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Joint Commission opens center to develop patient safety solutions
The Joint Commission has been accrediting hospitals since 1953, and in the last two decades stepped up efforts to identify issues that can harm patients, ranging from poorly deployed technology to disruptive behavior. The commission announced in September it will take a more hands-on approach, launching a center that will seek innovative patient-safety interventions. The new Center for Transforming Healthcare, opened with $10 million in commission reserves, is working with eight hospitals and health systems on its premier project to identify and overcome barriers to 100% hand-hygiene compliance. The commission is teaming up with organizations such as Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angeles that already use industrial process-improvement techniques borrowed from Motorola and Toyota Motor Corp. "Our aim is to transform health care into a high-reliability industry with rates of adverse events equal to or better than the other high-reliability industries in the world," said Joint C [Read more]
Lowering sodium intake could lower health costs
Reducing the nation's collective consumption of sodium could lower medical treatment costs by about $18 billion a year and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans, says a new RAND Corp. study. The study estimated that meeting national sodium guidelines could eliminate 11 million cases of hypertension and extend the lives of thousands each year. The findings are in the September/October American Journal of Health Promotion (www.rand.org/health/abstracts/2009/palar.html). Excessive consumption of sodium is a persistent health problem in the United States, causing increased rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The Institute of Medicine recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium each day and that high-risk groups -- including older adults, blacks and those with high blood pressure -- consume less. However, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, RAND researchers estimate that U.S. adults consume a [Read more]
Uninsured people may have a higher risk of death than once thought, study finds
The uninsured might be about 40% more likely to die than the privately insured, according to a study published online Sept. 17 in the American Journal of Public Health. In contrast, a 1993 Institute of Medicine study concluded that those without health coverage were 25% more likely to die. Nearly 45,000 people in 2005 might have died, in part, because they had no health insurance. That was the conclusion of "Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults," authored by Cambridge Health Alliance researchers (www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/AJPH.2008.157685v1/). "The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors and baseline health," said lead author Andrew Wilper, MD, MPH, an internist who teaches at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The authors used medical records from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Sur [Read more]
HHS will fund $25 million in tort reform projects
The White House quickly followed up on President Obama's pledge to authorize medical liability demonstration projects, announcing Sept. 17 the availability of $25 million in grants to be doled out to states by the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Grants for up to three years and $3 million each will be awarded on a competitive basis to states and health care systems to test models that improve health care quality and patient safety while decreasing medical liability pressures on doctors. In his Sept. 9 address to Congress, the president said he would authorize the state demonstration projects to test new ideas. Many doctors insist that medical liability concerns lead to practicing defensive medicine, which in turn contribute to higher health care costs. Many physicians also say they continue to struggle to pay liability premiums, which vary by specialty and state. The American Medical Association applauded the announcement and said it supports the new initiative, even thoug [Read more]
Physician job search strategy shifts as Internet booms, economy busts
When orthopedic surgeon John Kemp, MD, looked for a job fresh out of residency 22 years ago, he used a lot of paper and stamps mailing resumes to practices in areas of the country where he wanted to work, not knowing if there was even a job available. A year ago, when Dr. Kemp decided it was time to leave private practice in Littleton, Colo., he turned to listings on the Internet -- no paper, no stamps, no guessing if someone had an opening. On Aug. 1, he started as director of sports medicine at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center in Marshall, Minn. The Internet "gives you a lot more selection and, therefore, a lot more options," Dr. Kemp said. In-house recruiters handling doctor hiring are feeling the same way. A recent survey of 166 recruiters at hospitals and physician groups found that most rely heavily on Internet job postings, as well as word-of-mouth, to locate physicians for open positions. They were using physician search firms less than other tools, citing bot [Read more]
CMS probes Humana's lobbying tactics on reform
A federal inquiry at the behest of a key Democratic lawmaker into an insurance company's attempt to influence the health system reform debate has prompted a groundswell of criticism from GOP leaders, who likened the government's actions to a "gag order" on reform critics. At the urging of Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D, Mont.), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is investigating Louisville, Ky., based Humana for allegedly sending misleading information to its Medicare Advantage beneficiaries. CMS says the insurer may havemade false claims about the impact that pending health reform legislation could have on the coverage status of beneficiaries. "CMS is concerned that, among other things, this information is misleading and confusing to beneficiaries [and] represents information to beneficiaries as official communications about the Medicare Advantage program," the agency stated in a Sept. 18 letter to Humana. "As we continue our research into this issue, we [Read more]
850,000 doctors could be hit by potential data breach from insurer's stolen laptop
A file containing identifying information for every physician in the country contracted with a Blues-affiliated insurance plan was on a laptop computer stolen from a BlueCross BlueShield Assn. employee. It is not yet known whether any identity theft has resulted from the data breach. The file included the name, address, tax identification number and national provider identifier number for about 850,000 doctors, Jeff Smokler, spokesman for the Chicago-based Blues association, said Oct. 6. That number represents every physician who is part of the BlueCard network, which allows Blues members to access networks in other states, Smokler said. Some 16% to 22% of those physicians listed -- as many as 187,000 -- used their Social Security numbers as a tax ID or NPI number, Smokler said. The association updates its file of BlueCard network physicians weekly, Smokler said. An unidentified employee downloaded the unencrypted file onto his personal computer to work on it at home, a practi [Read more]
Health system reform sees rebound in public support
After declining in August, public support for a variety of aspects of health system reform increased in September, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll. Fifty-three percent of Americans said in mid-September that the country would be better off if President Obama and Congress adopted health reform, an increase from August's 45% and the 51% reported in July. Republicans and independents also softened their opposition: 49% of Republicans said families would be worse off if health reform passes, down from 61% in August. The percentage of independents saying so dipped to 26%, a decrease of 10 percentage points. "Opinion in the coming months is hard to predict, but as the focus shifted from the town halls and hot-button issues to the president, the Congress and the core issues in the legislation that affect people the most, the summer downturn in support was largely erased," said Drew Altman, PhD, Kaiser's president and CEO. The poll of 1,203 adults was [Read more]
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