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Joe Carlson

Reporter | Medical technology
Phone: 612-673-4779

Joe Carlson writes about medical technology in Minnesota for the Star Tribune.


Carlson has covered health care beats full time since 2008, including medical technology, not-for-profit providers and health care legal affairs. His stories tend to blend health care business affairs and patient-focused information.
Recent content from Joe Carlson
Minnesota companies acquired by NAMSA

Minnesota companies acquired by NAMSA

NAMSA has acquired four companies in the Twin Cities since 2009 to expand its offerings in medical-device testing and consulting. Deal prices were not disclosed.…
Christophe Berthoux became chief executive of NAMSA in March.

NAMSA in growth mode under new leadership

Recent changes in ownership, executive leadership signal moves for near-term expansion.
Nurse manager Nkeiru Adoga adjusted her N95 mask while putting on PPE to visit a COVID-19 patient in a stepdown unit at Regions Hospital in St. Paul o

Minnesota hospitals offering more N95 masks to workers

Minnesota hospitals collectively now have about 2.8 million N95 respirators on hand, a supply that would last five months. A year ago, they had only enough to last two months, state data show.
A woman, having a suspected COVID-19 related medical emergency, was helped by emergency first responders in the north Twin Cities metro in December.

Minnesota extends workers' comp for first responders hit by COVID-19

The benefit was set to end May 1, but Gov. Tim Walz signed an extension through year's end.
Sholom Community Alliance paid $27,100 in fines after David Kolleh, a manager in the facility’s memory care unit, died from the coronavirus as it sp

Nursing home worker's death triggers record COVID fine

Sholom Community Alliance paid $27,100 in fines after David Kolleh, a manager in the facility's memory care unit, died from the coronavirus as it spread in the home.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison

Minnesota settles lawsuit with New Prague tavern that violated virus restrictions

The Scott County bar continued to serve food and drinks indoors despite state orders prohibiting that.
A COVID-19 Community Mobile Vaccination Bus visited Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in St. Paul on Tuesday.   ] CHRISTOPHER SNOWBECK • Chris.Snowbe

Minnesota launches mobile vaccine clinics by bus

Outreach focused on groups hit hard by COVID-19 including communities of color.
In a screened off room in the Brian Coyle Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, Paramedic Kayse Abdirahman administered a COVID-19 vaccine to Hi

Intensive care for COVID-19 rising in Minnesota, despite flat trend in overall hospitalizations

1,189 new COVID-19 cases, five deaths in Minnesota
People took saliva COVID-19 tests at MSP Airport on Nov. 12, 2020. The Legislative Auditor’s Office is looking into complaints about the rates bille

Questions surface over state's COVID-19 testing contract

Under the emergency agreement struck last year, the state is billed $87 to $120.99 per test, depending on whether the sample came from a free community walk-up site or the statewide mail-order testing program.
The HealthPartners-Allina partnership provides Allina financial incentives to reduce hospital admissions and readmissions through routine and preventi

HealthPartners, Allina partnership aims to lower costs by making care more effective

Allina patients insured by HealthPartners will be included in five-year effort focused on improving outcomes.
Medtronic's headquarters in Fridley, Minnesota, in a 2011 file image. (Glen Stubbe/ Star Tribune)  ORG XMIT: MIN2104061807590153

Medtronic warns of potential battery problem in 340,000 defibrillators

The device maker is not recommending that doctors remove the devices unless they see a sign of problems.
Andy Flosdorf sits in the chair in his home that he has spent most of the last year in. Flosdorf is a COVID Long Hauler. He got COVID in March 2020, a

Some COVID-19 long haulers in Minnesota still lack diagnosis

There's no ready pool of doctors with the necessary expertise who can quarterback the complicated issues faced by the silent wave of Long COVID patients. Patients say it feels like they're on their own.
FILE - This July 12, 2019 file photo shows the UnitedHealthcare headquarters in Minnetonka. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File) ORG XMIT: MER202df4ab642f6839735

UnitedHealth's proposed $13 billion IT acquisition gets closer regulatory review

A national hospital group is concerned the deal could distort patient care decisions and claims processing.
The JBS pork processing facility in Worthington, Minn., the nation’s third-largest and shown here in a file photo. State officials are now gathering

Minnesota farms, food industry face another pandemic growing season

Last year the COVID-19 pandemic triggered major disruptions in the state's $112 billion industry. Meatpacking plant closures and declines in sales to restaurants forced some livestock to be euthanized.
A lab tech prepared specimens for the analyzer during COVID-19 testing in the lab at Memorial Regional South in Hollywood, Fla., on May 6, 2020. The F

Options are expanding for rapid at-home COVID testing

Minnesota is one of 10 states getting federal shipments of the Cue Health test, which delivers results in minutes. But it's not free.
Kirk Randall, a nurse with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, filled a syringe with a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on March 9.

