A Weekly Compilation of Clinical Laboratory and Related Information
From The Division Of Laboratory Systems
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
April 02, 2015
- Potential New Alzheimer's Treatment Fully Restores Memory -- At Least in Mice
- DNA of 'an entire nation' Assessed
- FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Takes Actions to Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
- Genetics Societies Issue Recommendations for Fetal DNA Tests
- ASCP, CAP, AMP, and ASCO Issue Draft Colorectal Cancer Molecular Marker Testing Guideline
- Spare the Needle, Save the Prostate
- New Analysis of Breast Cancer Subtypes Could Lead to Better Risk Stratification
- HIV Quickly Invades the Brain
- Scientists Spot Gene Tied to Severe Autism in Girls
- 1,000-Year-Old Remedy Could Help Cure Superbug
- Enterovirus 68 May Be Linked to Paralysis in Children, Study Says
- ACIP Updates Typhoid Vaccination Recommendations
- What Libraries Can Teach Healthcare about Interoperability
- Reaction to Stage 3? Guarded
- Health Data Breaches: No One Is Immune
View Previous Issues - Healthcare News Archive
Potential New Alzheimer's Treatment Fully Restores Memory – At Least in Mice
A team of Australian researchers has come up with a noninvasive ultrasound technology that could restore memory in Alzheimer's patients. In a study released earlier this month, two researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland found that the ultrasound therapy clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques – structures that are blamed for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers reported fully restoring the memories of 75 percent of the mice that were treated with the therapy, with no damage to the surrounding brain tissue. The mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks: completing a maze, recognizing new objects and remembering places they should avoid. "We’re extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer’s without using drug therapeutics," Jürgen Götz, one of the team members, said in a press release.
DNA of 'an entire nation' Assessed
The genetic code of "an entire nation" has effectively been deduced, say researchers in Iceland. The feat was performed by combining DNA data with family trees. The team says they could now find every woman at high-risk of breast cancer "at the touch of a button" and it would be "criminal" not to use the information. The reports, published in the journal Nature Genetics, used the data to make a suite of discoveries including the age of the last common ancestor of men. DNA is passed from one generation to the next. If you knew everything about the DNA of a child and their grandparents, you could figure out a lot about the DNA of the parents too. The deCODE genetics team has taken the whole genome sequence of 10,000 people and combined it with nation-wide family trees. "By using these tricks we can predict, with substantial accuracy, the genome of the entire nation," the chief executive of deCODE, Dr Kari Stefansson told the BBC News website.
FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Takes Actions to Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
President Obama signed an Executive Order directing key Federal departments and agencies to take action to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Administration also released its National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. In addition, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) is releasing a related report on Combating Antibiotic Resistance. The Administration also announced a $20 million prize, co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, to facilitate the development of rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests for healthcare providers to identify highly resistant bacterial infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic-resistant infections are associated with 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the United States each year. Estimates of annual impact of antibiotic-resistant infections on the U.S. economy vary but have ranged as high as $20 billion in excess direct health care costs, and as much as $35 billion in lost productivity from hospitalizations and sick days. And the problem is worsening. Some bacterial infections are almost, or entirely, untreatable because the causal agents have acquired resistance to all of the antibiotics that can be deployed against them. Without effective antibiotics, we will no longer be able to treat bacterial infections reliably and rapidly. Antibiotics are critically important for many modern medical interventions, including chemotherapy, complex surgery, and organ transplantation
NIH Study Finds no Evidence of Accelerated Ebola Virus Evolution in West Africa
The Ebola virus circulating in humans in West Africa is undergoing relatively few mutations, none of which suggest that it is becoming more severe or transmissible, according to a National Institutes of Health study in Science. The study compares virus sequencing data from samples taken from patients in Guinea (March 2014), Sierra Leone (June 2014) and Mali (November 2014). “The Ebola virus in the ongoing West African outbreak appears to be stable—that is, it does not appear to be mutating more rapidly than viruses in previous Ebola outbreaks, and that is reassuring,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH. “We look forward to additional information to validate this finding, because understanding and tracking Ebola virus evolution are critical to ensuring that our scientific and public health response keeps pace.”
