Tuesday, July 17, 2012

U.S. Doctors Embracing Electronic Health Records: Survey

TUESDAY, July 17 (HealthDay News) -- A majority of U.S. physicians have now adopted an electronic health record system as part of their routine practice, a new national survey reveals.

The finding is based on responses provided by nearly 3,200 doctors across the country who completed a mail-in survey in 2011. The survey was conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics as part of an ongoing three-year effort (continuing through 2013) designed to assess perceptions and practices regarding electronic health record systems.

Specifically, the poll found that 55 percent of U.S. doctors have embraced some type of electronic health record system. And roughly 75 percent of those who have done so reported that the type of system they took on meets the criteria of playing a "meaningful" role in their practice, according to the terms of 2009 federal legislation (entitled the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) designed to promote the use of electronic health records.

What's more, 85 percent of those doctors who now have an electronic health record system in place said they are either "somewhat" or "very" satisfied with its day-to-day operations (47 percent and 38 percent, respectively). And three in four said patient care has improved as a result of electronic health record adoption.

The poll also indicated that among those who have yet to embrace an electronic health record system, almost half said they plan to do so in the coming year.

Physician age seems to have played a role in how likely a doctor was to have already brought an electronic health record system into their practice, the findings showed. While 64 percent of those under the age of 50 have done so, the poll revealed that the same was true of only 49 percent among those aged 50 and older.

Office size also seems to matter, with larger physician practices being more likely to have incorporated an electronic health record system into their administrative infrastructure. Specifically, 86 percent of offices with 11 or more physicians on site had taken on such a system, compared with roughly 60 percent to 62 percent of those with two to 10 physicians and just under 30 percent of single-doctor practices.

But although some kinds of specialists (such as surgeons) were somewhat less likely to have implemented an electronic health record system, race, gender and physician location did not seem to play a role in the likelihood that a doctor's office would or would not bring the technology into their workplace.

Eric Jamoom, of the health care statistics division of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, and colleagues published their findings July 17 in the NCHS Data Brief.

More information

For more on electronic health records, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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Humana Sponsors Blueprint Health Accelerator Program

Tue, Jul 17, 2012, 2:43 PM EDT - U.S. Markets close in 1 hr 17 mins

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Health Matters

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Health Highlights: July 17, 2012

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Annual Report Ranks Mass. General as Top Hospital in U.S.

Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston knocked off long-time champion Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to take this year's title as top hospital in the United States.

Hopkins was first for 21 consecutive years in the annual rankings by U.S. News and World Report, the Associated Press said.

The first-place ranking is a "tribute to the more than 23,000" staff at MGH, hospital president Dr. Peter Slavin said. The competition was not with other hospitals, but rather with "disease, health care costs, accessibility of services, and social issues," Dr. David Torchiana, chairman of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, said.

MGH is a 950-bed facility that admits about 48,000 patients a year and delivers about 3,600 babies annually. The hospital was founded in 1811, the AP reported.


U.S. Produce Testing Program Faces Uncertain Future

A produce-safety testing program operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue for the rest of the year but then may shut down due to lack of funding.

The Microbiology Data Program screens thousands of produce samples a year and is the nation's largest produce-safety testing program. It has detected more than two dozen bacteria-contaminated samples that led to recalls of produce such as lettuce and tomatoes, the Associated Press reported.

Funding for the program -- which cost $4.3 million to run last year -- was slashed in President Barack Obama's proposed budget earlier this year and the House and Senate have not included money for it in their agriculture spending bills.

In order to keep the program operating until the end of the year, the USDA will use existing agreements with states.

Ending the program would leave the nation without a vital way to investigate outbreaks of foodborne illness, food safety advocated and public health officials say. The program could not easily be replaced by more modest federal sampling programs or by companies' internal tests, according to Dr. Robert Tauxe, the top food-germ investigator at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the AP reported.

Last year, contaminated fruits and vegetables caused nearly one-third of major multistate foodborne illness outbreaks in the U.S., the CDC says.

"It is unacceptable for this crucial, cost-effective program to be eliminated," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., a longtime food safety advocate, the AP reported. She said she would continue to push for the program to keep operating beyond December.

In recent years, produce industry leaders have urged the federal government to eliminate the USDA program and have said they want the private sector to do more testing.


California Sues Companies Over High Lead Levels in Costume Jewelry

California is expected to file a lawsuit Tuesday against 16 companies accused of selling and distributing costume jewelry containing dangerous levels of lead.

State investigators found that some of the items from the retailers, wholesalers, suppliers and distributors had lead levels more than 1,000 times the legal state limit, the Associated Press reported.

Along with being accused of violating lead safety standards, the state alleges that the companies engaged in deceptive practices by falsely advertising contaminated jewelry as lead-free.

The three-year investigation involved spot checks at stores and factories in which inspectors used hand-held X-ray devices to check for lead in items such as earrings, necklaces, tiaras and hair clips. Items with a high lead content were then sent to a laboratory for detailed analysis, the APreported.


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WHO gives Chinese health minister award for battling smoking in country addicted to tobacco

BEIJING, China - The World Health Organization is giving China's health minister an award for battling smoking in a country whose people and government remain prodigiously addicted to tobacco.

China has stepped up efforts to curb tobacco use in recent years. The Health Ministry released the country's first official report on the harms of smoking in May, banned smoking in its office building and hospitals, and is lobbying for airports and other indoor public facilities to do the same.

WHO said Health Minister Chen Zhu will be presented a certificate of recognition at a ceremony on Wednesday attended by WHO chief Margaret Chan.

Tobacco control is a difficult task in a nation where huge revenues from the state-owned tobacco monopoly hinder anti-smoking measures. Nearly 30 per cent of adults in China smoke — about 300 million people, roughly equal to the entire U.S. population — a percentage that has not changed significantly.

The tobacco monopoly's influence is pervasive, with cigarette companies sponsoring schools, sports events and fostering close ties with the academic community.

In December, a tobacco scientist who specializes in adding traditional Chinese herbs to cigarettes in an attempt to reduce their harmful effects was appointed to the prestigious Chinese Academy of Engineering in a move that was criticized by other academics, several of whom sent letters to the academy in protest.

Despite the many challenges that remain in stamping out tobacco use, anti-smoking activists welcomed the WHO award.

"Among the government departments, the Health Ministry is the one that has made the biggest efforts in promoting tobacco control," said Xu Guihua, vice-president of the government-affiliated Chinese Association on Tobacco Control. "On many occasions, Minister Chen Zhu has told the public that tobacco is harmful and asked people to give up smoking. He also called on the government to step up tobacco control legislation."

Xu said China still needs to issue a national tobacco control plan, raise prices of cigarettes and better educate the public on the health risks of smoking.

She criticized the apparent conflict of interest in the dual role that China's State Tobacco Monopoly Administration plays as both tobacco policymaker and overseer of the China National Tobacco Corp. — the world's largest cigarette maker.

Health officials have warned that smoking-related deaths could hit 3 million per year by 2030 without greater efforts.

Last year's certificate for anti-smoking efforts was awarded to Australian Attorney General Nicola Roxon, who as health minister led a campaign to make Australia the first country in the world to require cigarettes to be sold in plain packages with large, graphic warnings.


Associated Press researcher Yu Bing contributed to this report.

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Lovelace Health Plan Selects ikaSystems to Transform Critical Business Processes

Tue, Jul 17, 2012, 9:19 AM EDT - U.S. Markets open in 11 mins.

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Kansas Health Information Network Launches Direct Capabilities with More Than 2,000 Users

Tue, Jul 17, 2012, 9:19 AM EDT - U.S. Markets open in 11 mins.

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