As vaccine options grow, some get picky in Minnesota

Despite public health advice that people should get whatever vaccine is first available to them, some vaccine-seekers are using online tools to locate a specific brand at a retail site. Some public sites also list vaccine availability by brand.
Kevin Manion elbow-bumped with Dr. Benjamin Sun last week at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. Manion received a heart on Jan. 30 that was r

'Heart in a Box' device allows more transplants in Minnesota

Table-sized device works as life support during transplant.
A Boston Scientific Corporation logo is displayed in Massachusetts in July 2010. (AP file photo.)  ORG XMIT: MIN2101211455540123

Boston Scientific to pay $1.1B for kidney stone laser system

The med-tech company said the deal is expected to close in the second half of 2021.
University of Minnesota Genomics Center researcher Brandon Vanderbush carried a dozen boxes containing COVID-19 tests back to his workstation for proc

Testing remains important even as Minnesotans get vaccinated

When COVID-19 case counts fall, doctors and public health officials say the importance of finding and isolating asymptomatic carriers will re-emerge as a top priority for ending the pandemic.
“Too many people were on the lines coughing, so he knew something was up,” Esmerelda said in May of her husband, a supervisor at JBS Worthington.

No workers' comp paid for COVID-19 claims so far at Minnesota meatpacking plants

None of the claims that have been paid so far are from the state's largest meat-processing plants, where some of the Minnesota's biggest workplace outbreaks occurred.
In a photo provided by NIAID, a colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell (blue) heavily infected with coronavirus particles isolated from

Scientists look to Twin Cities sewers to find COVID variants

Minnesota has seen 18 cases of the U.K. variant, two cases of the Brazil variant, and no cases of the South Africa variant, according to CDC data.
Patty Keeling, vice president of the Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, led chants outside the Pilgrim’s Pride plant on May 11 in Cold Spring, Minn. J

Workplace COVID-19 complaints flood state safety agency

Minnesota saw 250% increase over prior year.
Nurse Darcey McCampbell measured a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for Susan Murr of South St. Paul at a Brooklyn Center test clinic last month.

Companies still struggling to make enough pandemic supplies

N95 respirators. Rubber gloves. Rapid test kits and swabs. Special syringes. To boost production, the Biden administration plans to use a wartime law that prioritizes federal contracts.
Dr. Todd Struckman examined Neil Adamson, who was experiencing throat swelling, on Thursday at St. Luke’s in Duluth.

Pandemic takes bite out of state's health care employment

The number of people working in health care — Minnesota's largest industry by worker head count — has dropped 10,000 since the start of the year.
James Page turned in a COVID test after touring the Minneapolis Convention Center testing facility. The FDA says some tests carry a slight risk of ina

COVID test used across state may offer clues about new strain

The manufacturer of a test used at community testing sites across the state says the test may offer an important clue that a more infectious COVID strain is present.
Samantha Brandt uncapped saliva samples at the Infinity BiologiX lab in Oakdale on Tuesday, Dec. 29. Saliva samples are neutralized by the blue activa

Goodbye nasal swabs: Minnesota expands saliva testing capacity

Starting this month, the Minnesota Department of Health is eliminating nasal-swab testing at its 20 "barrier-free" COVID-19 testing sites, and moving to collecting only saliva samples. The state's at-home tests will remain saliva-based.
Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the effects of widespread mental health issues of all kinds

As pandemic year winds down, mental health concerns rise in Minn.

Seen as the pandemic's possible "next wave"; experts offer ways to help.
FILE — Masks that meet the N95 filtration standard in a storeroom at a hospital in Sarasota, Fla., on March 10, 2020.

