A Weekly Compilation of Clinical Laboratory and Related Information
from The Division of Laboratory Science and Standards
September 26 2013
View Previous Issues - Healthcare News Archive
Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Delays Required Changes to Notices of Privacy Practices for LaboratoriesThe HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has granted certain clinical laboratories a temporary reprieve from the requirement to update their Notices of Privacy Practices (NPPs) by September 23, 2013, the deadline imposed by the HIPAA Omnibus Rule. As a result, OCR will not take enforcement action or impose civil money penalties against laboratories that have not revised their NPPs by the deadline. Additionally, OCR plans to issue a public notice at least 30 days in advance of the end of the enforcement delay. This enforcement delay, however, does not apply to laboratories that operate as a part of a larger covered entity (e.g., a hospital) because those laboratories do not have NPPs separate from the larger entity.
The HIPAA Omnibus Rule requires that all covered entities make significant updates to their NPPs, including adding statements regarding:
- the prohibition on the covered entity’s sale of personal health information (PHI) without an individual’s authorization;
- permissible uses of certain PHI for marketing communications (pursuant to limitations on third-party funding of such marketing communications);
- permissible uses of certain PHI for fundraising purposes, along with the patient’s opt-out rights from such fundraising communications;
- the individual’s rights to restrict covered entity communications of PHI to health plans when he or she has paid for services out-of-pocket;
- an individual’s right to receive copies of PHI delivered either to the individual or to a third party identified by the individual, if maintained in that form by the covered entity;
- the covered entity’s obligation to account for treatment, payment and health care operation disclosures if it maintained an electronic health record after January 1, 2007; and
- the individual’s right to receive notification in the event of a breach as well as the covered entity’s ability to use PHI to provide such breach notifications.
U.S. Government Scales Back Obamacare Impact for 2014The U.S. government scaled back its projections for Obamacare's impact in 2014, saying the law would generate slower healthcare spending growth and provide coverage to only half as many of America's uninsured as anticipated last year. The biggest factor in the change stems from the U.S. Supreme Court verdict last year allowing each state to decide whether to expand the public Medicaid program for the poor under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law. Republican leaders in nearly half of the nation's 50 states have rejected the expansion. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now expects 11 million uninsured Americans to obtain coverage next year, down from about 22 million projected a year ago, according to the report, which appeared in the journal Health Affairs. It said healthcare spending would rise 6.1 percent in 2014, partly due to the implementation of Obamacare, compared with a previous projection of an increase of 7.4 percent.
FDA and NIH Create First-of-kind Tobacco Centers of Regulatory ScienceThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as part of an on-going interagency partnership, have awarded a total of up to $53 million to fund tobacco-related research in fiscal year 2013 to create 14 Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS). Despite decades of work to reduce tobacco use in the United States, it continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease. A new, first-of-its-kind regulatory science tobacco program, TCORS is designed to generate research to inform the regulation of tobacco products to protect public health. Using designated funds from FDA, TCORS will be coordinated by NIH’s Office of Disease Prevention, directed by David M. Murray, Ph.D., and administered by three NIH institutes — the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
New York Genome Center Officially Launches in ManhattanThe New York Genome Center officially launched at its new facility in downtown Manhattan with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that featured statements by NYGC President and Scientific Director Robert Darnell and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Nearly two years after the plan for the center was unveiled, NYGC has effectively completed the build-out of its seven-floor, 170,000-square-foot facility, and it is currently working to hire the bioinformatics, genome sequencing, and lab specialists who will fill the space. The center is actually a consortium of 16 institutional members, mostly academic research institutions and hospitals from the New York region, as well as Jackson Laboratory, and each of the faculty members on its staff will hold joint appointments with both NYGC and their home institution.
As Healthcare Systems Make Patient Safety a Greater Priority, the Public Reporting of Pathology Errors in Canada Has No Comparable Track Record in the United StatesErrors in anatomic pathology testing in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan made media headlines this summer. In each case, it was just a limited number of cases where errors at pathology labs resulted in inaccurate diagnoses and, in at least one case, a needless mastectomy for a patient. At a time when health systems in Canada, the United States, and other developed nations are giving great emphasis to patient safety, disclosure of life-changing diagnostic errors to patients is appropriate. Consumers are holding physicians—including surgical pathologists—to a higher standard of care.