Labs that Waive Patient Fees Risk Kickback Violations, OIG Says
Laboratories that waive some patients' fees as part of agreements with physician practices risk running afoul of the federal anti-kickback statute, HHS' Office of Inspector General said in an advisory opinion. The opinion could have implications for how labs charge patients. Danielle Sloane, an attorney with Bass Berry Sims in Nashville, said arrangements like the one suggested in this case aren't common, but the opinion might raise questions about other common practices. For example, a lot of labs now waive out-of-network copayments for patients, she noted.
Genetics Societies Issue Recommendations for Fetal DNA Tests
The Social Issues Committee of the American Society of Human Genetics and the Public and Professional Policy Committee of the European Society of Human Genetics published a position document online March 18 in the European Journal of Human Genetics that includes recommendations for using noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) based on screening maternal blood for cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in a responsible manner that embraces future applications.
- Follow-up of a positive NIPT result with a confirmatory diagnostic procedure, preferably amniocentesis, for a woman considering termination.
- Pretest counseling should ask patients whether they wish to receive secondary findings (chromosomal anomalies other than trisomies 13, 18, and 21).
- NIPT should not be used to detect sex chromosome anomalies and microdeletions.
- Public health programs should ensure the quality of the overall screening protocol, educate professionals who counsel patients, develop better evaluation tools, consider all whom the screening affects (including children born from screened pregnancies and people who live with the conditions that NIPT detects), and provide equitable access to screening.
- NIPT should be expanded only to comprehensively evaluated serious congenital and childhood disorders.
ASCP, CAP, AMP, and ASCO Issue Draft Colorectal Cancer Molecular Marker Testing Guideline
The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), the College of American Pathologists (CAP), the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP), and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) have released a draft of a clinical practice guideline on the use of molecular marker testing for patients with primary or metastatic colorectal carcinoma. This evidence-based guideline will help establish standard molecular marker testing, guide targeted therapies, and advance personalized care for these patients. The draft guidance document, “Guideline on the Evaluation of Molecular Markers for Colorectal Cancer Workgroup Draft Recommendations Summary,” (#CRCOCP) is now available online for public comment through April 22, 2015.
Spare the Needle, Save the Prostate
Screening for prostate cancer using MRI and a lower prostate-specific antigen (PSA) threshold could result in fewer men needing biopsies with no compromise to cancer detection rates, a pilot study suggests. "These are promising results," said Anna Grenabo Bergdahl, MD, from the University of Göteborg in Sweden. "Now a full-scale trial is needed to validate them." "These results may contribute to a paradigm shift in the screening and diagnosis of prostate cancer," Dr Bergdahl said at the European Association of Urology 30th Annual Congress.
Infection on the Rise after Transrectal Prostate Biopsy
Infection rates after transrectal prostate biopsy are on the rise, and are "considerably higher" than they were a decade ago, a worldwide prevalence study suggests. "We initiated this study in 2010 because of more and more evidence that infections after transrectal biopsy were a problem," said study investigator Florian Wagenlehner, MD, from the Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. Among the prostate biopsies performed around the world — and approximately 1 million are performed in Europe alone each year — there is a "significant level of infectious complications," he said at the European Association of Urology 30th Annual Congress.
HIV Transmission Analysis Underscores Need for Better Testing Treatment
A provocative new study found that people who were infected with HIV but not yet diagnosed—and those who had been diagnosed but had not yet gotten care—accounted for 91.5% of HIV transmissions in the United States in 2009. In contrast, those who received care, were prescribed antiretroviral therapy (ART), and achieved viral suppression accounted for just 2.5% of HIV transmissions, and they were 94% less likely to transmit the virus than those who were infected with HIV but remained undiagnosed. The study, “Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission at Each Step of the Care Continuum in the United States,” was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Blood Test Could Help Bowel Cancer Patients Avoid Drug Side-effects
Manchester researchers have provided early evidence to suggest that a blood test could be used to identify bowel cancer patients that may benefit from more intensive chemotherapy. The team from Manchester counted tumour cells in a patient’s blood sample as a way of predicting who might benefit most. The group looked at patients with advanced colorectal cancer who received a four-drug combination treatment. They confirmed that those patients with three or more circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in their blood sample had a lower overall survival, compared with those patients who had fewer than three CTCs. The team also presented data that suggested that patients with a higher CTC count before treatment could benefit more from this more intensive treatment regimen.
