News in Brief: Week of Nov. 26-30

November 28, 2012 03:25 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

CDC's Updated Vaccine Storage Toolkit Now Available

The CDC has announced its updated Vaccine Storage and Handling toolkit( is now available.

According to the CDC, the toolkit provides vaccine storage and handling recommendations and best practice strategies, as well as considerations for equipment, strategies for maintaining the cold chain, routine storage and handling practices, inventory management, and emergency procedures for protecting vaccine inventories.

The announcement of the toolkit's availability comes on the heels of an Oct. 5 CDC update that recommends physicians store vaccines in full-size, freezerless refrigerators that constantly monitor temperature via a digital, 24-hour temperature-recording device.

e-Health Initiative Releases Survey on Health Information Exchanges

The eHealth Initiative, a Washington-based, nonprofit organization, recently released its annual survey( on health information exchanges (HIEs).

HIEs facilitate the electronic movement of health care information and data across organizations within a state, region, community or hospital system. The latest survey included 161 HIEs and indicated that data exchange is on the rise in both public and private HIEs.

However, the 2012 report raised concerns about public and private exchanges in the same state or region using different operating systems and technology platforms because doing so means data cannot be easily shared. The primary purpose of HIEs is to give health care professionals better access to data and help them deliver safe, quick and less expensive care to their patients.

Report authors called for more research to examine the growing competition between public and private HIEs and whether or not current restrictions on the use of federal and state funds is fueling an increase in the number of private HIEs.

HHS Extends Deadline For State-Based Insurance Exchanges

State officials now have until Dec. 14 to tell the federal government whether their states plan to establish health insurance exchanges as called for by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

HHS originally set a deadline of Nov. 16 for states to notify them of their intentions regarding health insurance exchanges, but the agency extended the deadline after the National Governor's Association sent a letter saying states need more time.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires health insurance exchanges to operate in each state by 2014. The exchanges, which are expected to cover as many as 12 million people by 2019, are intended to function as insurance markets, allowing individuals and small businesses to purchase insurance from qualified health plans within the exchanges. If states fail to establish exchanges, the federal government will set up exchanges in those states.

Lights, Camera, Action, Says ONC

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is looking for 1- to 2-minute videos on how physicians and other medical professionals have effectively adopted and used health IT to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care.

"What are some of the amazing things you're doing to employ health IT to help your patients' quality of life?" asked Farzad Mostashari, M.D., ONC coordinator, in a recent press release. "What are some of the pitfalls you've avoided? What works and what doesn't?"

ONC is looking for short videos that address one of the following four categories:

  • adoption of meaningful use;
  • using meaningful use to improve quality and efficiency;
  • how health IT engaged patients; and
  • how you, as a provider, have made privacy and security a priority?

Videos should be uploaded( by Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. The ONC will announce the winners in each category at its annual meeting on Dec. 12. Physicians and others can use their smart phones to record the videos.

Consultant's Report Analyzes ACOs in U.S. Health Care

Authors of new report titled "The ACO Surprise(" conclude that accountable care organizations (ACOs) -- partnerships of health care providers that focus on the delivery of high-quality care at a competitive price -- show real promise as agents of change in the U.S. health care system.

About 10 percent of the U.S. population currently is being treated by health care professionals participating in some kind of an ACO. Authors of the report, which was compiled by the Oliver Wyman consulting firm(, set out to identify all existing ACOs and assess their current and potential impact. "We believe that though there is much work left to do, ACOs, in a remarkably short period of time, have become a substantial part of American health care," said the authors.

They concluded that ACOs have the potential to "catalyze lasting positive change" in American health care.

Federal Court Ruling Requires Tobacco Companies to Publically Admit Deception

The nation's major tobacco companies now are required to run advertisements admitting they deliberately deceived the American public about the dangers and addictiveness of cigarettes, a federal judge has ruled.

The ruling(, issued by a U.S. district court judge, upholds a decision handed down by the same judge in 2006 ordering tobacco companies to post the advertisements after finding that the companies violated federal racketeering laws. Tobacco companies appealed the decision, saying it was a violation of their right to free speech.

But U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler rejected that argument, saying that the final wording of the advertisements is based on fact. As a result, the companies will be required to advertise five different statements, including one that says, "A federal court has ruled that the defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public by falsely selling and advertising low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes."

The court has not determined where the tobacco companies will have to place the advertisements. The advertisements will have to be different than the warning labels that already appear on tobacco products.