A Weekly Compilation of Clinical Laboratory and Related Information
from The Division of Laboratory Science and Standards
January 31, 2013
View Previous Issues - Healthcare News Archive
Government Should Slow Down Race to Implement Electronic Health Records
In an unusual move, vendors of electronic health records (EHRs) are asking the government to delay implementation of their products, and focus instead on making sure requirements already set in motion on EHR use are effective. “The pace is too damn high,” says John Glaser, chief executive officer of Health Services at Siemens Healthcare, a major vendor. “People are just cramming this stuff in.”
Health IT companies pushed hard for the 2009 HITECH Act, which disburses taxpayers’ money to hospitals and doctors to help them purchase EHRs, provided they use them according to rules set by Medicare. Thanks to that law, revenues at companies such as Cerner, Epic, and athenahealth have soared.
But the initial euphoria is slightly waning. Government rules which prescribe a one-size fits all approach for everyone, from recording height (even for, say, an orthopedic surgeon), to implementing five clinical decision support “interventions,” have turned out in some cases to be cumbersome. While the need to digitize patient records is imperative, no one knows whether those rules have measurably improved outcomes, so far. “To keep moving ahead with such an aggressive strategy strikes me as foolish,” says Stephanie Reel, vice provost for information technology and chief information officer at Johns Hopkins University. “We don’t know what’s working, and what’s not working.”
HHS Updates and Strengthens HIPAA
According to HHS, the final rule greatly enhances a patient’s privacy protections, provides individuals new rights to their health information, and strengthens the government’s ability to enforce the law. Among the changes, the new rule seeks to:
- Make business associates of covered entities directly liable for compliance with certain of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules' requirements.
- Strengthen the limitations on the use and disclosure of protected health information for marketing and fundraising purposes, and prohibit the sale of protected health information without individual authorization.
- Expand individuals' rights to receive electronic copies of their health information and to restrict disclosures to a health plan concerning treatment for which the individual has paid out of pocket in full.
- Require modifications to, and redistribution of, a covered entity's notice of privacy practices.
Supreme Court Dismisses Hospitals' Medicare Lawsuit
Ruling reverses circuit court decision for hospitals to appeal reimbursement reviews
The Supreme Court sided with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services when the high court refused to allow extensions for Medicare reimbursement appeals beyond the usual 180 days or three years for good cause. The blow essentially hits the wallets of 18 hospitals, which filed suit against HHS for what they say are Medicare underpayments worth millions of dollars.
Genetic-Testing CPT Codes Shared With Federal Registry
New and more-detailed Current Procedural Terminology codes for genetic testing will be incorporated into the National Institute of Health's central registry, a move described as a boon to both the clinical and business management side of medicine. Until now CPT codes have been generally seen as billing tools for insurers.
The new codes were developed by the American Medical Association. In an agreement between the AMA and the National Library of Medicine, the codes will be put to use in the NIH Genetic Testing Registry. Dr. Wendy Rubinstein, director of the GTR, said the move helps create an “interoperable terminology” allowing better communication between clinicians, hospital management, laboratories and payers.
Molecular Diagnostic Test Pricing Causing Angst
Preliminary pricing for new molecular diagnostic tests codes released by two Medicare administrative contractors (MACs) appear to be worrisome for clinical laboratories that perform molecular testing and the IVD companies that manufacture the tests.
While those in the lab industry are busy digesting the rates and comparing them to what labs had been paid previously using the code-stacking method, Deutsche Bank said in an alert released that based on its preliminary analysis of the Palmetto rate schedule, it believes Medicare reimbursement for the 78 codes could represent a reduction of 25-30 percent for Quest and LabCorp in this testing segment.
Molecular Diagnostics Reimbursement in Flux
What Will New Codes Mean for Labs?
Molecular testing has become an economic powerhouse for the lab industry and contributes a wealth of valuable information to patient care. But even as researchers and labs look for the latest breakthroughs, the government and other payers are still trying to make up their minds about what these tests are worth and how to keep track of them. This month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implements a completely new system for coding molecular tests on Medicare claims. For more than a year, the lab community waited in limbo while physician organizations tried to persuade CMS to move the new Common Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes to the physician fee schedule—a change that non-pathologist laboratorians worried would undercut their long-standing professional role overseeing molecular tests.
Congress Increases Pressure on NFLPA Over HGH Blood-Testing
The leaders of a Congressional committee told the NFL Players Association that they intend to “communicate directly with the players” on the issue of whether the sport should blood-test players for use of human growth hormone. Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, outlined their plan in a letter to DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the players’ union.