Company will surrender counterfeit N95 masks to be destroyed

Supply Link officials said they were conducting an investigation to determine who was behind the fake masks.
Andrea Orest, the statewide health improvement partnership coordinator, handed Tim Pohl a free at-home COVID-19 saliva tests while he waited in his ca

As COVID-19 vaccines roll out, facemasks will still be essential

Scientists don't yet know of vaccinated people can spread the virus, how fast immunity might fade or whether booster shots will be needed after the initial two-injection course of the vaccine.
This electron microscope image made available and color-enhanced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Integrated Research Faci

New test by Minnesota biotech firm can detect COVID immunity levels

Available to the public for the first time, it adds word to virus vocabulary: titer.
People stood in line to make their way through the new saliva COVID-19 testing site at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Nov. 12, 2020

Antidepressant may keep COVID patients out of the hospital

An anxiety-fighting drug that has been on the market for decades could turn out to be a potent weapon in the fight against COVID-19.
Tammi Bertram and her children Kristalyn, 6, center, and Bentley, 9, took a COVID-19 test at the new saliva testing center in Inver Grove Heights, on

Demand for COVID-19 tests in Minn. surges ahead of holidays

Demand is so strong in Minnesota that Health Department officials are modifying their prior advice for asymptomatic people to get tested.
Boston Scientific is cutting about 100 jobs in the Twin Cities after winding down a heart valve product.

Boston Scientific plans to cut 106 jobs at Twin Cities plant

Decision to drop heart valve means 100 jobs lost at Maple Grove plant.
Staff were on hand to guide and help people through the new saliva COVID-19 testing site at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Thursday,

State's COVID-19 cases soaring as families make Thanksgiving plans

Family get-togethers seen as high risk as deaths in Minnesota exceed 2,900.
A person at a new saliva testing center for COVID-19 in the Minneapolis Convention Center dropped a saliva sample into a collection box.

6 things you need to know about COVID-19 testing in Minnesota

Which COVID test works best? Is it free? Where can I get one? We spoke to medical experts to answer these questions and more.
Jessica Steele of St. Paul held her son Little Bear Chatman, Jr., 6, as he was tested at North Memorial Health in Robbinsdale. The facility tested a t

Quarantined health workers feel pressure to return to work

As COVID-19 cases in Minnesota continue to surge, some hospitals and health care providers are asking employees with "higher-risk" exposure to the disease to return to work before their quarantines end.
Health care workers monitored a COVID-19 patient in an ICU at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul on May 7, 2020.

Virus caregivers have more risk at home, in community, study finds

Bedside caregivers are far less likely to catch COVID-19 after risky exposures to patients, compared with interactions at home or in the community, new data show.
Sanford Health headquarters in Sioux Falls.

Rural Minnesota provider Sanford Health merging with system based in Salt Lake City

Health system would join with Intermountain, a similar hospital network.
Leah Chapman, center, a registered nurse, conferred with a fellow health care worker after they rotated a COVID-19 patient in the third-floor ICU at B

COVID makes heart attacks more deadly, study finds

"Mortality for heart attack patients ... should be in single digits. We're seeing mortality here that is 32%," said Dr. Santiago Garcia, of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation.
Medtronic CEO Geoff Martha

Medtronic tells investors it expects faster sales growth ahead

The company now expects to return to normal revenue and profit growth by January, three months earlier than earlier projections.
Healthcare workers don PPE at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul.

Health workers losing pay over testing delays, quarantine rules

A bill slated to be introduced in the Legislature on Monday would require hospitals and nursing homes to give paid time off to health care workers who need to go on leave for COVID testing and quarantine.
Omar Ishrak, executive chairman and former CEO of Medtronic.

Former Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak stepping down from company's board

Omar Ishrak, currently executive chairman, will separate from device maker in December.
The Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building in Rochester.

Former Mayo Clinic employee improperly accessed 1,600-plus patient health records

Social Security numbers, payment card information and bank account numbers weren't accessed.
Infuse Bone Graft by Medtronic.

Medtronic product removed from market in Australia, which is now investigating its use

Medtronic denies any wrongdoing in its marketing or sales of Infuse.
A kindergartner at Harvest Best Academy, a charter school in Minneapolis, ate an apple from her protective desk during lunchtime earlier in September.

