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UTI prevention fails to keep pace with other anti-infection efforts
Most hospitals say the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' no-pay policy for hospital-acquired conditions has pushed them to make greater efforts to prevent health care-associated infections. But a study says preventing one item on the no-pay policy has gotten less of a push: catheter-associated urinary tract infections. Nearly all hospitals have implemented practices aimed at reducing the incidence of central-line associated bloodstream infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia, says a study published online Dec. 6, 2011, in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. But less than half of hospitals are taking similar action against the nosocomial infection patients are likeliest to contract -- a urinary tract infection associated with the use of indwelling urinary catheters. "Urinary tract infection is the Rodney Dangerfield of health care-associated infections because it gets no respect, even though it's the most common," said Sanjay Saint, MD, MPH, professor of inter [Read more]
32 Medicare ACOs selected for pioneer program
Federal health officials selected 32 health care systems, including several led by physician groups, to take part in the new Medicare pioneer accountable care organization initiative. The Dept. of Health and Human Services estimates that $1.1 billion in savings could be realized from the ACO model, which encourages physicians and hospitals to coordinate care and offers shared savings for keeping patients healthy. Pioneer ACOs also face penalties when health care costs exceed projections. The pioneer ACO model was designed for health care groups with experience in providing patient-centered care. The pioneer program, which begins on Jan. 1, 2012, is separate from the system-wide ACO shared savings program that was finalized in October. "We know that health care providers are at different stages in their work to improve care and reduce costs," said Marilyn Tavenner, acting Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator. "That's why we've developed a menu of options for Medi [Read more]
Increase in diabetes, obesity could offset progress in cardiovascular health
Rising rates of diabetes and obesity in the U.S. could soon stall -- or possibly reverse -- the progress that has been made in improving the nation's cardiovascular health, some cardiologists say. For that reason, primary care physicians should focus on educating patients about what they can do to reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease or stroke, said Tracy Stevens, MD, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Assn. She also is a cardiologist at St. Luke's Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo. "Americans think cardiovascular disease is somebody else's responsibility. Until Americans take ownership for their health we're not going to continue to have favorable statistics to report," Dr. Stevens said. She recommends that primary care physicians talk to patients about lifestyle modifications they need to make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and how they can make those changes. Dr. Stevens also encourages doctors to provide patients with a list [Read more]
Iowa Supreme Court throws out case after doctor's credentialing file is used in trial
A surgeon's credentialing file should not have been used as evidence during his employer's medical liability trial, the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled. Without the credentialing file, the plaintiff does not have sufficient evidence to pursue his claims, the high court said, thus throwing out the lawsuit. The Iowa Supreme Court opinion -- in conjunction with an appeals court decision finding that credentialing files are protected by peer review laws -- is a victory for state health professionals, said Eric G. Hoch, an attorney who represented Mercy Hospital Medical Center, a defendant in the Supreme Court case. "It's a very positive development for physicians and hospitals and their staff. One of the main benefits is [health professionals] can't be deposed or questioned about the credentialing process," he said. "That should afford some peace of mind to those individuals as well as protect the credentialing process." The high court decision ends a nine-year court battle that move [Read more]
Texts from physicians can reduce unhealthy drinking by young adults
Doctors can use text messaging to help young adults reduce their alcohol intake, according to a new study. University of Pittsburgh researchers found that heavy alcohol consumption by young adults decreased after they received weekly texts for three months that inquired about their drinking and offered tips to reduce how much they drank. The findings were published online Dec. 15 in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. "For a lot of these young adults, they're not aware that their drinking behavior is dangerous. Making them aware of it and allowing them to self-monitor what they are doing can change their behavior," said lead study author Brian Suffoletto, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the Dept. of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. Fifteen percent of the adult U.S. population reported binge drinking in a 30-day period, according to 2009 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The figure was 24% for youths ages 12 to 20 [Read more]
One-third of patients don't follow up in month after hospital discharge
A new study underscores the increasingly collaborative role physicians can play in helping to reduce hospital re-admissions. The December analysis by the Center for Studying Health System Change found that one-third of adult patients discharged from a hospital do not see a physician within 30 days of release, putting them at risk of readmission. About 8% of discharged adults were re-hospitalized during that time, while 33% were readmitted within a year. Those figures included patients covered by public and private insurance, with private payers shouldering a greater share of readmission costs than Medicare. Although health system reform efforts largely target hospitals and Medicare payments to curb unnecessary re-hospitalizations, "this really suggests a systemic breakdown once patients leave the hospital," said lead study author and HSC senior researcher Anna Sommers, PhD. "No single payer or plan or hospital can resolve this problem. It's going to take a system of providers [Read more]
More health care workers vaccinated against the flu
Although influenza activity remained low in the United States through November, vaccination rates were up from 2010 among health care workers. Sixty-three percent of workers received the influenza vaccine by mid-November. Fifty-six percent were immunized by the same time last year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on more than 4,900 health care workers. "Health care personnel vaccination ... is a critical issue, because [it] protects not only themselves, but also their families and their patients," said Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, assistant secretary for health at the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Dr. Koh said public health officials are pleased with the improved vaccination rate. Despite the progress, however, the CDC said overall coverage for health care workers is expected to fall substantially below the Healthy People 2020 target of 90% immunization against influenza. Infectious diseases experts say local and national efforts need [Read more]
Nearly 90% of physicians feel stressed every day, report says
Most physicians routinely cope with high levels of stress that can lead to problems such as decreased productivity, conflicts in the workplace or at home, and feelings of irritability and anger, a report says. Eighty-seven percent of 2,069 physicians surveyed said they feel moderately or severely stressed or burned out daily. "These are really striking statistics," said Alan Rosenstein, MD, medical director of Minneapolis-based Physician Wellness Services, which consults health employers on wellness services. The company conducted the survey with Cejka Search, a St. Louis, Mo.-based physician, allied health and health care executive search firm. Physicians participating in the survey had a median age of 45 and an average 13 years in practice. Respondents cited the top causes of stress as the struggling economy (51.6%), health system reform (46.4%) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services policies (41.2%). When asked about stressors in the workplace, 39.8% named paperwor [Read more]
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