Betsy Ryan is president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Her blog, Healthcare Matters, examines the many issues confronting New Jersey's hospitals and their patients. Readers are encouraged to join the discussion, because healthcare matters - to all of us.

A Hat Trick for Healthcare

Our healthcare system has scored a hat trick of reduced mortality rates, fewer hospitalizations and reduced healthcare costs, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That’s great news for patients, taxpayers, employers and anyone who’s interested in high-value healthcare.

Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine reported that mortality rates among Medicare patients fell 16 percent from 1999 to 2013. That’s 300,000 fewer deaths a year in 2013 than in 1999, said cardiologist Harlan Krumholz, the lead researcher and author. He called the results “jaw-dropping.”

In addition, hospitalization rates fell 24 percent, and the costs for hospitalized patients fell by 15 percent.

Those findings are precisely the types of results we’re striving for in our hospitals and other healthcare organizations. Our goal, and our challenge under the Affordable Care Act, is to provide high-quality healthcare at lower costs. And we do that by focusing on wellness and preventative services, keeping patients out of the hospital, improving quality and reducing complications and providing the right amount of care in the right healthcare setting. That’s why you’re seeing things like hospital-run fitness centers and urgi-care centers; hospitals integrating into larger systems with physician groups and post-acute providers; patient follow-up programs that aim to keep discharged patients from a return hospital stay; and many more new initiatives.

It’s incredibly rewarding to see those efforts validated and quantified in the JAMA report. We know there’s much more change and many more challenges ahead as we work to transform our healthcare system. But today, it’s great to see that our shots are on goal and we’ve found the back of the net

Written by Default at 00:00

Demand for Blood Donations Never Takes a Vacation

It’s summertime, but please don’t take a vacation from donating blood. Hospitals rely on blood donations to care for cancer patients, trauma victims, people undergoing surgeries and more. Blood donations traditionally drop off significantly in the summer months, but the demand for blood never takes a break. In fact, our healthcare facilities need 110 pints of blood daily to keep up with demand.

New Jersey used 31,400 more units of blood than it collected in 2012 (that’s the most recent data available.) While 60 percent of people in New Jersey are eligible to donate blood, only 3.6 percent of them do — compared with 5 percent nationally.

You can help. Find a blood donation site near you and schedule an appointment or drop in at a blood drive. Click here for a list of blood centers at New Jersey hospitals.

Or, plan to attend the Aug. 6 mega blood drive at Rutgers’ Student Center, cosponsored by the university, the N.J. Department of Health and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. You can find more details here.

If you’re an employer, I challenge you to hold a blood drive in your workplace. We hold several a year here at NJHA, and I’m very proud of the generosity of the NJHA employees who literally roll up their sleeves to help others.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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Supreme Court Ruling Brings Great Relief to New Jersey’s Newly Insured

The U.S. Supreme Court’s action today in King v. Burwell is a wonderful decision, and a great source of relief, for the nearly 200,000 New Jersey residents who would have faced losing their health insurance. Whether you like or loathe the Affordable Care Act, we’re at a point in its implementation that we’re seeing some real impact – real benefits – for healthcare consumers who now enjoy greater access to the healthcare services they need. To have backtracked on that progress would have been devastating for those individuals. It also would have been a big blow to the hospitals and other healthcare providers that take care of those patients regardless of their ability to pay, and would have introduced a great deal of uncertainty throughout the insurance marketplace. I’m thrilled that we can continue with our efforts to improve our healthcare delivery system and strive to make quality, affordable healthcare accessible to all. 

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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ACA Onlookers Hold Their Breath for Another Supreme Court Ruling

Two years ago, we all waited anxiously to see if the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The Supremes (as I like to call them) did uphold the law – but here we are again in 2015, waiting for another Court decision that could be historic in determining the law’s fate.

In King v. Burwell, the challenge involves one section of the 1,000-plus-page law dealing with the IRS, and it will determine if states that chose to use the federal government’s Web site to enroll people can offer those enrollees a federal subsidy to help pay for the insurance. New Jersey was among 37 states that chose not to establish their own exchange and instead rely on the “federal exchange.”

Most people agree that this was a drafting error in the law, but the Supreme Court will issue a decision within the next month that could determine if 203,473 New Jerseyans (out of 254,316 total enrolled on may continue to receive federal funding to offset the cost of the premium. This represents 83 percent of those enrolled in New Jersey. The Supreme Court decision could have a monumental impact on the ability of these individuals to afford health insurance.

The ACA evokes strong feelings in many, but no one can deny it has reduced the number of uninsured Americans in our country by about 11 million. It would be a shame to take a step backward and see that number creep back up.  I remain optimistic that the Supreme Court will view the law in its totality, listen to those that worked on the legislation and rule that the subsidies may continue to flow regardless of what type of exchange an individual used to enroll. Why should a New Yorker receive a subsidy but a New Jerseyan be denied, simply because of a technicality in where their exchange was rooted? It just doesn’t make sense.

Time will tell – about 30 days’ time to be precise, with the Court’s current session slated to wrap up at the end of June.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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Nurses Week 2015: Ethical Practice, Quality Care

A number of recent reports have lauded New Jersey hospitals for the high-quality care they deliver. In the most recent example, our hospitals ranked fifth in the nation on The Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Score.

New Jersey is also among the national leaders in the number of hospitals that have achieved the prestigious Magnet award for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Coincidence? I think not. Nurses play an essential role in the quality improvement efforts under way in hospitals across our state.

Nurses are the eyes and ears on our patient units, and they hold invaluable insight into what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to optimal patient care. Here at NJHA, our statewide quality improvement efforts are led by a nurse – Dr. Aline Holmes, RN, who recently earned her doctorate in nursing practice – along with several other nurses with various specialties. I am impressed every day by their knowledge not just of patient care, but of processes and policies that can make the healthcare system better. I’m so thankful to have them on our team. Working collaboratively with our member hospitals and post-acute facilities, they have helped New Jersey hospitals improve patient outcomes and reduce complications like infections and pressure ulcers. Empowered nurses deliver real results!

As we observe National Nurses Week, I can’t think of a better time to recognize New Jersey nurses for the vital role they play throughout our healthcare facilities – not just in hands-on patient care but in areas like quality and patient safety, ethics, patient education, community engagement and in executive leadership.

The theme for the 2015 observance of National Nurses Week is “Ethical practice, quality care.” It’s a short but very precise statement of the value that nurses bring to our healthcare system.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00