Minnesota schools grapple with shifts in COVID-19 cases

Despite state guidelines to help school districts decide whether or when to switch to hybrid or full-time remote learning models, the recommendations are nonbinding, leaving it to district administrators to make the final call.
A Goldy Gopher mascot lawn sign greeted students moving in on the University of Minnesota campus Sept. 15 in Minneapolis.

U testing dorm sewage for COVID-19 at Twin Cities, Duluth campuses

The University of Arizona and Utah State University recently quarantined and tested hundreds of students after dorm wastewater samples led to the discovery of undetected COVID-19 cases.
Hundreds of thousands of patients and donors to Children’s Minnesota and Allina Health hospitals are getting letters saying some of their personal d

State's second-largest health care data breach hits Children's, Allina

The hack was part of a ransomware attack on a cloud computing company called Blackbaud, which manages databases for a number of nonprofits.
Travis Smith received his first COVID-19 test administered by Hien Bui Hien Bui during a free testing event at New Salem Baptist Church in Minneapolis

COVID widens racial gap in Minnesota's health care system

As hospitals and clinics rebuild from the pandemic's financial hit, some doctors and health care officials say there's never been a better time to reach out to historically underserved communities and offer them the same levels of care as whites.
Rachel Miller, an EMS with M Health Fariview, conducted COVID-19 tests during a free testing event at New Salem Baptist Church in Minneapolis on Aug.

N95 masks rationed in state, six months into pandemic

"They are still rationing them, just like they were back in March," said one nurse at a metro hospital, who is leaving her "dream job" until the pandemic recedes because she doesn't feel safe.
University of Minnesota transplant surgeon Dr. John Najarian, shown in 1993.

Pioneering transplant surgeon Dr. John Najarian dies at 92

He served for decades as head of surgery at the University of Minnesota, in a career marked by achievement and controversy.
The entrance to the Gonda building at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Mayo puts Rochester skyscraper expansion on hold 'indefinitely'

Gonda Building would have been Rochester's tallest tower.
Sarah DeBord

Sarah DeBord, cancer patient and activist, dies at 43

Sarah DeBord didn’t mind talking about poop, cancer or dying, and she was unconcerned about whether the language on her blog would be offensive to…
North Memorial health care workers waited for their next drive-up patient at a COVID-19 testing center behind the North Memorial Health Specialty Cent

Two Twin Cities hospitals hit with penalties over COVID-19

North Memorial and United Hospital were each hit with $2,100 citations after workers complained to the state about an array of allegedly unsafe practices related to breathing devices and other personal protective equipment.
The Minnesota Health Department has been able to secure just three batches of more than 100,000 medical-grade infection-preventing N95 masks since Mar

With second virus wave coming, state waits for millions of N95 masks

Masks ordered, but getting them is another story.
Medtronic operational headquarters in Fridley. (Star Tribune file photo)

Medtronic hopes to expand share of diabetes management market with new acquisition

Companion Medical will help the company expand its diabetes management offerings.
Cliff Willmeng, seen at a protest over hospital worker safety on May 4, is suing United Hospital over his May 8 firing.

United Hospital faces lawsuit over safety after firing ER nurse

Cliff Willmeng joins a burgeoning group of hospital workers nationally filing lawsuits in response to what they see as pressure from hospitals to unreasonably lower safety standards for workers on the front lines of pandemic care.
Bill O’Brien fist-bumped Tina Belschner, who was caring for his wife, Marilyn, through the Hospital@Home program. Marilyn broke her pelvis in June.

How North Memorial is helping non-COVID patients do more at home

Hospital-at-home programs are providing telehealth for some emergency patients
Larrydean Goodridge

COVID death of North Memorial worker prompts OSHA probe

The president of Larrydean Goodridge's union said that after her death, the hospital reversed its policy of not providing non-nursing staff with N95 respirators. Hospital officials say they were following CDC guidelines.
In San Diego, an employee takes a blood test to determine if he carries coronavirus antibodies.