Advance in Using Biopsy Samples in Understanding Environmental Causes of CancerIn an advance in determining the role of environmental agents in causing cancer, scientists described development of a long-sought way to use biopsy samples from cancer patients to check on human exposure to substances that damage the genetic material DNA in ways that can cause cancer. Their report on the method, which taps into a treasure trove of medical information in biopsy samples of patients, was part of the 246th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. "This is the first successful use of archived biopsy samples in analyzing exposure and DNA damage, by mass spectrometric methods, of cancer patients to an environmental carcinogen," said Robert J. Turesky, Ph.D., who led the research. "It clears the way for use of this huge resource of archived biopsy samples for gaining insights into cancer and other diseases."
Study Finds as Many as One-Third of Patients Have Unnecessary Repeat Lipid Testing, a Conclusion That Supports the Experiences of Clinical Laboratory PathologistsUp to one-third of coronary heart disease (CHD) patients undergo lipid testing that may be unnecessary. This is one finding from a credible study involving 28,000 patients that could focus more attention on the overuse of lipid tests and similar medical laboratory tests by physicians. Most pathologists and clinical laboratory managers will welcome the findings of this study. It is widely recognized within the laboratory medicine profession that many physicians regularly order inappropriate medical tests. This has been a problem for decades and is the source of much wasteful spending. The lipid testing study is significant because of the large volume of lipid tests performed annually in the United States. Any attention to this problem can help improve utilization of this important test and result in substantial savings to the healthcare system.
The Simple Test That Saved My BabyThe pregnancy was without complications. The delivery itself lasted all of 12 minutes. After a couple of days at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut, we were packing up when a pediatric cardiologist came into the room. We would not be going home, she told us. Our son had a narrowing of the aorta and would have to be transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia, where he would need heart surgery. It turned out that our son was among the first in Connecticut whose lives may have been saved by a new state law that requires all newborns to be screened for congenital heart defects. It was just by chance that we were in Connecticut to begin with. We live in New York, where such tests will not be required until next year. But our doctors were affiliated with a hospital just over the border, where the law took effect Jan. 1. As we later learned, congenital heart problems are the most common type of birth defect in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about one in 555 newborns have a critical congenital heart defect that usually requires surgery in the first year of life.
NIH Scientists Develop New Tests to Detect Drug-Resistant MalariaResearchers have developed two tests that can discern within three days whether the malaria parasites in a given patient will be resistant or susceptible to artemisinin, the key drug used to treat malaria. The tests were developed by researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, working with French and Cambodian colleagues in Cambodia. They offer a more rapid, less costly advantage over current drug-responsiveness tests, which require malaria patients to be hospitalized for blood draws every six hours over the course of several days. In both tests, young parasites are briefly exposed to a high dose of artemisinin, mimicking the way parasites are exposed to the drug in people being treated for malaria, and their survival is measured 72 hours later.
Simplifying the Diagnosis of Urinary Tract InfectionsResearchers in Amsterdam offer a sophisticated analysis of different approaches to diagnosing acute uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women and propose a model that reduces the number of questions asked and urine investigations needed. Analyzing data on 196 women presenting with painful and/or frequent micturition, researchers find that three questions, sometimes followed by a urine dipstick test, can provide a practical level of accuracy.
Specifically, they recommend asking:
- does the patient think she has a UTI
- is there at least considerable pain on micturition and
- is there vaginal irritation?
Urinary Pneumococcal Antigen Testing ‘Useful in Children’Urinary antigen testing is effective in detecting invasive pneumococcal pneumonia in children, say the authors of a UK-based case–control study. The study involved 160 children under the age of 16 years (median 2.6 years) with radiologically confirmed pneumonia, and 122 control children who gave urine samples while attending the pediatric renal service. The team, led by Mohamed Elemraid from the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne, found that children with pneumonia were significantly more likely to test positive for urinary pneumococcal antigen than controls, at 28.3% versus 7.4%. This finding was also true among the youngest patients, under the age of 5 years, for whom the respective rates were 23.5% and 9.5%.
New Test Enables Early Diagnosis of Liver CancerThey have developed a test that will help pathologists clearly distinguish early liver cancer cells from nearly identical normal liver cells by giving them a distinctive red-brown hue. The inability to definitively tell the difference often means the disease is detected late when treatment options are less effective, said Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, pathologist and Medical Director of the Georgia Esoteric, Molecular Labs, LLC, at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University. "There is no definitive test for early diagnosis of liver cancer," said Kolhe, lead author of the study being presented at the American Society of Clinical Pathology 2013 Annual Meeting in Chicago, Sept. 18-21. "Our test adds a level of comfort for making the diagnosis."