Genetic Test for Inherited Kidney Diseases Developed
"For many kidney diseases, diagnosis can be an odyssey in which you sequence one gene after another over a long period of time to learn what's going wrong and what the best options are for treatment," said GPS chief medical officer and Washington University pathologist Jonathan Heusel, MD, PhD. "It makes more sense to screen all the possible contributing genes at once with a single test and consider options for treatment." To make this possible, the GPS team developed the test with kidney disease specialists, including Joseph Gaut, MD, PhD, a renal pathologist. The test employs next-generation sequencing technology to decode genes associated with kidney disease. Using software developed at the university, clinical genomics specialists analyze and interpret the observed genetic alterations to identify disease-related genetic changes, or variants. They then must determine whether a given variant poses clinical risks based on available medical knowledge.
Blood Test for Lung Cancer as First-line Screen before LDCT
The use of low-dose CT (LDCT) as a screening tool for lung cancer has been criticized for its high cost and its feasibility, given the large number of long-time heavy smokers and ex-smokers and the complexity of the process. What if a less expensive and more easily administered test could refine who is at highest risk for lung cancer, and therefore identify the top candidates for LDCT? A team of Italian researchers believe they have developed such a tool — an experimental blood test that detects genetic material associated with lung tumors. They suggest that the tool could make LDCT a lot more attractive to health systems and patients. "Their report on the tool, known as the miR-Test, was published online March 20 in the Journal of the National Institute of Cancer. The 13 micro (mi) RNA signature in the miR-Test involves short noncoding RNAs that are normally involved in cellular regulation but are often deregulated in tumors. Cancer often leads to alterations in miRNA profiles in bodily fluids, which might be useful in the early detection of disease.
Portable DNA Sequencer Can ID Bacteria and Viruses
A hand-held DNA sequencer can be used to distinguish between particular strains of bacteria and viruses in as little as six hours, according to a study published March 26 in GigaScience. To test the applicability of the device for disease detection in remote areas, researchers from the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in Virginia, and the Austin-based consulting firm Signature Science used the MinION to sequence known samples of amplified DNA from E. coli bacteria and three poxviruses. The researchers found that the nanopore sequencing data could also be used to distinguish among cowpox, the MVA strain of vaccinia, and the Lister strain of vaccinia, even though the two vaccinia strains are more than 98 percent identical to each other.
Cepheid Ebola Assay Granted FDA Emergency Use Authorization
The US Food and Drug Administration has granted Emergency Use Authorization to Cepheid's PCR-based assay for Ebola virus. The test, called Xpert Ebola, runs on the firm's GeneXpert system. The company has placed more than 8,000 of these platforms globally. The new test has a dual-target design and runs in a self-contained cartridge to minimize potential contamination, the company said in a statement. "Cepheid's Expert Ebola has not been FDA cleared or approved, but will remain available in the US as an EUA product as long as the declared emergency remains in effect or it ceases to be authorized," Cepheid said.
New Analysis of Breast Cancer Subtypes Could Lead to Better Risk Stratification
For the first time, researchers have used national data to determine the incidence of the four major molecular subtypes of breast cancer by age, race/ethnicity, poverty level, and several other factors. These four subtypes respond differently to treatment and have different survival rates. The new data will help researchers more accurately stratify breast cancer by clinically relevant degrees of risk and potentially have an impact on breast cancer treatment. Moreover, armed with this information, women will be able to better understand the implications for their health based on their breast cancer subtype. These findings, along with statistical analyses of the most common types of cancer, were reported in JNCI. “The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2011” showed continuing declines in cancer deaths for both men and women, for children, and for nearly all major cancer sites. The report was co-authored by experts from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health.
