A Weekly Compilation of Clinical Laboratory and Related Information
from The Division of Laboratory Science and Standards
July 25, 2013
View Previous Issues - Healthcare News Archive
SGR Repeal Bill Gains Broad Support
Physician groups voiced general support for a bill approved by a Congressional subcommittee to replace Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. Medical societies agreed that the bill approved by the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee strikes a good balance among the physician community's many interests and is a fair transition away from today's fee-for-service Medicare reimbursement system. However, nearly all also agree the bill is not perfect and more work is needed before a final product is signed into law. They point to the proposal's quality-reporting measures as an example. The bill, which the subcommittee approved via voice vote, has several elements but starts with repealing the SGR and providing 5 years of stable Medicare payments beginning next year, with reimbursements growing 0.5% for each year between then and 2018. Starting in 2019, physicians can choose to report certain quality measures and have traditional fee-for-service payments adjusted based on how doctors compare to peers on those measures. Physicians can receive a 1% bonus if they perform well and receive a 1% penalty in payments if they don't. Physicians may opt out of this quality-incentive program if they participate in an alternative payment model such as a patient-centered medical home, accountable care organization, or some yet-to-be-determined model. Physicians who decline to report their quality data or participate in an alternative model will receive a 3% cut in payments starting in 2019.
US Senator Asks NIH's Collins to License Out Myriad's BRCA 1/2 Gene Patents
The chairman of the US Senate Judiciary Committee has asked National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins to invoke a provision in federal law, which has never been used before, to license out Myriad Genetic's BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene patents. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) last week sent a letter to Collins asking him to consider use of the so-called march-in rights under the Bayh-Dole Act "to ensure greater access to genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer."
Healthcare Tops List for Workplace Injuries; OSHA 'Hamstrung'
Forget crab fishing. Healthcare is the country's most dangerous occupation, causing more than $7 billion each year in back injuries alone, according to a new report by Public Citizen. The healthcare industry reported 653,900 workplace injuries and illnesses in 2010, according to the report, 152,000 more than the second most-dangerous industry sector, manufacturing. Construction is even farther down the list. Yet the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducts 20 times more inspections at construction sites than at healthcare facilities, even though healthcare workers outnumber construction workers by more than two-to-one, Public Citizen said in an announcement describing OSHA as "hamstrung" in its ability to take action to protect healthcare workers.
MERS Virus Not Global Emergency, Health Officials Say
The slow spread of a new virus that has killed 45 people, mostly in the Middle East, does not amount to a global health emergency, and no travel restrictions will be issued now, the World Health Organization said. The decision followed the second meeting of the agency’s “emergency committee” of outside experts to assess the risks of the virus, now known as MERS, for Middle East respiratory syndrome.
South African Bats May Be Source of New Coronavirus, Study Says
South African bats may be the source of the new coronavirus that’s killed 45 people, mostly in Saudi Arabia, according to a study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. A virus found in the feces of a bat in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape provinces is more closely related to Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, than any other known virus, researchers from the University of Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, and the University of Bonn wrote in the article.
Joint Commission to Study Health IT and Patient Safety
Recently, The Joint Commission announced it had received a sole source contract from the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to help identify unsafe health information technology (health IT) conditions associated with serious patient safety events. The Joint Commission will use de-identified data from its Sentinel Event database to establish a credible and meaningful process that can be used to identify, understand, disseminate and eventually help prevent health IT-related sentinel events that may cause serious or fatal harm to patients. The goal is to make care safer and continuously improve the safety of health IT. This will include the use of laboratory information systems (LIS), as well as the interface from the LIS to electronic health records (EHR).
NIH Bets Big Bucks on Big Data
The National Institutes of Health plans to invest up to $96 million over four years to put big data to work solving persistent health riddles, the agency said. The money will be filtered through six to eight centers of excellence proposed by outside researchers, the agency said. The Big Data to Knowledge, or BD2K, Centers of Excellence will be tasked with making large, complex and unstructured data sets more accessible to biomedical researchers through new software, better storage and improved data sharing and training. NIH Director Francis Collins named National Human Genome Research Institute director Eric Green the agency’s first acting chief data officer in January.
