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Greater awareness of practice guidelines helps reduce unrecommended tests

A physician-driven approach cut in half the number of unwarranted tests that doctors ordered for newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients, research shows. Increased awareness of practice guidelines and being presented with comparative data on tests they and their colleagues ordered resulted in more physicians following recommendations on what tests to order, according to a study in the September issue of The Journal of Urology. It also improved the quality of care by reducing variations in practice patterns. Fewer unnecessary tests -- in this case bone scans and computerized tomography scans -- mean fewer patients are exposed to radiation and the inherent risks. They also avoid needless costs to the health care system, said lead author David C. Miller, MD, MPH. "This approach was physician-led. ... It's a new solution to an old problem," said Dr. Miller, a urologist and an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor. "This was about enhancing ...

HHS finalizes administrative standards for electronic claims submissions

Washington -- The Obama administration has set electronic standards for health plans exchanging insurance coverage information with physician practices and for the status of claims submitted for payment. The Dept. of Health and Human Services published the new criteria on June 30 to standardize electronic health care transactions, administration officials said. Health plans, clearinghouses for claims and health professionals who transmit health information in electronic formats must adopt the new rules by 2013. "The use of these operating rules is going to make the existing standards work better," said Denise Buenning, director of the administrative simplification group at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "By making them work better, we're forecasting that the use of standards will expand and information will be streamlined so that the process will be faster, better and less expensive." The new administrative simplification standards were outlined in the national ...

Chronic pain costs U.S. $635 billion a year

More than 116 million Americans struggle with chronic pain each year, and associated medical charges and lost productivity cost the nation as much as $635 billion annually. These are the findings of "Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research," a July report by an Institute of Medicine panel that calls for an aggressive national strategy to combat the problem. "That's a conservative estimate of the overall economic impact because it excludes children, members of the military and individuals in nursing homes or chronic care facilities," said Philip A. Pizzo, MD, chair of the IOM panel. "We are looking at a broad demography of pain." The report, mandated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, includes 16 recommendations for action. The panel said that by the end of 2012, the Dept. of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and other federal agencies should: Create a popula ...