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Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(4):545-546

IOM Report Finds Medication Errors Injure 1.5 Million Persons Annually

Medication errors injure 1.5 million persons or more each year, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM). An estimated 400,000 preventable drug-related injuries occur annually in hospitals, costing at least $3.5 billion in extra medical expenses, the report states. In 2000, medication-related injuries in outpatient clinics cost about $887 million. The authors of the report make several recommendations for patients, health care providers, government agencies, and pharmaceutical companies. They advocate strong partnerships between health care providers and patients, recommending as a standard procedure that health care organizations inform patients about clinically significant medical errors made in their care, whether or not harm occurs. The report suggests that patients ask their physicians questions about how they should take their medications, and keep a list of all the drugs they take. Noting the incomprehensibility of many drug information materials, the report recommends that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration work to standardize the text and design of medication leaflets. Drug naming also should be standardized, the report states; drug name confusion accounted for one quarter of errors reported to one program. The report raised concerns about the distribution of free drug samples, which may bypass standard interaction checks. It also said electronic prescribing may reduce the number of drug-related errors and called for all health care providers to use electronic prescribing systems by 2010. The full report is available at, or by calling 202–334–3313 or 800–624–6242. For more information, visit

CCHIT Completes First Round of Ambulatory EHR Product Certification

The Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) has certified the first round of ambulatory electronic health record products, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in July. CCHIT was awarded the contract to develop certification criteria and processes in 2005. Certification from CCHIT is intended to ensure that electronic health record (EHR) products meet minimum levels of functionality, interoperability, and security, which will limit the risks of investing in health technology, HHS said. Additional results will be announced quarterly as CCHIT continues its evaluations. HHS also will publish rules creating anti-kickback statute safe harbors and exceptions to the physician self-referral law to allow donations of health information technology that would not have been permitted previously. For more information and for a list of certified products, visit

AAFP Study Examines Reasons for Family Medicine Residency Closures

A study conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Division of Medical Education will investigate factors contributing to the closure of family medicine residency programs in the United States and efforts to prevent these closures. Although demand for family physicians has increased, 37 family medicine residency programs have closed in the past five years. Previous research has found that the main reasons for the closures are financial. The AAFP study will focus on programs that have closed since 2000, investigating the perceptions of directors and those affected about the reasons behind the closures, intervention efforts aimed at preventing closures, and the effects of the closures on surrounding communities. It is hoped that the study’s findings will provide material for discussions with legislators and health policy analysts. For more information, visit

SAMHSA Releases Reports on State Regulation of Residential Facilities

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released two reports on state regulation of the quality of care provided in residential facilities for persons with mental illness, one focusing on adults and one on children. Using data compiled from a national survey of state officials, the studies found that a variety of monitoring methods are employed by states, including critical incident reports, documentation of staff training and qualifications, on-site inspections, record reviews, and resident interviews. Few states used all potential methods, and the extent to which each was used also varied. In most states, several agencies, each with a different function and mission, are involved in facility licensing, funding, and oversight. The SAMHSA hopes the information will help federal and state policymakers improve their monitoring procedures. Copies of the reports, State Regulation of Residential Facilities for Adults with Mental Illness andState Regulation of Residential Facilities for Children with Mental Illness, are available at, or by calling 800–789–2647.

NIH Launches Campaign to Promote Awareness of Celiac Disease

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced a campaign to heighten awareness of celiac disease, following consensus recommendations from a panel convened to assess diagnosis, treatment, and management of the disease. Celiac disease, an autoimmune response to gluten, affects nearly 1 percent of the U.S. population and is thought to be underdiagnosed. Symptoms may include gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, delayed growth, skin rashes, infertility, and osteoporosis. Through the campaign, which was developed by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the NIH aims to ensure that physicians and patients know that celiac disease is not only a gastrointestinal condition. Campaign materials and resources for health care professionals and the public, including fact sheets, booklets, practice tools, and research information, can be downloaded at More information about the consensus panel’s recommendations is available at

CMS Announces Disaster Response Plan for Persons with Kidney Failure

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has joined with other federal agencies and various organizations and health care providers to form an emergency response coalition for the kidney community. Dialysis is dependent on the availability of resources that may be difficult to access during a disaster. The coalition has developed a nationwide disaster response plan to ensure that if a disaster occurs, resources such as electricity, gas, supplies, and water are available for treating persons with kidney failure. Future activities will focus on making patients and response workers aware of available tools and materials, as well as testing and refining the response plan. For more information and links to CMS disaster planning activities and resources, visit A clearing house of Coalition activities can be accessed at

AAFP to Hold Capitol Hill Rally for Health Care System Reform

In conjunction with its Scientific Assembly in Washington, D.C., the AAFP is holding a family physician rally on Capitol Hill in September to communicate its support of health care system reform to the U.S. Congress. According to the AAFP, affordable, high-quality health care coverage for everyone can be achieved only with liability system reform, workforce reform to produce more primary care physicians, and payment system reform to encourage students to go into family medicine. The rally will be held at 10:00 a.m. on September 27 and will include speeches from AAFP leaders. Congressional leaders also have been invited to speak. For more information, visit

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Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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