Cardin Praises FDA for Effort on Health Disparities
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) applauded the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a new plan to alert doctors that certain patient subgroups might react differently to drugs and medical devices. A report released by the FDA this month outlines best practices for issuing safety alerts and other notices related to the health and safety risks of certain medical products. The document and a related communications plan is now open to public comment.
2013 Fellowship and Job Market Survey Reveals Hiring Outlook, Training Gaps
Medical schools need to provide more hands-on experience for students to decide if they want to pursue pathology training, according to the results of the 2013 ASCP Fellowship and Job Market Surveys. This report also dovetails with other data indicating that medical schools need to provide students who are not going into pathology with opportunities to interact with pathologists and learn how to read pathology reports in preparation for medical practice. Medical schools need to provide more hands-on experience for students to decide if they want to pursue pathology training, according to the results of the 2013 ASCP Fellowship and Job Market Surveys [PDF 482.20KB].
Study: More Diagnostic Tests Don't Necessarily Improve Outcomes
Researchers find use of evidence-based strategies in ER reduces costs, gets better results. Emergency departments that ordered more diagnostic tests for children with possible community-acquired pneumonia also admitted more children to the hospital, according to a study published online in the journal Pediatrics. However, there was no appreciable difference in the number of ED revisits among those patients between hospitals with higher and lower admission rates. That suggests EDs could conduct fewer diagnostic tests without negatively affecting outcomes, researchers concluded. The study looked at children and teens diagnosed with community-acquired pneumonia during ED visits between 2007 and 2010 at 36 hospitals. The study excluded children with complex chronic conditions or other major complications.
The most common diagnostic tests for the 100,615 ED visits analyzed were complete blood count, blood culture and chest radiograph. The EDs that ordered more tests had significantly increased odds of hospitalization, the researchers found, but experienced nearly as many revisits within three days as EDs that admitted fewer of the pediatric pneumonia cases.
CDC Updates HCV Testing Algorithm
In response to data showing only about half of those identified as having hepatitis C (HCV) ever received a follow-up RNA test, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is updating its HCV testing. The new testing recommendations call for a lab-based HCV antibody test or rapid point-of-care test. For lab-based assays, it is not necessary to report signal-to-cutoff ratios as in the past. CDC recommends that in cases where it is necessary to distinguish between true positivity and biologic false positivity for an HCV antibody test, a second, different FDA-approved antibody assay should be used.
Men Say Doctors Often Don't Give in-depth Advice on PSA Test
Many professional guidelines encourage shared decision-making for prostate cancer screening, but finding the time for such discussions is tough for busy primary care physicians, medical experts say. “On the surface, [the recommendations] sound wonderful,” said New York urologist Michael A. Palese, MD. “But in practice, we're kidding ourselves that every patient who walks in [to see a primary care doctor] is going to get a 20- or 30-minute conversation on the pluses and minuses of the PSA screen.”
Searching for Meaningful Markers of Aging
Researchers have identified some particularly good indicators of time’s largely hidden toll on our bodies and how fast it’s increasing. Developing an “easy way to measure biological age will have a wide array of applications in prediction and prevention of age-related diseases, drug discovery and forensics,” said Dr. Kang Zhang, founding director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. The quest for truly revealing biomarkers of aging could tell us a lot about our current and future health. Tracking these indexes before and after starting a new diet or exercise program, for instance, might show you whether it was actually pushing off your decline and fall. Aging-rate tests could help scientists evaluate possible anti-aging compounds in humans without prohibitively long studies. Experts on aging generally agree that acceptable biomarkers of aging should foretell the remaining life span of a middle-aged person more accurately than chronological age does. Further, they should offer a consistent picture of biological age, said Dr. Richard A. Miller, a gerontologist at the University of Michigan.
New Surgical Knife Can Instantly Detect Cancer
Surgeons may have a new way to smoke out cancer. An experimental surgical knife can help surgeons make sure they've removed all the cancerous tissue, doctors reported. Surgeons typically use knives that heat tissue as they cut, producing a sharp-smelling smoke. The new knife analyzes the smoke and can instantly signal whether the tissue is cancerous or healthy. Now surgeons have to send the tissue to a lab and wait for the results. Dr. Zoltan Takats of Imperial College London suspected the smoke produced during cancer surgery might contain some important cancer clues. So he designed a "smart" knife hooked up to a refrigerator-sized mass spectrometry device on wheels that analyzes the smoke from cauterizing tissue. The smoke picked up by the smart knife is compared to a library of smoke "signatures" from cancerous and non-cancerous tissues. Information appears on a monitor: green means the tissue is healthy; red means cancerous and yellow means unidentifiable.