What the Future Holds
As fetal genome screening becomes more of a reality and more widespread, parents will "quickly learn that there is no such thing as a perfect baby," Scientific American writes. Such tests could reveal not only susceptibility to disease — both those that strike early and those that are adult-onset — but also to other conditions and possibly personality traits. "Without careful planning, moreover, the new prenatal genetics might rob a child of the freedom to make decisions best left until adulthood — whether or not to learn, for instance, if a mutation predicts the inevitability of Huntington's disease 20 years hence," the magazine says.
Scientific American adds that the government, industry, and professional societies should develop policies on how to handle fetal genome screening.
Research to Resume on Modified, Deadlier Bird Flu
Experiments with a deadly flu virus, suspended last year after a fierce global debate over safety, will start up again in some laboratories, probably within the next few weeks, scientists say. The research touched off a firestorm in 2011 when it became known that two groups, one in the Netherlands and another in the United States, had genetically altered a dangerous bird flu virus to make it more contagious in mammals. Some scientists warned that a deadly pandemic could break out if the mutant virus leaked out of the lab accidentally or if terrorists stole it or made it themselves, using articles in scientific journals for the recipe.
But the United States, which pays for much of the flu research both at home and abroad, has not yet released new guidelines. So scientists here will not be able to resume experiments yet, nor will those in other countries who depend on grant money from the United States.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the Department of Health and Human Services was reviewing new guidelines, and that he expected them to be approved in weeks. The guidelines will specify the laboratory conditions under which this type of research is permitted and require that experiments have a potential benefit for public health.
ASCP Vacancy Survey Underscores Need for New Laboratory Workforce Skills and Increased Demand in the Future
Increasing demand for medical care for an aging population is prompting rapid change in medical technology, coupled with anticipated increases in the volume of laboratory tests. This may require new workforce skills to meet future laboratory needs, according to the results of the ASCP 2012 Vacancy Survey, which will appear in the February 2013 issue of Lab Medicine.
Overall, medical laboratories reported national vacancy rates of between 7 and 8 percent for nonsupervisory medical laboratory scientists in 2012, according to the findings. ASCP Director of Public Policy Andrea Bennett, MPH, MT(ASCP), surmised that the slight decrease in job vacancies across the laboratory professions may indicate that more employees are staying in their jobs, rather than retiring at age 65, because of the sluggish economy.
Building the Case for PGx Testing
In a plenary session at the Association for Molecular Pathology 2012 Annual Meeting on Genomic Medicine, Michael Laposata, MD, PhD, the Edward and Nancy Fody professor of pathology and a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, spoke on “Making the Case for Pharmacogenomics Testing: Integration into a Healthcare System.” In his talk, Dr. Laposata, who is also pathologist-in-chief at Vanderbilt University Hospital, described Vanderbilt’s pharmacogenomics program, called PREDICT—Pharmacogenomic Resource for Enhanced Decisions in Care and Treatment. Dr. Laposata told CAP TODAY. “The key to marketing pharmacogenomics, like any test, is to show how you would use it for taking care of patients. If you try to move government to pay for something that sounds good but they can’t see any concrete benefit, it’s never going to happen. We need to show benefit first.” To this end, Dr. Laposata and his colleagues are collecting clinical experience and conducting a single-center trial.
Pap Education Digital
The CAP has a new gynecologic cytopathology education program that uses the agile DigitalScope viewer to look at whole-slide image Pap tests. An all-online program, Pap Education Digital (PED) has modules consisting of SurePath (PEDK/APEDK), ThinPrep (PEDM/APEDM), or liquid-based slidesets that feature both slide technologies (PEDL/APEDL). PED Program Advantages:
- Use of the DigitalScope viewer, which provides an easy-to-navigate whole-slide image.
- After submission, immediate feedback on the interpretation as well as educational comments.
- Pathologists see how their cytotechnologist staff choose fields of interest and gain insight into internal educational needs.
- Practice in use of whole-slide images (virtual slides).
- Access at any time of day/night from any computer at any location.
- Cases can be reviewed for a prolonged time (glass slides must be returned within three weeks).
- For international laboratories, no customs issues and no shipping fees as for glass slides, and no fax result delays.
Breast Cancer Recurrence Predictable With Blood Test
Using a DNA marker that can be obtained via a blood test, researchers in Canada were able accurately to predict which women were more likely to see a recurrence of their breast cancer years later. Although more studies are needed to confirm their findings, they suggest they could complement current prognosis approaches based on tumor assessment. Sambasivarao Damaraju, a professor with the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at Canada's University of Alberta, and colleagues, write about their findings in the 16 January issue of the open access online journal PLoS ONE.
