M.D. IS NO GUARANTEE AT HOSPITAL CHAINS: As more doctors go to work directly for hospitals, some are learning the hard way that long-term employment isn’t guaranteed in a consolidating health care industry seeking to cut costs wherever possible. Physicians who become employees are just as susceptible as other workers when hospitals are under pressure to cut costs. Just ask staffers at Edward-Elmhurst. READ MORE.
LOYOLA MEDICINE MAKING MINIMUM WAGE $15: Maywood-based Loyola Medicine is increasing its minimum wage to $15 an hour Jan. 5. The annual $3 million investment will affect about 2,300 employees, or roughly one-third of the three-hospital network’s workers, CEO Shawn Vincent said. To account for what Vincent called “wage compression,” some workers already making $15 or more an hour also will get a raise, he said. Loyola is among hospital chains nationwide that are proactively lifting their wage floor. READ MORE.
SYSTEMS WEIGH ROI AS THEY RAMP UP TECH: As health care executives look to prepare their organizations for a digital overhaul, many are still uncertain about the return on investment, while they seek more effective ways to use all the incoming data, Modern Healthcare reports.
According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute, training employees to use digital tools was the top priority among 300 health system executives surveyed in September, followed by automating tasks previously performed by employees and hiring tech-savvy individuals. But efforts to implement new technology and automate processes are hampered by the fact that many organizations have yet to realize a meaningful return, according to the report.
COST OF ILLINOIS’ RETIREE HEALTH CARE IS STATE’S OTHER SINKHOLE: Unfunded pension costs constantly make the news, but the state also faces a $41 billion bill for retiree health costs—and is doing the worst of any state in setting aside the needed money, S&P says. READ MORE.
REGROUP-INSIGHT MERGER SEEKS TELE-PSYCH POWER: Distance mental health provider Regroup Therapy has combined with an established player to form what it hopes will be an industry juggernaut. Chicago-based Regroup, a startup that uses technology to fill gaps in mental health coverage, merged with InSight Telepsychiatry. Regroup founder David Cohn will stay on at the combined company as chief growth officer, along with other Regroup executives who will be in senior roles. READ MORE.
ADVOCATE LUTHERAN USING AI TO FIND STROKES: Advocate Lutheran General Hospital has become the first hospital in Illinois to use artificial-intelligence software to detect and initiate treatment for stroke, according to a statement from the Park Ridge hospital. Software from San Francisco-based Vis.ai greatly reduces the time it takes to detect a stroke, the statement said, in some cases cutting an hourlong task to six minutes. The software analyzes brain scans and identifies strokes caused by blockages in major arteries, then triages patients directly to a stroke specialist, the statement said.
Time is critical to minimize stroke damage as a patient can lose 2 million brain cells a minute waiting for treatment, the statement said. The computer-aided triage technology will be used by Advocate Aurora Health’s entire 28-hospital system by early 2020, it said.
PATIENTS, INSURERS MAY WIN IN SURPRISE BILLING DEAL: Congress is closing in on a deal that could shield patients from surprise medical bills, eliminating a source of frustration for Americans who face unexpected charges from emergency care and other procedures, Bloomberg reports.
ABBVIE, SCRIPPS RESEARCH EXPAND COLLABORATION: Building on an alliance to research and develop CAR-T cell therapies, North Chicago-based AbbVie and Scripps Research plan to develop new therapies for a range of diseases, including in the therapeutic areas of oncology, immunology, neurology and fibrosis, the companies said in a statement.
La Jolla, Calif.-based Scripps will present to AbbVie preclinical programs to be included in the collaboration. Under the terms of the license agreement, Scripps Research will continue to conduct pre-clinical research and development activities and, in some cases, Phase 1 clinical trials with AbbVie having an exclusive option to further develop and commercialize, the statement said.
“The best way to develop transformational medicines is through collaborations that bring together the brightest minds,” said Mohit Trikha, vice president and head of oncology early development at AbbVie.
MOODY’S RAISES NOT-FOR-PROFIT HOSPITALS’ OUTLOOK: Not-for-profit hospitals’ financials have stabilized thanks to a significant pay raise from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the extended delay of the Medicaid disproportionate-share payment cuts, Modern Healthcare reports. A new Moody’s Investors Service report said operating cash flow will grow 2 percent to 3 percent next year, driven by the highest Medicare reimbursement rate increases in around a decade, Moody’s said in the report as it changed its outlook from negative to stable. Industry observers are still cautious as not-for-profit hospitals navigate hurdles including price transparency mandates, threats to the Affordable Care Act, technology integration, rising Medicare and Medicaid volumes and efforts to rein in drug prices.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
• One former key executive at Outcome Health pleaded guilty to wire fraud and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, while another pleaded not guilty. They’re among a half-dozen former employees who have been charged in connection with what federal prosecutors and the SEC say was a fraud scheme that deceived investors and lenders who gave the Chicago company nearly $1 billion. READ MORE.
PEOPLE ON THE MOVE:
• Former president of Rush University for Health Michael J. Dandorph has taken the job of president and CEO of Wellforce, the Massachusetts health system formed in 2014 by Tufts Medical Center and Circle Health. Dandorph left his position at Rush in September. He takes over at Wellforce in January, the system said.
• Aaron Symanski has been named to the board of Chicago-based drug discount management software maker Kalderos. Symanski is head of engineering at Stats Perform, a sports technology company, and previously was chief technology officer at Change Healthcare, according to a statement from Kalderos.
• Ben Carter has been named chief operating officer at Trinity Health, the Catholic health system that owns Loyola Medicine and Mercy Hospital in Illinois along with hospitals in 16 other states. Carter, who had served as executive vice president and chief financial officer, replaces Michael Slubowksi, who was named Trinity president and CEO. Carter assumes the role on Jan. 1. READ MORE.
• Trinity Health also announced that Julie Spencer Washington will become senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer, effective Jan. 13.