Immunological Tests Are Superior for Colon Cancer Screening
The fecal immunochemical tests (FITs) for hemoglobin offer a number of advantages over traditional guaiac based fecal occult blood tests (gFOBTs). Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (Heidelberg, Germany) compared three quantitative FITs with a gFOBT among participants of the German screening colonoscopy program. They obtained stool samples and colonoscopy reports from 2,235 participants of screening colonoscopy from 2005 to 2009. Patients willing to participate were given stool collection instructions and devices, including a small container and one test card for a gFOBT (HemOccult, Beckman Coulter; Krefeld, Germany).
Population screening to detect Alzheimer's disease or other dementia can't currently be recommended because there isn't enough evidence to show it offers practical benefits, researchers reported at the annual Alzheimer's Association International Conference. In addition to this "gap in evidence," even when the screening programs identify possible dementia patients, only about half those people undergo follow-up testing, according to Carol Brayne, MD, professor of public health medicine at the Cambridge University Institute of Public Health in England.
Roche Launches ProGRP Test for Lung Cancer Diagnosis
F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd has launched Elecsys ProGRP, a test that distinguishes between the two main types of lung cancer - small cell, or SCLC, and non-small cell, or NSCLC, lung cancer - and can reportedly help diagnose early-stage SCLC. Studies have shown that ProGRP as a standalone test is superior to the current standard neuron-specific enolase (NSE)) test and that measuring both ProGRP and NSE enhances diagnostic accuracy. Elecsys ProGRP is launched globally except in US, the company said.
Luminex Assay Kit Gets FDA, European Approval
Luminex Corp. has received FDA and European clearance of its genotyping assay kit xTAG CYP2D6 and has submitted another kit for FDA review. The recently approved kit analyzes a patient’s likely response to certain drugs and therapies, enabling doctors to tailor treatments to lower the likelihood of adverse drug reactions in categories such as cardiovascular drugs, anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, pain medications, beta-blockers, anti-emetics, antiarrhythmics and anti-cancer drugs.
Bio-Reference Labs to Operate Genetic Test Site
Bio-Reference Laboratories Inc. of Elmwood Park will operate an online directory of genetic testing labs under a licensing agreement with the University of Washington, the company announced. GeneTests.org, which was founded by University of Washington researchers in 1992, will become a business unit of Bio-Reference. GeneTests.org offers information about testing for inherited disorders and genetic counseling services. It was formerly financed by the National Institutes of Health, but the NIH recently began a different site offering that information, the Genetic Testing Registry, and ended its support of GeneTests.org
OpGen Opens Clinical Services Laboratory, Launches Genetic Tests Offering for HAIs
Genetic analysis company OpGen (Gaithersburg, MD) has launched a clinical services laboratory that will focus on developing genetic tests and analysis services for the surveillance and identification of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) and human pathogens. The company's clinical services laboratory utilizes next-generation DNA and genetic analysis technologies.
Cleveland Clinic Laboratories will now be the main provider of specialized testing and diagnostics services for ACL Laboratories, one of the largest hospital system laboratories in the United States. As part of the relationship, Cleveland Clinic Laboratories will offer its highly specialized expertise in esoteric testing. ACL Laboratories and their two pathology groups will also be able to confer with Cleveland Clinic Laboratories pathologists for second opinions and subspecialty consultation leading to expert diagnosis.
Labs, Diagnostic and Device Companies See Depressed Earnings
Falling patient volume at hospitals has depressed the earnings not only of healthcare providers but also of the laboratory, diagnostic and medical device companies that work with them. Brian Tanquilut, an analyst at Jefferies, also pointed to a decrease in physician visits as creating pressure on not only Intuitive but also on Laboratory Corporation of America and Quest Diagnostics. “It's just a broader utilization issue,” he said. Quest Diagnostics, Madison, N.J., also told analysts that it now expects 2013 revenue to be 1% to 2% below 2012, instead of the 0% to 1% growth it initially forecast.