HIV Quickly Invades the Brain
The virus that causes AIDS can replicate and mutate in the brain as early as four months after initial infection, according to a new study. HIV enters the brain early in the course of infection and begins to evolve separately from the blood-based viral population as early as 140 days after initial infection, according to a study published March 26 in PLoS Pathogens. Researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the University of California, San Francisco, and Yale analyzed cerebral spinal fluid and blood from 72 HIV-positive patients who were not being treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART). The scientists found that 30 percent of the patients either had replicating viruses or signs of inflammation in their spinal fluid, and that these symptoms persisted for varying amounts of time in 16 percent of the patients, suggesting an ongoing infection.
Scientists Spot Gene Tied to Severe Autism in Girls
Researchers say they've discovered a new genetic cause of autism, singling out a rare gene mutation that appears to hamper normal brain development early on in powerful ways. The gene, CTNND2, provides instructions for making a protein called delta-catenin, which plays crucial roles in the nervous system, said senior author Aravinda Chakravarti, a professor in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Institute of Genetic Medicine. His research team found that a group of girls with severe autism carried CTNND2 mutations that appeared to reduce the effectiveness of delta-catenin, potentially affecting their neurological development.
Researchers Pinpoint Possible Protein Culprit behind Alzheimer's
Abnormal tau protein collecting in the brain may be the main cause of Alzheimer's disease, a new study claims. Another protein called amyloid accumulates as Alzheimer's progresses, but is not the primary culprit behind the devastating memory loss that is the hallmark of the disease, Mayo Clinic researchers report. They said their findings suggest that targeting tau should be the new focus of efforts to find treatments for Alzheimer's. "The majority of the Alzheimer's research field has really focused on amyloid over the last 25 years," study author Melissa Murray, a neuroscientist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., said in a Mayo news release.
ACMG: Initial Exome Analysis Does Not Always Yield Right Answer, Emory Researchers Find
The initial analysis of exome sequencing data does not always provide the correct diagnosis and the exome is "always worth a second look," according to researchers from Emory Genetics Laboratory. During a talk at the American Society of Medical Genetics and Genomics annual meeting, Madhuri Hegde, a professor at Emory University School of Medicine and the executive director of its genetics lab, reported two case studies that illustrate how researchers can initially be led astray in their interpretation — for example, by relying on incorrect data from the literature, or because a patient is mosaic for a disease-causing mutation — but eventually find the true pathogenic mutation by using different test methods or repeating the exome test in a different sample. Careful reanalysis and reinterpretation of exome data can also improve the diagnostic yield of exome sequencing beyond the current yield of less than 30 percent, she said.
Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Acute Pain in Children with Sickle Cell Disease
Vitamin D deficiency may be associated with vaso-occlusive complications in children with sickle cell disease, according to results of a cross-sectional study. Patients with sickle cell disease experience high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. However, data are limited with respect to the potential association between vitamin D deficiency and acute vaso-occlusive crisis, according to study background. Margaret T. Lee, MD, of the division of pediatric hematology, oncology and stem cell transplantation in the department of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, and colleagues examined whether an association exists between vitamin D deficiency and acute pain and acute chest syndrome in children with sickle cell disease.
A Single Gene May Determine Why Some People Get So Sick with the Flu
It's hard to predict who will get the flu in any given year. While some people may simply spend a few days in bed with aches and a stuffy nose, others may become so ill that they end up in the hospital. Until now, researchers could only point generally at differences between flu patients' immune responses. Jean-Laurent Casanova, a professor at Rockefeller University and investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has been sifting through cases of children with severe flu. He and his colleagues have pinpointed one gene that keeps the immune system from fighting off the flu, and their results were published in Science.
1,000-year-old Remedy Could Help Cure Superbug
Mixture of onion, garlic, wine and cow stomach bile found to combat staph infections. A 10th-century medicine that was originally used to treat eye infections may also be able to cure staph infections. Researchers at the University of Nottingham recreated an ancient potion recipe from Bald’s Leechbook, one of the oldest medical texts in existence. By following the recipe steps precisely, including using a wine from a thousand-year-old vineyard, researchers developed a medicine that was found to kill 90% of MRSA bacteria in mice. MRSA is a particularly hard-to-treat bacterial infection resistant to many modern antibiotics.