Screening Test Evaluated for Early Detection of Ovarian CancerA protein that has long been recognized for predicting ovarian cancer recurrence now shows promise as a screening tool for the initial phases of the disease. The simple blood test could offer a much-needed screening tool to detect ovarian cancer in its early stages, even in the most aggressive forms, in postmenopausal women at average risk for the disease. Scientists at the MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, TX, USA) collaborating with other institutions, enrolled 4,051 women from seven sites across the USA, for a prospective, single-arm, 11-year study.
Study Supports Potential of PCR-based Blood Test for Respiratory Virus InfectionIn a study appearing online in Science Translational Medicine, researchers from Duke University and elsewhere described a gene expression signature assay that's showing promise for distinguishing individuals with viral infections, such as influenza, from those with bacteria-based maladies. Using a few dozen genes that show differential expression in blood samples from those with acute respiratory viral infections, the team came up with a reverse transcription PCR assay based on a TaqMan low-density array system to detect viral infection. From their findings so far, those involved believe the approach may eventually yield an alternative or complement to tests designed to pick up the presence of a particular pathogen in infected individuals.
Markers in Blood May Help Assess Alzheimer's RiskResearchers appear to be homing in on clinically useful blood-based biomarkers indicating risk of Alzheimer's disease in mildly impaired or asymptomatic individuals, several presentations here indicated. Serum or plasma levels of apolipoprotein E (apoE), complexes of albumin and beta-amyloid protein, and a mystery substance described only as "protein Z" showed significant correlations with Alzheimer's disease pathology and/or progression of cognitive impairment to overt dementia in separate studies reported at the World Congress of Neurology in Vienna. Meanwhile, another study presented here confirmed that levels of beta-amyloid and tau proteins in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can be used with high sensitivity and specificity to predict conversion of mild cognitive impairment to clinically definite Alzheimer's disease. At this point, CSF markers still outperform any blood-based factor for gauging dementia risk but are less than optimal for screening purposes because of the pain and risks associated with lumbar puncture. As a result, interest in blood biomarkers remains strong.
NanoString Technologies Receives FDA 510(k) Clearance for Prosigna™ Breast Cancer Prognostic Gene Signature AssayThe Prosigna Assay is intended for use as a prognostic indicator for distant recurrence-free survival at 10 years, and is indicated for postmenopausal women with Stage I/II lymph node-negative or Stage II lymph node-positive (one to three positive nodes) hormone receptor-positive breast cancer who have undergone surgery in conjunction with locoregional treatment consistent with standard of care. For each patient, the Prosigna Assay reports the Prosigna Score (referred to as Risk of Recurrence Score, or ROR Score, in the scientific literature, including the TransATAC study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology) and a risk category based on both the Prosigna Score and nodal status. Node-negative patients are classified as low, intermediate or high risk, while node-positive patients are classified as low or high risk.
CDC, NYC Dept. of Health, Scholars Respond to IOM Report on SodiumThe Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) have published their first official responses to a controversial Institute of Medicine (IOM) report that challenged current national guidelines recommending sodium intake as low as 1,500 milligrams for many Americans. The responses, whose authors include CDC Director Thomas Frieden and NYC DOHMH Commissioner Thomas Farley, will be published on September 16 in a series of commentaries and editorials in American Journal of Hypertension. They argue that the CDC and NYC DOHMH should - and will - continue to promote current established guidelines for reduced sodium intake despite the IOM's findings, which may suggest that those guidelines are not only ineffective at controlling hypertension, but could actually generate other public health risks.
Want to Better Understand the Accuracy of Your Human Genome Sequencing?As new high-throughput "Next Generation" DNA sequencing methods are moving into clinical applications, understanding accuracy of variants is critical. Numerous recent studies have demonstrated that different sequencing and bioinformatics analysis methods can result in very different variant calls, often at 100,000's of positions across the human genome. With help from the Genome in a Bottle Consortium (www.genomeinabottle.org) and the FDA, NIST is developing well-characterized whole human genomes as Reference Materials, as well as the methods to use these Reference Materials to understand performance of sequencing and bioinformatics methods, including false positive and false negative rates.