New Report Helps Clinicians Decide When to Order Vascular Laboratory Tests
A new report issued by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and developed in collaboration with 10 other leading professional societies provides detailed criteria to help clinicians optimize the appropriate use of certain noninvasive vascular tests when caring for patients with known or suspected disorders of the venous (veins) system. Also included are first-time recommendations for when and how to use these tests to plan for or evaluate dialysis access placement.
Genetic Advance in Down's Syndrome
US scientists say they have moved a step closer to being able to treat disorders caused by an extra chromosome. They have "switched off" the chromosome that causes the symptoms of Down's syndrome in human cells in the lab. The research, published in Nature, could one day lead to new medical treatments for the condition. Future work may be of real benefit to people with Down's syndrome, said the UK Down's Syndrome Association. Humans are born with 23 pairs of chromosomes, including two sex chromosomes, making a total of 46 in each cell.
Understanding Depression Through Biochemical Mapping
Researchers at Duke Medicine have discovered biochemical changes in people taking antidepressants, but only when depression improves. Changes occur within the neurotransmitter pathways of the pineal gland, which is the part of the endocrine system responsible for controlling the body’s sleep cycle. A new type of science called pharmacometabolomics was used in this study to measure and map chemicals in the blood to determine mechanisms causing disease and find new treatments tailored to a patient’s metabolic profile.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated recommendations for the use of varicella-zoster immune globulin (VariZIG) to reduce the severity of infection by varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which causes chickenpox in children and shingles in adults. The recommendations extend the window for postexposure prophy¬laxis for those at high risk for severe varicella. The US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) original approval of VariZIG as an investigational new drug recommended use within 4 days, but subsequent studies have shown that the treatment is effective for up to 10 days after exposure, according to updated advice published in the July 19 issue of the Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report.
Stanford, Georgia Team Evaluates Whole-genome Sequencing in Healthy Individuals
A group of researchers from Stanford University, Emory University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology, have published a study evaluating how whole-genome sequencing could be used alongside traditional clinical evaluation in preventive medicine. In the proof-of-principle study, published last month in Genome Medicine, the researchers sequenced the whole genomes of eight individuals from the Center for Health Discovery and Well-Being at Emory University, analyzing each individual's risk for over 100 polygenic diseases. Lead author Chirag Patel, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University, told Clinical Sequencing News that the purpose of the study was to evaluate how clinical and genetic information could be combined to estimate disease risk. Eventually, he said, the ultimate goal is to determine whether, "when we combine both genetic and clinical information, can we better predict disease and better health outcomes?"
New Giant Viruses
Two giant, amoeba-killing viruses have been discovered that "hints at unknown parts of the tree of life," according to Nature. Investigators from Aix-Marseille University of France found one of the viruses, which are about 1 micrometer long and about half that wide, off the coast of Chile, and later snagged another in a sample taken from a pond in Australia. Only by comparing the two did the team realize these were viruses, which are larger than many bacteria, and they have now named them Pandoraviruses, Science's Ed Yong writes. They also think that these viruses may represent "unknown parts of the tree of life," as only 7 percent of their genes match those found in existing databases. “What the hell is going on with the other genes?” asks Aix-Marseille investigator Jean-Michel Claverie, adding that the find "opens a Pandora’s box."
HPV Vaccine Found to Help With Cancers of Throat
A vaccine that protects women against cervical cancer also appears to protect them against throat cancers caused by oral sex, and presumably would protect men as well, according to a study released. Rates of this throat cancer have soared in the past 30 years, particularly among heterosexual middle-aged men. About 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancers are now caused by sexually transmitted viruses, up from 16 percent in the 1980s. Oncologists have assumed that the human papillomavirus vaccine, which is used to prevent cervical cancer, would also prevent this other type of cancer, but this was the first study to provide evidence. The study, supported by the National Cancer Institute, found that Cervarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, provided 93 percent protection against infection with the two types of human papillomavirus that cause most of the cancers.
