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Health briefs: Allina Health announces restricted hospital visitor guidelines; Tips on joining a health club

Allina Health announces restricted visitor guidelines for all hospitals

Starting this month, Allina Health will implement restricted visitor guidelines to protect patients and staff due to influenza. The guidelines are:

• Children under the age of 5 are asked not to visit patients.

• Visitors to Mom Baby/Birth Center units may be screened for wellness and children under 5 will be screened for wellness before visiting.

• Visitors who are sick should refrain from visiting patients in the hospital.

• If you or your child has a cough or sore throat, please wear a mask while in our building.

• Compassionate exceptions may be considered based on a patient's critical condition/prognosis. Talk to a nurse.

Visitors are asked to cover their cough and wash their hands or use the antibacterial hand cleanser provided throughout the facilities. Allina Health hospitals include Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Regina Hospital in Hastings, River Falls Area Hospital and United Hospital in St. Paul.

Tips on joining a health club

Finding a way to get back in shape is always among the top New Year's resolutions. While shaping up is always a goal worth pursuing, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota says it is important to start with a physical and to research the backgrounds of health clubs in the area before signing a contract. "There's always that desire to get started and dive headfirst into a new fitness regimen," said Susan Adams Loyd, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. "However, a health club membership is a considerable financial commitment. This is a time when people do want to sweat the details." Before starting an exercise program, it is always a good idea to consult a medical professional — especially after being inactive for a stretch. BBB recommends following these general guidelines when selecting a gym:

• Research the fitness club's background. Visit www.bbb.org to access free Business Profiles and customer reviews on any gym or health club you're considering.

• Be clear on the terms of introductory offers. Gyms and health clubs often use special introductory offers to attract new members, such as free or reduced enrollment fees. Be sure you're clear on all the terms and what the monthly — or yearly — price will be once the introductory or trial period is over.

• Ask if membership renews automatically. Many times, people who join a health club fail to realize that their contract will renew automatically and that they have to take specific steps to cancel, such as providing a written cancellation notice anywhere from 30 to 60 days before their current contract expires.

• Read the contract closely. Many contracts may not allow canceling before the term ends without an early termination fee. However, health clubs have different policies when it comes to how a move might affect a membership. Whether or not you can be released from your contract usually depends on how far away you're moving and if the club has other locations in the area of your new home. Ask about early termination fees and clauses or health conditions that might allow you to cancel your membership without incurring charges. Also find out how much notice you need to give to get out of your contract if you don't wish to renew your membership. Be aware that often requires submitting a written notice.

• Inquire about what happens if the gym goes out of business. Ask the sales representative to explain what will happen if they suddenly go out of business — or if they're purchased by another fitness company. It's also a good idea to read customer reviews, to see what others have to say about the club's cost, fitness trainers, as well as the condition of and access to exercise equipment and facilities.

Minnesota

Red Cross volunteers recognized

American Red Cross volunteers from Goodhue and Wabasha counties were among those recognized at a recent dinner for volunteers from southeast Minnesota who deployed for recent national disasters across the country. In what was termed an unprecedented disaster season — from Hurricane Harvey through the Santa Rosa wildfires — the Red Cross provided more overnight shelter stays and served more meals and snacks than over the last 5 years combined. Pictured are (from left): Paul Anderson, Lake City (Hurricane Harvey-U.S. Virgin Islands and California wildfires); Teresa Isakson, Red Wing (Hurricane Harvey-Texas); Andrea Swanson, Frontenac (Hurricane Harvey-Texas and Las Vegas shooting); and Ann Nibbe, Lake City (Hurricane Irma-Florida). Not pictured is Jody Nemcek, Red Wing (Hurricane Harvey-Texas).

