A Weekly Compilation of Clinical Laboratory and Related Information
from The Division of Laboratory Science and Standards
July 18, 2013
- Lab Tests Key to Identifying, Treating Infectious Diseases
- Self-Referred Biopsies Cost Taxpayers Millions, GAO Reports
- FDA Grants Emergency Approval for Test to Detect MERS
- Quest, CDC Team up on Hepatitis C Research Program
- Is my Kid's Infection Viral or Bacterial? Test may Offer Clues
- You Can’t Patent Human Genes. So why are, Genetic Testing Companies Getting Sued?
- Proposed Medicare Physician Fees' Winners and Losers
- Release of Data on What Hospitals Charge Appears More Likely to Confuse Rather Than Enlighten Consumers
- HHS Releases Health IT Safety Plan
- Best Hospitals 2013-14: Overview and Honor Roll
- U.S. Life Expectancy on the Rise, but Progress Lags Global Peers’
- Spanking in Childhood Tied to Adult Obesity and Heart Disease
View Previous Issues - Healthcare News Archive
Self-Referred Biopsies Cost Taxpayers Millions, GAO Reports
Physicians who prepare and examine tissue samples in their own practices rather than referring them to labs report higher use of the services, suggesting that the financial incentives behind self-referrals may be driving the increase, according to the Government Accountability Office. In a new report, the GAO concludes that Medicare would have saved $69 million on anatomic pathology services in 2010 if self-referring physicians performed biopsies at the same rate and referred the same number of services per procedure as non-self-referring providers. The agency found that number of self-referred pathology services and Medicare expenditures on them rose at a faster rate than non-self-referred anatomic pathology services from 2004 to 2010.
Proposed Medicare Physician Fees' Winners and Losers
The proposed rule governing next year's physician fee schedules released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services clearly show the winners and losers in primary care and specialty physician paychecks starting Jan. 1.
Anesthesiologists, emergency room physicians, cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, critical care specialists, geriatricians, infectious disease specialists, and thoracic surgeons seem to be the winners, with upgrades in code payments that average 2% or 3%.
Some of the biggest cuts are aimed at independent testing laboratories, which because of proposed new way of calculating clinical laboratory fee stand to see 26% slashed, followed by radiation therapy centers, which may lose 13%, largely because of the way CMS proposes to calculate the relative value unit portion of that pay.
Labs, Pathologists Face Additional Medicare Cuts
Despite seeing Medicare payment cut by more than 11 percent since 2010, clinical and anatomic pathology laboratories are facing additional cuts in 2014 and beyond as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) seeks to adjust how it determines payment for pathology services provided by independent laboratories and to reduce payment under the clinical laboratory fee schedule to reflect technological advancements.
Pathology Lab That Cannot Demonstrate Adequate Physician Orders Suffers Medicare Loss
Much has been written regarding various Medicare policies that may cause a clinical laboratory to suffer the resulting financial consequences when a test requested by a physician is found to be not medically necessary, most recently in connection with Medicare's physician signature requirement. A recent federal court decision upholding Medicare's denial of payment for certain renal pathology services confirms that the problem exists with respect to anatomic pathology services as well as clinical laboratory tests.
Results for Life Hosts Capitol Hill Briefing to Underscore the Value of Genetic and Genomic Lab Tests
Results for Life (RFL), the educational branch of the American Clinical Laboratory Association, convened a briefing on Capitol Hill to highlight the value and innovations taking place in the field of genetic and genomic testing. These tests mark the advent of personalized medicine - revolutionizing the way cancer and other life-threatening conditions such as HIV are treated. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA-14) keynoted the event while representatives from Genomic Health, an oncology-based genomics testing company, and the National Patient Advocate Foundation were also present at briefing to discuss the advantages of personalized medicine for patients.
You Can’t Patent Human Genes. So why are, Genetic Testing Companies Getting Sued?