Gene Sequences of Deadly Saudi Virus Show Complex TransmissionGenetic analysis of samples of the deadly MERS virus that has killed 58 people in the Middle East and Europe shows the disease has jumped from animals to humans several times, scientists said .After conducting genome sequencing studies of the virus - from the same coronavirus family as the one that caused SARS a decade ago, British and Saudi researchers found several infection transmission chains and said they painted a picture of what they called lively "pathogenic chatter" between species. "Our findings suggest that different lineages of the virus have originated from the virus jumping across to humans from an animal source a number of times," said Paul Kellam, a professor of viral pathogenesis at Britain's Sanger Institute and University College London (UCL), who led the research.
Gene Therapy With a DifferenceThe idea behind exon skipping is an ingenious one: a disease can be cured, or at least ameliorated, not by replacing a defective gene, as is done in gene therapy, but by correcting it. “We’re sort of manipulating what the gene is ultimately making,” said Adrian R. Krainer, a professor of molecular genetics at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Hopes for the new technique suffered a big blow when the results of the first large randomized clinical trial of a drug designed to induce exon skipping were announced. The drug, called drisapersen, was no better than placebo in preserving muscle function of boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The announcement was devastating to some parents of boys with muscular dystrophy and has raised questions about whether exon skipping will ever work. But some scientists and parents of children with muscular dystrophy said it was too early to write off the technique.
Live Imaging Reveals for the First Time Gene Motion in Cell NucleusAn international team of scientists led by the UK’s John Innes Centre and including scientists from Australia, Japan, the US and France has perfected a way of watching genes move within a living plant cell. Using this technique scientists watched glowing spots, which marked the position of the genes, huddle together in the cold as the genes were switched “off”. “The movement of genes within the nucleus, captured here using live imaging, seems to play a role in switching their activity on and off”, said first author Stefanie Rosa from the John Innes Centre. “What is remarkable about this finding is that we saw genes move in response to changes in the environment, and that this movement seems to be involved in genetic control,” said Associate Professor Josh Mylne.
Early Detection, ART Decreased HIV TransmissionPatients who were given early access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) decreased their HIV transmission risk by as much as 90% in a recent study, highlighting the importance of early detection and treatment, according to researchers. “Such a protective effect of early ART against HIV transmission had been previously demonstrated among the specific population of stable serodiscordant couples, but the present study enlarges this result to a more general population of people living with HIV,” Kévin Jean, a PhD candidate in public health epidemiology at Université Versailles Saint-Quentin, France, told Infectious Disease News.
Gene Discovery Could Lead to New Types of HIV TreatmentsScientists have identified a gene which they say may have the ability to prevent HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from spreading after it enters the body. In an early-stage study in the journal Nature, researchers said the gene, called MX2, appears to play a key role in how HIV is controlled in human cells, so using it could lead to the development of new, less toxic treatments that harness the body's natural defenses and mobilize them against the virus.
In Life, Man Immune to HIV Helped Scientists Fight VirusStephen Crohn, a man best known for staying alive during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, died Aug. 23 at age 66. Throughout his lifetime, the New York artist helped researchers uncover vital clues about HIV and how to stop it. Crohn's partner was one of the first people to die from AIDS in 1978. Over the years, Crohn watched boyfriends and acquaintances die from the disease. But he never got sick. Knowing that there was something unique about himself, Crohn volunteered to be studied. Eventually, scientists realized that Crohn had a genetic anomaly that made him resistant to HIV infection. Less than 1 percent of the population carries this protective mutation.
Russian Mushrooms Kill HIV, Institute SaysA treatment for HIV may be found in Siberian mushrooms that have been used in Russia since the 16th century as a folk remedy, a group of Russian scientists says. The scientists from the Vector research institute in southwestern Siberia say they have identified three types of mushroom found in that region that can be developed into antiviral medicines, the institute said in a statement on its website.“Strains of these mushrooms demonstrated low toxicity and a strong antiviral effect” against influenza, smallpox and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the statement said. Tests showed the most effective to be the Chaga mushroom, which grows on birch trees.
Colonoscopy Screenings Every 10 Years Could Prevent 40% of Colorectal CancersIn the early stages of colorectal cancer, symptoms may be hard to identify. And because the symptoms don't often become apparent until the disease has progressed beyond the initial stages, regular screenings have always been recommended. And now it appears that regular screenings are even more important than previously thought. A large, long-term study from Harvard School of Public Health found that 40 percent of all colorectal cancers might be prevented if people underwent regular colonoscopy screening. The new research lends credence to existing guidelines recommending that people with an average risk of colorectal cancer have a colonoscopy every 10 years. In the past, there has been some skepticism about whether regular colonoscopies actually help limit the prevalence of colorectal cancer. But this study -- which appears in the New England Journal of Medicine -- seems to indicate that the screenings are, indeed, beneficial.
