AHA president addresses hospitals' critical role in the community

American Hospital Association (AHA) President and CEO Rick Pollack discussed with hospital and health system leaders who attended the organization’s annual meeting this week what it means to redefine the “H.”

Pollack talked about the hospital’s critical role in public life and how it responds to the growing demands of managing chronic illnesses and consumerism. He also discussed opportunities to work more closely together to coordinate care, improve quality and safety and keep people healthier.

“We have the potential to provide continuous care like never before — from the first Facebook photo of a newborn swaddled in their maternity unit blanket — to end-of-life care that feels more like being surrounded and embraced by old friends,” he told AHA members. “Redefining the ‘H’ can bring us even closer to the communities and patients we serve. It is our opportunity to provide better care for more people in a way that ensures that every hospital — regardless of how you define it — can play a leadership role as the anchor for health care services in their communities.”

HHS awards $260 million to develop health care infrastructure

Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced more than $260 million in funding to 290 health centers in 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico for facility renovation, expansion or construction.

The investment builds on the nearly $150 million awarded to 160 health centers for construction and/or renovation in September 2015. This funding comes from the Affordable Care Act’s Community Health Center Fund, which was extended with bipartisan support in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.

“Providing funding to help health centers renovate their facilities will allow them to provide care to more patients,” says Acting Associate Administrator Jim Macrae of the Health Resources and Services Administration. “Perhaps more importantly though, health centers will now be able to provide more health services in one location, better meeting the needs of their communities.”

HHS states that since the beginning of 2009, health centers have added 6 million patients and now serve nearly 23 million people each year. Today, nearly 1,400 health centers operate about 9,800 service delivery sites in every state, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Pacific Basin.

CMS issues final rule updating Medicare/Medicaid fire safety standards

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) adopted updated provisions of the National Fire Protection Association’s 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code and its 2012 edition of the Health Care Facilities Code.

The new guidelines apply to hospitals; long-term care facilities; critical access hospitals; inpatient hospice facilities; programs for all-inclusive care for the elderly; religious nonmedical health care institutions; ambulatory surgical centers; and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The provisions in this final rule cover construction, protection and operational features designed to provide safety for Medicare beneficiaries from fire, smoke and panic. 

“This final rule meets health care facilities’ desire to modernize their environments while also ensuring the necessary steps to provide patients and staff with the appropriate level of safety,” said Kate Goodrich, M.D., MHS, director of the CMS’ Center for Clinical Standards and Quality. “Health care facilities can now be more homelike while ensuring that the most modern fire protection practices are in place.”

CDC seeking nominations for Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is seeking nominations for possible membership on the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee.

In addition to advising to the Department of Health & Human Services, the group also provides guidance to the Office of Infectious Diseases; the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases and the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, all within the CDC.

The committee offers expertise regarding the practice of infection control and strategies for surveillance, prevention and control of health care-associated infections, antimicrobial resistance and related events in all health care settings.

Nominations should be submitted Aug. 15.

Closing OR doors helps to cut surgical-site infections by half: study

A study conducted by the World Health Organization at a Ugandan hospital involving more than 650 surgical patients, showed that the rate of infections halved after new measures were introduced. The new measures included closing the door to the operating theatre, taking a bath before surgery and ensuring that surgeons clean their hands properly. 

“A few simple steps can prevent many of these infections,” said Dr Wondi Alemu, M.D., MPH, WHO’s representative in Uganda. “Not only does that spare patients needless suffering, it’s also a substantial cost-saving to families, hospitals and Uganda’s health system.”

AHA recommends more robust health IT testing, certification infrastructure

The American Hospital Association (AHA) has voiced support of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s proposal for more transparent surveillance of certified health IT products, and recommends that the agency prioritize actions that will increase confidence in the certified products.

“Given the significant investments hospitals have made already, the AHA recommends a more robust testing and certification infrastructure as a starting point to improve the certification program,” wrote AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels. “Additionally, as part of the conformance testing infrastructure, the AHA renews the call for the federal government to support processes that permit the end user to access the testing infrastructure.”