May 2020, Volume XXXIV, Number 2

  CAPSULES

U of M researchers launch hospitalization tracking project

Two University of Minnesota research centers have launched an urgent project to better understand state-by-state hospitalization data.

The COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project (https://tinyurl.com/hcn-tracking) currently reports data from 37 states. The site captures and tracks daily data on the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations—as reported by states’ Departments of Health—along with each state’s hospital bed and intensive care unit capacity. The site allows users to visualize and compare hospitalization activity between states.

“Whereas each state collects its own data, we wanted to make it easy to share and analyze data across states,” said Pinar Karaca-Mandic, associate professor at the Carlson School of Management and academic director of the Medical Industry Leadership Institute. “This wasn’t possible until we launched this project, and this is the first time that a comprehensive national view of the data is available.”

The hospital utilization data is adjusted for each state’s population to allow for valid comparisons.

Drug price transparency bill clears Legislature; signed by Governor

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz recently signed the state’s Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act (SF 1098; HF 1246), which requires drug makers whose products hit certain price increase thresholds to provide advanced notice and justification of the increases to the Commissioner of Health. Manufacturer reporting on the drugs—which includes information on manufacturing costs, marketing, and sales—will be published by the Minnesota Department of Health

The bill passed the House 99–33 after passing the Senate 63–2. The provision had been included in a health omnibus bill in 2019, but was removed when the bill went into conference committee due to pharmaceutical industry concerns about trade secret violations. Though changes were made to be more protective of industry secrets, drug manufacturers still opposed this year’s legislation.

Rep. Kelly Morrison, MD, DFL-Deephaven, said the bill is meant to draw attention to big price increases and their role in rising health care costs, adding that taxpayers foot the bill for increases in government health programs.

The new law takes effect in October 2021 and covers three classes of prescription drugs: those that are $100 or greater for a 30-day supply (or $100 for a course of treatment lasting less than 30 days); brand-name drugs that have increased in price by 10% or more over the previous 12 months (or 16% or more over the last 24 months); and generic drugs that have price increases of 50% or more over the previous 12 months.

Companies that fail to follow the law face fines of up to $10,000 per day.

Juniper offers its “Stay Well in Your Home” classes online

Wellness courses are now available online through Juniper, an initiative of Minnesota’s seven Area Agencies on Aging that promotes self-managed health and well-being.

Over the past year, Juniper providers have led more than 500 wellness classes in communities across Minnesota. In March, all community-based Juniper courses were canceled due to COVID-19. These courses, once conducted in person, are now moving online to offer classes in the safety of participants’ homes. The live, online courses are facilitated by trained and certified leaders and limited in class size to ensure sharing and interaction.

The courses offer materials designed to help individuals eat healthier, increase physical activity, work better with health care professionals, and feel better. Small-group classes are held on HIPAA-secure and easy-to-use video conferencing, allowing real-time engagement with course leaders and fellow participants.

Learn more at https://tinyurl.com/hcn-juniper or call 855-215-2174 to speak with a Juniper specialist about options. Registration is limited to ensure small class size.

Minnesota modifies human services policies during pandemic

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has temporarily modified more than 30 rules and regulations to preserve access to critical human services such as health care, economic assistance, and childcare during the pandemic.

The scope of the emergency waivers and modifications is unprecedented in the history of the state’s human services programs. With more than one in five Minnesotans relying on these programs, the changes have unfolded in stages:

Health and safety. To ensure that people don’t lose health care coverage or other vital support services such as economic assistance and childcare, DHS made changes to postpone renewals for state health insurance programs and allow for a 90-day supply of maintenance medications.

Telemedicine and other remote services. Changes were made to ensure that people could get care and services through phones and computer screens.

Workforce challenges. DHS works to support providers as they continue services to keep people as connected and healthy as possible.

On April 24, Gov. Walz signed an executive order to ensure that people who rely on state health care and economic assistance programs won’t be penalized for receiving federal stimulus money.

In collaboration with interagency work groups established by Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, DHS has also been distributing emergency funding across the state for housing and childcare providers and issuing emergency food aid to individuals and families who rely on SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Telehealth services up sharply in state

Nine Minnesota health systems reported a 1,000-fold increase in the use of telehealth services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Stratis Health survey.