Critics of human gene patents rejoiced last month when the nation’s highest court ruled that human genes can’t be patented. A company called Myriad Genetics claimed to own genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 whose mutations are associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer. But the Supreme Court ruled that no one could own humanity’s genetic code. Believing that the ruling opened the market for competing breast-cancer tests, several companies introduced BRCA testing products. But this week Myriad, whose gene patents had given it a de facto monopoly on BRCA tests, began suing them. Myriad says that even after its Supreme Court setback, it still has patents covering its competitors’ products.
If these lawsuits succeed, they could transform last month’s Supreme Court ruling into little more than a symbolic gesture. While the claims at issue in Myriad’s new lawsuit do not literally claim human genes, they are broad enough to effectively block anyone else from offering BRCA tests.
COLA To Provide Education and Consulting Services to Laboratories
COLA, a leading laboratory accreditor, recently launched a new education subsidiary, COLA Resources, Inc. (CRI), designed to improve laboratory medicine and the quality of patient care through a program of educational and consultative services. The new subsidiary will deliver an extensive series of online educational courses, symposia, live webinars and other tools historically provided by COLA, which will now focus exclusively on accreditation. The educational platform is designed to address important industry issues, enable physicians to meet CME education requirements to qualify as a laboratory director of a moderate complexity laboratory, and assist laboratory professionals in earning PACE credits to meet state licensure requirements. In addition, CRI will provide consultative services to help healthcare professionals create continuous quality standards designed to increase the accuracy of clinical test results.
FDA Grants Emergency Approval for Test to Detect MERS
The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency authorization for a diagnostic test to detect the presence of the Middle East coronavirus at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The emergency approval follows the Health and Human Services secretary's determination that the virus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which has killed at least 40 people, poses a potential public health threat.
Quest, CDC Team up on Hepatitis C Research Program
In an unusual collaboration, laboratory services provider Quest Diagnostics is opening up its database of lab results to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a research program on hepatitis C focused on baby boomers, whose members account for roughly two-thirds of the 3.2 million Americans infected with the disease. The goal is to increase diagnosis and treatment of the disease, which many people don't know they have.
Immunohistochemical (IHC) Assays: Principles of Analytic Validation
Immunohistochemical (IHC) testing is an essential component of the pathologic evaluation of many specimens and increasingly provides key information that helps determines how patients are treated. As with any laboratory test, laboratories must validate all IHC assays before they are used to test patient specimens. Unfortunately, recent studies have found significant interlaboratory variation in validation practices and revealed that many laboratories do not follow consistent procedures. This open comment period allows the public to participate and offer feedback on draft recommendations for IHC Assays to ensure they are clinically sound, practical, and implementable.
Lab Tests Key to Identifying, Treating Infectious Diseases
A new guide developed by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) will help physicians appropriately and accurately use laboratory tests for the diagnosis of infectious diseases.
The guide suggests 10 tenets of specimen management that everyone involved – from physician to nurse to laboratory scientist – should follow for good patient care. These include:
- Specimens of poor quality must be rejected or results could be compromised.
- Physicians should not demand a report of "everything that grows" as this could result in an inaccurate diagnosis.
- Avoiding contamination of specimens is key and careful collection is crucial.
- The laboratory requires a specimen, not a swab of a specimen, which may not hold enough infected material to ensure an accurate diagnosis and may be easily contaminated.
- The laboratory must follow its procedure manual or face legal challenges.
- A specimen should be collected prior to administration of antibiotics, presence of which could lead to misleading results.
- Susceptibility testing should be performed on clinically significant isolates, not all microorganisms in the culture.
- Lab results should be accurate, significant and clinically relevant.
- The laboratory – not the medical staff – should be allowed to set technical policy. Good communication and mutual respect will lead to collaborative policies.
- Specimens must be labeled accurately and completely (for example: dog bite wound, right forefinger).
The impact of microarrays in prenatal medicine
The addition of microarray technology has changed the way physicians and patients are preparing, not only for the future of the patient, but possibly even the birth and future of the patient's children. Studies evaluating fetal chromosomes at the genetic level are not only getting faster as technology advances, but also provide more accurate predictions in regards to the child's health and potential chromosomal deformities. In a recent interview, Ronald Wapner, MD, professor of OBGYN at Columbia University Medical Center, discussed a recent study on the advantages and limitations of prenatal microarray testing.
