News in Brief: Week of April 7-11

April 09, 2014 01:52 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

USPSTF Issues Draft Recommendation on Low-dose Aspirin to Prevent Pre-eclampsia

This week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a draft recommendation for pregnant women( who are at high risk for pre-eclampsia to use low-dose aspirin after 12 weeks' gestation.

Pre-eclampsia is one of the most serious health problems affecting pregnant women in the world, according to the recommendation. It is a complication in 2 percent to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide, and contributes to both maternal and infant morbidity and mortality. Pre-eclampsia also accounts for 15 percent of preterm births in the United States.

The draft statement is based on an evidence review( published in the April 8 Annals of Internal Medicine. The statement updates the task force's 1996 recommendation statement that found insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the routine use of aspirin for the prevention of pre-eclampsia or intrauterine growth restriction.

Measles, Mumps Update Tracks Rising Case Numbers

On April 1, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a health advisory update( that says the department has identified 25 cases of measles in 13 adults and 12 infants and children. That's an increase of nine cases since its last measles health alert on measles on March 7. Transmission remains centered in Northern Manhattan but also includes a recent cluster of three cases in the Lower East Side.

On April 2, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a measles health advisory( As of March 27, the report stated 49 confirmed cases of measles have been reported in California. In 2013, four measles cases had been reported by this date. Among the 2014 cases, 11 patients had traveled outside the country to the Philippines (eight cases), India (two cases) and Vietnam (one case).

According to the CDC, a measles outbreak is ongoing in the Philippines(, with more than 15,000 cases reported so far this year. But measles also is circulating in many other countries outside of North and South America, said the CDPH report.

As of April 9, 175 mumps cases have been reported in Ohio, with 111 of those cases linked to an outbreak at Ohio State University, according to a City of Columbus public health news release(

HHS Data Dump Opens Books on Physician Charges, Payments

Today, CMS announced the release of data on services and procedures( provided by physicians and other health care professionals to Medicare patients.

According to an April 9 HHS news release(, the data dump contains financial information -- including billing and Medicare payment details -- on some 880,000 health care professionals who collectively were paid about $77 billion in 2012 by the Medicare Part B fee-for-service program.

Sebelius called the move by HHS an ongoing effort to provide unprecedented transparency in the Medicare system. "The data released today afford researchers, policymakers and the public a new window into health care spending and physician practice patterns," she said.

In May 2013, CMS released hospital charge data so consumers could compare what hospitals charge for some inpatient and outpatient services across the country.

Participation in Federal PQRS, e-Prescribing Programs Increased in 2012

CMS has released the "2012 Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and Electronic Prescribing (e-Rx) Experience Report," and the news is good. The 2012 report shows a significant increase in participation in both the PQRS and the e-Rx programs compared with 2011 numbers.

According to an April 3 CMS press release(, nearly 436,000 physicians and other health care professionals participated in PQRS; more than 344,000 embraced the e-Rx program.

In 2012, PQRS incentive payments totaled nearly $168 million; the government paid out more than $335 million in e-Rx bonus payments.