A DNA Chip is Developed to Diagnose Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common childhood neuropsychiatric disorder. Yet there is currently no tool that will confirm the diagnosis of ADHD. In her thesis entitled "Development of a genotyping system to be applied in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and its Pharmacogenetics"), the researcher Alaitz Molano, a graduate in biochemistry and PhD holder in Pharmacology from the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country, presents a tool that could improve not only the diagnosis of but also the therapeutics for this disorder.
The study has also confirmed the existence of the 3 ADHD subtypes: lack of attention, hyperactivity, and a combination. "It can be seen that on the basis of genetics the children that belong to one subtype or another are different," explains Molano.
Lab-on-a-Chip Speeds Up HIV Testing
Fast, low-cost device uses the cloud to speed up testing for HIV and more.
Associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, has taken his innovative lab-on-a-chip and developed a way to not only check a patient’s HIV status anywhere in the world with just a finger prick, but also synchronize the results automatically and instantaneously with central health-care records—10 times faster, the researchers say, than the benchtop ELISA, a broadly used diagnostic technique. The device was field-tested in Rwanda by a collaborative team from the Sia lab and ICAP at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health.
In the study published online January 18, 2013, in Clinical Chemistry, and in the print April 2013 issue, Sia describes a major advance towards providing people in remote areas of the world with laboratory-quality diagnostic services traditionally available only in centralized health care settings. “We’ve built a handheld mobile device that can perform laboratory-quality HIV testing, and do it in just 15 minutes and on finger-pricked whole blood,” Sia says.
Blood Test Might Help Guide Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
A simple blood test might help predict a pancreatic cancer patient's chances of benefiting from chemotherapy, a small study suggests. Researchers found that they were able to put together a genetic "profile" of patients' pancreatic tumor cells that helped predict whether a given chemotherapy regimen would slow their cancer progression. And it only took a simple blood draw that captured tumor cells floating in the patients' bloodstream.
Blood Test Might Spot High-Risk Breast Cancer Genes
Further study is needed, but screen may get around more cumbersome, costly methods, researchers say A new blood-based genetic test may predict the presence of dangerous BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations in women, a new study finds. These mutations significantly boost the risk for breast or ovarian cancer, which often develop at an early age in women with the mutations. The screen could provide a quick, affordable alternative to current genetic testing and may help women and their doctors make decisions about ways to reduce cancer risk, according to the authors of the study, published Jan. 22 in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.
Simple Urine Test Picks up Mesalamine Non-Adherence
A readily available urine test could identify ulcerative colitis (UC) patients who are non-adherent to their mesalamine therapy, research shows. "This study demonstrates that measuring urine salicylate levels, by the standard colorimetry test used to measure blood salicylate levels, provides a reliable marker of recent mesalamine ingestion," say Alan Moss (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues. The study, reported in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, included 93 patients being prescribed mesalamine for UC and 20 control patients.
Pitt Enzyme Discovery May Lead To Better Tests for Tuberculosis
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health have identified an enzyme that will trigger the rapid breakdown of several mycobacteria species, including the bacteria known to cause tuberculosis. This discovery could lead to better tests for the deadly disease. The results of the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are published in the January edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
BMI: Does the Body Mass Index Need Fixing?
Mathematician Nick Trefethen, Professor of Numerical Analysis at Oxford University, thinks that the old formula is wrong, as he explained in a letter to the Economist newspaper published earlier this month.
He thinks that people have put too much trust in it in part because it looks so precise - like, say, Einstein's famous equation E=MC² "That's an equation of physics and it's really right. The BMI formula looks similar. It seems to have the same character but it doesn't reflect a precise truth about our world, it's an approximation to a very complicated reality," he told the BBC.
With that in mind he has proposed a new formula: 1.3 x weight, divided by height to the power 2.5.
UGA Wins Grant to Study Flu With Lasers
National Institutes of Health granted researchers at UGA $1.1 million to refine a method that allows them to fingerprint the flu virus with laser beams. “We can tell from that fingerprint whether the flu is a normal/seasonal flu, whether it’s a virulent flu, whether it’s even the flu or not,” said Richard Dluhy, a UGA professor of chemistry. If Dluhy and cohorts Stephen Tompkins and Ralph Tripp are successful, it could mean quick and accurate influenza testing on-site at doctors’ offices or clinics. And that, Dluhy said, could be advantageous.
