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November 14, 2007, Issue No. 244

AHRQ News and Numbers

Only 45 percent of American youths—those who are 20 or younger—visit a dentist once a year or more. Results show only a slightly higher percentage of youths got annual dental care in 2004 than in 1996, when 42 percent of children got at least one yearly exam. [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, MEPS Chartbook #17: Dental Use, Expenses, Dental Coverage, and Changes, 1996 and 2004.]

Today's Headlines

  1. AHRQ director testifies on Agency's role in health IT and improving the quality of care for underserved populations
  2. New report finds common medications provide equal blood pressure control
  3. AHRQ releases new DVD about designing hospitals for safety and quality
  4. AHRQ-sponsored tools help improve health care delivery eEfficiency
  5. University of Minnesota/Westat awarded contract for continuation of Practice-Based Research Network (PBRN) Resource Center
  6. Podcast discusses asthma and minorities, the advantages of bypass surgery, and how death rates for hospitalized patients are on the decline
  7. Fourth radiocast on health insurance choices
  8. AHRQ in the professional literature

1. AHRQ Director Testifies on Agency's Role in Health IT and Improving the Quality of Care for Underserved Populations

AHRQ's initiative on health IT is a key element of the nation's 10-year strategy to bring health care into the 21st century by advancing the use of information technology, AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., told members of the House Subcommittee on Management, Organization, and Procurement on November 1. Dr. Clancy testified about the role AHRQ plays in health IT and improving the quality of health care for underserved populations through the funding of more than $166 million in grants and contracts that support and stimulate investment in health IT in 41 States, especially in rural and underserved areas. Through these projects, AHRQ and its partners will: 1) identify challenges to health IT adoption and use as well as solutions and best practices for making health IT work; and 2) encourage viewing health IT as a normal cost of doing business and using market-based tools that will help hospitals and clinicians successfully incorporate new IT. Select to view Dr. Clancy's complete testimony.

2. New Report Finds Common Medications Provide Equal Blood Pressure Control

AHRQ released a report that shows two common classes of blood pressure medications—angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)—are equally effective at controlling high blood pressure. The review also found that ACEIs are slightly more likely than ARBs to cause a harmless but persistent dry cough. The new report, Comparative Effectiveness of Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACEIs) and Angiotensin II Receptor Antagonists (ARBs) for Treating Essential Hypertension, completed by AHRQ's Duke University Evidence-based Practice Center, compared the benefits and harms of ACEIs and ARBs. Both classes of drugs control blood pressure effectively by targeting a key hormone that helps regulate blood pressure. The AHRQ-funded study did not include other blood pressure treatments such as diuretics or beta blockers. Select to read our press release and select to access the report.

3. AHRQ Releases New DVD about Designing Hospitals for Safety and Quality

AHRQ released a new DVD that provides evidence to help hospital officials and architects design safer, high-quality hospitals. This new two-part DVD illustrates the value of evidence-based hospital design—a phrase used to describe how the physical design of health care environments affects patients and staff. The first part entitled, Transforming Hospitals: Designing for Safety and Quality, gives a brief 13-minute overview and provides current examples of how evidence-based hospital design increases patient safety, satisfaction, and quality of care that results in higher staff satisfaction, recruitment, and retention. The second part, Transforming Hospitals: Three Case Studies, is 36 minutes and features the experiences of three hospitals that incorporated principles of evidence-based hospital design into new construction and renovation projects. These facilities include Griffin Hospital, Derby, CT; Holy Cross Hospital, Silver Spring, MD; and Woodwinds Health Campus, Woodbury, MN. With an estimated $250 billion construction boom in the hospital industry over the next 10 years, the DVD is expected to be of significant interest to hospital executives and architects planning or implementing construction and renovation projects. Select for more information on Transforming Hospitals: Designing for Safety and Quality or AHRQ's research in evidence-based hospital design. Copies of the DVD can be obtained by sending an E-mail to

4. AHRQ-Sponsored Tools Help Improve Health Care Delivery Efficiency

With support from AHRQ, Denver Health, the safety net system for Denver, Colorado, has applied Lean techniques to redesign processes throughout its delivery system. According to Denver Health, it has saved at least $2.7 million to date by implementing the transformation. Lean is a business system for organizing and managing product development, operations, suppliers, and customer relations. The objectives of the 18-month project included developing structures and processes capable of coordinating and aligning approximately 50 rapid-cycle process improvement projects, developing evaluation methods, providing timely feedback to participants, and assessing the overall contribution of the projects to hospital improvement as well as draw lessons for future efforts at Denver Health and elsewhere. Select to read the summary for further details.

5. University of Minnesota/Westat Awarded Contract for Continuation of Practice-Based Research Network (PBRN) Resource Center

AHRQ has selected the University of Minnesota, in partnership with Westat, to continue and further develop its national resource center for primary care practice-based research networks (PBRNs). Under this five-year contract, a team led by Dr. Kevin Peterson, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, will continue to oversee a national registry of primary care PBRNs that are active in the U.S., provide consultative and technical assistance to PBRNs, manage an extranet and public Web site in support of PBRN efforts, and facilitate ongoing group learning experiences for PBRN members. Select for more information about AHRQ's support of PBRN activities.

6. Podcast Discusses Asthma and Minorities, the Advantages of Bypass Surgery, and How Death Rates for Hospitalized Patients Are on the Decline

In this week's Healthcare 411 audio podcast, the lead story is about asthma and minorities. In an interview addressing consumers, AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., talks about the health care disparities and how rates of asthma are higher among minorities. Our second story features AHRQ health services researcher and trained cardiac-thoracic surgeon Art Sedrakyan, M.D., and his review that found that among patients with coronary artery disease, bypass surgery offers important advantages over balloon angioplasty performed with or without a stent. According to the review, patients who chose bypass surgery not only had greater relief from chest pain, but they were also less likely to need repeat procedures. A third story provides HCUP data revealing that fewer people are dying in hospitals during treatment for serious conditions like heart attacks and major surgeries like heart bypass. Select to listen to the audio podcast. Select to read the transcript. To access any of AHRQ's podcasts, visit our Healthcare 411 series main page.

7. Fourth Radiocast on Health Insurance Choices

A recent Healthcare 411 Radiocast features the last of four radiocasts to promote the new guide "Questions and Answers about Health Insurance." This radiocast discusses the growing field of long-term health insurance. Dispelling the myth that long-term health care is only for the elderly, this segment talks about how younger people recovering from serious illnesses or injuries can use this insurance too. Select to listen to the 2-minute radio program or select to read the transcript.

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.

Dailey AB, Kasl SV, Holford TR, et al. Perceived racial discrimination and nonadherence to screening mammography guidelines: results from the Race Differences in the Screening Mammography Process study. Am J Epidemiol 2007 Jun 1; 165(11):1287-95. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

Devine EB, Wilson-Norton JL, Lawless NM, et al. Characterization of prescribing errors in an internal medicine clinic. Am J Health Syst Pharm 2007 May 15; 64(10):1065-70. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

Young GJ, Meterko M, Beckman H, et al. Effects of paying physicians based on their relative performance for quality. J Gen Intern Med 2007 Jun; 22(6):872-6. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

Saag K. Mend the mind, but mind the bones! Balancing benefits and potential skeletal risks of serotonin reuptake inibitors. Arch Intern Med 2007 Jun 25; 167(12):1231-2. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

Eary RL, Bryant Borders AE, Handler A, et al. AZT availability in Illinois birthing hospitals: is the perinatal HIV prevention safety net in place? Matern Child Health J 2007 Jul; 11(4):313-8. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

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Current as of November 2007


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