A Medical Device Daily

Vital Images (Minneapolis), a provider of advanced visualization and analysis software, and Toshiba Medical Systems (Tokyo) have agreed to renew their global distribution agreement for five years, through Dec. 31, 2013.

Toshiba will offer Vital Images' solution through its subsidiaries and distributors in more than 50 countries in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia and Asia, including Japan.

Toshiba Medical Systems has been providing Vital Images' solution as the advanced visualization and analysis software of choice to customers purchasing Toshiba's Aquilion and other CT scanners since 2000.

The lengthened term of the new contract demonstrates the past success and continued commitment that the two companies have in continuing their strategic relationship throughout the next five years.

SonoSite (Bothell, Washington) a specialist in hand-carried ultrasound at the point of care, said that HealthTrust Purchasing Group (Brentwood, Tennessee) has awarded SonoSite a contract for portable ultrasound. The contract covers SonoSite's M-Turbo , S Series and MicroMaxx product lines.

"We are very pleased to contract with one of the nation's most respected health purchasing groups," said Kevin Goodwin, SonoSite president/CEO. "SonoSite's products provide medical professionals with the power of ultrasound visualization and the benefits of hand-carried portability in an easy-to-use, rugged design that comes with the industry's only standard 5-year warranty."

SonoSite's portable ultrasound products provide point-of-care imaging across multiple clinical applications. Using SonoSite hand-carried ultrasound, the HealthTrust membership will have access at the point-of-care to ultrasound diagnostic imaging and real-time visual guidance for interventional procedures.

In other agreements/contracts news:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that National Heritage Insurance (NHIC; Hingham, Massachusetts) has been awarded a contract of up to five years for the combined administration of Part A and Part B Medicare claims payment in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

NHIC will serve as the first point of contact for the processing and payment of Medicare fee-for-service claims from hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, physicians and other health care practitioners in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The new Part A/Part B Medicare Administrative Contractor (A/B MAC) was selected using competitive procedures in accordance with federal procurement rules.

The new contractor will take claims payment work now performed by three fiscal intermediaries and two carriers in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The A/B MAC contract, which has an approximate value of $176 million over five years, will fulfill the requirements of the Medicare Modernization Act's (MMA) contracting reform provisions.

Under the current system, fiscal intermediaries process claims for Medicare Part A providers, such as hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and other institutional providers. Carriers process claims for physicians, laboratories and other practitioners under Medicare Part B.

The contract for NHIC includes a base period and four one-year options and will provide NHIC with an opportunity to earn award fees based on its ability to meet or exceed the performance requirements set by CMS. These requirements are rooted in CMS' key objectives for the MACs, including enhanced provider customer service, increased payment accuracy, improved provider education and training leading to correct claims submissions, and realized cost savings resulting from efficiencies and innovation. In accordance with the MMA, MAC contracts will be recompeted at least every five years.

As the A/B MAC contractor, NHIC will immediately begin implementation activities and will assume full responsibility for the claims processing work in its five-state jurisdiction no later than May 2009. NHIC will be reaching out to providers and state medical associations to provide education and information about the implementation.

NHIC, the 10th new Part A/Part B MAC to be named by CMS, is headquartered in Hingham, MA with other operational sites in Quincy, Massachusetts, Boston and Biddeford, Maine. By 2011, a total of 15 new Part A/Part B Medicare contractors will be operating in every state and the District of Columbia.

• T.J. Samson Community Hospital (Louisville, Kentucky) said it is expanding its relationship with the Premier (San Diego) healthcare alliance to include Premier's labor management program. Premier's OperationsAdvisor tool and comparative database will be included, as well as the services of a Premier Performance Partner to help implement and monitor labor use.

Hospitals and integrated delivery networks use OperationsAdvisor Benchmarking for budgeting, developing labor standards and prioritizing improvement projects by accessing a comparative database made up of some 450 submitting facilities. With the integrated OperationsAdvisor application, data submitted in the productivity application flows seamlessly into benchmarking, ensuring a timely, accurate comparative database.

As part of the labor management program, Premier Performance Partners work in hospitals and health systems as advisors to the leadership team and as in-house resources to use Premier's benchmarking and educational resource network.