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December 20, 2005, Issue No. 186

AHRQ News and Numbers

More than 280,000 Americans were admitted to U.S. hospitals for poisoning by medications in 2003. Among patients poisoned by medications, 106,000 were hospitalized for psychiatric drug poisoning and 63 percent of these (more than 67,000) either committed or attempted suicide. The remaining 176,000 patients were hospitalized for poisoning with non-psychiatric medicines; 38 percent of these were either committed or attempted suicide (about 66,000). Hospital charges for treating patients for drug poisoning totaled nearly $3.7 billion in 2003. [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, HCUP.]

Today's Headlines:

  1. AHRQ releases first comparative effectiveness review; certain drugs found as effective as surgery for management of GERD
  2. New video from AHRQ on tips for taking medicines safely
  3. Community-based case managers increase public insurance enrollment of uninsured Latino children
  4. Two new HCUP tools available for better classifying and categorizing certain physician and hospital procedure codes
  5. AHRQ Quality Indicators Windows application version 2.0 now available
  6. Call for abstracts due February 15 for AHRQ's annual PBRN Research meeting
  7. Register now for National Health Policy Conference
  8. HHS seeking input on research priorities for the Effective Health Care Program
  9. New evidence report on work-related asthma is available
  10. New AHRQ publication available
  11. AHRQ in the professional literature

1.  AHRQ Releases First Comparative Effectiveness Review; Certain Drugs Found as Effective as Surgery for Management of GERD

Drugs can be as effective as surgery for management of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to a new AHRQ report, Comparative Effectiveness of Management Strategies for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. The report is the first Comparative Effectiveness Review from AHRQ's new Effective Health Care Program that compares alternative treatments for health conditions. GERD, one of the most common health conditions among older Americans, results in $10 billion annually in direct health care costs. The study compares treatment approaches for chronic uncomplicated GERD, where the condition is likely to require life-long management but does not involve more serious disease of the esophagus. Select to read our press release and the report.

2.  New Video from AHRQ on Tips for Taking Medicines Safely

AHRQ just released a short Web video called Tips for Taking Medicines Safely, which features information to help consumers take medicines safely. Some tips that are covered in the video include asking questions if you have doubts or concerns about your medicine, bringing a bag with all the medicines you take to your medical appointments, and asking about side effects and what to avoid while taking the medicine. The video is being distributed to over 4,500 Web sites in the Healthology® network, including those for ABC News, Chicago Sun-Times, iVillage®, the American Diabetes Association, and many others. The video features AHRQ's Director, Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.; Gregg S. Meyer, M.D., Medical Director, Massachusetts General Physicians' Organization; David Bates, M.D., Chief, Division of General Internal Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital; and Christine Kovner, R.N., Ph.D., Professor at the College of Nursing, New York University.

3.  Community-based Case Managers Increase Public Insurance Enrollment of Uninsured Latino Children

Using bilingual community-based case managers to help poor Latino children enroll in Medicaid or State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP) substantially reduced the proportion uninsured and essentially eliminated this racial/ethnic disparity in uninsurance, according to a new AHRQ-funded study. The researchers, led by Glenn Flores, M.D., found that 96 percent of 139 uninsured children who received the intervention enrolled in either Medicaid or SCHIP between May 2002 and September 2003, compared with 57 percent of Latino children who did not receive the intervention. When the researchers analyzed data for the follow-up period, which lasted to August 2004, they found that the children assisted by case managers were more likely than children who were not assisted by case managers to remain continuously insured (78 percent versus 30 percent) and significantly less likely to be sporadically insured (18 percent versus 27 percent) or continuously uninsured (4 percent versus 43 percent). The case managers helped the children and their families by providing information about the types of available insurance programs and eligibility requirements, working with parents to complete and submit application forms, expediting final coverage decisions by State agencies, and acting as families' advocates when children were inappropriately deemed ineligible for insurance or had coverage inappropriately discontinued. The article, "A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effectiveness of Community-Based Case Management in Insuring Uninsured Latino Children," was published in the December 6 issue of Pediatrics. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

