News in Brief: Week of May 13-17

May 15, 2013 05:15 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief w/stack of papers]

USPSTF Recommends Screening All Adults for Alcohol Misuse

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a final recommendation( statement on May 13 encouraging physicians and other medical professionals to screen all adults 18 and older, including pregnant women, for alcohol misuse and provide persons engaged in risky or hazardous drinking with brief behavioral counseling interventions to reduce it.

The task force also concluded that current evidence remains insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening and behavioral counseling interventions in primary care settings to reduce alcohol misuse in adolescents.

While the recommendation applies to pregnant women, according to the USPSTF, the recommendation is related to decreasing risky or hazardous drinking, not to complete abstinence, which is recommended for all pregnant women. The recommendations do not apply to persons who are actively seeking evaluation or treatment for alcohol misuse.

According to the recommendation, risky or hazardous alcohol use refers to "drinking more than the recommended daily, weekly or per-occasion amounts resulting in increased risk for health consequences." The USPSTF said it found adequate evidence that numerous screening instruments can detect alcohol misuse in adults with acceptable sensitivity and specificity.

The AAFP Commission on Health of the Public and Science currently is rewriting AAFP policy on this issue and expects to publish a new recommendation before the end of the month.

Guidance Issued on Transfer of Care Measures in Meaningful Use Stage Two

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently released guidelines( that will help health information technology experts guide physicians and other eligible professionals through certain measures in stage two of the electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use program.

Specifically, the eight-page paper titled "Key Considerations for Health Information Organizations Supporting Meaningful Use Stage 2 Transition of Care Measures" focuses on how physicians and other eligible providers must electronically document how patients are transferred or referred to another setting of care, or another provider of care.

CMS Announces Second Round of Awards for Health Care Innovation Project

CMS has announced the second round of funding( for a health care innovation project to test new payment and service delivery models that seek to deliver better care at a lower cost for beneficiaries enrolled in the Medicare, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The initiative, known as the Health Care Innovation Awards and administered by the CMS Innovation Center, will award up to $1 billion to support public and private organizations in four defined areas that have a high likelihood of transforming health care systems and delivering better outcomes for beneficiaries, according to CMS. The first round of Health Care Innovation Awards, announced in November 2011, was a broad solicitation in which the CMS Innovation Center sought a wide range of proposals. In this second round, CMS is seeking new models in the following four categories:

  • models that are designed to rapidly reduce Medicare, Medicaid, and/or CHIP costs in outpatient and/or post-acute settings;
  • models that improve care for populations with specialized needs;
  • models that test approaches for specific types of providers to transform their financial and clinical models; and
  • models that improve the health of populations.

Eligible applicants include physician and provider groups, health systems, payers and other private sector organizations, faith-based organizations, states, local governments, public-private partnerships and for-profit organizations, among others. The due date for letter of intent is June 28 and the application due date is Aug. 15.

Many Americans Are Unaware of Their HCV Status, CDC Says

About half of all Americans who received a diagnosis of Hepatitis C (HCV) failed to get a follow-up test to determine if they were still infected with the virus after the initial diagnosis, which greatly increased their chances of developing liver damage and liver cancer, according to a new study( conducted by the CDC.

Physicians use an antibody test to determine if someone has been infected with HCV, and people who test positive are supposed to receive a different follow-up test to determine if they still have the virus. Most people are unable to clear the infection on their own. Without a follow-up test to determine current infection status, these people are unlikely to know they still are infected. This makes it unlikely they will seek appropriate care and treatment.

The CDC study, which is based on data from eight areas across the country, found that only 51 percent of HCV cases included a follow up test to determine current infection status. The study also found that 67 percent of current HCV cases in the eight areas were among baby boomers born between 1945 and 1966. Deaths among people with HCV also were more common among people born during those years, according to the CDC.

The CDC recommends HCV testing for everyone born between 1945 through 1965 and for patients who are at increased risk for HCV. This includes injection drug users and people who received blood transfusions or organ transplants before widespread HCV screening of the nation's blood supply began in 1992.

Webcast Features Lessons Learned From Beacon Communities

The Beacon Community Program, a federally funded project dedicated to improving health care through the use of health information technology, is offering a free video webcast meeting( on May 22 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., EDT.

Program faculty, including Farzad Mostashari, M.D., national coordinator of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, will focus on lessons learned thus far as the 17 Beacon Communities begin the final phase of the multi-year program.

In addition, faculty will discuss

  • various ways health IT can support quality care at a lower cost,
  • how electronic information and data can support population health,
  • how communities can prepare for health IT-enabled quality improvement and data sharing, and
  • how local and shared health IT investments support emerging payment models.