'Return to work' COVID antibody testing comes with warning

Health officials say the evidence backing test accuracy and protectiveness from antibodies is not yet strong enough. Even the lab companies and hospitals admit they can't offer "immunity certificates" to people who have the antibodies today.
Cities around Minnesota are passing local requirements to wear masks while indoors to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Minnesota cities set their own mask rules to fight COVID-19

Elected officials say requiring cloth masks while in public is an easy and safe to way prevent spread of the coronavirus.
Brent Walters, MD, critical care and emergency medicine physician, in a patient room during a Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital COVID-19 Emergency Room

Uptick in ICU numbers, confirmed COVID-19 cases continues in Minnesota

Seven of the eight people whose deaths were reported Friday lived in long-term care facilities.
A social distancing sign at Lake Harriet's South Beach in Minneapolis on Thursday afternoon ahead of the July 4th weekend.

Minnesotans, nation prepare to celebrate July 4th with COVID-19 cases on the rise

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm urged Minnesotans to celebrate the holiday primarily with the people in their own households and to consider virtual visits with larger groups.
A medic with the Minnesota Air National Guard 133rd Medical Group administered a free COVID-19 test. [Credit: Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune]

500 new cases, 13 deaths in COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota

It's only the third report in a month's time to reach the 500s.
Duluth Human Rights Officer Carl Crawford greeted Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz with an elbow bump last month.

Walz is urged to mandate masks in Minnesota in COVID-19 fight

State health officials say evidence is mounting that masks make a difference in slowing COVID-19 spread.
A medic with the Minnesota Air National Guard 133rd Medical Group administered a free COVID-19 test to a passenger at a drive-up testing site recently

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to decline in Minnesota

Gov. Tim Walz has said the number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed by laboratory testing in Minnesota plateaued in June.
Health care workers donned PPE at Bethesda Hospital in May in St. Paul.

Minnesota deaths up 6, to 1,441, in COVID-19 pandemic

While cases of COVID-19 are growing rapidly in some states, Minnesota has seen fluctuating trends in confirmed case counts of late.
A vial of the investigational drug remdesivir is visually inspected at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States.

COVID-19 drug price deemed 'reasonable'

Remdesivir cuts hospital stays; researchers still don't know if it lowers mortality rates.
A nurse adjusted her N95 mask at a free testing site in Houston. Tight-fitting N95 masks are in such demand that hospitals are doing everything they c

Still in short supply in Minnesota, N95 masks used over and over

3M Co. said Friday that despite doubling its production of N95 respirators this year, global demand continues to far exceed the supply for the entire industry.
Young people enjoyed the beach at Lake Nokomis on Wednesday, a hot summer day.

COVID-19 risks loom as young adults re-enter public life in Minnesota

New data out seems to show that young people have a sense of invincibility. But as one official said, they also play a part in safeguarding the community.
Screeners wait inside the entrance to the Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital emergency room, where they check those arriving for COVID symptoms before d

Scared of COVID-19, millions are avoiding hospital care -- and risk getting even sicker

Visits to emergency departments dropped off dramatically in April across the U.S.
The Minnesota Department of Health says diagnostic testing has been used to confirm 30,471 cases of COVID-19 in residents since early March.

Minn. firm gets emergency OK to sell Chinese-made COVID-19 test

Premier Biotech, a Minneapolis drug-testing firm that has pivoted to distributing a Chinese-made test for detecting COVID-19 antibodies, plans to ramp up sales in coming weeks.
Patients lined up to get tested for Covid-19 at the People's Center Clinics & Services in Minneapolis.

Minnesota health officials report 311 new COVID-19 cases, 15 more deaths

Minnesota's trend of declining COVID-19 case counts is happening as the overall number of test results rises.
Screeners waited at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital emergency room, where they checked patients for COVID symptoms, in St. Louis Park on June 4.

With positive 2019 in rearview, questions loom for UnitedHealth Group in 2020

Profits at Minnesota’s largest company, UnitedHealth Group in Minnetonka, grew twice as fast as sales last year as the company added hundreds of thousands of…
The number of COVID-19 cases is leveling off in Minnesota even as testing increases. File photo of a test being administered in Cloquet, Minn., last m

Tests climb, but spread of virus slows across Minnesota

The growth rate of new cases has been slowing for two weeks since hitting a high-water mark of about 700 new cases on May 24.
Minnesota's death toll from COVID-19 rose by 16 people on Sunday and the illness spread to 388 more people. File photo of shoppers at Rosedale Center

Minnesota sees continued decline in hospital, ICU cases of COVID-19

On Sunday, there were 199 people in hospital intensive-care units being treated for COVID-19, the lowest total since May 13.