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July 14, 2006, Issue No. 205

AHRQ News and Numbers

The percentage of workers enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans that obligated them to pay a share of their hospital bill increased by more than 60 percent between 1999 and 2003—from 34 percent to 55 percent. (Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality,MEPS Statistical Brief No. 128: Changes in Out-of-Pocket Maximum Limits for Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Plans, 1999-2003 (PDF File, 102 KB; PDF Help).

Today's Headlines:

  1. New AHRQ Study on Malpractice Damage Awards on Health Care Expenditures
  2. AHRQ Seeks Nominations for Members of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
  3. AHRQ Healthcare 411 Special Report Is Available
  4. National Advisory Council Meeting Scheduled for July 21
  5. AHRQ's MEPS Data Users' Workshop Set for July 24-25
  6. FDA and ISMP Work to Stop Use of Ambiguous Medical Abbreviations
  7. New AHRQ Publications Available
  8. AHRQ in the Professional Literature

1.  New AHRQ Study on Malpractice Damage Awards on Health Care Expenditures

A new AHRQ study in the American Journal of Public Health indicates that state laws limiting malpractice damage awards reduce overall state health care expenditures. The report estimates that the average reduction in health expenditures for states with caps on malpractice damage awards is $92 per capita (or 3 percent to 4 percent) over the period of time that the cap has been in place.

The study specifically examines noneconomic damage caps—that is, damage caps for pain and suffering as opposed to economic caps that limit awards to cover direct economic outlays in a malpractice suit. The study, entitled, "The Impact of State Laws Limiting Malpractice Damage Awards on Health Care Expenditures," was conducted by AHRQ researchers Fred Hellinger, Ph.D., and William Encinosa, Ph.D.

The final recommendations of the study state that future studies should expand the analysis to focus on whether the level of damage caps relates to health care expenditures; the variation of the effectiveness of these laws across States; and whether or not malpractice tort reform law is related to poorer health outcomes.

2.  AHRQ Seeks Nominations for Members of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

AHRQ invites nominations of individuals qualified for two open positions to serve as members of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Nominees are sought with expertise in prevention, research methodology, and experience in clinical primary care. Nomination of individuals with specific expertise in geriatrics issues is encouraged. Nominations must be submitted by July 31. Select to access the June 29 Federal Register notice for details on submitting nominations. Please contact Therese Miller, Dr.P.H., at (301) 427-1585, or Mary Barton, M.D., M.P.P., at (301) 427-1638, with questions.

3.  AHRQ Healthcare 411 Special Report Is Available

AHRQ's latest edition of "Healthcare 411" is a special report with AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., discussing having or being a family health advocate. During the 10-minute audio report, Dr. Clancy talks about why someone might need a family advocate, what type of person to look for, what to do if you are asked to be a family advocate, and issues involved for people with special needs, such as those with impaired vision or limited English skills.Select to access the newscast.

If your computer has a sound card and speakers and can play MP3 audio files, you will be able to access the latest newscast on your computer at your convenience—according to your schedule, whenever you have the time. Visit the main page of our Healthcare 411 series to access any of AHRQ's Newscasts and Special Reports. Sign up for a free subscription to the series to receive notice of all future AHRQ podcasts automatically.

4.  National Advisory Council Meeting Scheduled for July 21

The AHRQ National Advisory Council is scheduled to meet on Friday, July 21 at AHRQ's Eisenberg Conference Center in Rockville, MD. The Council also will discuss economic research, hear an update from the subcommittee on the National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report, and follow up on a variety of previously discussed issues. Select to access the press release.

5.  AHRQ's MEPS Data Users' Workshop Set for July 24-25

AHRQ is conducting a 2-day workshop to facilitate the use of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Household Component by the health services research community. The workshop, designed for those with an interest in using national health surveys, will be held at the Eisenberg Building, 540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD.

Participants will have the opportunity to bring up specific research questions. The focus of the workshop will be health care utilization, expenditures, and medical conditions. Select to register and to access more information. In addition, the workshop will feature an overview presentation on HCUP (Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project) data.

6.  FDA and ISMP Work to Stop Use of Ambiguous Medical Abbreviations

FDA and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) have launched a national education campaign to help eliminate one of the most common but preventable sources of medication errors—the use of ambiguous medical abbreviations. The campaign addresses the use of error-prone abbreviations in all forms of medical communication, including written medication orders, computer-generated labels, medication administration records, pharmacy or prescriber computer order entry screens, and commercial medication labeling, packaging, and advertising.

As part of the campaign, FDA recommends that ISMP's list of abbreviations, symbols, and dose designations, most often associated with medication errors, be considered whenever medical information is communicated. FDA and ISMP's campaign promotes ISMP's list and includes an online tool kit of materials, brochures, posters, and more. All of these materials are available on the FDA Web site.

7.  New AHRQ Publications Available

Patient Safety Research Highlights: program brief

Databases and Related Tools From the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP)—Update: fact sheet

8.  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.

McNamara P. Provider-specific report cards: a tool for health sector accountability in developing countries. Health Policy Plan 2006 Mar;21(2):101-9. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Marsden PV, Landon BE, Wilson IB, et al. The reliability of survey assessments of characteristics of medical clinics. Health Serv Res 2006 Feb;41(1):265-83. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Paliwal P, Gelfand AE, Abraham L, et al. Examining accuracy of screening mammography using an event order model. Stat Med 2006 Jan 30;25(2):267-83. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Gnanasekaran SK, Finkelstein JA, Lazano P, et al. Influenza vaccination among children with asthma in Medicaid managed care. Ambul Pediatr 2006 Jan-Feb;6(1):1-7. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Thorpe JM, Kalinoski CT, Patterson ME, et al. Psychological distress as a barrier to preventive care in community-dwelling elderly in the United States. Med Care 2006 Feb;44(2):187-91. Select to access the abstract in 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 July 2006


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