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October 14, 2005, Issue #181

AHRQ News and Numbers

Roughly 64 percent of American workers in large, private-sector companies (50 or more employees) were enrolled in health insurance plans offered by their employers in 2003, but enrollment rates varied substantially by type of industry: wholesale trade (79 percent), financial services and real estate (77 percent), transportation (72 percent), professional services (68 percent), construction (63 percent), and retail trade (49 percent). The average employee contributions toward premiums were $627 for single coverage and $2,242 for a family of four, also varying by type of industry. [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, MEPS Statistical Brief #89: Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance for Large Employers in the Private Sector, by Industry Classification, 2003 (PDF File, 100 KB; PDF Help)]

Today's Headlines:

  1. New publication helps consumers find information and support after a diagnosis
  2. HHS awards contracts to advance nationwide interoperable health IT
  3. HHS awards more than $22.3 million to implement health information technology systems
  4. Personal Health Records Conference Webcast
  5. New podcast and guide help consumers understand quality health care
  6. Upcoming town hall sessions with consumers
  7. New evidence report on spirometry for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease available
  8. Summary materials from AHRQ QI Users' meeting now available
  9. AHRQ in the professional literature

1.  New Publication Helps Consumers Find Information and Support After a Diagnosis

AHRQ released a new publication, Next Steps After Your Diagnosis: Finding Information and Support, to help consumers who have been diagnosed with an illness learn more about their condition and treatment options. This booklet is part of AHRQ's new consumer education campaign to help people take a more active role in their own health care. Next Steps After Your Diagnosis includes a list of 10 important questions to ask your doctor when you receive a diagnosis. The questions are designed to help individuals understand their disease or condition, how it might be treated, and what they need to know before making treatment decisions. Selected organizations and other resources, such as Web site addresses and phone numbers, are also included to help provide additional information on current medical research, clinical trials, and outcomes research about certain conditions and treatment options. Select to read our press release and to read Next Steps After Your Diagnosis. An article about the booklet appeared in Parade magazine last Sunday and we have received over 11,000 requests. If you want a copy, send an E-mail to

2.  HHS Awards Contracts to Advance Nationwide Interoperable Health IT

Recently, HHS announced the award of $17.5 million in contracts to public and private organizations that will use the funds to accelerate the adoption of health information technology and the secure portability of health information across the United States. These organizations will form strategic partnerships to develop the building blocks necessary for achieving the President's goal of widespread adoption of interoperable electronic health records within 10 years. The projects funded under these contracts will create and evaluate processes for harmonizing health information standards, develop criteria to certify and evaluate health IT products, and develop solutions to address variations in business policies and State laws that affect privacy and security practices that may pose challenges to the secure communication of health information. Under the contracts, these partnerships report to the American Health Information Community, a new Federal advisory committee that is chaired by Secretary Leavitt and charged with providing recommendations to HHS on how to make health records digital and interoperable.

3.  HHS Awards More Than $22.3 Million to Implement Health Information Technology Systems

HHS recently announced $22.3 million in grants to implement health information technology systems to improve the safety and quality of health care. Awarded by AHRQ, the 16 new projects will focus on sharing health information between providers, laboratories, pharmacies, and patients, helping to ensure safer patient transitions between health care settings, as well as reducing medication errors and duplicative and unnecessary testing. In addition, AHRQ awarded nearly $5 million in contracts to implement a Statewide network of shared medical records in Delaware and to identify and support the planning of regional data sharing and interoperability activities in New York. These awards build on AHRQ's $25 million portfolio for developing Statewide and regional networks that are secure, ensure privacy of health information, and make an individual's health information more available to health care providers. The projects will contribute to AHRQ's capacity to learn from health IT implementation in clinical settings and to use the results from these real-world laboratories that are crucial to moving forward with broader implementation of health IT in American health care. AHRQ's investment in health IT now totals more than $166 million.