Is my Kid's Infection Viral or Bacterial? Test may Offer Clues
Your child develops a nasty fever, but no one's really sure what's making him sick. Most likely, he has a virus that will run its course. He may have a scary bacterial infection that requires treatment, but results of tests to confirm this won't come back for a day or so. So to be safe, your pediatrician prescribes antibiotics -- even though they won't help fight a virus and even though overuse of antibiotic drugs has led to the evolution of drug-resistant superbugs. But someday soon, researchers said, it may be easier to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use: Physicians may soon be able to determine if an infection is viral or bacterial by looking at which genes are turned on and off in a patient's cells.
Blood Tests May Aid Alzheimer's Diagnosis
Several novel markers detectable in blood could prove to be useful adjuncts in diagnosis and management of patients with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, researchers suggested here. In separate studies, researchers found significant associations between fragments of tau protein, metabolites of thiamine, and apolipoprotein J (also known as clusterin) in blood products such as serum with clinical diagnoses and/or results of neurocognitive tests, according to presentations at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference. None of the researchers involved in the studies suggested that such tests would be the sole basis for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease. But, if the current results are confirmed in larger studies, they could help physicians with differential diagnoses without resorting to lumbar punctures or expensive, high-tech imaging scans.
EU to Clear Baxter's $4 Billion buy of Sweden's Gambro - Sources
EU antitrust regulators will approve a $4 billion (2.66 billion pounds) bid by Baxter International Inc. (BAX.N) for Sweden's Gambro AB after the U.S. company offered to sell a unit to ease competition concerns, two people familiar with the matter said. The deal, which Baxter announced in December last year, would make it the second-biggest manufacturer in the dialysis market, a sector set to expand in line with rising obesity and diabetes. Gambro, based in Lund, Sweden, is one of the largest makers of equipment for haemodialysis, which is usually done in a hospital or clinic. Baxter's machines are used for peritoneal dialysis which can be done at home. The U.S. Company also makes drug infusion pumps and blood therapy products.
Abbott Inc. (ABT.N) said that it would enter the laser cataract surgery business by buying privately held OptiMedica Corp for up to $400 million and in a separate deal would pay $310 million for stent maker Idev Technologies. The deals follow Abbott's spinout earlier this year of its branded prescription business into a separate company, AbbVie Inc (ABBV.N). Abbott now focuses on medical devices, nutritional products and generic medicines.
Cancer-Linked Genes Collected in Largest-Ever Database
Scientists at the National Cancer Institute have produced the largest database of cancer-related gene variations, a feat that will aid research efforts in developing medicines that target the disease more precisely. The work generated six billion data points that tie hundreds of existing and experimental cancer medicines to gene variations that may be used to better understand drug response, the institute said in a statement. The scientists sequenced DNA from the human genome across 60 different cell lines involved in nine types of cancer.
Cancer Spread Aided By Blood Platelets That "Open Doors"
Scientists in Germany believe they have found the mechanism that cancer cells use to coax blood platelets to "open doors" in blood vessel walls so they can pass through and get into new organs. Once cancer spreads from the primary tumor to other parts of the body, a process known as metastasis, the prognosis worsens. More than 90% of cancer deaths occur because of metastasis, much of which results from cancer cells getting into the bloodstream. Scientists had already noticed cancer cells that migrate through the bloodstream manage somehow to enlist the help of blood platelets to penetrate the normally impervious blood vessel wall. It is as though they coax them to open a door.
A Cure Just got Closer Thanks to a Tiny British Company - and the Result Could Change Lives of Millions
For the past 20 years, the former academics who set up Immunocore have worked hard on realising their dream of developing a totally new approach to cancer treatment, and finally it looks as if their endeavours are beginning to pay off. In the past three weeks, the company has signed contracts with two of the biggest players in the pharmaceuticals industry which could lead to hundreds of millions of pounds flowing into the firm's unique research on cancer immunotherapy – using the body's own immune system to fight tumour cells.
