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October 31, 2007, Issue No. 243

AHRQ News and Numbers

One of every 20 (or 5 percent) of the roughly 368,600 patients treated in U.S. hospitals in 2005 for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA, died. Most of the patients who died of this highly dangerous antibiotic resistant staph infection were elderly or low income. The death rate for hospitalized MRSA patients was higher than the 4 percent death rate for hospitalized tuberculosis patients, another potentially deadly illness. [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), HCUP Statistical Brief #35: Infections with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) in U.S. Hospitals, 1993-2005.]

Today's Headlines

  1. New AHRQ tools help pharmacies better serve patients with low health literacy
  2. AHRQ director helps consumers become an involved health care consumer in new advice column on the Web
  3. AHRQ report recommends use of existing call centers to expand communications in public health emergencies
  4. Special journal issue on working conditions -"Improving the Health Care Work Environment to Promote Quality and Safety"
  5. AHRQ audio podcast discusses medical errors and trainees, asking doctors tough questions, and the chronically uninsured
  6. Third radio podcast on health insurance choices
  7. AHRQ in the professional literature

1. New AHRQ Tools Help Pharmacies Better Serve Patients with Low Health Literacy

AHRQ announced two new tools to help pharmacies provide better quality services to people with limited health literacy. The tools are titled, Is Our Pharmacy Meeting Patients' Needs? A Pharmacy Health Literacy Assessment Tool User's Guide and Strategies to Improve Communication between Pharmacy Staff and Patients: A Training Program for Pharmacy Staff. The tools resulted from a study that was co-funded by AHRQ and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and were developed under contract by Emory University. The pharmacy assessment tool can help raise pharmacy staff awareness of health literacy issues, detect barriers that may prevent individuals with limited literacy skills from using and understanding health information provided by a pharmacy, and may help identify opportunities for improving services. The training program for pharmacy staff includes the use of explanatory slides and small group breakout discussions. Participants will role play using handouts before concluding with a question-and-answer session. Select to read our press release and to access the guide. A print copy may be obtained by sending an E-mail to Select to access the training program.

2. AHRQ Director Helps Consumers Become an Involved Health Care Consumer in New Advice Column on the Web

A second biweekly column from AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., features a brief, easy-to-understand advice for consumers to become involved in their health care. Select to read Dr. Clancy's new advice column.

3. AHRQ Report Recommends Use of Existing Call Centers to Expand Communications in Public Health Emergencies

AHRQ released a new report, Adapting Community Call Centers for Crisis Support: A Model for Home-based Care and Monitoring that recommends expanding the capabilities of poison control centers, nurse advice lines, drug information centers, and health agency hotlines to assist persons at home or in public shelters in the event of public health emergencies such as biological attacks or pandemic influenza. The report and its four appendices include strategies for using these types of community call centers in the event of aerosol anthrax attacks or the outbreak of pandemic influenza, plague, or food contamination. The report was developed by Denver Health, a member of the AHRQ-funded Accelerating Change and Transformation in Organizations and Networks (ACTION) project. Select to read our press release and select to access the report. A print copy is available by sending an E-mail to

4. Special Journal Issue on Working Conditions—"Improving the Health Care Work Environment to Promote Quality and Safety"

An AHRQ-sponsored supplement to the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety reviews evidence on the effects of health care working conditions on the quality of health care. The papers cite persistent threats to patient safety in hospital work environments and present improvement options. Six papers, five of them written by AHRQ-funded researchers or staff members, synthesize the evidence on key elements in the hospital work environment. Among the topics are the potential for harm in conditions prevailing in many hospital inpatient settings, such as excessive work hours, inadequate nurse staffing, and crowding. Other papers examine the effects on safety and quality of the built environmental and organizational climate. The issue also includes recommendations covering the breadth and depth of future research, additional features of the work environment deserving attention, practices for implementing and sustaining improvements in work environments, and the need for syntheses of practical implementation experience. The special issue follows AHRQ's funding of more than 22 studies beginning in 2002 to identify gaps in knowledge about the effects of health care working conditions on care quality. Single copies of the journal are available by sending an E-mail to

5. AHRQ Audio Podcast Discusses Medical Errors and Trainees, Asking Doctors Tough Questions, and the Chronically Uninsured

In this week's Healthcare 411 audio podcast, Hardeep Singh, M.D., of the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, discusses his research published in the October 22 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine about physicians-in-training and medical errors. He found that breakdowns in teamwork contributed to 70 percent of medical errors by medical trainees, and in over half of the medical error cases reviewed, he found a lack of supervision by a more experienced physician. In another interview, AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., provides advice to consumers about how to ask their doctors tough questions, such as getting a second opinion or obtaining copies of records. And a third story provides Medical Expenditures Panel Survey statistics about the more than 17 million Americans who have gone without health insurance for at least 4 consecutive years. Select to listen to the 9-minute program and select to read the transcript. To access any of AHRQ's podcasts, visit our Healthcare 411 series main page.

6. Third Radio Podcast on Health Insurance Choices

A recent Healthcare 411 Radiocast features the third of four radiocasts to promote the new AHRQ/America's Health Insurance Plans guide, "Questions and Answers about Health Insurance." This radiocast is for young adults who choose not to have health insurance because they say they never get sick. AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., explains that sports injuries, accidents, and possible pregnancies are good reasons to look into getting insured. Select to listen to the 2-minute radio program or select to read the transcript.

7. 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.

Yazdany J, Gillis ZJ, Trupin L, et al. Association of socioeconomic and demographic factors with utilization of rheumatology subspecialty care in systemic lupus erythematosus care. Arthritis Rheum 2007 May 15; 57(4):593-600. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Nalli GA, Scanlon DP, Libby D. Developing a performance-based incentive program for hospitals: a case study from Maine. Health Aff 2007 May-Jun; 26(3):817-24. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Graham J, Bennettt IM, Holmes WC, et al. Medication beliefs as mediators of the health literacy-antiretroviral adherence relationship in HIV-infected individuals. AIDS Behav 2007 May; 11(3):385-92. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Renner RM, Eden KB, Osterweil P, et al. Informational factors influencing patient's childbirth preferences after prior cesarean. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2007 May; 196(5):e14-e16. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Rye CB, Kimberly JR. The adoption of innovations by provider organizations in health care. Med Care Res Rev 2007 Jun; 64(3):235-78. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

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AHRQ Electronic Newsletter Contact Information

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Current as of October 2007


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