J&J Mulls Sale of Diagnostics Division
Johnson & Johnson (J&J) may sell or spin off its slow-growing $2 billion-a-year diagnostics business, the company said when it reported quarterly earnings.
The diversified healthcare company said it may sell the Ortho Clinical Diagnostics business - whose products include equipment for laboratory diagnostics and blood transfusion screening - or turn it into a stand-alone company.
The decision comes as drugmakers are shedding businesses and cutting costs due to overseas price controls and pressure on payments from insurers and the government. Pfizer Inc, for instance, is spinning off its animal health products business, and Abbott Laboratories has split off its drugs unit.
IBM Says It Has Tool to Kill Deadly Drug-Resistant Superbugs
Hospital-acquired infections have become a major killer in the United States, mainly because the drug-resistant "superbugs" that cause them have proven nearly impossible to stop. But now IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology say they have come up with what they're calling an antimicrobial hydrogel that can successfully fight the superbugs that are behind killers like MRSA. In an announcement, IBM Research and its partner on the project said that their antimicrobial hydrogel was designed to cut through diseased biofilms and almost instantly kill off drug-resistant bacteria. The collaborators on the project said that the synthetic drug is meant for combating the growing infection problems plaguing American hospitals, because it is non-toxic, biocompatible, and biodegradable.
MRSA Search-and-Destroy Efforts Cut Pneumonia
A hospital's pre-emptive swab of all admitted patients has led to a 58% decline in methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) pneumonia, investigators reported at the Society of Critical Care Medicine 42nd Critical Care Congress. The search-and-destroy approach is part of an ongoing hospital-wide quality project to reduce healthcare-associated infections. At the Vidant Medical Center, in Greenville, North Carolina, which is a rural level 1 university trauma center, all patients have their nose swabbed for nasal MRSA colonization. The reduction in the incidence of MRSA was seen as soon as the search-and-destroy policy was introduced, he pointed out. The relative incidence of MRSA central-line-associated blood stream infections decreased by as much as 79%.
NIH to Fund Ethical, Legal, Social Studies of Genomics Research in Africa
The National Human Genome Research Institute plans to fund new efforts to delve into the range of possible ethical, legal, and social issues that could arise from the use of genomics technologies and genome-focused research projects in Africa. These new projects will be part of the ELSI arm of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) program, which aims to catalyze Africa's genomics research capabilities, resources, and talent pool. NHGRI wants researchers to pursue projects that examine the various views and conceptions of communities, families, religious leaders, and policy makers in Africa that may impact, or be impacted by, the arrival of advanced genomics research efforts.
NIH-Developed Candidate Dengue Vaccine Shows Promise in Early-Stage Trial
A candidate dengue vaccine developed by scientists at the National Institutes of Health has been found to be safe and to stimulate a strong immune response in most vaccine recipients, according to results from an early-stage clinical trial sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH. The trial results appeared in the April 1 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
The researchers found that all four candidate vaccine combinations induced antibody responses against each of the dengue viruses. However, one vaccine combination, TV003, appeared to induce the most balanced antibody response against the dengue viruses
Scientists Closer to Deciphering the Code That Controls Gene Expression
Scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have made a large step towards the understanding of how human genes are regulated. In a new study, published in the journal Cell, they identified the DNA sequences that bind to over four hundred proteins that control expression of genes. This knowledge is required for understanding of how differences in genomes of individuals affect their risk to develop disease
New Mutations Discovered in Melanomas
In a leap forward in understanding the basic science of one of the most lethal cancers, two groups of researchers have found mutations in most melanomas that are unlike any they have seen before in cancer. The changes are in regions that control genes, not in the genes themselves. The mutations are exactly the type caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, indicating they might be among the first DNA changes in a cell’s path to melanoma.
Mice With Firefly Genes Glow in Response to Tumor Growth
The progression of P16 increases in mice as they age visible from the younger mice to the older mice. Researchers at University of North Carolina have engineered laboratory mice which exhibit a firefly gene that could help scientists study cancer development. The p16INK4a (p16) gene is known to play a role in tumor suppression, so the team introduced the firefly gene so that it would be activated whenever the p16 gene is. Over time the mice with induced tumors were tracked and the glow was used to follow the activity of the p16 gene as it reacted to tumor progression. Some findings were that older mice glowed brighter, as expected, and the sites where cancer seemed to originate were particularly luminescent. The researchers used these mice to make several unexpected discoveries.