Enterovirus 68 May Be Linked to Paralysis in Children, Study Says
A new strain of a common respiratory virus may be responsible for partly paralyzing scores of children nationwide, researchers reported. Since August, 115 children in 34 states have developed polio-like paralysis in an arm or a leg. The virus, enterovirus 68, has emerged as a leading suspect. A study published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases strengthens that possibility, although many questions remain. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed genetic sequences of enterovirus 68 cultured from 25 children in Colorado and California with limb paralysis, also called acute flaccid myelitis. The viruses were genetically very similar, the scientists found, sharing certain mutations that resemble those found in the poliovirus genome. The researchers concluded that the viruses were a novel strain of enterovirus 68, which they called B1. Using a method called “molecular clock analysis,” the team estimated that the B1 strain emerged four and half years ago.
ACIP Updates Typhoid Vaccination Recommendations
Typhoid vaccine should not be given routinely in the United States, according to updated recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) published in the March 26 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. However, typhoid vaccination continues to be recommended for US travelers to certain countries. "In 1994, [ACIP] approved recommendations for typhoid vaccination, stating that typhoid vaccine is indicated for U.S. travelers to certain countries, close contacts of chronic carriers, and certain laboratory workers," write Brendan R. Jackson, MD, from the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues. "The updated recommendations contain new data on the epidemiology of typhoid fever and vaccine effectiveness and safety."
ACIP Updates Recommendations, Adds 9-valent HPV Vaccine
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends the 9-valent human papillomavirus vaccine (9vHPV; Gardasil 9, Merck) as one of three HPV vaccines that can be used for routine vaccination, according to a report published in the March 26 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The US Food and Drug Administration approved 9vHPV in December 2014, and, as reported by Medscape Medical News, the European Medicines Agency just recommended approval this week.
Fish Oil Claims Not Supported by Research
Fish oil is now the third most widely used dietary supplement in the United States, after vitamins and minerals, according to a recent report from the National Institutes of Health. At least 10 percent of Americans take fish oil regularly, most believing that the omega-3 fatty acids in the supplements will protect their cardiovascular health. But there is one big problem: The vast majority of clinical trials involving fish oil have found no evidence that it lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke. From 2005 to 2012, at least two dozen rigorous studies of fish oil were published in leading medical journals, most of which looked at whether fish oil could prevent cardiovascular events in high-risk populations. These were people who had a history of heart disease or strong risk factors for it, like high cholesterol, hypertension or Type 2 diabetes. All but two of these studies found that compared with a placebo, fish oil showed no benefit.
Changes in Surgery Methods Significantly Reduces Antibiotic Resistance
A new study shows how changing working methods in surgery can significantly reduce bacterial resistance to antibiotics, while maintaining protection against infection and reducing costs by up to 60%. Antibiotic use is common in urological surgery. In 2010 the European Association of Urology introduced new guidelines on urological infection in the hope of containing some of the problems associated with antibiotic resistance. In early 2011 an international group of clinicians from Italy, Germany, Norway, and the UK began to work strictly to these new guidelines, with a view to testing just how effective the procedures might be. Lead researcher Dr Tommaso Cai (Santa Chiara Hospital, Trento, Italy), commented: "The changes we made were fairly significant, and required monthly audits to ensure that we were sticking to the new system. For example, under the old system it was standard practice to give a patient who was having an operation for benign prostatic hyperplasia, the antibiotic ciprofloxacin both before surgery, and then for 7 days afterwards. But when we adhered to the guidelines we only gave the antibiotic prior to the surgery".
How Many Kids Exposed to Lead Go Untested?
More Georgia children should be screened for potentially dangerous levels of lead in their blood, public health officials say. The testing is especially important for kids in higher-risk areas, says Chris Rustin, director of environmental health for the state Department of Public Health. But children in those riskier areas are often are less likely to get lead testing than those in safer neighborhoods, he says. Lead poisoning is particularly dangerous for children under age 6. It can cause central nervous system damage and intellectual and behavioral deficits, among other health effects. Public Health lists the high-risk counties as Bibb, Carroll, Chatham, Cobb, Crisp, DeKalb, Dougherty, Fulton, Gwinnett, Hall, Laurens, Richmond, Whitfield and Ben Hill. It may seem a rather varied list, but what the counties have in common is a lot of older housing stock. Among Georgia children tested, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 are at “a level of concern,’’ with a blood lead level of more than 5 micrograms per deciliter, Rustin says. That’s the level where CDC recommends public health actions to clean up the problem.