Mold Toxins Tied to AIDS Epidemic
Aflatoxins — poisons produced by fungi that grow on moldy peanuts and corn — may be worsening Africa’s AIDS epidemic by helping suppress the immune systems of newly infected people, a new study has found. The study, by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and published recently in the World Mycotoxin Journal, measured blood levels of aflatoxins and H.I.V. in 314 Ghanaians who had never taken antiviral drugs. The more aflatoxins they had, the more likely they were to have high blood levels of H.I.V. — even those with higher levels of CD4 blood cells, meaning they had not been infected long and were not yet eligible for triple-therapy cocktails under the latest World Health Organization guidelines.
The Prospect of Reversing Blindness has Made a Significant Leap, According to Scientists in the UK. An animal study in the journal Nature Biotechnology showed the part of the eye which actually detects light can be repaired using stem cells. The team at Moorfields Eye Hospital and University College London say human trials are now, for the first time, a realistic prospect. Experts described it as a "significant breakthrough" and "huge leap" forward. Photoreceptors are the cells in the retina which react to light and convert it into an electrical signal which can be sent to the brain. However, these cells can die off in some causes of blindness such as Stargardt's disease and age-related macular degeneration. There are already trials in people to use stem cells to replace the "support" cells in the eye which keep the photoreceptors alive.
Refined X Chromosome Assembly Hints at Possible Role in Sperm Production
A US and UK team that delved into previously untapped stretches of sequence on the mammalian X chromosome has uncovered clues that sequences on the female sex chromosome may play a previously unappreciated role in sperm production. The work, published online in Nature Genetics, also indicated such portions of the X chromosome may be prone to genetic changes that are more rapid than those described over other, better-characterized X chromosome sequences. "We view this as the double life of the X chromosome," senior author David Page, director of the Whitehead Institute, said in a statement.
For a Healthy Brain, Don’t Let the Trash Pile up
Recycling is not only good for the environment; it’s good for the brain. A study using rat cells indicates that quickly clearing out defective proteins in the brain may prevent loss of brain cells. Results of a study in Nature Chemical Biology suggest that the speed at which damaged proteins are cleared from neurons may affect cell survival and may explain why some cells are targeted for death in neurodegenerative disorders. The research was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health.
The Price of the Autism-Measles Panic, 15 Years Later
Several news outlets are reviewing the measles outbreak in Wales, citing public health experts who lay the blame for the burst in cases squarely at the feet of Andrew Wakefield’s bogus MMR vaccine scare in 1998 and the subsequent media coverage. As the WSJ article points out and many others have frequently noted, measles is an extremely contagious respiratory illness spread by coughing and sneezing. Most people do recover from it, but it can cause deafness and pneumonia, and it can be fatal. The prevention is simple, extremely low risk, and so effective that back when vaccine uptake was high, both the US and the UK categorized it as “eliminated” because it basically had ceased to circulate in populations in either country.
Kite Mosquito Patch Deters Malaria and West Nile-Carrying Mosquitoes; Compounds Block Mosquito's Ability to Detect Human Blood
Researchers from Olfactor Laboratories, Inc. and the University of California, Riverside have developed an effective and easy deterrent for malaria- and West Nile-carrying mosquitoes. The Kite Mosquito Patch contains FDA-approved, non-toxic compounds that are "perfectly suited for children in Uganda, professional athletes, families on the soccer field, outdoor enthusiasts, and workers in the suburbs of Manila." "We want this small patch to change people's lives. We're designing Kite to deliver everyone protection from mosquitoes, no matter where they are in the world," said Grey Frandsen, chief marketing officer at ieCrowd, the company behind this medical breakthrough
Failing to regularly work up a sweat through exercise may raise risks for a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), a new study confirms. The study found that participants who were inactive had a 20% increased risk of stroke compared with those who exercised four or more times per week and that those who were active one to three times a week were 16% more likely to suffer a stroke. "The point here is that you should be exercising four times a week at least and doing it hard enough so that you're getting a bit of a sweat," lead author Dr Michelle N McDonnell (University of South Australia, Adelaide) said in an interview. The study was published online July 18, 2013 in Stroke.
Breakfast Linked to 'Healthy Heart'
People should eat breakfast to keep their hearts in good condition, according to researchers in the US. Their study of 27,000 men, in the journal Circulation, showed those skipping breakfast were at a greater risk of heart problems. The team at the Harvard School of Public Health said missing the meal put an "extra strain" on the body. The British Heart Foundation said breakfast helped people resist sugary snacks before lunch.