CDC: Half of Kids With Disabilities Skip Flu ShotsDespite an increased risk for complications from the flu, many children with intellectual disability, cerebral palsy and other disorders are not vaccinated to protect against the virus.
Just half of children with neurologic or neurodevelopmental conditions receive the flu vaccine each year, according to a report published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. That’s similar to the vaccination rate for all children, but presents a dilemma because kids with special needs face bigger risks of hospitalization or even death if they contract the flu, officials said.
CDC Sets Threat Levels for Drug-resistant 'Superbugs'Health officials have been warning us about antibiotic overuse and drug-resistant "superbugs" for a long time. But now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sounding the alarm in a new way. For the first time, the CDC is categorizing drug-resistant superbugs by threat level. That's because, in their conservative estimates, more than 2 million people get antibiotic-resistant infections each year, and at least 23,000 die because current drugs no longer stop their infections.
Should Hospitals be More Like Walmart?We've heard about how healthcare should be more like the airline industry or customer-friendly online retailers such as Amazon or Zappos.com. But a new article in MIT Technology Review argues that after the information technology revolution, medicine will be more like superstore Walmart. Author David M. Cutler, professor of applied economics at Harvard University, writes that infusing IT into hospitals and physician practices will make healthcare more like retail or finance. "Healthcare will be provided by big institutions, in a more standardized fashion, with less overall cost, but less of a personal touch," Cutler writes.
Scans More Likely if Doctors Have Financial StakeA new study has found that patients are more likely to have magnetic resonance imaging scans that indicate nothing is wrong if they are referred by a doctor who owns the machine. The scientists conclude that doctors with a financial interest in the machines may be more likely to order M.R.I.s even when clinical findings suggest they are unnecessary.
Stephen E. Malawista, Lyme Disease Researcher, Dies at 79Dr. Stephen Malawista, an infectious-disease researcher who orchestrated the detective work that in the mid-1970s led to the discovery of Lyme disease, died at his home in Hamden, Conn. He was 79. The cause was metastatic melanoma, his wife, Tobé, said. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Lyme disease is diagnosed in 300,000 Americans each year.
Now, in the first collection of its kind, the October 2013 issue of Genetics in Medicine, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, provides a series of research articles detailing challenges and solutions for integrating genomic data into EHR. The issue features the insights of research teams actively engaged in integrating genomic medicine into clinical care. Most of the contributions derive from the experiences of individual sites that comprise the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Network, a national consortium funded by the National Institutes of Health, but additional perspective is provided by a commercial EHR vendor and by the Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research (CSER) consortium, a cooperative group exploring applications of genomic sequencing.
ONC Launches eHealth Resource SiteFor healthcare providers and organizations looking to brush up on laws and policies surrounding electronic health information exchange, or wanting some tips on patient eConsent engagement, look no further. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday launched a meaningful consent online resource to help providers effectively engage patients in choosing how they want their electronic patient health information shared. The site addresses laws, policies and issues related to health information exchange, and includes strategies and tools that can be used to spur patient engagement and further educate patients, officials said.
Research highlights include:
- At least 60 percent of hospitals in the sample have met the requirements for at least nine of the core metrics that define Stage 2 meaningful use; and
- Some 70 percent of respondents across all metrics are actively moving toward meeting Stage 2 meaningful use requirements.
A new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) summarizes the comments it received on its July 2012 request for information and from focus groups on how to enhance quality measurement through health information technology. The 111-page report breaks the input down into three types of findings: "Perspectives" notes that different stakeholders have different views, and their opinions might vary in different situations. The perspectives section focus on linking quality measurement with systemic improvement, maximizing the capabilities of health IT, and understanding the tradeoffs involved in incorporating measurement with workflow. "Pathways" outlines critical topic areas to be addressed. "Practical guidance" outlines more than 100 practical steps organizations can take.
Here are five suggestions from the report:
- Measure development:
- Identify data elements:
- Connect data sources:
- Engage patients:
- Collaborate and educate:
6 Things You Need to Know About Meaningful Use and EHR Certification in 2014With the 2014 EHR reporting period for meaningful use right around the corner, here are 6 key pieces of information you need to know:
1. Does meaningful use (MU) Stage 1 change in 2014?
Yes, the 2014 reporting period marks the beginning of a restructured meaningful use Stage 1.
