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March 4, 2005, Issue No. 160

AHRQ News and Numbers

Of patients hospitalized with diabetes-related complications in 1999, one-third had two or more hospital stays, and their costs averaged three times as high as costs for patients with single hospital stays—$23,100 versus $8,500. [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, HCUPnet, HCUP Highlights Issue 1: Economic and Health Costs of Diabetes, 2005.

Today's Headlines:

  1. Second national reports on quality and disparities find improvements in health care quality, although disparities remain
  2. AHRQ director outlines prominence of health IT on Nation's agenda during recent speech to HIMSS
  3. Third volume of "Closing the Quality Gap" is now available
  4. New fact sheet on "30 Safe Practices for Better Health Care" is available
  5. 2005 Building Bridges Conference set for April 6-8
  6. HCUP and MEPS seminar set for May 11
  7. Highlights from the most recent edition of our monthly newsletter
  8. AHRQ in the professional literature

1.  Second National Reports on Quality and Disparities Find Improvements in Health Care Quality, Although Disparities Remain

AHRQ released its second annual reports on the quality of and disparities in health care in America. The 2004 National Healthcare Quality Report finds both evidence of improving quality and specific areas in which major improvements can be made. The 2004 National Healthcare Disparities Report indicates that there are pervasive disparities related to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status in the American health care system. Both reports extend the baseline data on quality and disparities within the health care system that were provided in AHRQ's 2003 reports. The reports present measures of quality and disparities in four key areas of health care: effectiveness, patient safety, timeliness, and patient centeredness. Improvements have been made in specific measures related to health care delivery since the 2003 Quality Report. Select to read our press release and to view the reports. Print copies of the reports can be obtained by sending an E-mail to

2.  AHRQ Director Outlines Prominence of Health IT on Nation's Agenda During Recent Speech to HIMSS

AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., addressed the annual conference of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society in Dallas, TX, on February 14, one of the year's most important meetings for health information technology. Delivering a "report from Washington," she noted the striking growth of health IT's prominence on the Nation's public agenda in the past year. Her remarks looked ahead to possible pitfalls that should be avoided as well as opportunities that need to be addressed as health IT continues to rise in prominence and implementation is accelerated. She said that in developing and implementing health IT systems, it will be as important to look at the human factors like workflow as it will be to develop the technical standards. She also said the task of identifying these factors and helping make health IT systems work in real-world practices are special areas of interest in AHRQ's initiative on health IT. She also pointed out that new formats for health care information will be important if health IT is to successfully deliver clinical decision support to clinicians at the point of care. One of the most important benefits projected for health IT is the opportunity for clinicians to have fast, real-time access to current information in highly usable formats that are relevant to the patient being treated. Select to read Dr. Clancy's remarks.

3.  Third Volume of "Closing the Quality Gap" Is Now Available

The third volume in the series of AHRQ Evidence-based Practice Center Technical Reviews, Closing the Quality Gap: A Critical Analysis of Quality Improvement Strategies—Volume 3: Hypertension Care, is now available. These reports explore the human and organizational factors influencing quality improvement strategies and evaluate nine quality improvement strategies, tools, and processes aimed at reducing the quality gap. Volume 3 examines the differences in patient outcomes achieved with present hypertension treatment methods and those thought to be possible using best practice treatment methods. For example, even small improvements in blood pressure control can have major public health impact. Select to download Volume 3 or send an E-mail to Select to download Volume 1, which outlines the challenges to translating research into clinical practice and the methodologies used in the report. Select to download Volume 2, which examines strategies for improving the quality of care for adult type 2 diabetes patients.

4.  New Fact Sheet on "30 Safe Practices for Better Health Care" Is Available

AHRQ released a new fact sheet, 30 Safe Practices for Better Health Care, on safe practices that the National Quality Forum, with support from AHRQ, identified as having evidence showing they can work to reduce or prevent adverse events and medical errors. The safe practices were endorsed by the NQF member organizations, which strongly urge that these 30 safe practices be universally adopted in all applicable health care settings to reduce the risk of harm to patients. Select to read the fact sheet and the executive summary of the full report. A print copy of the fact sheet is available by sending an E-mail to

5.  2005 Building Bridges Conference Set for April 6-8

Mark your calendar! AHRQ, CDC, and America's Health Insurance Plans are co-sponsoring the 2005 Building Bridges Conference, "Applying Evidence-Based Solutions to Health Care Priorities," as an ideal complement to the keynote speakers who will examine the landscape of evidence-based policy, accountability, and quality. The lineup of concurrent session speakers showcases innovative research from across the country—including representatives from AHRQ, Brandeis University, Hablamos Juntos, Health Services Advisory Group, Henry Ford Health System, CDC, Carlson School of Business, University of Minnesota, Center for Health Research-KP Northwest, RAND, Blue Shield of Illinois, University of Michigan, HealthPartners Research Foundation, HIP Health Plan of New York, Center for Applied Research on Aging and Health, Prescription for Health, and others. Select to register and for more information on the conference.

6.  HCUP and MEPS Seminar Set for May 11

The Society of General Internal Medicine and AHRQ are sponsoring a seminar to be held May 11 in New Orleans, LA, to provide health services researchers with a practical understanding of the scope and availability of large databases and comprehensive tools. Presenters will provide researchers with a comprehensive overview of the design, use, advantages, limitations, and linkages of two large administrative and survey datasets: the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). Several tools that can be applied to the databases or used to generate information about health care will also be described (e.g. CAHPS®, AHRQ's Quality Indicators, MEPSnet, HCUPnet). Presentations will include both didactic and interactive portions. Participants will receive detailed packets of information about HCUP, MEPS, and an assortment of tools.

7.  Highlights from the Most Recent Edition of Our Monthly Newsletter

Among the key articles in the online issue of Research Activities:

  • Clinicians value medication safety alerts and welcome small-group training to make better use of them.

Clinicians generally find computerized safety alerts helpful for accessing prescribing and preventive health information. However, the alerts need to be concise and relevant, have clear action steps, and provide options for users with different experience levels and work styles.

Other articles are:

  • Study suggests that use of lifesaving beta-blockers for heart attack patients is increasing at community hospitals.
  • Early referral of patients with chronic kidney disease reduces complications and mortality.
  • First-week followup of newborns after hospital discharge is critical to prevent severe jaundice and other problems.

Select to read these articles and others.

8.  AHRQ in the Professional Literature

We are providing the following hyperlinks to journal abstracts through PubMed® for your convenience. Unfortunately, some of you may not be able to access the abstracts because of firewalls or specific settings on your individual computer systems. If you are having problems, you should ask your technical support staff for possible remedies.

Barnato AE, Labor RE, Freeborne NE, et al. Qualitative analysis of Medicare claims in the last 3 years of life: a pilot study. J Am Geriatr Soc 2005 Jan;53(1):66-73. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Bradley EH, Herrin J, Mattera JA, et al. Quality improvement efforts and hospital performance: rates of beta-blocker prescription after acute myocardial infarction. Med Care 2005 Mar;43(3):282-92. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Contact Information

Please address comments and questions regarding the AHRQ Electronic Newsletter to Nancy Comfort at or (301) 427-1866.

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Current as of March 2005


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