October 16th, 2017

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December 4, 2017

Two Qualifying Conditions Added for Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Program


Autism spectrum disorders and obstructive sleep apnea have been added as qualifying conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program.


“Any policy decisions about cannabis are difficult due to the relative lack of published scientific evidence,” said Ed Ehlinger, MD, Minnesota commissioner of health. “However, there is increasing evidence for potential benefits of medical cannabis for those with severe autism and obstructive sleep apnea.”


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November 27, 2017

Three Health Care Organizations Partner to Form Carris Health


ACMC Health, CentraCare Health, and Rice Memorial Hospital are collaborating to create a new entity called Carris Health that will serve as a health care hub serving West Central and Southwest Minnesota.


Initial discussions about the partnership began in May, when the organizations signed a letter of intent to join forces. After months of discussion, strategy meetings, and town hall meetings, the Willmar city council voted unanimously to approve plans for the city-owned Rice Memorial Hospital to join the new health care system on Nov. 20 and ACMC Health’s board of directors and its 89 physician shareholders also voted to proceed with the integration with a final decision made at a shareholder’s meeting, also on Nov. 20. Carris Health will be a subsidiary of CentraCare Health.


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November 20, 2017

Opioid Prescription Limits Recommended for Physicians


Minnesota’s Opioid Prescribing Work Group adopted a new rule on Nov. 16 that limits opioid prescriptions for doctors who participate in the state’s Medicare program. It requires approval by Minnesota human services commissioner Emily Piper before it will take effect.


The rule states that nonsurgical physicians and dentists can have no more than half of their opioid prescriptions exceed 100 morphine milligram equivalents, which is about 20 five-milligram Vicodin or Percocet pills. Surgeons can have no more than 200 morphine milligram equivalents per outpatient prescription. The limits only apply to outpatient prescriptions meant to manage short-term or acute pain.


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November 13, 2017

Health Licensing Boards Implement Criminal Background Check Program


The Minnesota Health Licensing Boards have cooperatively established the Criminal Background Check Program to help new applicants for licensure efficiently complete the mandatory fingerprint-based criminal background check now required by Minnesota law.


Mandatory criminal background checks for professionals regulated by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice will be implemented in phases—on Nov. 10 for acupuncturists, traditional midwives, and respiratory therapists; on Nov. 17 for physician assistants; and Dec. 1 for physicians, surgeons, and genetic counselors.


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November 6, 2017

MHA Study Projects Physician Shortage


A new study conducted by the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) has confirmed that a shortage of primary care physicians will develop in the state over the next decade.


MHA collects health care workforce data from most Minnesota hospitals each year and this year, for the first time, MHA called on Towers Watson, a global professional services company, to conduct a comprehensive review of the state of the primary care physician and registered nurse workforces in Minnesota. The company used publicly available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state of Minnesota in addition to the hospital workforce data provided to MHA.


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October 30, 2017

Medica Names New Chief Medical Officer


John Mach, Jr., MD, has been named Medica’s new chief medical officer. He steps into the role on Nov. 6, succeeding Alan Spiro, who held the position since July 5, 2016.


Mach has more than 31 years of medical experience. Most recently, he served as chief medical officer for Evolent Health in Arlington, VA. Before that, he served as the president of complex care management at Univita Health Inc., based in Miramar, FL. He has also served as chief medical officer at several organizations, including UnitedHealth Group, where he also served as chairman and chief executive officer of its Evercare division. He earned his medical degree at the University of Minnesota Medical School, where he also completed a residency in internal medicine.


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October 23, 2017

International Study Shows Immune Response to Ovarian Cancer May Help Predict Survival


A type of white blood cell called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes has been found present in the tumors of patients with high-grade ovarian cancer, according to a team of international cancer researchers led by investigators from Mayo Clinic and the University of New South Wales Sydney. The discovery may help predict a patient’s survival.


“We know that a type of tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte called cytotoxic CD8 are present in the tumors of patients with high-grade ovarian cancer,” said Matthew Block, MD, PhD, an oncologist at Mayo Clinic that co-led the research team. “However, little was known about the role in fighting high-grade ovarian cancer, compared to other clinical factors.”


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October 16, 2017

New Allina Health Hastings Clinic Opening in November


Allina Health will open its new clinic in Hastings on Nov. 6. The facility is replacing the current Allina Health Hastings First Street Clinic location.


