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August 28, 2007, Issue No. 237

AHRQ News and Numbers

An estimated 43 million people age 18 and older—nearly one-fifth of the United States adult population—reported taking aspirin regularly, which is every day or every other day according to 2005 data. (Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ] MEPS Statistical Brief No. 179: Aspirin Use among the Adult U.S. Noninstitutionalized Population, with and without Indicators of Heart Disease, 2005 (PDF File, 114 KB; PDF Help.)

Today's Headlines

1. Executive Order Is Helping "Change the Culture" in Health Care to Achieve Better Quality, Value and Affordability
2. Eight Communities Selected to Participate in HHS Hispanic Elders Health Initiative
3. Audio Podcast on Direct-to-Consumer Ads
4. Register Now for AHRQ's Joint MEPS-HCUP Training Workshop
5. Highlights From Our Most Recent Monthly Newsletter
6. AHRQ in the Professional Literature

1. Executive Order Is Helping "Change the Culture" in Health Care to Achieve Better Quality, Value and Affordability

Secretary Leavitt, on August 23, released summaries from four Federal departments and agencies surveying their actions toward achieving the goals of a 2006 Presidential Executive Order to bring about a systematic approach for measuring quality and value in health care, and for making that information publicly available. The four cornerstone goals of the Executive Order are:

  • Connecting the system through the adoption of interoperable health information technology;
  • Measuring and making available results on the quality of health care delivery;
  • Measuring and making available price information on the costs of health care items and services; and
  • Aligning incentives so that payers, providers, and patients benefit when care delivery is focused on achieving the best value of health care at the lowest cost.

Examples of first-year accomplishments by Federal agencies, as well as plans for fiscal year 2008, include:

  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is promoting health care price and quality transparency through its contracts with private sector insurance carriers and is also requiring them to report on new quality of care measures. This fall, Federal employees will see enhanced consumer information on price and quality transparency in the 2007 Guide to Federal Benefits on OPM's Web site.
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provides a full payment update to hospitals that report on a core set of quality measures for patients with heart failure, heart disease, pneumonia, or having surgery (surgical infection prevention). In June, CMS added two mortality measures for heart attack and heart failure and plans to add measures of patient satisfaction by spring 2008. In addition, last month, CMS began collecting quality information from participating physicians which will become the basis for bonus payments to be paid mid-2008. These incentive payments will be based upon the submission of applicable consensus-based quality measures.
  • The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is also recognizing and promoting community collaboration underway across the country in support of the four cornerstones. Under a new initiative set to begin this quarter, communities which have organized themselves according to certain criteria will become eligible to participate in a learning network where they can gain access to the tools, resources, and training available through HHS.

Select to read the HHS press release.

2. Eight Communities Selected to Participate in HHS Hispanic Elders Health Initiative

HHS Assistant Secretary for Aging Josefina G. Carbonell and AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy announced on August 23 that eight communities will participate in an HHS pilot initiative to improve the health and quality of life of Hispanic elders. The metropolitan areas of Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, McAllen, TX, Miami, New York San Antonio, and San Diego, have been selected to take part in the pilot project launched earlier this year by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt titled "Improving Hispanic Elders' Health: Community Partnerships for Evidence-Based Solutions."

This unique collaboration is designed to help communities work together to develop coordinated strategies for improving Hispanic elders' access to important benefits, including the new Medicare prescription drug and prevention benefits as well as low-cost evidence-based prevention programs such as the Stanford University Chronic Disease Self-Management Program and other initiatives that can reduce health disparities. Select to review the Administration on Aging press release.

3. Audio Podcast on Direct-to-Consumer Ads

This week's Healthcare 411 program features an interview about direct-to-consumer ads with AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. She advises listeners to be skeptical, ask questions, and not to make health decisions based on what they see in an advertisement. Select to access the 9½-minute program. Visit to review any of AHRQ's Healthcare 411 audio programs.

4. Register Now for AHRQ's Joint MEPS-HCUP Training Workshop

Registration ends September 5, for AHRQ's joint MEPS and HCUP Data Users Workshop. Register now to reserve a spot! The Workshop takes place September 19-20 at the Eisenberg Building in Rockville, MD.

The training is designed to familiarize the health services research community with two AHRQ data resources—the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) and the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP)—and to facilitate the use of data from each. Researchers will receive an overview of the two data resources on the first day, and hands-on training on one of the data resources on the second day.

5. Highlights From Our Most Recent Monthly Newsletter

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

Today's teen smokers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors than teens who smoked in the early 1990s.
The risk profile of the American adolescent smoker has changed. Today's adolescent smokers are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, risky alcohol-related behaviors, and to not use a seatbelt or bicycle helmet than adolescent smokers in the early 1990s. Dr. Jonathan Klein and colleagues at the University of Rochester School of Medicine suggest that doctors screen adolescents who smoke for other risky behaviors, and that adolescents may benefit from multifaceted prevention programs that target both smoking and other risky behaviors.

Other articles include:

  • Inadequate communication of mammogram results may prevent black women from fully benefiting from screening.
  • Studies examine the impact of rheumatic diseases on the ability to work.
  • Family physicians manage skin conditions well.

Select to access these articles and more.

6. 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.

Rodriguez HP, Wilson IB, Landon BE, et al. Voluntary physician switching by human immunodeficiency virus-infected individuals: a national study of patient, physician, and organizational factors. Med Care 2007 Mar;45(3):89-198. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Lee GM. Varicella vaccination in adults: is it cost-effective? Clin Infect Dis 2007 Apr;44(8):1049-50. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Grossman JM, Gerland A, Reed MC, et al. Physicians' experiences using commercial e-prescribing systems. Health Aff 2007 Apr 3;26(3):w393-w404. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Gozalo PL, Miller SC. Hospice enrollment and evaluation of its causal effect on hospitalization of dying nursing home patients. Health Serv Res 2007 Apr;42(2):587-610. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Bazzoli GJ, Clement JP, Lindrooth RC, et al. Hospital financial condition and operational decisions related to the quality of hospital care. Med Care Res Rev 2007 Apr;64(2):148-68. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Chandler SM, Garcia SM, McCormick DP. Consistency of diagnostic criteria for acute otitis media: a review of the recent literature. Clin Pediatr 2007 Mar;46(2):99-108. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

If you are a new subscriber or would like to reference information in a previous issue, an archive of this newsletter can be found on AHRQ's Web site at

Contact Information

Please address comments and questions to Nancy Comfort at or (301) 427-1866.

Current as of August 2007


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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