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Healthcare Roundup: Community Hospitals Go For IT, Providers Nix Red Flags, NYC St. Vincent May Close, and More

Community Hospitals Get ARRA Message - A new survey finds that three quarters of small to mid-sized hospitals in the U.S. plan to increase their IT budgets this year. Fifty-five percent of the hospital executives queried said that point-of-care clinical information systems are their top priority, followed by health data exchange (14%), leveraging data (12%), infrastructure (14%), and administrative efficiency (2%). The biggest reason for the upsurge of interest in information systems are the government incentives being offered under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. [Source: Information Week]

Providers Oppose 'Red Flag' Regs - Four associations representing physicians, dentists, and veterinarians, including the AMA and the American Osteopathic Association, sent the Federal Trade Commission a letter opposing the application to their members of burdensome new privacy requirements known as "red flag" rules. In light of a recent court decision that said the FTC had overstepped its bounds in this area, the associations asked the agency-which has pushed back the effective date of the red flag rules to June 1-not to apply them to health professionals. [Source: Fierce Healthcare]

St. Vincent's Hospital in NYC May Close - St. Vincent's, which is known nationally as the hospital where the wounded were taken after the 9/11 attack, is in dire financial shape and may be taken over by Continuum Health Partners, a consortium of five other hospitals in New York. If this happens, Continuum would close St. Vincent's and replace it with an ambulatory-care clinic. It would also sell most of the hospital's valuable real estate to pay off an estimated $700 million in debt. New York politicians are fighting the move, which they say would leave most of Manhattan's West Side without a hospital, and other options are being considered. [Source: New York Times]

Higher Copayments Lead to More Hospitalizations - When copayments for ambulatory care are increased,elderly patients may forgo important outpatient care, leadingto increased use of hospital care. That's the conclusion of a new study of nearly 900,000 patients in 36 Medicare plans from 2001 to 2006. The researchers found that when copayments were doubled for primary-care and specialty-care visits, the patients in the study group were hospitalized at a higher rate than those in the control group, who did not have higher copays. [Source: New England Journal of Medicine]

Mississippi Seeks Healthcare Tips From Iran - Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the U.S., has the lowest life expectancy in the country and an infant mortality rate 50 percent above the national average. Obesity and chronic diseases are rife in the state. But it is still surprising that a group of Mississippi physicians want to import ideas on how to improve primary care from Iran, a country with which the U.S. has been in a virtual cold war for decades. If Congress approves funding for a pilot program, the physicians plan to launch Iranian-style "health houses"-rural medical outposts staffed by community health workers-in 15 Delta communities. This approach has helped cut the infant mortality rate in Iran by 70 percent in the past decade, according to the World Health Organization. [Source: Los Angeles Times]

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