“Our goal is for residents of Hastings and surrounding communities to receive comprehensive health care close to home and, at the same time, have access to specialists through the broader Allina Health network,” said Kevin Best, MD, lead physician for the clinic. ”


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New Allina Health Hastings Clinic Opening in November


Allina Health will open its new clinic in Hastings on Nov. 6. The facility is replacing the current Allina Health Hastings First Street Clinic location.


“Our goal is for residents of Hastings and surrounding communities to receive comprehensive health care close to home and, at the same time, have access to specialists through the broader Allina Health network,” said Kevin Best, MD, lead physician for the clinic. Allina Health purchased 5.5 acres of land on the west side of town, the city annexed the site into city limits in 2015, and construction began last fall after a public hearing and city council approval. The new two-story, 50,000-square-foot facility will include 100 exam rooms and offer primary care services that will be relocated from the First Street clinic. New services that will be available at the clinic include integrative medicine service consultations through the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. It will house 36 providers and 140 support staff members, including lab and X-ray technicians, clinical assistants, nurses, and business office staff.


In addition, Regina Hospital (a mile and a half away from the new Hastings clinic) is opening a new cancer care clinic and chemotherapy service in late October.


“The new clinic is part of a $63 million investment Allina Health has made in the Hastings community,” said Tom Thompson, president of Regina Hospital.


Mayo Launching Doctoral Research Training in Regenerative Medicine


Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences has launched one of the first doctoral (PhD) research training programs in regenerative sciences in the U.S.


The Regenerative Sciences Training Program will allow up to 16 five-year fellowships at the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine. The students will receive a stipend plus benefits and all tuition costs will be covered. Students in the program will graduate with a doctorate in biomedical sciences with an emphasis in regenerative sciences and their track of choice.


Students selected for the program will specialize in one of seven PhD tracks—biochemistry and molecular biology; biomedical engineering; clinical and translational sciences; immunology; molecular pharmacology and experimental therapeutics; neurobiology of disease; and virology and gene therapy. Students will also receive interdisciplinary training in regenerative sciences research, including regenerative technology in all seven tracks; skills for translating solutions into clinical applications; ethical use of solutions; and biobusiness development and federal regulations. Some courses will be taught in collaboration with the Karolinska Institutet

in Stockholm.


Three students have been selected for the first class in the program, and three or four students will be accepted into the program each year moving forward. Eventually, the program will expand to Mayo Clinic’s other graduate school campuses in Arizona

and Florida.


“The training program will identify talented students who are committed to careers in discovering, developing, and applying regenerative science to advance medical progress,” said Richard Hayden, MD, an otolaryngologist and director of education for the Center for Regenerative Medicine. “Graduates of the program will be integral to building the multidisciplinary workforce needed to drive the future of health care at Mayo Clinic and around the world.”


The Center for Regenerative Medicine also is working with the college to develop a master’s degree program in regenerative sciences, organize a symposium on regenerative medicine to share discoveries with the world through continuing medical education, and add a regenerative medicine component to the surgical residency programs.


Minnesota Recognized for Family Caregiver Support


The SCAN Foundation has awarded the Pacesetter Prize to Minnesota in recognition of its efforts to improve long-term services and supports for older adults, people with disabilities, and their caregivers.


Minnesota was recognized for providing services including coaching to help people care for those with dementia; consultation, information, and assistance through Senior LinkAge Line; and services that give caregivers a respite. In addition, the SCAN Foundation recognized Minnesota for success including the passage of the CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act that requires health care facilities to notify family members when an older adult is being discharged and instruct them on how to provide care; expanded employee sick leave benefits for absences due to caring for a relative; the Working Caregiver Initiative, which educates employers about caregiving issues and promotes workplace flexibility; allowing Advance Practice nurses to work at the top of their education and training, which increases families’ access to affordable care; and expanding the Return to Community initiative, which helps people in nursing homes or hospitals or those who may be candidates for nursing homes to return to their homes with supports. Legislation passed this year for the initiative provides a stipend to people who are caregiving to help pay for respite or other necessary help.


The foundation uses data from the AARP LTSS State Scorecard and the prize is awarded across four of the scorecard dimensions—affordability and access; choice of setting and providers; support for family caregivers; and effective transitions. Minnesota improved in three of the measures and overall ranked sixth in the country for support for family caregivers. On this year’s AARP scorecard (the third of its kind) Minnesota ranked second after ranking first in 2011 and 2014.


CentraCare Health Opening Grocery Store Retail Clinics


CentraCare Health is partnering with St. Cloud-based grocery retailer Coborn’s, Inc. to open clinics at three grocery store locations to increase convenience and access to care for patients in Central Minnesota “This is about a local grocery company and local health care provider partnering to further serve the community they both call home,” said Chris Coborn, president and CEO and chairman of the board for Coborn’s, Inc.