Research finds nearly 8-fold price differences at Minn. hospitals

Employers and the Minnesota Department of Health have joined together to add some price transparency to the hidden world of health care costs. A report of actual prices paid for a set of four common procedures at Minnesota hospitals found huge swings in prices depending on which hospital a patient selected. For example, while the average price paid for a knee replacement in Minnesota was $23,997, the range in prices paid to Minnesota hospitals between July 2014 and June 2015 was as low as $6,186 to as high as $46,974. This represents a nearly eight-fold difference between the lowest and highest-price hospitals. Likewise, the average price for a cesarean section delivery was $10,234, with the low price of $4,693 and the high average price of $22,831, a nearly five-fold difference. "This is eye opening information for the purchasers of health care," said Carolyn Pare, president and CEO of the Minnesota Health Action Group, a coalition of public and private purchasers dedicated to improving health care outcomes and the overall value of health care services. "Employers have long suspected that there is a great deal of variation in both the quality and the cost of health care, but to be able to see the actual numbers provides them an opportunity to make better purchasing decisions. Employers can also help employees and their family members identify and access more affordable care." The new report, based on commercial payer data only, is the result of employers teaming up with the Minnesota Department of Health to identify new ways to use the Minnesota All-Payer Claims Database to better understand what's happening in health care across the state. Information from the report can help employers ask questions about choosing high-value networks that are characterized by high quality care and competitive prices. Representatives from about twenty employers helped design several ideas for analyses and reports, and placed the highest priority on reports about prices paid for common inpatient treatments. "We were really pleased to demonstrate the value of greater price transparency for employers on this project," Acting Commissioner of Health Dan Pollock said . "We hope this is just the start of future collaborations and ongoing support for using the Minnesota All-Payer Claims Database to help both consumers and employers make informed decisions about health care spending."

Wisconsin

Grants issued to expand treatment services for opioid, meth addiction

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has awarded grants to four organizations to establish treatment services for opioid and methamphetamine addictions in areas of the state most in need of help. "Accessible addiction services are a vital part of our plan to treat Wisconsin's opioid and methamphetamine problems," DHS Secretary Linda Seemeyer said . "People who are struggling with the chronic disease of addiction need supports close to home to help them manage their recovery. This investment moves us closer to our vision of everyone living their best life." DHS intends to contract with Family Health La Clinica of Wautoma, as well as a partnership of the health and human services departments in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties, to provide treatment for opioid addiction in Adams, Dodge, Juneau, Manitowoc and Marquette counties. Contracts are also pending with the Family Health Center of Marshfield and NorthLakes Community Clinic of Iron River to provide treatment for opioid and methamphetamine addictions in Barron, Burnett, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Pierce, Polk, Rusk, St. Croix and Sawyer counties. "DHS is committed to expanding access to addiction treatment and recovery services," said Paul Krupski, DHS director of Opioid Initiatives. "These regions have the greatest need for the programs based on the number of people affected by opioids and methamphetamine in these counties, and the distance residents must travel for help."

Hudson Senior Expo is Feb. 6

Hudson Senior Expo will be held 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Camp St. Croix, 345 Riverview Dr. This free event will featured services and resources for seniors to live independently or with assistance in Hudson and St. Croix County.

Presentation topics include aging in place, Social Security and estate planning. The first 100 to register will receive a free lunch and be entered for door prize drawings. Register online at www.durhamexecutivegroup.com/senior-expo or call Becky Durham at 651-231-2192.

Westfields completes Emergency Department renovation

Westfields Hospital & Clinic will open the last phase of its renovated Emergency Department on Jan. 15. The remodeled department includes new trauma bays, a family consult room, a dedicated ambulance entrance and new ambulance garage. Last August, the Emergency Department's new walk-in entrance, reception area and triage and treatment rooms opened to patients. The new department is four times larger than the previous space and features improvements in safety, patient and family privacy, staff workflows and technology. Theremodel is part of a larger, multi-phase Westfields campus renovation project that began in July 2016.

"The investment in our campus was necessary to address the growth in patient volumes and better prepare for the future needs of the community," said Steve Massey, Westfields Hospital & Clinic president and CEO. He noted that the campus renovation project was made possible due to the hospital and clinic's conservative approach to past investments and planned savings for facility improvements. "The generous donations from the hospital's foundation made the new ambulance garage possible as well as our ability to enhance services for mental health care and healing arts." Massey said the construction project will wrap up next spring with upgrades to main corridors.

Allergist joins Osceola Medical Center

Board Certified Allergist Dr. John Moore of Midwest Allergy and Asthma has joined the staff at Osceola Medical Center. Moore's practice includes the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma and other diseases of the immune system, with a special interest in allergies. "At a young age, I suffered from allergies," Moore said. "This personal experience has allowed me to better understand my patients and their life limitations due to allergic illness. Helping patients overcome that life-changing diagnosis is especially gratifying now that I am a specialist." Moore graduated from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He completed residency at Penn State College of Medicine and a fellowship in Allergy/Immunology at the University of Iowa. He is board certified in Allergy and Immunology as well as a Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine.

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