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September 16, 2005, Issue #178

AHRQ News and Numbers

Charges for U.S. hospital stays totaled nearly $754 billion in 2003. The charges, which do not include physician fees, were for approximately 38 million patient stays and cover the amounts that hospitals billed to insurers and consumers. The five most expensive conditions to treat were blocked arteries and other heart conditions ($44 billion for 1.3 million patients), heart attack ($31 billion for 751,000 patients), congestive heart failure ($27 billion for 1.4 million patients), pneumonia ($26 billion for 1.3 million patients), and care for newborn infants ($25 billion for 4 million patients). [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, HCUPnet.]

Today's Headlines:

  1. New publication helps consumers understand and get quality health care
  2. New RFA for electronic prescribing standards announced
  3. Research finds low electronic health record adoption rate for physician groups
  4. New version of AHRQ quality indicators now available
  5. New evidence report on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids is available
  6. New evidence report on the evaluation and treatment of acute stroke is available
  7. AHRQ in the professional literature

1.  New Publication Helps Consumers Understand and Get Quality Health Care

AHRQ has released a new publication, Guide to Health Care Quality: How to know it when you see it, to help consumers identify high-quality health care. This booklet is part of AHRQ's new consumer education campaign to help people take a more active role in their own health care. The Guide to Health Care Quality includes steps that consumers can take to improve their quality of care. It explains the difference between clinical measures and consumer ratings. The booklet also lists Web sites and phone numbers for selected organizations and other resources. AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., released this booklet at the first in a series of town hall meetings with consumers on September 15 in Chapel Hill, NC. The purpose of these meetings is to educate consumers about health care quality issues and what they can do to improve their own quality of care. Dr. Clancy also discusses these issues in an audio podcast. Select to read our press release. A print copy of the guide is available by sending an E-mail to

2.  New RFA for Electronic Prescribing Standards Announced

AHRQ, on behalf of CMS, announced a new Request for Applications to solicit applications to conduct a pilot test of electronic prescribing standards under cooperative agreements that will inform the implementation of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. CMS intends to commit up to $6 million to fund these cooperative agreements, which will test initial standards for E-prescribing and how they interact with E-prescribing workflow. The pilot testing will be conducted for up to 12 months during calendar year 2006. The test results will be reported to Congress in April 2007 as mandated by the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement Modernization Act of 2003 and used to develop final E-prescribing standards. Deadline for applications is October 25. Select to read the RFA.

3.  Research Finds Low Electronic Health Record Adoption Rate for Physician Groups

A comprehensive study by the Medical Group Management Association Center for Research and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health has captured the current state of adoption of electronic health records by U.S. medical group practices. More than 3,300 medical group practices participated in the AHRQ-funded Assessing Adoption of Health Information Technology project. The research shows that just 14.1 percent of all medical group practices use an electronic health record, and just 11.5 percent indicated that an electronic health record was fully implemented for all physicians and at all practice locations. More significantly, the research shows that only 12.5 percent of medical group practices with five or fewer full-time-equivalent (FTE) physicians have adopted an electronic health record. The adoption rate increased with the practice size; groups with 6 to 10 FTE physicians reported a 15.2 percent adoption rate, groups with 11-20 FTE physicians reported an 18.9 percent adoption rate, and groups of 20 or more FTE physicians had a 19.5 percent adoption rate. Select to read the press release.

4.  New Version of AHRQ Quality Indicators Now Available

AHRQ Quality Indicators are now available in a Windows Application Version 1.0. This version replicates the indicator specification and rate calculation of the currently available versions of the SAS and SPSS syntax for the three AHRQ QI modules: 1) prevention quality indicators; 2) inpatient quality indicators; and 3) patient safety indicators. The new version requires Microsoft Windows 2000 or Microsoft Windows XP, with the Microsoft.NET platform and an available Microsoft SQL Server database. (A public-use version of Microsoft.NET and the SQL Server database are included with the software.) AHRQ QIs, which include specific pediatric and neonatal indicators and more, were refined through an AHRQ contract with the University of California at San Francisco-Stanford University Evidence-based Practice Center. Select AHRQ QIs to learn more and to download the software, installation guide, and user guide.

5.  New Evidence Report on the Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Is Available

AHRQ has released a new evidence report that was requested and funded by NIH's Office of Dietary Supplements and prepared by three of AHRQ's Evidence-based Practice Centers, namely: Southern California-RAND, Tufts-New England Medical Center, and the University of Ottawa. The report, Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Eye Health, focuses on eye health conditions that have a large public health impact in North America, including eye disorders that have a high prevalence (such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and retinal vascular occlusions); those that can produce years of vision loss in the young, such as retinitis pigmentosa; and other eye conditions, such as cataracts, that are costly to treat. The report's authors concluded that clinical research has only touched the surface with respect to understanding the possible use of omega-3 fatty acids for primary or secondary prevention in eye health. The authors also said that more research must be conducted before conclusions can be made with respect to the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on eye health. Select to read the summary. A print copy of the summary and the full report are available by sending an E-mail to

6.  New Evidence Report on the Evaluation and Treatment of Acute Stroke Is Available

AHRQ has released a new evidence report on the effectiveness of various methods of treating hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke within 24 hours of onset of symptoms. While intravenous treatment with tPA, a clot-dissolving drug, is effective for acute ischemic stroke if given within 3 hours of symptom onset, there may also be benefits beyond this 3-hour window. In addition, although data from clinical trials on acute stroke do not support a role for surgery in the treatment of acute intracerebral hemorrhage, these results do not preclude benefit from modes of surgery not studied in these trials. The report, Acute Stroke, Evaluation and Treatment, developed by AHRQ's University of Ottawa Evidence-based Practice Center, also calls for research on the effectiveness of community stroke education programs. Select to read the summary. A print copy of the summary and the full report is available by sending an E-mail to

7.  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.

Jibaja-Weiss ML, Volk RJ, Smith QW, et al. Differential effects of messages for breast and cervical cancer screening. J Health Care Poor Underserved 2005 Feb; 16(1):42-52. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Xu X, Jensen GA. Utilization of health care services among the near-elderly: a comparison of managed care and fee-for-service enrollees. Manag Care Interface 2005 Mar; 18(3):60-6, 70. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Bertakis KD, Azari R. Obesity and the use of health care services. Obes Res 2005 Feb; 13(2):151-8. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Lackan NA, Ostir GV, Kuo YF, et al. The association of marital status and hospice use in the USA. Palliat Med 2005 Mar; 19(2):160-2. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Lee GM, Salomon JA, Friedman JF, et al. Illness transmission in the home: a possible role for alcohol-based hand gels. Pediatrics 2005 Apr; 115(4):852-60. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Atlas SJ, Keller RM, Wu YA, et al. Long-term outcomes of surgical and nonsurgical management of sciatica secondary to a lumbar disc herniation: 10 year results from the Maine Lumbar Spine Study. Spine 2005 Apr 15; 30(8):927-35. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

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Current as of September 2005


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