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[Link] Banner hospitals in NoCo join state opioid program

GREELEY — Banner Health’s three Northern Colorado hospitals are among those joining a program aimed at reducing the number of opioid painkiller doled out to emergency-room patients. A total of five Banner hospitals — including Banner Fort Collins Medical Center, McKee Medical Center in Loveland and North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley — are set to implement Colorado’s Alternative to Opioid project. Banner facilities in Sterling and Brush will also participate. The project implements components from the 2017 Opioid Prescribing & Treatment Guidelines developed by the Colorado chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, according to a Banner news release. These guidelines include using alternatives to opioids as a first line of defense in treating patients with painful conditions before resorting to opioids. “Currently, physicians use their best judgment and in a strong majority of the situations, they prescribe alternatives to opioids,” Dr. Angela Mills, chief medical officer at North Colorado Medical Center, said in a written statement. “However, they also want the patient to be comfortable. When someone says he has pain at a level 9 on a scale of 10, this can be challenging.” Centura Health, which operates Longmont United Hospital and Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, implemented the ALTO program in all 17 of the health system’s emergency rooms and urgent-care centers in December.

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[Link] Banner breast centers recognized by American College of Radiology

LOVELAND — The Banner Health breast centers at McKee Medical Center in Loveland and Summit View Medical Commons in Greeley have achieved the Breast Imaging Center of Excellence designation by the American College of Radiology, according to a Banner news release. The ACR, a national professional organization that supports programs focusing on the practice of medical imaging and radiation oncology, recognizes breast imaging centers that have earned accreditation in mammography, stereotactic breast biopsy, breast MRI and breast ultrasound, the release said.

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[Link] Economic growth expected to continue, but at slower pace

BOULDER — One of Rich Wobbekind’s final slides at the 2019 Economic Forecast — Boulder & Beyond event, Jan. 17, summed up a growing list of headwinds for the economy, but economic growth is expected to continue. Wobbekind, executive director of the Business Research Division at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, delivered his 2019 economic forecast before a crowd of about 420 people at the Embassy Suites in Boulder. The annual event is presented by the Boulder Economic Council. “I guess I’m smiling, I don’t know,” Wobbekind quipped at the outset of his presentation, responding to Boulder Economic Council executive director Clif Harald’s introductory description of Wobbekind’s demeanor. If Wobbekind was smiling, it was because “Overall, the picture is pretty positive,” he said, with government spending “pushing the economy forward” in 2018. Unemployment remains low, he noted, with consumer spending strong. But that latter point illustrates a danger for the nation’s economy. Wobbkind included a slide that said, “Attention: “This presentation is not being updated, due to the lapse in Federal funding,” drawing laughs from the audience. That wasn’t just a joke, however, as certain economic data — including final consumer-spending numbers for December — have not been released due to the ongoing partial government shutdown, which itself can reduce economic growth. Nonetheless, Wobbekind’s forecast is for continued growth in the new year, though at a slower pace. Real gross domestic product increased at a robust annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2018, but that pace is expected to slow in 2019. “We think that GDP is slowing, not just due to the lapse in government funding,” Wobbekind said. He noted that the effects of the federal tax cuts, which functioned as a stimulus, are “starting to wane,” predicting that the nation would return to a growth rate of 2.5 percent to 2.6 percent. Growth in the U.S. workforce is much smaller than in the 1980s or 1990s, he said, making growth above 2.5 percent “a very difficult thing to do,” he said. Wobbekind said that the level of unemployment — 3.9 percent nationwide — should have slowed growth. He noted that 6.7 million jobs remain unfilled across the country, down slightly from a peak of 7.1 million unfilled jobs a few months ago. But low unemployment has been mitigated by higher labor-force participation. “We’re squeezing as much out of the workforce as we can,” he said. He said that job growth — 300,000 jobs were added in the United States in December, beating economists’ expectations — points to a continued strong growth. Additionally, consumer debt is at its lowest level in 25 years as a percentage of income. “The consumer is in pretty good shape,” Wobbekind said. “We’re seeing strong wage growth, strong employment growth and strong income growth,” he noted. “It’s very difficult to be talking about a recession in the near term unless we have some really big exogenous shock to the system.” Economic headwinds nationally include interest rates, […]

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