News in Brief: Week of Nov. 4-8

November 06, 2013 02:58 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

USPSTF Issues Draft Recommendation on Cognitive Impairment Screening

According to a newly released draft recommendation(, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concludes that current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for cognitive impairment in adults older than 65 years.

The USPSTF said that although there is evidence that several drug therapies and nonpharmacologic interventions have a small effect on cognitive function measures in the short-term for patients with mild to moderate dementia, the magnitude of the clinically relevant benefit is uncertain. The task force also found adequate evidence that interventions targeted to caregivers have a small effect on measures of caregiver burden and depression; again, however, the magnitude of the clinically relevant benefit remains unknown.

According to the USPSTF, the diagnosis of dementia currently is initiated mostly on the basis of a clinician's suspicion regarding patient symptoms or caregiver concerns, and although the evidence for routine screening is insufficient, there may be important reasons to identify early cognitive impairment.

The draft recommendation will be open for public comment( until Dec. 2.

Malaria Case Numbers Hit 40-year High

According to a CDC press release(, 1,925 malaria cases were reported in the United States in 2011 -- the highest tally since 1971.

According to data published in a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report surveillance summary(, that figure represented a 14 percent increase from 2010 and included five deaths from malaria or associated complications.

According to the release, almost all of the U.S. malaria cases were acquired overseas. Sixty-nine percent of the cases were imported from Africa, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of those acquired in West Africa. For the first time, India was the country from which the most cases were imported.

"Malaria is preventable, and in most cases, these illnesses and deaths could have been avoided by taking recommended precautions," said CDC Director of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria Laurence Slutsker, M.D., M.P.H. "We have made great strides in preventing and controlling malaria around the world. However, malaria persists in many areas, and the use of appropriate prevention measures by travelers is still very important."

The CDC is recommending that U.S. travelers consult a health care professional before traveling internationally. Clinicians should consult the CDC Guidelines for Treatment of Malaria( and contact the CDC's Malaria Hotline at (855) 856-4713 for case management advice as needed.

Video Game Prompts Physicians to Consider Disaster Contingency Planning

Instead of reading a manual about health information technology (IT) disaster planning, wouldn't you rather play a video game on the topic that recently was released by HHS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT?

The latest Web-based security training module video, dubbed "CyberSecure: Your Medical Practice,(" was created for physicians and their office staff and focuses on disaster planning, data backup and recovery, and other "must do" elements of contingency planning for natural disasters or other events that can destroy patient health information.

The new resource, in tandem with an initial module titled "Cybersecure: Contingency Planning," provides a one-two punch to help medical practices ensure access to patient records after a disaster strikes. Contingency planning is required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Security Rule.

User-friendly Resources Highlight Need-to-Know CMS Program Info

According to physician blogger Michael Barr, M.D.(, CMS is doing its best to keep physicians ahead of the game when it comes to a confusing mix of programs, deadlines, penalties and incentives.

Barr recently pointed out in a blog post several user-friendly resources available from CMS, including an interactive guide that points out potential penalties associated with various CMS programs(

In addition, CMS has created an e-Health Program timeline(, an e-health eligibility reference table(, a penalty payment and hardship exemption tip sheet(, an ICD-10 implementation guide(, and a Meaningful Use Stage One attestation calculator(

CMS Provider Call Focuses on Easier Website Access

Early in October, CMS simplified the way physicians and other health care professionals and suppliers access important websites. The Provider Enrollment Chain and Ownership System (PECOS), the Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program, and the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) online interfaces all have been updated to improve the user experience.

Get the complete details on the changes in an upcoming national provider call set for Nov. 15, from 2-3:30 p.m. EST. Registration is open, but space may be limited( The call will include time for questions and answers.

Note: Physicians who already have a user identification and password from NPPES or who currently have access to PECOS, NPPES or the EHR program will not be affected by the changes.