2. Do all EPs, EHs, and CAHs need to upgrade to 2014 Edition certified EHR technology in 2014?
Yes, starting with the 2014 meaningful use reporting period all EPs, EHs, and CAHs need to upgrade to 2014 Edition EHR technology only – regardless of the meaningful use stage they need to meet.
3. What is the meaningful use reporting period length in 2014?
2014 has a special MU reporting period length for all non-first time EPs, EHs, and CAHs.
As a result, no EP, EH, or CAH (that previously demonstrated MU before 2014) has to start MU at the beginning of the Federal Fiscal Year (FY) [October 1, 2013] or Calendar Year (CY) [January 1, 2014].
4. What happens if a Medicare EP, EH, or CAH skips meaningful use in 2014 or applies for a hardship exception in 2014 (to avoid the 2016 payment adjustment)?
Once a Medicare EP, EH, or CAH starts meaningful use, it is required to continue to meet higher meaningful use stages according to the regulatory schedule set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
5. When is the last year Medicare EPs can start meaningful use to get incentive payments?
2014 is the last year in which an EP can begin to get incentive payments.
6. How does 2014 meaningful use performance relate to Medicare payment adjustments?
2014 meaningful use performance is the basis for 2016 Medicare payment adjustments.
Health IT Advocates Press for InteroperabilityThe great promise of electronic health records (EHR) and health information exchanges -- that patients' health information can pass seamlessly among providers, vendors and health care systems -- will never be realized until those systems run on a set of common standards and achieve a greater level of interoperability. That was one of the messages that scores of health IT advocates from around the country took to Capitol Hill last as they met with lawmakers from their home states to press for congressional action on an array of issues concerning the use of technology in health care.
Government Healthcare IT Plans Hinge on Open DataThe white-hot controversy surrounding President Obama's healthcare overhaul – grabbing headlines again amid the latest round of budget fights – has largely overshadowed other areas where the administration is crafting health policy, including how to wring more value from the vast stores of data maintained by the federal government. Historically, data sets about disease rates, clinical records, Medicare billing and other issues have been kept tight under lock and key within the sprawling confines of the country's largest health-data warehouse.
Freeing Data to Public
HHS's efforts fall within a broader administration initiative to advance open data policies. Most recently, that effort produced an executive order directing agencies to establish open, machine-readable formats as the default for government information. At HHS, the push toward open data led to the creation of HealthData.gov, a clearinghouse for data sets encompassing everything from vaccination rates to hospital comparisons freely available for download.
5 EHR Vendors Lead Pack in Ambulatory Care NicheMore than 135,000 physicians, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors working in ambulatory care have relied on just five vendors of complete electronic health-record systems to help them achieve meaningful use under Medicare's electronic health record incentive payment program, federal data show.
These five EHR developers and their market shares are
- Epic Systems Corp., 21.7%;
- Allscripts, 11.1%;
- eClinicalWorks, 7.5%;
- NextGen Healthcare, 6.8%; and
- GE Healthcare, 5.7%.
French Court of Auditors Call for 7.5% Cut in Medical Laboratory Fees to Help Balance the Nation’s Healthcare BudgetTo justify its decision, the Cour des comptes cited vast increases in the number of certain medical laboratory tests. For example, it called attention to the 60% increase in volume of clinical laboratory tests ordered for vitamin D levels over the last 10 years. In France, there is also a problem with duplication in the number of medical tests ordered. There will be widespread pain from these cuts in reimbursement, stated Francois Blanchecotte, noting that cuts would cost medical laboratories about €316 million (US$481 million) annually. As many as 8,000 jobs may be lost, noted Blanchecotte. He is the Président of the Syndicat des Biologistes, which is one of three professional groups representing French laboratories. Blanchecotte is also Vice President of the Union Nationale des Professions de Santé (National Union of Health Professionals).
England Consolidating Lab Services into ‘Super Labs’
Balancing the healthcare budgets on the backs of medical laboratories is a growing trend. Last year, government health administrators in both England and Australia began closing hospital-based clinical labs to achieve economies of scale. Medical laboratory closures in both countries have been in small communities, where a full-service lab testing facility was not economically justifiable.
Australians Restructuring Hospital Labs, Laying off Staff to Save Money
Similarly, state governments in Australia have closed clinical laboratories in selected hospitals and axed laboratory staff to reduce healthcare costs, noted the Dark Daily article. For example, the Queensland State Government’ Department of Health restructured pathology services last year and eliminated 105 laboratory jobs.
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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