Am Fam Physician. 2004 Sep 1;70(5):805-806.
HHS Announces New Policy on Medicare Coverage for Obesity
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has changed the language in their coverage manual that stated obesity is not an illness. The new policy would remove barriers to covering antiobesity intervention if scientific and medical evidence demonstrate their effectiveness in improving health outcomes. The change does not affect the existing coverage of treatments of disease resulting in or made worse by obesity, specifically currently covered surgical treatments for morbidly obese patients. As requests for coverage of obesity treatments are made, CMS will implement timely reviews of the scientific evidence provided by published clinical trials. More information is available online at http://www.dhhs.gov/news/press/2004pres/20040715.html.
NCHC Issues Report About Health Coverage for All Americans
The National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC) represents a group of businesses, insurers, consumer groups, and health organizations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). In July, NCHC issued the report, “Building a Better Health Care System: Specifications for Reform.” It focuses on seeking health coverage for all Americans within two to three years after the enactment of legislation ensuring the coverage. Other topics in the report include improving the safety and quality of health care and making health care financing more equitable. Group leaders noted that if legislation is not enacted soon, the average annual premiums for family health coverage could exceed $14,500 and the number of uninsured would be higher than 51 million by 2006. To download the report, go to http://www.nchc.org/materials/studies/reform.pdf.
HHS Releases Report at Summit on Health Information Technology
In July, more than 1,300 technology and health leaders attended the Secretarial Summit on Health Information Technology. At the conference, HHS released a report, “The Decade of Health Information Technology: Delivering Consumer-centric and Information-rich Health Care,” prepared by David Brailer, M.D., Ph.D. The report outlines four major goals and strategic action plans for reaching those goals. It stresses the need to bring information to the point of care, interconnect physicians and hospitals with interoperable electronic health record systems, give patients access to their medical records, and use health-related technology to track and measure quality of care. In addition, the report identified potential policy options for providing incentives for using electronic health records and three phases of implementing the action plan. More information about the conference and a summary of the report are available online at http://www.hhs.gov/onchit/framework/hitframework/visionfor-consumer.html.
NIH Issues New Blood Pressure Guide for Children and Adolescents
In a new report from the National Institutes of Health, the National High Blood Pressure Education Program Working Group on Children and Adolescents examines research showing that children and adolescents with hypertension are at risk of the same health problems as hypertensive adults. The guide discusses these risks and outlines clinical measures to reduce risks and optimize health outcomes. The working group used data from the 1999–2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to update evidence about blood pressure in children and provide guidelines for diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of hypertension. Recommendations include checking blood pressure in children three years and older at each office visit, using auscultation as the preferred method of measurement, and confirming elevated readings with repeated measurements before making a diagnosis. More information about the report and related materials are available online at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/current.shtml#suppls2.
CDC Reports That Childhood Immunization Rates Have Reached a Record High
According to the National Immunization Survey of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood immunization rates hit an all-time high in 2003, with significant increases since 2002 for chickenpox and pneumococcal pneumonia. These vaccines are the two most recent additions to the childhood immunization schedule. More information is available online at http://www.dhhs.gov/news/press/2004pres/20040729.html. The full survey is available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5329a3.htm. For the most recent immunization schedule, go to http://www.aafp.org/x7666.xml.
New Report Traces Medical Errors to Miscommunication
According to a report, “A String of Mistakes: The Importance of Cascade Analysis in Describing, Counting, and Preventing Medical Errors,” published in the July/August issue of Annals of Family Medicine, most medical errors in family medicine begin with miscommunication. Researchers analyzed 75 anonymous error reports from 18 U.S. family physicians and documented errors in 77 percent of incidents. About 80 percent of the errors involved some form of miscommunication, such as an error in medical record data or a communication breakdown between the physician and patients or colleagues. The project was a collaboration between authors in the Department of Family Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, and the Robert Graham Center: Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care in Washington, D.C. More information is available online at http://www.aafp.org/x28597.xml. For the full article, go to http://www.annfammed.org/cgi/content/full/2/4/317.
AAFP and NHMA Publish Journal on Caring for Hispanic Patients
In July, the AAFP and the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) published a specialty journal called Caring for Hispanic Patients. It includes articles on human immuno-deficiency virus, caring for elder patients, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and addressing language issues. AAFP and NHMA wanted to provide clinical and practice management information that would address health disparity issues. Nereida Correa, M.D., of the Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, Bronx, N.Y., and Carlos A. Moreno, M.D., M.S.P.H., of University of Texas–Houston Medical School were the medical editors for the project. This is the first collaboration between the organizations. NHMA was established in 1994 to represent licensed Hispanic physicians in the United States.
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