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Patients won’t ask physicians to come clean on hand-washing

The vast majority of patients have never asked a physician or other health professional if they washed their hands before a physical exam or medical procedure, said a survey released in September. Only 21% of patients have asked about hand hygiene in the hospital, and just 17% have inquired about hand-washing at their doctor’s office, said the nationwide online survey of 1,020 U.S. adults. Fewer than 10% of patients said they ask “frequently” or “all the time.” The low rate of hand-hygiene quizzing comes despite widespread use of hospital signage encouraging such questions, as well as educational videos and urging from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Joint Commission and others. Compliance with hand-hygiene guidelines is difficult to measure accurately and varies widely. The CDC says the hand-washing rate in hospitals hovers around 50%. Poor hand hygiene is a leading contributor to the estimated 1.7 million health care-associated infections that occu ...

Insurers begin using standardized consumer guides

Health plans now are providing more consumer-friendly summaries of the insurance coverage they offer patients. The 2010 health system reform law required insurers to detail coverage using uniform documents and standardized definitions to explain patient benefits and cost-sharing responsibilities. Sept. 23 was the official deadline for health plans to begin using the new documentation. The summary of benefits and coverage form contains key information beneficiaries need during health plan enrollment periods, said Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a Sept. 24 conference call with reporters. The document, which she likened to a food nutrition label, tells patients what they need to know when comparing insurance plans without having to read through dozens of pages of fine print and footnotes. “Americans shouldn’t have to make a decision as important as picking a health plan for themselves and their family or their employees without having all ...

Patients seek strong say in how their data are used

A study in the September-October issue of Annals of Family Medicine shows that even patients who are generally comfortable with their data being shared electronically want to be in control of how that information is shared. Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York surveyed 170 patients from the Hudson Valley in New York. They found that 78% wish they could explicitly approve the sharing of all types of information, and most prefer restricting information by clinician (83%), visit (81%) or information type (88%). However, two-thirds of those surveyed said they supported the idea of sharing health information. The Statewide Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY) requires patients to opt into having their information shared, and all patients surveyed are covered under that network. All-or-nothing opt-ins do not allow patients to select which information is shared or with whom. Lead author Rainu Kaushal, MD. MPH, director of the Center for Healthcare I ...