News in Brief: Week of Nov. 24-28

November 25, 2014 10:46 am News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

Evidence Lacking to Recommend Vitamin D Screening in Adults

[News in Brief]

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently published its final recommendation statement and evidence summary( on screening for vitamin D deficiency in adults, concluding that there is not enough evidence to determine whether the benefits of screening outweigh the harms.

This final recommendation applies to generally healthy adults who do not have signs or symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. It does not apply to people who have conditions that require extra vitamin D, pregnant women or people who live in a nursing home.

The USPSTF identified a number of areas for which additional research is needed to make a conclusive recommendation for or against vitamin D deficiency screening, including better defining vitamin D deficiency and determining the accuracy of screening tests.

U.S. Skin Cancer Cases, Costs Rose From 2002 to 2011

The costs associated with skin cancer increased five times as fast as treatments for other cancers between 2002 and 2011, according to a CDC study( published online Nov. 9 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The average annual cost for skin cancer treatment increased from $3.6 billion during 2002-2006 to $8.1 billion during 2007-2011 -- an increase of 126 percent. The average annual cost for treatment of all other cancers increased by 25 percent during the same time period.

Skin cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, is a major and growing public health problem. The number of skin cancer cases has been increasing, but little was known prior to this study about the costs of treating skin cancer.

"The findings raise the alarm that not only is skin cancer a growing problem in the United States, but the costs for treating it are skyrocketing relative to other cancers," said the study's lead author, Gery Guy, Ph.D., of the CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, in a news release. "This also underscores the importance of skin cancer prevention efforts."

Join CMS Call to Learn About Changes to Quality Reporting Programs

Physicians interested in learning more about recent changes to Medicare's physician quality reporting programs -- as outlined in the final 2015 Medicare physician fee schedule -- should consider participating in a CMS provider call( on Dec. 2 from 1:30-3 p.m. EST.

Topics on the agenda include the Physician Quality Reporting System, the value-based payment modifier and the Medicare Shared Savings Program. A question-and-answer period will follow the presentation.

Free registration( is now available through the Medicare Learning Network's event registration page. While there, take advantage of the opportunity to submit advance questions to CMS' subject matter experts.

Surgeon General: Take a Family Health History During Holidays

Each year since 2004, the U.S. surgeon general has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family Health History Day.( During the holiday season or at other times when families gather, the nation's leading physician encourages Americans to talk about, and write down, the health problems that seem to run in their family.

To help your patients create this powerful screening tool, you can recommend that they use the free My Family Health Portrait( tool HHS has developed. It's available via a secure website and takes about 20 minutes to generate a unique family health portrait.

CMS Creates New Office, Appoints Chief Data Officer

CMS recently announced the creation of a new Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics. Niall Brennan will head the office and assume the title of chief data officer. According to a Nov. 19 press release,( Brennan's office will focus on improving data collection and dissemination and enable the agency to achieve more transparency in its work.

CMS officials acknowledged the need for the agency to analyze data across multiple programs. According to CMS Principal Deputy Administrator Andy Slavitt, the creation of the new office and chief data officer post it make it clear that the agency intends to push forward on its health care data agenda.

"It's clear how much data transparency will help the country improve outcomes, control costs and aid consumer decision-making," said Slavitt.