Stuart Medical Center's rating from BBB+ to BBB. Fitch's analysts cited declines in inpatient the hospital was rendering, a small revenue base, and a large debt load.
The downgrade apparently won't affect the hospital's finances for now. But if it needs to borrow money in the near future, this rating could lead to higher interest rates.
In addition to the story in Friday's paper, the analysts' report is available here as a PDF.