Two of the retail clinics will be located at Coborn’s in Foley and Cash Wise in Waite Park. The Waite Park location is currently under construction and will open Nov. 1, and the Foley location will open soon after that. The third retail clinic will be a virtual clinic located at Coborn’s Marketplace in Sartell, where patients can speak with a health care provider through video conferencing.


“Health care is changing—and so are the needs of our community,” said Ken Holmen, MD, president and CEO of CentraCare Health. “And by partnering with those within our community, we can achieve our goal of improving the health of every patient every day by making access to care convenient for those we serve.”


UCare Selects President and CEO


UCare’s board of directors’ executive search committee has selected its current interim president and CEO, Mark Traynor, to stay in the position permanently. Traynor has served six months as the interim leader since Jim Eppel left UCare to serve as HealthPartners executive vice president and chief administration officer.


According to UCare, during his six months as interim leader, Traynor led the organization through significant growth with the return of state public program members, and along with the management team, provided strategic direction for transforming the insurer’s digital presence, operational processes, and platforms.


Most recently, Traynor served as UCare’s senior vice president of provider relations and chief legal officer, responsible for leading the provider relations, legal, compliance, and internal audit of the organization. Prior to UCare, he held executive and legal positions at the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Overdoses of Synthetic Drug K2 Spike


There have been more than 50 non-fatal overdoses of the illegal synthetic drug K2 in the last couple

of weeks in Hennepin County, according to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.


The synthetic marijuana drug, also known as “spice,” has been illegal in Minnesota since 2014 and is considered a Schedule 1 Narcotic by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Those who have been admitted to the hospital and who believe they have taken K2 have exhibited extreme agitation, elevated heart rates, and sometimes seizures, as well as anxiety, paranoia, and hallucination. However, different batches of the synthetic drugs can have different effects, according to officials. The only way physicians can treat K2 currently is to treat the symptoms and wait for the drug to pass through the

patient’s system.


“Fortunately we have not experienced any deaths due to this recent series of K2 overdoses. The quick actions of first responders and proper medical care at area hospitals has no doubt played a role making sure these victims are ok,” said Rich Stanek, Hennepin County sheriff. “Last year we experienced 153 opioid-related deaths in the county, so it is pretty frightening when you think about more than 50 overdoses occurring in less than 2 weeks.”


Local and federal law enforcement agencies are investigating the recent overdoses and where the supply of K2 is coming from.


Sanford Health Earns Full Accreditation in Human Research


The Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Program (AAHRPP) has awarded full accreditation to Sanford Health. It is now one of 247 organizations, including international entities, to receive the accreditation. AAHRPP aims to strengthen protections for research participants and help organizations build public trust and confidence

in research.


Sanford Health is now the only fully AAHRPP-accredited health care system in North Dakota and one of two health care systems in South Dakota, alongside Rapid City-based Regional Health. Only two health care systems in Minnesota have earned the accreditation as well—HealthPartners Institute and Mayo Clinic.


“This is a testament to the careful and ethical research we do here at Sanford,” said David Pearce, PhD, executive vice president of research and innovation. “We’re honored to receive this designation for the high standards we have for human research.”


Fairview Clinic Recognized for Midwife Care

Fairview Clinics–Riverside has been recognized with the Triple Aim Award by the American College of Nurse-Midwives for providing excellent care to pregnant and laboring mothers.


To receive the award, a hospital or clinic must qualify for three exceptional ratings—low primary cesarean rates (less than 23.9 percent), low pre-term birth rates (less than 11.4 percent), and high exclusive breastfeeding within 48 hours rates (greater than 81 percent). Fairview Clinics–Riverside midwives have a primary cesarean rate of 6.9 percent, a pre-term birthrate of 4 percent, and an exclusive breastfeeding within 48 hours rate of 94.3 percent.


“We’ve developed and use a wide variety of labor support techniques that help us achieve our low C-section rates, such as upright birthing guidelines, labor slings and water birth,” said Jennie Ramsey, CNM, lead certified midwife at Fairview Clinics–Riverside. “Our overall midwifery philosophy contributes to our low pre-term birth rates—we take time to listen to the individual woman, watching for risks of pre-term labor closely and catching issues early enough to intervene. We also are a designated Baby Friendly Hospital, which means breastfeeding is encouraged and patients receive a lot of education and support.”