Today’s NewsStand — Sept. 24, 2020

Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and the web.

Iowa news

COVID-19 outbreaks continue to climb in Iowa nursing homes

The number of COVID-19 outbreaks and infections is continuing to climb in Iowa nursing homes, nearly doubling the levels set in July. In late July, there were only 502 infections tied to 20 active nursing home outbreaks in Iowa. Over the next month, the number of COVID-19 infections associated with active outbreaks increased 66% to 835. Since August, the cumulative total of COVID-19-related deaths in Iowa nursing homes has climbed from 508 to 671. Sept. 13, the White House coronavirus task force recommended that Iowa impose a statewide mask mandate to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes. The report noted that “COVID-19 is being brought into nursing homes through community transmission.” (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

In push to lower pregnancy death rates, Iowa joins national initiative

In its ongoing efforts to improve maternal mortality rates across Iowa, the state public health agency said Monday it has joined a national collaborative to implement best practices regarding labor and delivery in Iowa’s hospitals. The Iowa Department of Public Health announced the agency has enrolled in the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health, or AIM program, which is a national multidisciplinary collaborative meant to share best practices for maternal care. (The Gazette)

Doctors say flu shot important to prevent double infection with COVID-19

Doctors say controlling the spread of the flu will be even more important during the coronavirus pandemic to keep from overwhelming the health care system. COVID-19 can show unique symptoms like a lost sense of taste, but other symptoms like aches, fever, and difficulty breathing are the same as the flu. Dr. Katie Imborek is a family medicine physician with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. (Radio Iowa)

National news

New bill looks to mandate payer coverage for telehealth services

The latest bill introduced on Capitol Hill aims to level the playing field for payers by ensuring telehealth services are covered if those services are also furnished in person. HR 8308, unveiled last week by US Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), wades into a hotly contested arena in connected health legislation: Who gets to decide how health care providers are reimbursed for their telehealth services? The bill, which was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, did not include text or a summary as of Sept. 21. (mHealthIntelligence.com)

Rural hospitals teeter on financial cliff as COVID-19 Medicare loans come due

David Usher, chief financial officer for a 12-bed rural hospital in western Kansas, is sitting on $1.7 million he’s scared to spend. The money lent from the federal government is meant to help hospitals and other health care providers weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet some hospital administrators have called it a payday loan program that is now brutally due for repayment at a time when the institutions still need help. (NPR)

Telemedicine projected to account for 20% of medical visits in 2020, report says

The volume and financial value of telemedicine visits will increase significantly in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report. The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred widespread adoption of telemedicine along several fronts at health systems, hospitals and physician practices — primarily because of concern about the spread of COVID-19 in health care settings. Telemedicine visits for nonemergency care also have been shown to be efficient and effective from both the health care provider and patient perspectives. (HealthLeaders Media)