October 30th, 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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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.


“Dr. Mach is a highly respected physician who is also an accomplished health care executive with extensive clinical and business expertise,” said John Naylor, president and CEO of Medica. “He has a passion for driving large-scale clinical, quality, and cost improvements for a wide range of populations. I have great confidence in his ability to bring continuous improvement to the clinical care provided to our members as well as the service delivery provided at the site of care.”


Minnesota Joins International HIV Treatment as Prevention Campaign


The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has joined an international HIV prevention campaign called Undetectable = Untransmittable, also known as U=U.


The campaign is a growing community of HIV advocates, activists, researchers, and nearly 400 community partners from 60 countries that are uniting to clarify and disseminate the revolutionary but largely unknown fact that people living with HIV on effective treatment do not sexually transmit HIV. It was launched in 2016 by a group of people living with HIV who created a consensus statement with global experts to clear up confusion about the science of U=U.

The scientific consensus says that people living with HIV who take antiretroviral therapy daily and are able to get and keep undetectably low levels of HIV in their


blood effectively have no risk of transmitting HIV to their sex partners. The concept is also known as treatment as prevention. People living with HIV need to take their medications daily as prescribed and receive regular viral load screening from their health care provider to ensure it remains undetectable.


“In addition to supporting HIV treatment as prevention, we must continue to support consistent and correct condom use, regular HIV screening, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent sexual transmission of HIV,” said Kristen Ehresmann, infectious disease director at MDH. “One or more of these methods may be appropriate depending on individual circumstances, and only condoms also protect against other STDs and pregnancy.”


Minnesota is the third state health department to participate in the campaign, joining the New York Department of Health and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health endorse the science behind the campaign.

MDH is currently developing a campaign to educate people about the benefits of HIV treatment as prevention, with the idea that public awareness can decrease HIV stigma, improve the quality and length of life for people living with HIV and their partners, and provide additional incentive for people living with HIV to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load. Minnesota’s rate of people known to be living with HIV who are virally suppressed was 63 percent in 2016, compared to a national rate of 49 percent in 2014. The United Nations has set a goal of reaching 90 percent by 2020.


Mankato Installs Two New Drug Disposal Boxes


Blue Earth County has purchased two drug drop box units for disposal of unwanted, unused, and expired medications with a $2,000 grant from Mayo Clinic Health System.


The county has had one drop box in service since December 2011. The additional boxes, located at the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office in Mankato, will make the free, anonymous service easier to access and allow the county to safely dispose of

more medications.


“Before we were able to purchase and install the two additional drug collection boxes with the help of Mayo Clinic Health System, the box would fill up quickly and need to be emptied at least once a week,” said Jean Lundquist, senior waste and recycling specialist with Blue Earth County. “With the additional drop boxes, we’re able to collect more medications and keep them out of our drinking water and out of the hands of those who would abuse them.”


“Finding an appropriate place to discard medications can be difficult, so this program is extremely beneficial to our community,” said Laura Bowman, regional director of strategic partnerships and community relations at Mayo Clinic Health System. “Ultimately, our goal as an organization is to contribute to improving health and wellness in the communities we serve. And funding these two new drop boxes was a great way to collaborate with Blue Earth County to keep our residents safe and healthy.”


U of M Names New Dean of Medical School


The University of Minnesota Medical School has named Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, as its new dean, effective Oct. 23. He replaces Brooks Jackson, MD, MBA, who held the position for three years. Tolar has also been named interim vice president for health sciences, a position that Jackson also previously held, while the University determines next steps for the structure of the health sciences program. Jackson has taken the position of vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa.


Tolar, originally from the Czech Republic, has been with the University of Minnesota for 25 years. Most recently, he served as executive vice dean of the medical school and director of the Stem Cell Institute for a year. He also has a clinical practice through the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

Tolar completed medical school at Charles University in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and began studying at the University of Minnesota in 1992, where he completed his PhD in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and genetics.


Minneapolis Heart Institute Expands Mobile App for Cardiac Care


The Minneapolis Heart Institute has released an expanded version of its free resource mobile app for emergency cardiovascular care that includes non-emergency protocols, due to the unexpected and widespread popularity of the app.


It was originally developed by physicians to assist in treating patients as quickly as possible and was created for the 100 or so first responders at the more than 40 community hospitals throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin that Minneapolis Heart Institute partners with on emergency cardiovascular care. The app has now been downloaded more than 3,000 times in seven countries.


The new version of the app includes an additional 16 non-emergency protocols to help physicians with the complex arena of blood-thinning medications, including managing bleeding, changing between different blood thinners, treating blood clots in the lung, and considerations related to preparedness for heart procedures. It also includes guides for determining which cardiac test is best to most accurately and efficiently diagnose patients and which cholesterol medication is best for each patient, as well as the ability to talk immediately to a cardiologist or schedule a procedure.

CentraCare Adds Perinatology Services for High-Risk Pregnancies


CentraCare–Monticello Birth Center is partnering with St. Cloud Hospital to provide perinatology services for women with high-risk pregnancies in

Central Minnesota.


Expectant mothers can now receive perinatology services, including first trimester ultrasounds, fetal echocardiograms, non-invasive prenatal testing, genetic counseling, and one-on-one telehealth consults with a perinatologist from St. Cloud Hospital to determine if further testing is necessary.

“Partnering with St. Cloud Hospital to offer perinatology services in Monticello demonstrates CentraCare’s investment in health care in our community,” said Tim Olson, MD, OB/GYN at Stellis Health–Monticello Clinic and medical director at CentraCare Health–Monticello Birth Center. “We have always been proud of the care we offer to moms and babies, and now we are enhancing that care to support healthier births for moms with high-risk pregnancies.”


U of M School of Nursing Recognized for Diversity and Inclusion


The University of Minnesota School of Nursing has received the 2017 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. The award recognizes medical, dental, pharmacy, osteopathic, nursing, and allied health schools across the U.S. that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. It is one of seven schools of nursing to receive the award this year.


The award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees, as well as best practices for both; continued leadership support for diversity; and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion.


“We take a holistic approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED Award recipient,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being accomplished every day across their campus.”


Physician Recognized for Commitment to Cancer Clinical Trial Research


Patrick Flynn, MD, director of research for Minnesota Oncology, has received the 2017 Harry Hynes Award from the Metro-Minnesota chapter of the National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), a National Cancer Institute (NCI) supported network that brings cancer prevention clinical trials and cancer care delivery research to people in their communities.


The award recognizes local community researchers who embody the attributes of the leadership and commitment demonstrated by Harry Hynes, MD, an Irish native who came to Kansas in 1960 and became a pioneer in developing one of the nation’s first Clinical Community Oncology Programs in 1983.

Flynn’s career as an NCI community researcher began when he joined Minnesota Oncology in 1985. NCORP describes him as a visionary investigator educated in the Midwest who built a practice with more than 140 researchers and 50 research staff. He began the discussion about insurance coverage years ago and successfully engaged insurers in his community to support clinical trials.


Flynn specializes in autologous peripheral blood stem cell transplantation; hematology, including bleeding and clotting disorders; and research on colorectal cancer. He also serves as medical director for autologous bone marrow and stem cell transplants at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and is a principal investigator for the NCI grant-funded Metro-

Minnesota Community Oncology Research Consortium. He earned his medical degree at the University of Minnesota Medical School.