4.  Personal Health Records Conference Webcast

On October 11, the Markle Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and AHRQ co-sponsored a health IT forum on Personal Health Records, "Connecting Americans to Their Health." The Forum looked at the current status of personal health records, their potential for improving health care quality, and challenges facing the personal health records market. In addition to remarks by AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., AHRQ senior staff and several AHRQ grantees participated in Webcast. Select to view the Webcast.

5.  New Podcast and Guide Help Consumers Understand Quality Health Care

AHRQ recently sponsored its first audio podcast where Agency Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., discussed the importance of participating in your health care. The agency also released its new consumer publication, Guide to Health Care Quality: How To Know It When You See It, which includes steps that consumers can take to improve their quality of care. The publication explains the difference between clinical measures and consumer ratings. Clinical measures, such as those in AHRQ's National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report, are used to track and improve the quality of care provided by doctors, hospitals, and other providers.

6.  Upcoming Town Hall Sessions with Consumers

AHRQ will be hosting two regional town hall meetings with consumers on the importance of health care quality. The meetings will feature the Agency's newly released Guide to Health Care Quality: How To Know It When You See It. These meetings also will feature an interactive discussion among Dr. Carolyn Clancy, AHRQ Director; Trudy Lieberman, Director of the Center for Consumer Health Choices, Consumer Reports; local quality improvement and disparities reduction experts; and audience participants. The next town hall meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 31 in Oklahoma City; the final town hall session will be held on Tuesday, November 8 in Philadelphia. If you plan to be in either of these locations at these dates, please join us by calling 1-877-828-5101.

7.  New Evidence Report on Spirometry for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Available

A new evidence-based report prepared by AHRQ's Minnesota Evidence-based Practice Center found spirometry improves the diagnostic accuracy of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adults with symptoms when compared to clinical examination. The report also concluded that spirometry is not an ideal test for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease diagnosis, since interventions do not alter the parameters used to determine the disease's status or reduce deaths from the illness. However, spirometry may be useful in identifying a threshold value at which to initiate treatment in adults with COPD symptoms. Spirometric response to therapy or change over time while on therapy has not been shown to be associated with clinical outcomes. Spirometry provides independent prognostic value for predicting respiratory and overall morbidity and mortality; however, the degree of dyspnea appears to be a better predictor of mortality. This report was prepared to provide objective evidence and recommendations to inform the work of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) in collaboration with the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics Spirometry Task Force in clarifying usage of spirometry as part of the management of COPD. Select to read the summary. A print copy of the summary and the full report are available by sending an E-mail to

8.  Summary Materials from AHRQ QI Users' Meeting Now Available

AHRQ sponsored its first Quality Indicators (QI) Users' meeting in Rockville, MD on September 26-27. This 2-day meeting provided an opportunity for users to network and share best practices in the areas of public and comparative reporting and pay-for-performance. Other discussion points included using the AHRQ QIs for quality improvement and future directions for QI development.

9.  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.

Willging C, Waitzkin H, Wagner W. Medicaid managed care for mental health services in a rural state. J Health Care Poor Underserved 2005 Aug; 16(3):497-514. Select to read the abstract on PubMed®.

Reed M, Fung V, Brand R, et al. Care-seeking behavior in response to emergency department copayments. Med Care 2005 Aug; 43(8):810-6. Select to read the abstract on PubMed®.

Cox ED, Smith MA, Bartell JM. Managing febrile infants: impact of literature recommendations published during a physician's residency. Eval Health Prof 2005 Sep; 28(3):328-48. Select to read the abstract on PubMed®.

Litaker D, Love TE. Health care resource allocation and individuals' health care needs: examining the degree of fit. Health Policy 2005 Aug; 73(2):183-93. Select to read the abstract on PubMed®.

Rein DB. A matter of classes: stratifying health care populations to produce better estimates of inpatient costs. Health Serv Res 2005 Aug; 40(4):1217-33. Select to read the abstract on PubMed®.

Contact Information

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Current as of October 2005


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