The independent nonprofit organization convenes a Virtual Health Sharing Group of health system telehealth directors, representing 11 systems in Minnesota. Since 2017, the group has discussed telehealth implementation progress, challenges, and priority topics. With the coronavirus outbreak, the group increased meeting frequency to discuss strategies around the rapidly changing telehealth guidelines and approaches. The latest survey provides a snapshot of the expanding telehealth use.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the nine responding Minnesota health systems reported a collective 1,149 telehealth visits per day. Since COVID-19, the health systems reported conducting a collective 15,480 telehealth visits per day as of April 24. These new telehealth visits were proportionate in mode of delivery, with 7,612 telephone visits and 7,868 video visits.

Top challenges reported by Minnesota health systems in this rapidly expanding telehealth care:

  • Educating staff and physicians on workflows.
  • Scaling up issues related to equipment availability and deployment.
  • Understanding coding/billing to obtain appropriate reimbursement.
  • Facilitating and supporting telehealth encounters from the patient side.

Care systems seek community help

CentraCare and Carris Health facilities have identified a novel source of protective gear for their clinical staff, long-term care residents, and patients: private homes.

The facilities are asking for the community’s support through donations of high-thread count, cotton, homemade face masks, as well as bouffant caps.

Dustin Maddy, Incident Command, Community Sourcing Lead, asked the communities to provide the supplies for staff, long-term care residents, and patients that don’t already have masks.

CentraCare and Carris Health offer specific patterns for face masks and bouffant caps online.

Drop-off locations for personal protective equipment are available across Central Minnesota.

UCare provides members COVID-19 financial relief

As COVID-19 continues to impact Minnesotans’ safety, health, and financial security, UCare is taking several actions during the duration of federal and state public health emergencies to make health care more accessible and affordable:

  • Reducing member premium payments by 20% in July and August 2020.
  • Removing copays for Medicare primary care and mental health clinic services—including telehealth—during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • Continuing to waive copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for COVID-19 tests and associated clinic, urgent care, and emergency room visits.
  • Continuing to waive copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for COVID-19 inpatient hospitalizations through September 2020.
  • Supplying health care providers, group homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, social service organizations, and vulnerable members with telehealth home kits, masks, healthy snack boxes, and iPads.
  • Offering $25,000 grants to small provider groups and community clinics to build infrastructure during COVID-19.

In the past few months, members’ use of health care services and associated claims were lower than expected due to COVID-19. This enabled UCare to offer members financial relief and providers resources to ease the way for them to reconnect.

Medicare members also have access to over-the-counter Healthy Savings to purchase preventive care items such as masks, gloves, or hand sanitizers at participating stores.

UCare members can utilize telehealth services available to them in the safety of their homes. 

 

  Medicus

Jason Klipsic, DO, has been named as St. Luke’s first chief medical information officer. In his new role, Dr. Klipsic will provide guidance and expertise in analysis, design, configuration, implementation, process improvement, and ongoing support of clinical information systems to support patient care. He will continue working part time as a hospitalist.

 

Jeffrey F. Klassen, MD, a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon, has joined Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO). Dr. Klassen’s clinical interests include shoulder care, elbow care, wrist care, hand care, fracture care, pediatric care, and sports medicine. Dr. Klassen is board-certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. He will practice at the Edina–Crosstown location.

 

Bruce Cantor, MD, MS, has joined UCare as medical director. In his new role, Dr. Cantor will be responsible for conducting day-to-day medical management and leading ongoing improvement in collaboration with Health Services, providing guidance to the utilization management, appeals, medical policy, and quality improvement teams. He will also provide clinical support as needed for complex case management, disease management, and vendor services.

 

Malini DeSilva, MD, MPH, an investigator at HealthPartners Institute, is coauthor of a CDC-published report documenting that vaccinations for measles have dropped significantly since January. The report also noted a steep decline in purchase orders for routine vaccines. She stressed the need for routine vaccinations to decrease the risk of future outbreaks of preventable diseases.

Marc Martel, MD, an emergency physician at Hennepin Healthcare, has developed an aerosol protection box to protect from the fluids that spray from the patient’s mouth when receiving respiratory treatment. His first model—built with supplies from local hardware stores—prevents nearly 99% of the exposure during intubation. Local hospitals and the University of Minnesota have also developed aerosol protection boxes.  

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  CAPSULES

U of M researchers launch hospitalization tracking project

Two University of Minnesota research centers have launched an urgent project to better understand state-by-state hospitalization data.

The COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project (https://tinyurl.com/hcn-tracking) currently reports data from 37 states. The site captures and tracks daily data on the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations—as reported by states’ Departments of Health—along with each state’s hospital bed and intensive care unit capacity. The site allows users to visualize and compare hospitalization activity between states.

“Whereas each state collects its own data, we wanted to make it easy to share and analyze data across states,” said Pinar Karaca-Mandic, associate professor at the Carlson School of Management and academic director of the Medical Industry Leadership Institute. “This wasn’t possible until we launched this project, and this is the first time that a comprehensive national view of the data is available.”

The hospital utilization data is adjusted for each state’s population to allow for valid comparisons.

Drug price transparency bill clears Legislature; signed by Governor

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz recently signed the state’s Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act (SF 1098; HF 1246), which requires drug makers whose products hit certain price increase thresholds to provide advanced notice and justification of the increases to the Commissioner of Health. Manufacturer reporting on the drugs—which includes information on manufacturing costs, marketing, and sales—will be published by the Minnesota Department of Health

The bill passed the House 99–33 after passing the Senate 63–2. The provision had been included in a health omnibus bill in 2019, but was removed when the bill went into conference committee due to pharmaceutical industry concerns about trade secret violations. Though changes were made to be more protective of industry secrets, drug manufacturers still opposed this year’s legislation.

Rep. Kelly Morrison, MD, DFL-Deephaven, said the bill is meant to draw attention to big price increases and their role in rising health care costs, adding that taxpayers foot the bill for increases in government health programs.

The new law takes effect in October 2021 and covers three classes of prescription drugs: those that are $100 or greater for a 30-day supply (or $100 for a course of treatment lasting less than 30 days); brand-name drugs that have increased in price by 10% or more over the previous 12 months (or 16% or more over the last 24 months); and generic drugs that have price increases of 50% or more over the previous 12 months.

Companies that fail to follow the law face fines of up to $10,000 per day.

Juniper offers its “Stay Well in Your Home” classes online

Wellness courses are now available online through Juniper, an initiative of Minnesota’s seven Area Agencies on Aging that promotes self-managed health and well-being.

Over the past year, Juniper providers have led more than 500 wellness classes in communities across Minnesota. In March, all community-based Juniper courses were canceled due to COVID-19. These courses, once conducted in person, are now moving online to offer classes in the safety of participants’ homes. The live, online courses are facilitated by trained and certified leaders and limited in class size to ensure sharing and interaction.

The courses offer materials designed to help individuals eat healthier, increase physical activity, work better with health care professionals, and feel better. Small-group classes are held on HIPAA-secure and easy-to-use video conferencing, allowing real-time engagement with course leaders and fellow participants.

Learn more at https://tinyurl.com/hcn-juniper or call 855-215-2174 to speak with a Juniper specialist about options. Registration is limited to ensure small class size.

Minnesota modifies human services policies during pandemic

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has temporarily modified more than 30 rules and regulations to preserve access to critical human services such as health care, economic assistance, and childcare during the pandemic.

The scope of the emergency waivers and modifications is unprecedented in the history of the state’s human services programs. With more than one in five Minnesotans relying on these programs, the changes have unfolded in stages:

Health and safety. To ensure that people don’t lose health care coverage or other vital support services such as economic assistance and childcare, DHS made changes to postpone renewals for state health insurance programs and allow for a 90-day supply of maintenance medications.

Telemedicine and other remote services. Changes were made to ensure that people could get care and services through phones and computer screens.

Workforce challenges. DHS works to support providers as they continue services to keep people as connected and healthy as possible.

On April 24, Gov. Walz signed an executive order to ensure that people who rely on state health care and economic assistance programs won’t be penalized for receiving federal stimulus money.

In collaboration with interagency work groups established by Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, DHS has also been distributing emergency funding across the state for housing and childcare providers and issuing emergency food aid to individuals and families who rely on SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Telehealth services up sharply in state

Nine Minnesota health systems reported a 1,000-fold increase in the use of telehealth services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Stratis Health survey.

The independent nonprofit organization convenes a Virtual Health Sharing Group of health system telehealth directors, representing 11 systems in Minnesota. Since 2017, the group has discussed telehealth implementation progress, challenges, and priority topics. With the coronavirus outbreak, the group increased meeting frequency to discuss strategies around the rapidly changing telehealth guidelines and approaches. The latest survey provides a snapshot of the expanding telehealth use.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the nine responding Minnesota health systems reported a collective 1,149 telehealth visits per day. Since COVID-19, the health systems reported conducting a collective 15,480 telehealth visits per day as of April 24. These new telehealth visits were proportionate in mode of delivery, with 7,612 telephone visits and 7,868 video visits.

