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Patient room notes, pop quizzes boost hand hygiene
A note on the white boards in hospital patients' rooms saying, "I like clean hands," can result in higher rates of hand-washing among health professionals, but a sign in the staff lounge urging hand-hygiene compliance probably will not make a difference. These are among the findings of a rapid intervention-testing process used at seven hospitals in the Sentara Healthcare system, headquartered in Norfolk, Va., that pushed the hand-hygiene compliance rate to 92.5%. The nationwide hand-washing rate has hovered around 50%, depending on the study and measurement used. Like many health systems, Sentara finds itself under pressure to improve hand-hygiene compliance rates that have been linked to nosocomial infections. Rates of such infections are being publicly reported, and many insurers withhold payment for treating some infections acquired in the hospital. Sentara already had easily accessible sinks and sanitizer foam, yet a revised audit process had shown its compliance rate at a [Read more]
NHSC provides $9 million for medical students to go into primary care
Seventy-seven fourth-year medical students will receive $9.1 million in loan repayments for participating in a new National Health Service Corps program aimed at encouraging more young people to go into primary care. Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the awards for the Students to Service Loan Repayment Program at a Los Angeles community health center on Feb. 13. "This new program is an innovative approach to encouraging more medical students to work as primary care doctors," she said. The Health Resources and Services Administration estimates that 17,722 primary care professionals are needed in medically under-served areas to meet a target of having one primary care professional for every 2,000 U.S. residents. Students in the pilot program, funded through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will receive up to $30,000 annually for four years. In exchange, they must agree to practice at least 40 hours a week for three years [Read more]
Doctors play key role in sustaining weight loss among teen girls
Physicians can help overweight adolescent girls lose weight and keep it off by identifying lifestyle habits that need improvement and encouraging their efforts, a study says. "Some primary care physicians don't think they have a lot of influence over patients because they have such a short period of time to meet with them, but they do have a very powerful presence in the lives of teenagers and their families," said lead study author Lynn L. DeBar, PhD, MPH, clinical psychologist and behavioral health researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. "By just encouraging a healthy lifestyle among their patients, they make a difference." Teenage girls who participated in a six-month program that included weekly peer meetings and consultations with their primary care physician had a lower body mass index and better self-esteem than females who did not take part in the program, said a study posted online Feb. 13 in Pediatrics. DeBar recommends that p [Read more]
AT&T to operate AMA's online physician platform
Under what is being described as a "collaborative agreement," AT&T will take ownership and control over the American Medical Association's physician platform, integrating it with the company's health information exchange. The platform currently operates under the name Amagine, but it will be merged into AT&T's Healthcare Community Online when the changeover is complete. The two platforms run on technology created by Covisint, a division of Detroit-based technology company CompuWare. The AMA will continue to serve as a collaborative partner, offering physician outreach, input into new content and guidance on new solutions. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The merging of products is expected to be completed by the end of 2012. The AT&T Healthcare Community Online was launched in 2010 as a health information exchange. Since then, new tools and applications have been added for its users, which are mainly large health care organizations. Randall Porter, assistan [Read more]
HHS mandates clear insurance language
The Obama administration will require health insurance plans to publish their coverage information using simple terms and consumer-friendly labels. New rules mandated by the health system reform law and recently finalized by the Dept. of Health and Human Services would help employers and beneficiaries compare and select health plans more easily, health officials said. Insurers would use templates, similar to nutrition labels used on food products, designed by the administration to detail cost-sharing and coverage limitation information. "Consumers, for the first time, will really be able to clearly comprehend the sometimes confusing language insurance plans often use in marketing," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "This will give them a new edge in deciding which plan will best suit their needs and those of their families or employees." Insurers must use new forms that detail coverage beginning Sept. 23. Information will include examples of coverage that highlight the cos [Read more]
Adult vaccination rate still too low
Not enough adults are receiving recommended vaccinations, and there has been little progress increasing coverage in recent years, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. Significant improvement is needed to stem the negative health consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases among adults, said the Feb. 3 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. "We can't give up," said Sandra Fryhofer, MD, American College of Physicians' liaison to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. "Vaccinations are vital to our nation's health, and they save health care dollars over the long term." At least 45,000 American adults die each year of diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. By comparison, fewer than 1,000 Americans die of childhood diseases that are vaccine-preventable, the CDC says. The report examined 2010 data on six vaccines: pneumococcal, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, herpes zoster, human papillomavirus and tetanus antigen-containing [Read more]
Doctors urged to educate patients about sodium consumption
Primary care physicians should talk to patients about ways to lower their sodium intake by about a quarter teaspoon of salt each day, says a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official. Such a reduction would prevent thousands of deaths from cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke a year and save billions in health care dollars, said Mary E. Cogswell, DrPH, a senior scientist in the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention in the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. To achieve that goal, she encourages doctors to educate patients on the amount of sodium they need each day and the importance of checking sodium content on nutrition labels. She also recommends that physicians talk to patients about items that have high sodium levels. Ten types of food account for 44% of the dietary sodium that Americans consume each day, according to a study published in the Feb. 10 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Rep [Read more]
Members of the Republican political party warn HHS about promoting \
Ten Republican senators have criticized the Obama administration for marketing Medicare preventive services as being free to patients. The GOP lawmakers said the Dept. of Health and Human Services\' use of the word \"free\" in promotional materials to patients is misleading because there is no such thing as a \"free lunch.\" The senators wrote HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a letter Feb. 7 chiding the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for hiding the true cost of these services in 2011. "While we generally support encouraging preventative care, we are alarmed that HHS and CMS are stating that screenings provided through Medicare, such as colorectal cancer screenings, prostate cancer screening, mammograms, Pap tests and pelvic exams, and smoking cessation counseling are free services,\" the letter states. For instance, the national payment amount for a pelvic exam was $36.69 in 2011. A colonoscopy for a patient who is not at high risk for colon cancer cost $395.83. The M [Read more]
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