Whole-Genome Sequencing Pegs Outbreaks Faster
Bench-top whole-genome sequencing platforms provided accurate detection of gram-negative bacteria at speeds faster than traditional identification, researchers found. Whole-gene sequencing accurately discriminated between outbreak and non-outbreak isolates of Enterococcus faecium and Enterobacter cloacae when compared with conventional gene typing, and the results took less than a day, according to Sharon Peacock, PhD, of the University of Cambridge in England. The platform also showed it was able to determine whether resistance of the bacteria was attributable to the presence of carbapenemases or other resistance mechanisms, they wrote online in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The genetic secrets of some of the most abundant and diverse forms of life on Earth have been uncovered by scientists. Researchers have sequenced the genomes of 201 microbes to find out more about the role these tiny, single-celled organisms play in our environment. This insight into the genetic code has also helped the team to draw up a more detailed version of the microbial family tree. The work is published in Nature.
Number of Nerve Fibers Near Prostate Tumor Tied to Aggressiveness
Study raises the possibility of a new way to predict prognosis, tailor treatments
Nerves may play an important role in both the development and spread of prostate cancer, a new study suggests. The findings could lead to new ways to predict the aggressiveness of prostate cancer, as well as new ways to prevent and treat the disease, according to the researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. The investigators first conducted tests in mice, and then analyzed nerve fiber densities in prostate tissue samples from 43 prostate cancer patients who had not received treatment. Men with aggressive prostate cancer had a higher density of nerve fibers within tumors and in normal prostate tissue surrounding the tumors, compared with men who had less aggressive cancer.
Study Finds Inverse Link Between Cancer, Alzheimer's
In a small bit of good news for people with terrible diagnoses, having cancer appears to protect against getting Alzheimer's disease -- and vice versa. What began as a hunch by a handful of researchers is confirmed in a study published in the journal Neurology. People diagnosed with Alzheimer's were found to have a 43% lower risk of developing cancer than those without the disease, and people with cancer ran a 35% lower chance of developing Alzheimer's, according to the study of 25,000 residents of the Italian city of Milan.
Gene Transfer KOs 2 Inherited Illnesses
Gene therapy, using a lentiviral vector, appears to be safe and effective in two inherited diseases, researchers reported. Early results from phase I/II trials, conducted by overlapping research teams, suggest the therapy has halted disease progression in three patients with metachromatic leukodystrophy and three with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome. "The results obtained from the first six patients are very encouraging," according to Luigi Naldini, MD, PhD, of the San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy in Milan.
Fat-boosting Gene Mystery 'Solved'
The mystery of a genetic flaw which greatly increases the risk of obesity in one in six people has been solved by an international group of scientists. A version of an obesity gene, called FTO, had been linked to a bigger belly, but the reason why was uncertain. A study, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, showed it made fatty foods more tempting and altered levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. Obesity experts said drugs targeting ghrelin might reduce weight gain. There is a strong family link with obesity, and a person's genetic code is thought to play a major role in the risk of them becoming overweight.
Taking fish-oil supplements or even eating too much fatty fish may be linked to an increased risk for prostate cancer, according to a new study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The result confirms findings from an earlier study by the same team, but they are puzzling, given fish oil’s supposed anti-inflammatory effect, which would protect against cancer.
Researchers could not offer a biological reason for the link, and called for more study.
The study analyzed levels of omega-3 fatty acids — the type of oil found in some fish — in the blood of 834 men who developed prostate cancer race- and age-matched with 1,393 men who did not. Men who had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids had a 43 percent increase in risk for prostate cancer and 71 percent increase in risk for the high-grade prostate cancer that is the most likely to be fatal.
New Western Research Reveals Alcohol Impairs Humans' Ability to Override Their "Autopilot"
New research from Western University's Brain and Mind Institute (BMI) has revealed that alcohol definitively impairs the human ability to override impulse or snap decisions that are natural responses to rapidly evolving situations. In the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, BMI researchers investigated the age-old question of whether alcohol impairs decision making by asking participants to point toward suddenly appearing visual targets when sober and again, after consuming enough alcohol to raise their blood levels to the legal limit for driving.