Top challenges reported by Minnesota health systems in this rapidly expanding telehealth care:

  • Educating staff and physicians on workflows.
  • Scaling up issues related to equipment availability and deployment.
  • Understanding coding/billing to obtain appropriate reimbursement.
  • Facilitating and supporting telehealth encounters from the patient side.

Care systems seek community help

CentraCare and Carris Health facilities have identified a novel source of protective gear for their clinical staff, long-term care residents, and patients: private homes.

The facilities are asking for the community’s support through donations of high-thread count, cotton, homemade face masks, as well as bouffant caps.

Dustin Maddy, Incident Command, Community Sourcing Lead, asked the communities to provide the supplies for staff, long-term care residents, and patients that don’t already have masks.

CentraCare and Carris Health offer specific patterns for face masks and bouffant caps online.

Drop-off locations for personal protective equipment are available across Central Minnesota.

UCare provides members COVID-19 financial relief

As COVID-19 continues to impact Minnesotans’ safety, health, and financial security, UCare is taking several actions during the duration of federal and state public health emergencies to make health care more accessible and affordable:

  • Reducing member premium payments by 20% in July and August 2020.
  • Removing copays for Medicare primary care and mental health clinic services—including telehealth—during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • Continuing to waive copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for COVID-19 tests and associated clinic, urgent care, and emergency room visits.
  • Continuing to waive copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for COVID-19 inpatient hospitalizations through September 2020.
  • Supplying health care providers, group homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, social service organizations, and vulnerable members with telehealth home kits, masks, healthy snack boxes, and iPads.
  • Offering $25,000 grants to small provider groups and community clinics to build infrastructure during COVID-19.

In the past few months, members’ use of health care services and associated claims were lower than expected due to COVID-19. This enabled UCare to offer members financial relief and providers resources to ease the way for them to reconnect.

Medicare members also have access to over-the-counter Healthy Savings to purchase preventive care items such as masks, gloves, or hand sanitizers at participating stores.

UCare members can utilize telehealth services available to them in the safety of their homes. 

 

  Medicus

Jason Klipsic, DO, has been named as St. Luke’s first chief medical information officer. In his new role, Dr. Klipsic will provide guidance and expertise in analysis, design, configuration, implementation, process improvement, and ongoing support of clinical information systems to support patient care. He will continue working part time as a hospitalist.

 

Jeffrey F. Klassen, MD, a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon, has joined Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO). Dr. Klassen’s clinical interests include shoulder care, elbow care, wrist care, hand care, fracture care, pediatric care, and sports medicine. Dr. Klassen is board-certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. He will practice at the Edina–Crosstown location.

 

Bruce Cantor, MD, MS, has joined UCare as medical director. In his new role, Dr. Cantor will be responsible for conducting day-to-day medical management and leading ongoing improvement in collaboration with Health Services, providing guidance to the utilization management, appeals, medical policy, and quality improvement teams. He will also provide clinical support as needed for complex case management, disease management, and vendor services.

 

Malini DeSilva, MD, MPH, an investigator at HealthPartners Institute, is coauthor of a CDC-published report documenting that vaccinations for measles have dropped significantly since January. The report also noted a steep decline in purchase orders for routine vaccines. She stressed the need for routine vaccinations to decrease the risk of future outbreaks of preventable diseases.

Marc Martel, MD, an emergency physician at Hennepin Healthcare, has developed an aerosol protection box to protect from the fluids that spray from the patient’s mouth when receiving respiratory treatment. His first model—built with supplies from local hardware stores—prevents nearly 99% of the exposure during intubation. Local hospitals and the University of Minnesota have also developed aerosol protection boxes.  

UCare members can utilize telehealth services available to them in the safety of their homes. 

Marc Martel, MD, an emergency physician at Hennepin Healthcare, has developed an aerosol protection box to protect from the fluids that spray from the patient’s mouth when receiving respiratory treatment. His first model—built with supplies from local hardware stores—prevents nearly 99% of the exposure during intubation. Local hospitals and the University of Minnesota have also developed aerosol protection boxes.