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June 3, 2005, Issue No. 170

AHRQ News and Numbers

In 2002, just 5 percent of Americans accounted for 49 percent of all health care spending. Americans with the highest medical bills (the top 5 percent) had more than $11,500 in total annual medical expenses; those with the lowest medical bills (the bottom 50 percent) spent less than $664. [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, MEPS Statistical Brief #73: Characteristics of Persons with High Medical Expenditures in the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2002 (PDF File, 176 KB; PDF Help).]

Today's Headlines:

  1. AHRQ's Daniel B. Stryer, M.D., 1964-2005
  2. HHS Secretary to give keynote speech at AHRQ Annual Patient Safety/Health IT meeting
  3. Study finds physician supply increases in States with caps on malpractice lawsuit awards
  4. Most recent highlights from our monthly newsletter
  5. Calling all AHRQ researchers! "Help us to help you."
  6. AHRQ in the professional literature

1.  AHRQ's Daniel B. Stryer, M.D., 1964-2005

AHRQ lost a leader, colleague, and friend on May 19 with the passing of Daniel Benjamin Stryer, M.D., director of the Agency's Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety (CQuIPS). He passed away peacefully at his home of complications from a brain tumor. He was 41. Dr. Stryer oversaw CQuIPS, which provides a broad portfolio of research and information to patients and the health care industry—data used to improve the quality of care, reduce errors and make decisions. AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., said Dr. Stryer excelled at communicating research to multiple audiences. "He inspired and led multiple initiatives to improve patient care and to reduce disparities associated with patients' race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. His passion for improving patient care, his capacity for bringing out the best in his colleagues and his insistence that research benefit patients leaves a large gap." Survivors include his wife, Dr. Stacy Stryer; two daughters, Rachael and Rebecca Stryer; his parents, Dr. Lubert Stryer and Andrea Stryer of Stanford, Calif.; a brother; and a grandmother.

2.  HHS Secretary To Give Keynote Speech at AHRQ Annual Patient Safety/Health IT Meeting

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt will give the keynote speech on Wednesday, June 8, at AHRQ's annual patient safety/health IT meeting at the Washington DC Convention Center. Also joining AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., will be National Health Information Technology Coordinator David Brailer, M.D., Ph.D., Representative Nancy Johnson (R-CT), and congressional staff. Concurrent sessions featuring lessons learned from AHRQ's patient safety grantees will occur on Monday, June 6 and Tuesday, June 7; AHRQ health IT researchers will discuss their projects on Thursday, June 9, and Friday, June 10. In addition, Dr. Clancy is expected to announce new patient safety research grants.

3.  Study Finds Physician Supply Increases in States with Caps on Malpractice Lawsuit Awards

States that have capped malpractice lawsuit awards have seen a larger growth in the number of practicing physicians than those states without such caps, according to a new AHRQ study. AHRQ researchers William E. Encinosa, Ph.D., and Fred J. Hellinger, Ph.D., found that between 1970 and 2000, the number of physicians per 100,000 residents more than doubled in the 13 states that enacted caps on non-economic damages during the 1980s, compared with an 83 percent physician growth rate in the 23 states that didn't cap malpractice awards before 2000. The study, "Have State Caps on Malpractice Awards Increased the Supply of Physicians?" was published in the May 31 issue of Health Affairs. Select to read our press release and the abstract.

4.  Most Recent Highlights from Our Monthly Newsletter

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

  • Smart intravenous infusion systems have the potential to reduce serious medication errors in ICUs.

Critically ill patients often receive potent intravenous drugs with narrow safety margins that require careful titration. So-called "smart" intravenous infusion systems can detect many drug errors, and they have the potential to reduce the rate of serious medication errors in these patients. Jeffrey M. Rothschild, M.D., M.P.H., of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital found that a smart pump system used in the hospital's cardiac surgical intensive care units and step-down monitored units did detect many drug errors. However, there was no difference in the number of serious medication errors that occurred during the periods when the system was used and when it was not. Select to read this article.

Other articles are:

  • Researchers describe ways to improve health care experiences for people who are blind or have low vision.
  • Leisure-time exercise, which helps control diabetes, is low among all diabetes patients, particularly black women.
  • HIV-infected patients with severe depression or bipolar disorder often do not adhere to their medication regimens.

Select to read these articles and others.

5.  Calling All AHRQ Researchers! "Help Us to Help You."

As you may know, AHRQ can help you promote the findings of your research, but we can't do it without you. AHRQ has been successful in working with our grantees and contractors to promote findings to the media and to transfer knowledge based on the research to appropriate audiences in the health care community. However, we know that we can do better. We need you to notify us when you have an article accepted for publication. Please send a copy of the manuscript, anticipated publication date, and contact information for the journal and your institution's PR office to your AHRQ project officer and to AHRQ Public Affairs at Your manuscript will be reviewed to determine what level of marketing we will pursue. Please be assured that AHRQ always honors the journal embargo. Thank you for your cooperation.

6.  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.

Schiff GD, Kim S, Krosnjar N, et al. Missed hypothyroidism diagnosis uncovered by linking laboratory and pharmacy data. Arch Intern Med 2005 Mar 14;165(5):574-7. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Scanlon DP, Swaminathan S, Chernew M, et al. Competition and health plan performance: evidence from health maintenance organization insurance markets. Med Care 2005 Apr;43(4):338-46. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Smink DS, Fishman SJ, Kleinman K, et al. Effects of race, insurance status, and hospital volume on perforated appendicitis in children. Pediatrics 2005 Apr;115(4):920-5. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Bourgeois JA, Maddock RJ, Rogers L, et al. Neurosarcoidosis and delirium. Psychosomatics 2005 Mar-Apr;46(2):148-50. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Chandola T, Siegrist J, Marmot M. Do changes in effort-reward imbalance at work contribute to an explanation of the social gradient in angina? Occup Environ Med 2005 Apr;62(4):223-30. 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 June 2005


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