Digging Deep in the DNA
Dr. Hoekstra and two colleagues — Jesse Weber, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas, Austin, and Brant Peterson, a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Hoekstra’s lab — reported on a major step toward that goal. They identified four regions of DNA that help control burrow design: three for length and one for the presence or absence of an escape tunnel.
Their report was hailed by other scientists as an elegant and inventive piece of research. Cori Bargmann, at Rockefeller University, who studies the neurobiology and genetics of behavior in nematodes, said, “I think it’s a really exciting paper.” The genetics are beautiful,” Dr. Bargmann added, “But it is only the beginning. Now comes the hunt for the genes themselves, and perhaps even the biochemical pathways that show, step by step, how a DNA blueprint is transmitted to the scrabbling paws of a tiny mouse and translated into a hide-out from foxes, hawks and other predators.
HIV 'May Have an Ancient Origin'
The origins of HIV can be traced back millions rather than tens of thousands of years, research suggests. HIV, which causes Aids, emerged in humans in the 20th Century, but scientists have long known that similar viruses in monkeys and apes have existed for much longer. A genetic study shows HIV-like viruses arose in African monkeys and apes 5 million to 12 million years ago. The research may one day lead to a better understanding of HIV and Aids.
Inherited Resistance to Cocaine
If a rat becomes addicted to cocaine, you might expect that its offspring would also be predisposed to using the drug, especially since drug addiction is heritable and tends to run in families. Instead, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania (U Penn) have shown that the sons of cocaine-using male rats find the drug less rewarding, and are more likely to resist addiction.
The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, “were the exact opposite of what we expected,” said U Penn’s Chris Pierce, who led the study. His team showed that cocaine use leads to epigenetic changes in a rat’s brain that boost the levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). These same changes are seen in the sperm of drug-taking rodent parents, and can be passed on to their male pups.
The Drug-Dose Gender Gap
Because so many drugs were tested mostly or exclusively in men, scientists may know little of their effects on women until they reach the market. A Government Accountability Office study found that 8 of 10 drugs removed from the market from 1997 through 2000 posed greater health risks to women.
The sex differences cut both ways. Some drugs, like the high blood pressure drug Verapamil and the antibiotic erythromycin, appear to be more effective in women. On the other hand, women tend to wake up from anesthesia faster than men and are more likely to experience side effects from anesthetic drugs, according to the Society for Women’s Health Research.
Bacteria Breakthrough for Safer Food
Chicken meat and other foods will be able to be screened for bacteria even faster and more effectively than ever, thanks to breakthrough nanobiotechnology research. A team of scientists from The University of Queensland (UQ) and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) will leverage this new technology which enables DNA amplification on "microspheres" to rapidly detect and identify large numbers of different bacteria at once.
Professor Ross Barnard, Director of the Biotechnology Program at the UQ School of Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences, said that authorities have estimated that there are around 5.4 million cases of food-borne gastroenteritis in Australia every year. Of these cases, it is estimated that around 200,000 are associated with the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli.
Bacterial Pathogens in Our Food—an Update on Foodborne Illness
Foodborne illness poses a significant public health threat to the United States. The CDC estimates that consumption of contaminated food causes 48 million cases of illness each year, affecting approximately 15% of the population. Although the symptoms of foodborne illness are often mild and self-limiting, severe cases account for about 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that the economic burden of foodborne illness ranges from $10 billion to $83 billion annually, a substantial impact. Media attention to outbreaks of foodborne illness has increased in recent years, raising awareness—as well as fear—in the American public
Over 700 Bacteria Identified in Breast Milk
Spanish researchers have traced the bacterial microbiota map in breast milk, which is the main source of nourishment for newborns. The study has revealed a larger microbial diversity than originally thought: more than 700 species. The breast milk received from the mother is one of the factors determining how the bacterial flora will develop in the newborn baby. However, the composition and the biological role of these bacteria in infants remain unknown.
DNA Method May Enable Storage of All World’s Data
U.K. scientists developed a way of storing data from a million compact discs in a gram of DNA, a method that could potentially house all, the world’s digital information.
Computer files totaling 739 kilobytes of hard-disk storage were encoded and made into DNA that fit inside a test tube. The artificial DNA was sequenced using an Illumina Inc. (ILMN) machine and later reconstructed into the original files with 100 percent accuracy, according to Nick Goldman and Ewan Birney at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, England. The research was published in the journal Nature.