Healthy Life Expectancies at Age 65 Highest in Hawaii, Lowest in Mississippi
Residents of the South regardless of race, and blacks throughout the United States, have lower healthy life expectancy at age 65, according to a report in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy life expectancy (HLE) is a population health measure that estimates expected years of life in good health for people at a given age. CDC used 2007-2009 data from the National Vital Statistics Systems, U.S. Census Bureau, and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to calculate HLEs by sex and race for each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for all people aged 65 years.
“Where you live in the United States shouldn't determine how long and how healthy you live - but it does, far more than it should,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Not only do people in certain states and African-Americans live shorter lives, they also live a greater proportion of their last years in poor health. It will be important moving forward to support prevention programs that make it easier for people to be healthy no matter where they live."
Healthcare-associated Infections (HAIs) Are Growing Problem, Group Says
Older patients are harder hit by hospital-acquired infections. Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are costly and deadly and becoming a national crisis, according to the Alliance for Aging Research. Some 1.7 million Americans develop hospital-acquired HAIs each year at a cost ranging from $28.4 billion to $5 billion, the Washington nonprofit noted in a fact sheet released. And roughly 45% of hospital-acquired HAIs are in patients older than 65, according to Thomas File, MD, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
Tuberculosis Outbreak Shakes Wisconsin City
A disease most Americans may view as a relic of the 19th century — is still an insidious threat that can pop up anywhere. In its advanced stages, tuberculosis can destroy lungs, damage other organs and cause death. The Sheboygan outbreak came to light on April 11. The first case was a woman at the center of a large, close-knit family. Health officials decline to identify the family, but they say the people were part of an immigrant community, a common theme in most current TB outbreaks in the U.S.
Docs Point to Others to Cut Health Costs
Physicians feel that other major players in healthcare -- lawyers, insurance companies, hospitals, drug companies, and patients -- bear greater responsibility for reducing healthcare costs than doctors do, a survey found. Furthermore, doctors are hesitant to back substantial financing reforms such as eliminating fee-for-service, but they support reducing unnecessary treatments, Jon Tilburt, MD, MPH, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues found. The researchers mailed surveys to U.S. physicians randomly selected from the American Medical Association's Masterfile to assess physicians' attitudes on addressing healthcare costs. A total of 2,556 of 3,897 replied. Respondents said trial lawyers (60%), health insurance companies (59%), hospitals and health systems (56%), pharmaceutical and device manufacturers (56%), and patients (52%) have a "major responsibility" for reducing healthcare costs. However, just 36% reported practicing physicians have the same duty. Only employers (19%) and physician professional societies (27%) bear less responsibility than individual physicians, the survey found.
"This is a denial of responsibility," Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, and Andrew Steinmetz, both of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, wrote in an accompanying editorial. "Of course, physicians do not want to be blamed for the country's major problem. But can they really be both the captain of the healthcare ship and cede responsibility for cost control to almost everyone else?"
UnitedHealthcare Makes $50 Billion Wager on Accountable Care
UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurance company, says it will more than double–to $50 billion annually–the value of contracts it has with doctors and hospitals based on quality and cost efficiency measures within five years. The move, is a significant step by those paying for health care in the U.S. to move further away from fee-for-service medicine that rewards treating illness to a system that pays doctors and hospitals to keep patients healthy.
EHRs 'Transforming' Care, Says Tavenner
Providers are increasingly using electronic health records, both to manage their patients' care and to provide more information to those patients, according to new data published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
"Electronic health records are transforming relationships between patients and their health care providers," said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, in a press statement. "EHRs improve care coordination, reduce duplicative tests and procedures, help patients take more control of their health and result in better overall health outcomes."
According to CMS, since the EHR Incentive Programs began in 2011:
- More than 190 million electronic prescriptions have been sent by doctors, physician's assistants and other health care providers using EHRs.
- Healthcare professionals sent 4.6 million patients an electronic copy of their health information from their EHRs.
- More than 13 million reminders about appointments, required tests, or check-ups were sent to patients using EHRs.
- Providers have checked drug and medication interactions to ensure patient safety more than 40 million times through the use of EHRs.