What Libraries Can Teach Healthcare about Interoperability
The healthcare industry should turn to libraries to learn how to share information, according to Charis Anne Baz Takaro, a project/policy analyst at University Health Services at the University of California, Berkeley. Currently, providers are "living in a nightmare" when it comes to sharing information, she says in a post for iHealthBeat. For information exchange to support research and improve health, there must be an investment in data normalization processes that are based on the standard and workflow of data. A lack of interoperability has been a sticking point for healthcare. In December, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released a shared nationwide roadmap for interoperability. The roadmap's goal is to provide steps to be taken in both the private and public sectors to create an interoperable health IT ecosystem over the next 10 years.
Reaction to Stage 3? Guarded
The reaction to the long-anticipated Stage 3 meaningful use rules has been slow in coming – not surprising, given that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released them around 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time March 20. CHIME, the College of Health Information Management Executives, was the first to comment. Other organizations, such as the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association, both vocal in asking the government for flexibility in the program, have not yet weighed in with statements. "CHIME is closely evaluating both the CMS meaningful use rule and the ONC certification rule," the organization said in a statement issued soon after the rules were released. "Based on our initial review, we are pleased to see flexibility built into the Stage 3 proposed objectives.
Health Data Breaches: No One Is Immune
Up to one-quarter of Americans may have been affected by the Anthem Healthcare data breach in February — estimates that dwarf last year’s Community Health Systems breach by an order of magnitude. All healthcare organizations are at risk for a data breach. Just in March, in fact, Premera Blue Cross reported a possible breach of 11 million records, and Redmond, Ore.-based Advantage Dental notified more than 150,000 patients of a recent breach. It’s no wonder that experts have predicted that 2015 will be the year of the healthcare data breach. The reason for this is simple. While hackers managed to exploit vulnerabilities in point-of-sale systems in 2014, retailers and software vendors are moving to close those gaps. Symantec, in the meantime, reports that healthcare cyberattacks increased 72 percent from 2013 to 2014. And while financial businesses will quickly detect and shut down fraudulent activity, stolen healthcare information can go undetected for years (in part due to some of the privacy protections provided by HIPAA) and used in many profitable ways.
Interoperability: Just Ahead or Still Far Off?
At no other time in history has there been such a concentrated push for interoperability as there is today. Perhaps the need has become more obvious since the widespread adoption of electronic health record systems. Maybe the industry has gotten a second wind. Maybe the movers and shakers are finally impatient to make it happen. It could be simply that the stars are aligned. Whatever the reason, interoperability is center-stage. It doesn't mean that it is done, or that the road to interoperability will be an easy ride. But, suddenly industry insiders seem more abuzz and determined to push forward.
What the SGR Bill's Merit-based Pay Means for Health IT Incentives
The long-awaited sustainable growth-rate fix that passed the House is wired to boost the use of health information technology, even beyond electronic health records. The new Medicare framework for paying physicians would include a merit-based incentive payment system (MIPS) that would award bonuses and impose penalties based on whether physicians score above or below a certain threshold on quality measures, including meeting the requirements for the meaningful use of health IT.
Quintiles, Quest Form Global Lab Services Joint Venture
Quintiles and Quest Diagnostics announced they would combine the clinical trials lab operations from the two firms, forming a global joint venture. Under the terms of the deal, slated to close in the third quarter, Quintiles will own 60 percent of the joint lab services business, and Quest will own 40 percent. Between Quest and Quintiles, they employ 3,500 medical doctors, PhDs, and biostatisticians, as well as experts in genomics and precision medicine. The joint lab services business will have access to Quintiles' Infosario technology platform and Quest's data analytics capabilities, the partners noted, and both have experience providing lab services to drug companies. Quest draws its expertise from 20 billion test results, while Quintiles has electronic health records containing 60 million patients and 250,000 clinical investigators.
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