News in Brief: Week of June 24-28

June 26, 2013 02:49 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

ONC Encourages Physicians to Share Their Health IT Success Stories

Learn from and be encouraged by other physicians' successes. That's the goal of a website created by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT along with the National Learning Consortium that posts health IT success stories(www.healthit.gov) submitted by physicians from around the country. A recent posting written by family physician Dennis Saver, M.D., of Vero Beach, Fla.(www.healthit.gov), recounts his clinic's experience in achieving meaningful use stage one, an effort he dubs "a team sport."

The project aims to encourage physicians who are hip-deep in the hard work of learning to maximize use of their electronic health record systems. Stories are sorted by practice size and type and include categories for solo and small-practice physicians, as well as rural health clinics.

Physicians can add their stories by completing an online template(www.healthit.gov) and will be notified by e-mail if the story is accepted and posted.

NIH: Only Half of U.S. Youth Meet Physical Activity Standards

According to an NIH news release(www.nih.gov), only about half of adolescents in the United States are physically active five or more days of the week, and fewer than one in three eats fruits and vegetables daily.

Data from an NIH survey of youth in 39 states showed that adolescents' diet and activity habits could be classified into three general categories: "unhealthful," "healthful," and "typical," which made up 26 percent, 27 percent and 47 percent of participants, respectively.

For the study, which appears in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers looked at daily amount of physical activity, amount of time spent in front of any electronic screen, and amount of healthy and unhealthy foods consumed, as well as information on symptoms of depression and body self-satisfaction.

Results showed that so-called typical youth were least likely to exercise five or more days each week or to eat fruits and vegetables at least once a day and were more likely to spend time watching television, playing video games or on a computer than the healthful group. Sixty-five percent of healthful participants reported exercising five or more days per week.

"These students were least likely to spend time in front of a screen and were most likely to report eating fruits and vegetables at least once a day," the release said. "Students in this group also were least likely to consume sweets, soft drinks, chips and French fries. They reported the lowest rates of depressive symptoms and the highest life satisfaction ratings."

"Unhealthful participants consumed the most sweets, chips, French fries and soft drinks, but despite the high caloric intake, were more likely to be underweight and report symptoms of depression and poor physical health."

Study of Vietnam Vet Twins Suggests PTSD Boosts Heart Disease Risk

According to an NIH news release(www.nih.gov), a new study published online by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that male twin Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were more than twice as likely as twins without PTSD to develop heart disease.

Researchers from the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, along with colleagues from other institutions, assessed the presence of heart disease in 562 middle-aged twins from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry. The use of identical and fraternal twins, according to the release, allowed researchers to control for the influences of genes and environment on the development of heart disease and PTSD.

Overall, what researchers found was a 22.6 percent incidence of heart disease in twins with PTSD (137 individuals) versus 8.9 percent in twins without PTSD. When comparing 234 twins where one brother had PTSD and the other did not, the incidence of heart disease was almost double in those with PTSD (22.2 percent vs. 12.8 percent).

"This study suggests a link between PTSD and cardiovascular health," lead researcher Viola Vaccarino, M.D., Ph.D., of Emory University, said in the release. "For example, repeated emotional triggers during everyday life in persons with PTSD could affect the heart by causing frequent increases in blood pressure, heart rate and heartbeat rhythm abnormalities that in susceptible individuals could lead to a heart attack."

HHS Touts Benefits, Consumer Savings of MLR Provision

Millions of consumers are reaping the benefits of a medical loss ratio (MLR) provision in the health care reform act that requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of their premium dollars on medical expenses.

Nearly 79 million consumers saved $3.4 billion in premium costs last year as a result of the MLR, and consumers nationwide are projected to save $500 million in MLR-generated rebates, according to an HHS press release(www.hhs.gov). More than 8 million consumers will receive an average rebate of about $100 per family thanks to the MLR, according to HHS.

The MLR, known as the 80/20 rule, requires insurers to pay consumers rebates if they fail to meet the 80 percent medical expenses threshold. According to HHS, the MLR compelled many insurers to lower their prices or improve their coverage in 2012 to meet the 80/20 requirement.

The AAFP supports the MLR, and has engaged both CMS and the insurance industry on ways to strengthen it.


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