CHIME Fears Hospitals Unable to Submit Complete, Accurate Quality Data via EHRs
In comments submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) voiced concern about hospital readiness to submit accurate and complete quality data by way of electronic health record systems. Responding to a Request for Information (RFI) issued by CMS on hospital and vendor readiness to submit electronic quality data as part of the Inpatient Quality Data Reporting (IQR) program, CHIME thanked federal efforts towards reaching a harmonized approach for electronic clinical quality measurement (CQM) and supports efforts to aligning EHR-based reporting and hospital quality reporting programs. But the organization of healthcare CIOs also warned that current technology and workflow burdens make accurate and complete quality data reporting through the EHR nearly impossible.
Penalty Could Keep Smokers Out of Health Overhaul
Millions of smokers could be priced out of health insurance because of tobacco penalties in President Barack Obama's health care law, according to experts who are just now teasing out the potential impact of a little-noted provision in the massive legislation. The Affordable Care Act — "Obamacare" to its detractors — allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1. For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums.
Workers covered on the job would be able to avoid tobacco penalties by joining smoking cessation programs, because employer plans operate under different rules. But experts say that option is not guaranteed to smokers trying to purchase coverage individually.
Healthcare Hiring,Pay to Accelerate in 2013
Healthcare continues to be one of the hottest areas for hiring across the country – and an area where it's crucial to recruit the right talent – according to a survey by recruiting firm CareerBuilder. CareerBuilder’s annual survey finds 22 percent of healthcare hiring managers plan to add full-time, permanent healthcare employees in this year, up three percentage points over 2012. At the same time, 23 percent of healthcare employers reported they have open positions for which they can’t find qualified talent. Thirteen percent of all U.S. jobs are in healthcare and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the U.S. will add 5.6 million health care jobs from 2010 to 2020, the largest projected increase of any industry.
Hospitalists See Heavy Workloads Undermining Care
Heavy workloads can contribute to unnecessary tests and procedures, poor transitions of care and increased complications and mortality, according to self-reported data from more than 500 hospitalists. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, collected survey responses from 506 hospitalists on topics such as how their excess workload affects patients' risk of adverse events or causes delays in discharging patients. More than a quarter of hospitalists said their excess workloads prevented them from being able to answer patients' questions or adequately discuss treatment options, according to the survey results, published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Medical Group Fined $140K for Tossing Patients' Health Records Into Public Dump
Names, Social Security numbers, and medical diagnoses for more than 67,000 Massachusetts residents in the US were tossed into a public dump as is - no redacting, no shredding, no nothing - according to a press release put out by Attorney General Martha Coakley.
For the alleged mishandling and improper disposal of medical records, former owners of a medical billing practice, along with the doctors involved, have agreed to pay a $140,000 settlement. According to the Boston Globe, one of its photographers noticed the pile of paper records when tossing his own trash at a Georgetown, Massachusetts dump in July 2010. Beyond names, addresses, and Social Security numbers, the records in the pile included pathology reports for people tested for various kinds of cancer, along with other test results, according to the Globe.
Neonatal Death Rate Falls With AAP Program
An American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) program called Helping Babies Breathe has shown significant promise for lowering neonatal mortality in the developing world, two studies have suggested. For example, in a group of hospitals and centers in India where the program was implemented in 2010, the incidence of stillbirth fell from 3% to 2.3% (odds ratio 0.76 95% CI 0.59 to 0.98, P=0.035), according to Shivaprasad Goudar, MD, of Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Belgaum, and colleagues. And in Tanzania, the program was associated with a 47% decrease in early neonatal mortality, or death within the first 24 hours, from 13.4 to 7.1 per 1,000 births (relative risk 0.53, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.65, P<0.0001), reported Jeffrey Perlman, MBChB, of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, and colleagues.
Big Deal, Little Fanfare Over Global Pact on Mercury Controls
A legally binding agreement to reduce emissions that was reached at U.N.-sponsored talks in Geneva drew little notice or fanfare, probably because it still faces the rigors of ratification in 140-plus countries that will take another two to four years.
Still, getting so many states with competing economic agendas and disparate means to commit to the plan was no small feat--and not a minute too soon, in the view of environmental advocates spooked by mounting evidence of mercury’s dangers.
A European Union-coordinated study of 4,000 residents in 17 countries over the last two years found mercury levels in one-third of the test group to be above the amount considered safe, suggesting a causal link with brain damage in newborns.
Disclaimer- The information provided in this news digest is intended only to be general summary information. It does not represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is not intended to take the place of applicable laws or regulations.
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