News in Brief: Week of May 19-23

May 27, 2014 01:45 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

AAFP, USPSTF Say Evidence Lacking to Recommend Screening for Suicide

The AAFP has said it concurs with a May 19 recommendation( from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that states there is insufficient evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for suicide risk in adolescents, adults and older adults in primary care.

According to the evidence report( on which the USPSTF based its recommendation statement, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2009, accounting for 36,897 deaths (i.e., an age-adjusted rate of 11.8 per 100,000 people). Suicide attempts and mortality rates vary substantially by gender, age, race and other risk factors, such as psychiatric disorders. Although individual risk factors have a limited ability to predict suicide in an individual at any particular time, risk for a suicide attempt and death increases with multiple risk factors (covering psychosocial, biomedical and developmental realms) and high levels of distress.

In addition, the USPSTF report found that despite overall limited evidence on primary care screening for suicide, certain screening tools could probably identify adult patients at increased risk for suicide who might benefit from treatment, although many false-positive results could also be expected. The report stated that more research on how to effectively identify and treat adolescents at increased risk for suicide is "urgently needed." A large body of evidence also showed that psychotherapy can reduce the risk for suicide attempts in high-risk populations.

Apply for Meaningful Use Hardship Exception by July 1

Medicare participating physicians and other eligible professionals who were unable to meet meaningful use requirements for the 2013 reporting year have until July 1 to submit a hardship exception application( to CMS.

Physicians must provide supporting documentation that proves demonstrating meaningful use would present a significant hardship. If approved, the hardship exception is valid for one year.

Eligible professionals who did not demonstrate meaningful use of an electronic health record for 2013 -- and who do not receive the exemption -- will see a penalty applied to their Medicare payments beginning Jan. 1, 2015. Determinations regarding hardship exceptions CMS makes are final and cannot be appealed.

High Cholesterol Levels in Couples Can Impair Fecundity

High cholesterol levels could potentially hinder fertility in couples trying to get pregnant, according to a study( published online May 20 in The Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The study, conducted from 2005-2009, involved 501 couples living in Michigan and Texas who were trying to conceive a child, according to an NIH news release(

Researchers found that couples in which each partner had high serum cholesterol took the longest time of all participating couples to become pregnant. Also, when the woman in a couple had high cholesterol and the man did not, the pair took longer to become pregnant than did couples in which both partners had cholesterol in the acceptable range.

CMS Launches Stage One of Restructured Quality Improvement Program

CMS recently announced that it was restructuring its Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) Program to improve patient care, generate better health outcomes and conserve taxpayer resources.

According to a May 9 press release(, the first phase of the restructuring involves the appointment of two Beneficiary and Family-Centered Care QIO contractors -- one located in Maryland and the other in Ohio -- who will share responsibility for ensuring consistency in the review process while giving consideration to local factors important to patients.

Each of the 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are assigned to one of five geographic areas and overseen by one of the two contractors.

The program's second phase is expected to commence in July, at which time CMS will award contracts to organizations that will work directly with physicians and other health care professionals and communities on data-driven initiatives to "improve patient safety, reduce harm, and improve clinical care and transparency at local, regional and national levels."