4.  Two New HCUP Tools Available for Better Classifying and Categorizing Certain Physician and Hospital Procedure Codes

Two new tools have recently been made available on AHRQ's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Web site—one for classifying certain physician procedure codes into clinically meaningful procedure categories and another that identifies diagnosis codes as chronic conditions. The CCS-CPT Indicator is a beta version of a tool for classifying Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) physician procedure codes. It uses procedure categories that are identical to those in the existing Clinical Classifications Software (CCS) for hospital procedures, with the addition of specific categories unique to the professional service codes used in CPT. More than 9,000 CPT codes are collapsed into 237 clinically meaningful procedure categories that may be more useful for presenting descriptive statistics than are individual CPT codes. The beta version of the CCS-CPT tool is current as of 2005, and feedback is welcome. The Chronic Condition Indicator provides an easy way for users to categorize ICD-9-CM diagnosis codes as either "chronic" or "not chronic." This tool is based on one developed for use with AHRQ's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data but has been expanded for use with all ICD-9-CM diagnosis codes. In addition, FY2006 updates for Clinical Classifications Software and Procedure Classes software are now available for use with any health care administrative databases that use ICD-9-CM codes. All these tools are available on the AHRQ Web site.

5.  AHRQ Quality Indicators Windows Application Version 2.0 Now Available

AHRQ has released the AHRQ Quality Indicator Windows Application Version 2.0. The software, installation guide, and user guide are now available for download from the AHRQ QI Web site. The AHRQ QI Windows Application Version 2.0 incorporates some enhancements to the performance, features, and functionality of the application based on recommendations from users. AHRQ plans for future releases of the AHRQ QI Windows Application are included in the AHRQ QI Windows Application release note that is posted on the Web site along with the software and documentation.

6.  Call for Abstracts due February 15 for AHRQ's Annual PBRN Research Meeting

AHRQ has issued a call for abstracts for its annual Primary Care Practice-Based Research Networks (PBRN) Research Conference. The 2006 meeting will be held May 15-17 in Bethesda, MD. Proposals to present papers, posters, and workshops related to work conducted in a primary care PBRN are welcome from researchers, network directors, clinician members, and network staff working within a PBRN. Additionally, AHRQ will award a limited number of $750 scholarships to general conference participants and conference presenters to offset travel and other costs, especially in cases of demonstrated financial need. Abstracts are due February 15.

7.  Register Now for National Health Policy Conference

AHRQ, AcademyHealth, and Health Affairs are cosponsoring the annual National Health Policy Conference on February 6-7 in Washington, DC. AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., will present the Administration's health policy agenda. Other topics to be addressed include disparities in health care, patient safety, pay for performance, the Medicare Modernization Act implementation, and more.

8.  HHS Seeking Input on Research Priorities for the Effective Health Care Program

Save the Date! HHS will host a listening session on January 11 to solicit input on research priorities for the Effective Health Care Program. Initial work in the program originates from Medicare reform legislation signed by President Bush in December 2003. Section 1013 of the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 authorizes research, demonstrations, and evaluations to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of the federally administered Medicare program and two programs for which funding and administration is shared with the States: Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., CMS Administrator Mark McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., and other HHS officials are scheduled to participate. The listening session will be held on January 11 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Holman Lounge at the National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW. A call-in line will be established for anyone not able to attend the meeting in person. The complete agenda and call-in information is forthcoming and will be posted at AHRQ's Effective Health Care Web site.

9.  New Evidence Report on Work-related Asthma Is Available

AHRQ released a new evidence report on the diagnosis and management of work-related asthma. The report found that more research is needed to guide clinicians. A definitive diagnostic test does not exist. Highly specific tests for particular asthma-causing agents, called "specific inhalation challenges," are often cited as a "gold standard" for diagnosis. However, these tests are not widely available and have other limitations. The report, Diagnosis and Management of Work-related Asthma, was requested by the American College of Chest Physicians. AHRQ's Evidence-based Practice Center at the University of Alberta, Canada, conducted the systematic review. Select to read the summary. A print copy of the summary and the full report are available by sending an E-mail to

10.  New AHRQ Publication Available

The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 brochure

11.  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.

Wisdom JP, Berllin M, Lapidus JA. Relating health policy to women's health outcomes. Soc Sci Med 2005 Oct;61(8):1776-84. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

Terrin N, Schmid CH, Lau J. In an empirical evaluation of the funnel plot, researchers could not visually identify publication bias. J Clin Epidemiol 2005 Sep;58(9):894-901. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

Curtis JR, Olivieri J, Allison JJ, et al. A group randomized trial to improve safe use of nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs. Am J Manag Care 2005 Sep;11(9):537-43. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

Levine LJ, Schwarz DF, Argon J, et al. Discharge disposition of adolescents admitted to medical hospitals after attempting suicide. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2005 Sep;159(9):860-6. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

Edwards JC, Stapley J, Akins R, et al. Lessons learned from a regional strategy for resource allocation. Biosecur Bioterror 2005;3(2):113-8. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

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Current as of December 2005


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