Tuesday, November 8, 2016

On Call by Casey Ross

Election Day is finally here! Here's what's happening in hospitals and health care today, but make sure you visit STAT throughout the day for health-related news during this historic election. For more, follow us @statnews on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Election Day: Here's what hospitals and providers should be watching

Let’s set aside the locker-room talk and deleted emails for a second to focus on what matters in healthcare.

Yes, the outcome of the Clinton-Trump fight will determine whether the Affordable Care Act has a new champion or someone who calls it a “disaster.” But a number of other important health and medical issues will be decided all over the US.

Here’s some of what providers should keep an eye on this Election Day:

  • A proposal for single-payer health care goes to the ballot in Colorado. It’s not expected to pass, but the vote will be a useful measure of the interest in such a system. Colorado is also voting on whether to allow physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill patients.
  • Marijuana legalization measures are headed for the ballot in a record nine states, which could impact future traffic in emergency rooms.
  • California is voting on a closely-watched measure that would require state agencies to pay no more for prescription drugs than the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

See something unusual at the polls today? Drop a note to

Infusion errors — the top tech hazard of 2017

Three of the scariest words in medicine: IV free flow.

Whether it's from a malfunctioning pump or caregiver error, the uncontrolled flow of medication can lead to a patient’s death. It was also just named the top technology hazard of 2017 by ECRI Institute, a nonprofit research organization.

ECRI, which publishes an annual top 10 list of hospital tech hazards, said infusion pump accidents are preventable by carefully inspecting equipment, using roller clamps on IV tubing, and checking the drip chamber for unexpected flow.

This year’s list also flags dangers from contaminated instruments, such as duodenoscopes, missed ventilator alarms, undetected opioid-induced respiratory depression, and software management gaps that put patient data at risk.

New research: Why hospitals should invest in HR

Want to know if a hospital delivers top-notch care?

Check out its human resources department.

A new study from the University of Missouri shows that a strong HR department is linked with proactive behaviors by caregivers that improve outcomes for patients.

For example, hospitals with effective HR departments had employees who were more willing to take on additional tasks and help colleagues when they become overwhelmed.

The study, which examined HR practices in 450 hospitals around the country, recommends hospitals do three things: Get the CEO to trumpet the importance of HR, helm that department with a top-notch manager, and then fill it with employees who can manage a complicated array of tasks.

In short, the HR department cannot be a management backwater, especially when 65 to 80 percent of a hospital’s operating budget is spent on salaries. The study concludes, “If hospitals want to provide high-quality health care at an affordable cost, they need to pay far more attention to their human resources than they have done in the past."

C-Suite Chats

Fighting cancer is stressful work. That's where William Baun comes in . He is the chief wellness officer at MD Anderson Cancer Center and a guru on relieving stress in health care providers. Here are a few tips from a recent conversation:

Recognize that caregivers are facing extraordinary pressures. “There are floors at MD Anderson where 10 people walk in, and two might walk out,” Baun said. MD Anderson, like many institutions, provides classes on stress relief. It also offers a prayer labyrinth, outdoor gardens, and a recreated Texas prairie for people to get away from the anxieties of the hospital.

Move your body. MD Anderson provides “stress-buster” stations, where caregivers can hop on an elliptical for 10 minutes. “Those are just set up in the hallways,” Baun said. “You can walk yourself away from the stress you were feeling a minute ago.”

Dedicate space for moms. In health care, 70 percent of the workforce is female, and the majority are of childbearing age. Baun said “working mother rooms” not only give mothers private space to pump milk, but also camaraderie.


  • Nurses are in demand, again (Wall Street Journal)
  • Kansas hospitals giving to candidates who support Medicaid expansion (Kansas Health Institute)
  • WHO says pregnant women should get health care eight times (NY Times)
  • A medical first in Gaza: A female medic treats injured soccer players (NPR)

Have a news tip or comment you want to send me?

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Stay well, and come back tomorrow. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter.


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