- Providers shared more than 4.3 million care summaries with other providers when patients moved between care settings resulting in better outcomes for their patients.
IT Issues Pose Challenges for Health Law
On Oct. 1, federal government IT specialists will fire up one of the most technologically complex government websites in history – one specially engineered to grant uninsured Americans access to a virtual market of affordable health insurance policies. And if all goes as planned, millions of people--from healthy millennials in their 20s and 30s to seniors with chronic health problems--will be able to compare the premiums being offered by a handful of insurance providers in their states, determine whether they qualify for a federal subsidy, and finally purchase a plan.
Registries Helped Track Resistant Infections in Health Care Facilities
Regional patient registries may be useful in tracking the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections between health care facilities, researchers reported in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Kho and colleagues developed an antimicrobial-resistance registry and tracking system to register all MRSA and VRE cases and determine when the patients were admitted to any regional health care facility. The registry was embedded within a regional health information exchange, which included 17 hospitals and associated clinics in the Indianapolis, Ind., region. From June 2007 to June 2010, email alerts were sent to infection preventionists at hospitals where a patient previously reported as infected or colonized with MRSA or VRE were admitted to a study hospital.
A group of 23 hospitals in central and South Georgia have formed an alliance to pool resources, coordinate information and manage population health in the region. The new organization is a not-for-profit limited-liability corporation named Stratus Healthcare and was conceived as a way for the providers to collaborate while remaining independent. It grew out of the April 2012 partnership between Central Georgia Health System, Macon, and Tift Regional Health System, Tifton.
Sharp Rise in Snakebites Reported in Georgia
There have been over 200 calls since January and officials expect that number to more than double to a record level by the end of the year. "Obviously we've been getting a lot of rain. We haven't seen this much rain in a while and I think that it's driving the snakes out," said Poison Center Director Dr. Gaylord Lopez. Lopez offered advice for those who believe they have been bitten by a snake. "You need to get to a hospital right away. Don't try home remedies. Avoid medicines because they can interact with the snakebite and don't put ice on it. Ice can speed up venom travel through the system," said Lopez.
Missed Diagnoses, Drug Errors Are Major Cause of Malpractice Suits
Most malpractice claims against primary care doctors are the result of drug errors and missed diagnoses, particularly of cancer, heart attack and meningitis, a new review finds. Researchers analyzed 34 studies published over the past two years, including 15 studies based in the United States. In the United States, primary care doctors accounted for between 7.6 percent and 16 percent of all malpractice claims, according to the study published online July 18 in the journal BMJ Open. The number of claims brought against U.S. primary care doctors has remained fairly stable over the past two decades. Missed diagnoses were the most common source of malpractice claims against primary care doctors, accounting for 26 percent to 63 percent of the total, report a team led by Dr. Emma Wallace of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Medical School, in Dublin.
Three Doctors Admit Accepting Bribes for Test Referrals to New Jersey Clinical
Three New Jersey doctors admitted they accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from Parsippany, N.J.-based Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC (BLS) as part of a long-running scheme operated by the lab, its president, and numerous associates, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced. Dennis Aponte, 46, of Cedar Grove, N.J.; Claudio Dicovsky, 51, of Fort Lee, N.J.; and Franklin Dana Fortunato, 63, of Montville, N.J., each pleaded guilty to violating the Federal Travel Act. Fortunato also pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return, admitting that from 2004 to 2008, he failed to disclose and report as income more than $640,000 in bribe money and patient co-pays and failed to pay more than $160,000 in taxes he owed as a result of that unreported income. The defendants entered their guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler in Newark federal court.
Mumbai may Become India’s Gateway for Deadly MERS Virus, Scientists Warn
India has been named as among the countries that face the highest risk of importing the deadly MERS coronavirus. International scientists warned India that the new SARS-like virus that has emerged in the Middle East could spread faster and wider during two international mass gatherings involving millions of people in the next few months. Scientists from St Michaels Hospital in Toronto have named India as among those facing the highest risk, with Mumbai and Kozhikode at the top of the list of susceptible cities. Around 1.7 lakh Indian Muslims will visit Haj this year.
Disclaimer- The information provided in this news digest is intended only to be general summary information. It does not represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is not intended to take the place of applicable laws or regulations.
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