Vitamin-D Link to CHD Varies by Race in MESA Analysis
Low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D, or vitamin D) independently predicted raised long-term risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) events among white but not among African American participants in the multicenter, community-based Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) . MESA participants, by design, were free of clinical heart disease at baseline. That means that the significant inverse association between vitamin-D levels and CHD risk observed across the entire MESA cohort "was driven by the association in the white participants," lead author Dr Cassianne Robinson-Cohen (Kidney Research Institute, University of Washington, Seattle) told heartwire. The analysis also showed a significant vitamin-D/CHD link among Chinese but not Hispanic MESA participants; however, Robinson-Cohen said she and her colleagues are less confident about those findings due to the small numbers of those groups in MESA but are confident that the difference between whites and blacks is real.
Spanking in Childhood Tied to Adult Obesity and Heart Disease
Children who were punished physically had higher risks for cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and obesity in adulthood, researchers found. Compared with adults who were not punished physically as children, those who received harsh physical punishment in childhood were 24% more likely to be obese (95% CI 1.05-1.47) and 35% more likely to have arthritis (95% CI 1.10-1.69), according to Tracie Afifi, PhD, of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, and colleagues. Children disciplined with physical punishment were also significantly more likely to have cardiovascular disease as adults (adjusted OR 1.38, 95% CI 1.08-1.76), though this association only approached significance after additional adjustment (aOR 1.28, 95% CI 1.00-1.64), they wrote online in the journal Pediatrics.
West Nile Virus Outbreaks Will Flare up, Experts say
West Nile virus outbreaks are likely to flare up in the coming years, spurred on by warmer, longer mosquito seasons coupled with cuts in disease-control funding that leave authorities unprepared, according to two new studies. After an all-time high in 2003 with nearly 10,000 cases and 264 dead, the virus backed off gradually for the remainder of the decade — until last year. In 2012, there were 5,674 cases and 286 deaths, almost twice the 2003 mortality rate. This strong resurgence is suggestive of “unpredictable local and regional outbreaks” to come, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even when the number of infections dies down, the virus remains in circulation with an ever-present danger of periodic recurrences.
Best Hospitals 2013-14: Overview and Honor Roll
Johns Hopkins Hospital reclaims No. 1 ranking
Some hospitals have more expertise than others when it comes to caring for patients with life-threatening or rare conditions. And people facing such health challenges need every bit of help they can get. That's why U.S. News & World Report publishes annual rankings of the nation's Best Hospitals. The rankings, now in their 24th year, cover nearly 5,000 medical centers across the country and span 16 medical specialties, from cancer to neurology & neurosurgery. Hospitals that rank near the top of at least six specialties earn a spot on the Honor Roll. Just 18 distinguished hospitals made this year's list. Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital reclaimed the No. 1 spot after last year losing a 21-year reign to Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.
U.S. Life Expectancy on the Rise, but Progress Lags Global Peers’
Life expectancy in the United States is going up, but chronic disabilities, including many caused by bad food choices, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and alcohol abuse, account for a larger portion of health issues in the United States than in its economic peers around the world, according to a new study by a global collaboration of scientists.
Since 1990, many childhood diseases are less prevalent, and there has been a dramatic reduction in sudden infant death syndrome from 6,000 to 1,500 per year, according to the study. There has also been a significant drop in death and disability from HIV/AIDS, and there are lower mortality rates for people of every age. But other countries are improving faster. Americans born in 2010 could expect to live 78.2 years, up from 75.2 years in 1990, but that ranked 27th among the 34 nations considered its economic peers. The United States also ranked 27th in high body-mass index, an indicator of obesity, and 29th on blood sugar. “The United States spends more than the rest of the world on health care and leads the world in the quality and quantity of its health research, but that doesn’t add up to better health outcomes,” said Christopher J.L. Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, and one of the study’s lead authors.
“The good news is these are things we can do something about,” said Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “If you look at the county-by-county charts, it shows in communities where they took improvements in health seriously, they were able to see dramatic improvements.”
