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April 13, 2006, Issue No. 196

AHRQ News and Numbers

Twenty-four percent of poor Americans under age 65—3.8 million persons—reported being continuously uninsured for at least 4 years when surveyed in 2003. Not being insured was defined as not having private health insurance or Medicaid coverage. Poor Americans, those whose income is equal to or below the poverty line, represented 13 percent of the U.S. population under age 65. High-income Americans, who represented 38 percent of the under-65 population, accounted for only 10 percent of those continuously uninsured from 2000 to 2003. [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, MEPS, Statistical Brief No. 123: The Long-term Uninsured in America, 2000-2003: Estimates for the U.S. Population under Age 65. (PDF File, 107 KB; PDF Help)]

Today's Headlines:

  1. AHRQ releases new report to help providers adopt health IT
  2. AHRQ director speaks at eHealth Connecticut Inaugural Summit
  3. AHRQ director addresses Hill briefing on Patient Safety Organizations
  4. AHRQ chartbook profiles racial/ethnic differences
  5. New program brief on Child Health Research Findings available
  6. New online AHRQ HCUP resource
  7. AHRQ requests proposals for medical simulation projects
  8. AHRQ Health Policy Conference set for May 3
  9. Highlights of our most recent monthly newsletter
  10. AHRQ in the professional literature

1.  AHRQ Releases New Report To Help Providers Adopt Health IT

AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., released a new health information technology (IT) report during the eHealth Initiative's Connecting Communities Learning Forum on April 11. The report acknowledges that while health IT has been shown to improve quality of care for patients, most health care providers need more information about how to implement these technologies successfully.

The report, Costs and Benefits of Health Information Technology, is a synthesis of studies that have examined the quality impact of health IT as well as the costs and organizational changes needed to implement health IT systems. This report reviews scientific data about the implementation of health IT to date, as documented in studies published through 2003. It does not project future health care benefits or savings, in contrast to other reports. The report was prepared by AHRQ's Southern California Evidence-based Practice Center-RAND Corporation. Select to access the press release and to access the report.

In addition, in her April 11 speech to the eHealth group, Dr. Clancy said health IT has left behind a period of "rational exuberance" and entered the more important phase of "hard work." Implementation of health IT involves one part technology, and two parts work flow and culture change, she noted.

2.  AHRQ Director Speaks at eHealth Connecticut Inaugural Summit

AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., spoke to health care leaders, stakeholders, and other professionals at the eHealth Connecticut Inaugural Summit on March 23. She discussed the pivotal role of health information technology in advancing health care research and quality. According to Dr. Clancy, health IT should be embedded and integrated into the practice of medicine. Select to access Dr. Clancy's speech, which also addresses the need to measure and report on health care quality.

3.  AHRQ Director Addresses Hill Briefing on Patient Safety Organizations

AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., keynoted at an April 7 Alliance for Health Reform briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss last year's enactment of the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act. AHRQ is currently drafting proposed regulations to implement the legislation, which requires providers to report medical errors to designated entities known as Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs.)

Questions addressed at the briefing included: How will these PSOs operate? What information will be reported to them and how will policymakers use the data to make additional improvements in health care facilities across the country? Select to access a video Web cast or to listen to an audio podcast of the event. Select for more information on AHRQ's efforts to implement the legislation.

4.  AHRQ Chartbook Profiles Racial/Ethnic Differences

A new booklet from AHRQ's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) presents detailed charts and other information on health insurance coverage and usual source of care during 2002 for Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and other single/multiple race non-Hispanic Americans. Differences are broken down by income, gender, age group, and other factors.

