News in Brief: Week of Nov. 19-23

November 21, 2012 02:50 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

Mobile Phones, Texts Effective Smoking Cessation Tools

A Cochrane review( of combined evidence from five studies found that interventions delivered by mobile phones can help people stop smoking.

Although the results from individual studies varied, the interventions included in the review mainly used text messaging to provide motivation, support and tips for quitting. The pooled data showed that mobile phone interventions increase long-term quit rates compared with control programs, when abstinence was defined as no smoking at six months since the quit day, but allowing up to three lapses or up to five cigarettes.

"The current evidence shows a benefit of mobile phone-based smoking cessation interventions on long-term outcomes, though results were heterogeneous with findings from three of five included studies crossing the line of no effect," the authors wrote. "The studies included were predominantly of text messaging interventions. More research is required into other forms of mobile phone-based interventions for smoking cessation, other contexts such as low income countries, and cost-effectiveness."

Diabetes Cases Continue to Climb, CDC Report Finds

The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes cases jumped dramatically in many parts of the United States between 1995 and 2010, increasing by 50 percent or more in 42 states and by 100 percent or more in 18 states, according to a recent CDC report(

The report, published in the Nov. 16 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, identified five states with the highest percentage of increase, including Oklahoma (227 percent), Kentucky (158 percent), Georgia (145 percent), Alabama (140 percent), and Washington (135 percent). According to the report, the largest increases occurred in the South, followed by the West, Midwest and Northeast.

"In 1995, only three states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had a diagnosed diabetes prevalence of 6 percent of more," said Ann Albright, Ph.D., director of the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation in a CDC press release( "By 2010, all 50 states had a prevalence of more than 6 percent."

Type 2 diabetes makes up 90 percent to 95 percent of diabetes cases in the United States, according to the CDC.

Commonwealth Fund Surveys Primary Care Docs in 10 Countries

Researchers from the Commonwealth Fund recently released results of a survey of primary care physicians in 10 countries, including the United States, Canada, France, New Zealand and the Netherlands. Physicians in the United States were the most negative about their country's health care system; the United States was the only country in the survey without universal health coverage.

According to a Nov. 15 press release(, 52 percent of U.S. physicians said their practices spent too much time dealing with insurers' restrictions on covered treatments or medications. Nearly 60 percent of U.S. physicians said their patients often had trouble paying for care compared to Norway (4 percent), the United Kingdom (13 percent), Switzerland (16 percent), Germany (21 percent) and Australia (25 percent).

In each country, a minority of physicians said they always received timely information from subspecialists to whom they had referred patients. Fewer than 50 percent said they always knew about changes to their patients' medications or care plans.

On the positive side, 69 percent of U.S. physicians reported using electronic health records compared to just 46 percent in 2009.

A summary( and link to the article are available on the Commonwealth Fund website. The full article( was published in the November Health Affairs.

Federal Agency Releases Top 10 List of Most Pressing HHS Issues

The Office of Inspector General has compiled a top 10 list( of what it says are the most challenging issues facing HHS -- a list that starts with implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and ends with the fostering of an ethical and transparent environment within HHS.

The top management challenges list explains why each issue is a challenge and assesses HHS' progress in meeting the challenge. For example, although the document acknowledges that much has been accomplished in implementing the Affordable Care Act, a number of provisions still need to be implemented, including establishment of state-based health insurance exchanges.

Other challenging issues cited in the report include

  • ensuring patient safety and quality of care,
  • avoiding waste and promoting value in health care,
  • preventing and detecting Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and
  • integrity and security of health information systems and data.

IOM Discussion Paper: How to Format, House, Report EHR User Experience Data

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently released a discussion paper titled "Comparative User Experiences of Health IT Products: How User Experiences Would Be Reported and Used(". The paper builds on a November 2011 IOM report that said the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information "should work with private and public sectors to make comparative user experiences across vendors publicly available."

The 2012 paper fleshes out the authors' opinions on how comparative user experience data could be formatted, housed and reported. The authors noted that a decade after the emergence of health IT and electronic health records (EHRs) as powerful tools in health care, products have not advanced nor been as widely adopted as other consumer-based technology, such as smartphones and iPads. "With EHRs, unlike other consumer product areas, there has been little opportunity for cross-vendor comparison, which has stifled the evolution of this technology," wrote the authors.

The paper concluded that public reporting of user experiences was "essential to leveraging the power of the user and purchaser to affect change."