Healthcare Jobs Growth Tops all Others
Jobs in the healthcare sector have grown faster than in any other industry, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution. Over the past decade, the healthcare industry has added 2.6 million jobs nationwide, accounting for a 22.7 percent employment growth rate over 10 years, compared with 2.1 percent employment growth rate in all other industries, the report found. Across the 100 largest metropolitan areas, the healthcare industry accounts for more than one in every 10 jobs. That share varies from just 7 percent in the Las Vegas metro area to 20 percent in the McAllen, TX metro area.
Release of Data on What Hospitals Charge Appears More Likely to Confuse Rather Than Enlighten Consumers
In releasing its data on hospital prices and charges, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suggests such information will assist consumers and patients in making better, economically informed choices when deciding on where to go for health care. But some observers are skeptical that the data are detailed enough to truly benefit individuals shopping for care. The May 8 release by HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), as required by the Affordable Care Act, includes hospital-specific charges for the more than 3000 hospitals receiving Medicare inpatient prospective payment system payments for the 100 most frequently billed discharges during fiscal-year 2011 (http://tinyurl.com/blv4cwg). The data represent almost 7 million hospital discharges, or 60% of Medicare’s hospital charges.
Texas HIPAA Blunder Affects 277K
In the biggest HIPAA privacy breach of 2013 – and among the largest to date – Texas Health Harris Methodist Fort Worth is notifying some 277,000 patients that their protected health information has been compromised after several hospital microfilms, which were supposed to be destroyed, were found in various public locations. Texas Health Fort Worth had contracted with Toronto-based Shred-it to destroy the confidential patient information, but the microfilms were not actually destroyed, as had been agreed upon in the contract, officials say. Instead, a local resident found a portion of the microfiche in a nearby park in May. Additionally, three other sheets of microfiche were found in two other public areas. The records on the microfiche contained patient names, addresses, dates of birth, medical record numbers, clinical information, health insurance information and in some cases Social Security numbers.
In 2009, a woman was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse after a drug overdose, but what happened next may shock you. Although the 41-year-old mother of three had slipped into a coma, doctors declared her dead despite other signs that she was in fact still alive. It wasn’t until she opened her eyes on the operating table that doctors called off the organ-harvesting process. The hospital made no effort to thoroughly investigate what went wrong until the Department of Health stepped in five months later. The investigation found that doctors missed key indications that the patient had not suffered irreversible brain damage. If the incident wasn’t shocking enough, the hospital was fined a mere $6,000 for medical negligence in this case
HHS Releases Health IT Safety Plan
ONC has contracted the Joint Commission to target resources and corrective actions to improve safety. "The Joint Commission contract will also help to identify ways to improve safety and the safe use of health IT even as we analyze other HHS patient safety programs, like the Partnership for Patients, to identify key opportunities to use health IT to mitigate patient harm," Ashkenaz said. If successful, the plan will make it easier for clinicians to report health IT-related incidents and hazards through the use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology. It will also increase the focus on health IT in the analysis of providers' adverse events reports. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will encourage reporting data to patient safety organizations and will update its standardized reporting forms to enable ambulatory reporting of health IT events. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has a key role in the plan as well. CMS will encourage the use of standardized reporting forms in hospital incident reporting systems and will train surveyors to identify safe and unsafe health IT practices.
ONC Sets Sights on Stage 3 HIE Standards
Health information exchange is emphasized in Meaningful Use Stage 2, and it’s set to get even more priority in Stage 3, as the ONC looks to enable a sort of nationwide health information exchange. As the Health IT Policy Committee prepares proposals for Stage 3, which at the earliest will start in 2016, the committee’s Information Exchange Workgroup has issued preliminary recommendations on patient record queries and provider directories.
Micky Tripathi, founding CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative and chair of the Information Exchange Workgroup, will be making formal recommendations to the HIT Policy Committee in August on queries, directories and data portability. But the Workgroup has mostly developed suggestions for record queries and provider directories, and shared them at a recent HIT Policy Committee meeting.
2013 Best Hospital IT Departments Program Names 83 Finalists
Eighty-three IT teams are in the running to be named a top hospital in the Healthcare IT News 2013 "Where to Work: BEST Hospital IT Departments" program. Overall, 5,567 IT staff from 170 nominated hospitals completed the 79-question online survey. To qualify to be considered a top hospital, at least half the employees in an IT department needed to complete the survey. Healthcare IT News launched the "Where to Work: BEST Hospital IT Departments" program in 2011. Its goal is to determine what characteristics distinguish the best hospital IT departments from all the rest. To do that, employees grade their departments across seven categories: day-to-day work, IT team, management, hospital leadership, workplace culture, training and development and compensation.