The chartbook also compares Hispanic subgroups—Puerto Rican, Cuban, Mexican, or "other Hispanic"—a term that includes South Americans, Central Americans, and Dominicans. Select to access MEPS Chartbook No. 14: Racial and Ethnic Differences in Health Insurance Coverage and Usual Source of Health Care, 2002. A print copy is available by sending an E-mail to

5.  New Program Brief on Child Health Research Findings Available

AHRQ released a new program brief that summarizes findings from recent projects focused on children and adolescents. Select to access the program brief. A print copy is available by sending an E-mail to

6.  New Online AHRQ HCUP Resource

AHRQ recently launched a new Web-based resource—the HCUP Statistical Briefs—containing information from its Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). In response to current concerns about the cost and health implications of overuse and inappropriate use of emergency departments, particularly for persons with limited access to other means of care, the first two briefs focus on emergency department use in the United States. The third HCUP Statistical Brief describes the rising trend in pressure sores among hospitalized patients. Future HCUP Statistical Briefs will be released monthly. Select to access the HCUP Statistical Briefs.

7.  AHRQ Requests Proposals for Medical Simulation Projects

AHRQ is interested in funding research and evaluation of simulation and the roles it can play in improving the safe delivery of health care, according to an April 12 announcement in the NIH Guide. Simulation is described as a strategy—not a technology—to mirror, anticipate, or amplify real situations with guided experiences in a fully interactive way. Simulation can complement other organizational change methods to facilitate adoption and implementation of best practices and new technologies.

In these projects, AHRQ is interested in the use of and/or adaptation of simulation tools in diverse health care settings and the evaluation of their impact on improving patient safety. AHRQ intends to fund eight to 10 new grants for a total of $2.4 million. Letters of intent are due April 28, and applications are due May 22. Select for the announcement.

8.  AHRQ Health Policy Conference Set for May 3

AHRQ is hosting a policy conference on health insurance and cost issues on May 3 in Washington, DC. Panel sessions include:

  • Presentations on key policy issues such as prescription drug expenditures among Medicare beneficiaries and the role of generics.
  • Financial burdens created by chronic medical conditions.
  • Health insurance enrollment decisions.
  • Consumer cost-sharing and the use of mental health treatment.
  • Whether participation in the food stamp program affects the incidence of obesity and health care spending.
  • The use of AHRQ's MEPS expenditure data for policy simulation studies.

Participants will also have the opportunity to receive hands-on instruction in accessing MEPS online resources. Register by contacting Megan Griggs at (301)-231-7537, ext. 260. The deadline for registration is April 24.

9.  Highlights of Our Most Recent Monthly Newsletter

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

The cost-effectiveness threshold for medical interventions may depend on the context of the circumstances
For many years, a medical intervention such as knee replacement surgery has been considered cost-effective at a cost of $50,000 or less per gain of a quality-adjusted life year. A new AHRQ-funded study suggests that different contexts—for example, whether a condition is life-threatening or not—may require different cost-effectiveness thresholds. Texas and Florida researchers found that a person's willingness to pay for a quality-adjusted life year often depends on the context of the medical circumstances.

Other articles include:

  • Stroke rehabilitation outcomes differ for blacks, whites, and Asian Americans.
  • Adding cognitive behavioral therapy to treatment plans reduces depressive symptoms among adolescents.
  • Women need information about alternatives, risks, and benefits of hormone therapy for osteoporosis to make an informed decision.

Select to access these articles and more.

10.  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.

Wagner LM, Capezuti E, Taylor JA, et al. Impact of a falls menu-driven incident-reporting system on documentation and quality improvement in nursing homes. Gerontologist 2005 Dec;45(6):835-42. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Rosenthal MB, Zaslavsky A, Newhouse JP. The geographic distribution of physicians revisited. Health Serv Res 2005 Dec;40(6 Pt 1):1931-52. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Singh-Manoux A, Marmot M. High blood pressure was associated with cognitive function in middle-age in the Whitehall II study. J Clin Epidemiol 2005 Dec;58(12):1308-15. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Sherkat DE, Kilbourne BS, Cain VA, et al. Explaining race differences in mortality among the Tennessee Medicare elderly: the role of physician services. J Health Care Poor Underserved 2005 Nov;16(4Suppl A):50-63. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Tamura T, Golden RL, Chapman VR, et al. Folate status of mothers during pregnancy and mental and psychomotor development of their children at five years of age. Pediatrics 2005 Sep;116(3):703-8. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Contact Information

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Current as of April 2006


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