The Pulse

Giving thanks — and timely advice

Thanksgiving makes me think of my wonderful family and friends.

DeepFriedTurkeyBeing thankful for them, and for all GHN colleagues, readers and supporters.

It’s also a time for many Georgians to think about safety when it comes to cooking.

That means those of us who break out the turkey-frying equipment need to take extra care about safety. Georgia ranks seventh in the nation in Thanksgiving Day cooking fires, as Jim Thompson of the Athens Banner-Herald points out.

His article gives tips for holiday cooks on how to fry a turkey safely. Here’s the link.

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Arthritis: An all too common and costly disease

Outwardly, Kerry Tucker of Atlanta looks perfectly healthy.

But for the past 25 years, Tucker has battled constant stiffness and pain from psoriatic arthritis.

Kerry Tucker

Kerry Tucker

“Mornings are the toughest,’’ Tucker said at an Atlanta arthritis conference last week. Then there are the flare-ups that leave her in bed for days.

She’s among patients taking a breakthrough “biologic” drug – medications that have made a major difference in their ability to handle arthritis symptoms.

Yet these specially engineered drugs have a hefty price tag for insurers, employers and patients. That cost has consumer advocates alarmed about the potential financial impact on families.

Roughly one in four Georgians are estimated to have a form of doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to the Atlanta-based Arthritis Foundation. More than 800,000 of them are “limited’’ by the condition, the CDC says.

Thousands of Georgia children have a form of juvenile arthritis. full story

Grady, Blue Cross at impasse as contract expires

Contract standoffs between hospital systems and health insurers typically have a way of being resolved — often right before a deadline.

But high-stakes negotiations between Grady Health System and Georgia’s biggest insurer failed to produce a new contract before the midnight deadline Sunday.

Grady Memorial Hospital

Grady Memorial Hospital

That means Grady Memorial Hospital is now “out of network” for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia members. Patients with Blue Cross insurance will face higher out-of-pocket costs at the Atlanta hospital and its clinics.

Both Grady and Blue Cross expressed disappointment that a deal was not reached. Contract negotiations had been under way for a year.

Grady recently had launched a publicity campaign to call attention to low reimbursements from Blue Cross, saying those payments were lower than the insurer’s rates for other comparable hospitals in Atlanta and throughout the state. full story

State panel meets over ailing rural hospitals

Struggling to stay afloat financially, a northwest Georgia rural hospital has opted to file for bankruptcy protection from its creditors.

Officials at Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe said Wednesday evening that the filing would allow it to continue operations, restructure debt, and help protect it from a Chattanooga system’s effort to foreclose on the hospital’s property.

Erlanger Health System has tried to recoup about $20 million it loaned Hutcheson as part of a management agreement.

Hutcheson Medical Center

Hutcheson Medical Center

The bankruptcy action came just hours before Gov. Nathan Deal’s Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee met in Lavonia on Thursday at Ty Cobb Regional Medical Center — another rural hospital experiencing severe financial challenges.

The panel heard speakers outline the depth of the state’s rural health care crisis.

Four rural hospitals have closed in Georgia over the past two years. Jimmy Lewis of HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals, told the committee that 15 more facilities are “financially fragile.” Six of those, he said, “could go tomorrow due to low cash.”

“We’re approaching Third World care in the state of Georgia,’’ Lewis said.

More than 40 Georgia counties lack obstetrical providers, and just 75 of 180 hospitals in the state have labor and delivery units, Pat Cota of the Georgia OB/GYN Society told panel members. full story

Big doings in state’s booming health IT industry

Greenway Health may not be a household name outside of Carrollton, its headquarters city, though many sports fans may have noticed that professional golfer Jason Dufner wears its logo on his golf shirts.

But in the medical field, Greenway Health has created a major profile. It’s among the leaders in the business of electronic health records and digital services for physicians.

greenwayThe company announced Wednesday that it is establishing an IT development center in Cobb County in metro Atlanta that will create 150 new jobs.

Also Wednesday, other health IT companies in Georgia announced expansions and other major corporate news, during a media tour preceding the Health IT Leadership Summit in Atlanta on Thursday.

Industry leaders say Georgia, and metro Atlanta in particular, have become known as the nation’s health IT capital.

According to the Metro Atlanta Chamber, there are more than 250 health IT companies in Georgia, supporting about 30,000 jobs. And Healthcare Informatics Magazine lists eight Georgia-based companies in its top 100 health IT companies in 2014, based on revenues from the previous year. full story

Consumer Corner

Treatment for HIV runs low in U.S.

About two-thirds of Americans infected with HIV aren’t getting treated for it.

Around the State

Atlanta: Feed the Hungry

Hundreds of volunteers spent all night fixing about 9,000 meals for the homeless and working poor as part of Hosea Feed The Hungry.

Read the full article:

Gwinnett: ‘White coats’

Pharmacy and osteopathic medicine students from the Suwanee campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine have their “white coat” ceremony.

Read the full article:
Gwinnett Daily Post

Albany: Bicycle benefits

Bicycle enthusiasts in the Pecan City Pedalers say Albany is ideal for bicycling.

Read the full article:
Albany Herald

Columbus: Thanksgiving meal

Hundreds came to the Valley Rescue Mission for its annual Thanksgiving meal, offered free to those in need.

Read the full article:
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

GRU picked for hospital CON

Georgia Regents University officials have confirmed they have been chosen by the Department of Community Health to build a hospital in Columbia County.

Read the full article:
Augusta Chronicle


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