Most Health Care Records now are Electronic
An ever-expanding amount of the nation's medical records — millions of prescriptions, medical reports and appointment reminders — are now computerized and part of an ambitious electronic medical records program, the Obama administration reports. Since the start of a 2011 program in which the government helps finance new health records systems, doctors or their assistants have filled more than 190 million prescriptions electronically, according to data provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Providers have also shared more than 4.3 million health care summaries with colleagues when patients change doctors, according to the data. More than half of the nation's health care providers and more than 80% of hospitals now have electronic records. "It has real-world implications for real-life patients," said Farzad Mostashari, a physician and national coordinator for health information technology with the Department of Health and Human Services.
The adoption of electronic health records by community doctors helped drive down health costs, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported. Previous studies, many dealing with academic teaching hospitals, have yielded mixed results about the effects electronic health records (EHRs) have had and have drawn concerns over the adoption of health information technology. Federal officials are encouraging the implementation of such systems, arguing that it will help curb the rise in health spending by eliminating duplication of services and medical errors. This study, however, is the largest to assess the impact EHRs have in community-based settings, including in private practices and community hospital care.
Cerner Builds Recession-Proof 'Bunker' for Health Data
This is a story about data. Lots and lots of data. And not just any data. Extremely sensitive data.
The U.S. health system is undergoing a major technological shift right now. Some equate it to finally catching up to where the banking and airline industries have been for years: Doctors and hospitals are moving to electronic health records systems, and it’s not easy. Cerner, based in Kansas City, Mo., has grown into one of the nation's biggest players in the field of health information technology. It’s one of the data centers that Cerner has constructed in recent years, with concrete walls built to withstand a strong tornado, armed guards and multiple security levels. It’s designed to protect what’s inside: a temperature-controlled room full of thousands of servers. There are back-up generators for back-up generators, Smith says, to be sure that this health information isn’t compromised or made inaccessible by a power outage. This data center and Cerner's others are responsible for health information generated by hundreds of hospital systems and doctors’ offices throughout the U.S. This could be your data, that prescription your doctor just entered into his or her computer, that lab result that just got processed. The transactions go through here in real time.
NPR Examines Implications of WHO’s New HIV Treatment Guidelines on South Africa
Noting the WHO this month “issued revised guidelines saying that people with HIV should be put on antiviral drugs far earlier than was previously recommended …, a move that could have huge implications for African nations where millions of people are infected with HIV. “If the country ends up adopting the latest WHO recommendations, more than one million additional South Africans could be put on antiretroviral therapy at public expense,” the blog states. According to the news service, the new WHO treatment guidelines are widely praised in the country by physicians and activists as a step forward,” although some in the country have “been opposed to the new global guidelines.” NPR quotes a number of public health experts and policymakers on both sides of the argument, highlighting the issues of drug toxicity and stock outs in the country.
India Running out of Tuberculosis and Aids Medicines
India’s public health system has run out of life-saving tuberculosis medicines for children and critical testing kits for Aids patients, causing an outcry among patient groups who warn that the shortages could cost lives and worsen problems of drug resistance. The shortages have affected the two infectious disease control programmes that are seen as rare bright spots in India’s otherwise dismal public healthcare system. Experts say health ministry officials apparently failed to ensure timely orders for the supplies, placing many lives at risk. Leena Menghaney, Médecins Sans Frontières project manager for the campaign for access to essential medicines, said frontline treatment centres in many parts of India were without the TB drugs and Aids testing kits they needed. High quality global journalism requires investment. Ms Menghaney said the shortages of TB medication and the lack of diagnostic tests for Aids patients could result in many poor Indians, who often travel long distances to reach health centres, dropping out of treatment. “When you tell a person who is HIV positive that the test kit is not available, some of them never return,” she said. “They are just lost.”
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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