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January 22, 2008, Issue No. 248

AHRQ News and Numbers

Nearly 1 million Americans receive medical care for shingles or its complications. Shingles comes from an infection with varicella-zoster virus—the same virus that cases chicken pox—and can result in burning or shooting pain, tingling, or itching. [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, MEPS Statistical Brief #194: Average Annual Health Care Use and Expenses for Shingles among the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2003-2005.]

Today's Headlines

  1. AHRQ releases consumer financial incentives guide for employers and other health care purchasers
  2. Physicians want to learn from medical mistakes by saying current error-reporting systems are inadequate
  3. AHRQ's 2008 Annual Conference set for September 7-10
  4. AHRQ director helps consumers navigate the health care system in a new advice column on the Web
  5. AHRQ launches new consumer-oriented video on personal health records
  6. Podcast on health screenings and medication safety
  7. New evidence report on impact of gene expression profiling tests for breast cancer finds research lacking
  8. 2006 HCUP data available
  9. Do you know how AHRQ's research is being used?
  10. AHRQ in the professional literature

1. AHRQ Releases Consumer Financial Incentives Guide for Employers and Other Health Care Purchasers

AHRQ released Consumer Financial Incentives: A Decision Guide for Purchasers, a new guide to help employers, private health plans, the federal government, and state Medicaid agencies as they consider consumer financial incentives as part of an overarching strategy to improve health care quality and get better value for health services. Consumer financial incentives are either a reward offered to influence patients to behave in a particular way, or less often, a penalty for failing to do so. Health care purchasers hope that by using financial incentives patients are encouraged to take actions that may improve treatment results, such as selecting a high-quality physician, reducing or eliminating high-risk behaviors and using preventive services, or reduce costs by eliminating unnecessary emergency room visits and decreasing preventable hospitalizations. The decision guide consists of an evidence summary organized around a series of 21 questions that purchasers need to consider when implementing consumer financial incentives. In addition to a summary of the evidence base, the guide includes examples of consumer financial incentives currently being offered, criteria for selecting performance measures, elements to enable patients to participate in medical decision making and in managing their chronic diseases, and characteristics that increase the likelihood that a consumer will respond to financial incentives. Select to read our press release and select to access the decision guide. A print copy is available by sending an E-mail to

2. Physicians Want to Learn from Medical Mistakes But Say Current Error-Reporting Systems are Inadequate

The perception that U.S. doctors are unwilling to report medical errors and learn how to prevent them is untrue, according to a new AHRQ-funded study. Most doctors think that current systems to report and share information about errors are inadequate; they rely on informal discussions with their colleagues. As a result, important information about medical errors and how to prevent them is not shared with the hospital or the health care organization. The study, "Lost Opportunities: How Physicians Communicate About Medical Errors," was published in the January/February issue of Health Affairs. Select to read our press release and select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

3. AHRQ's 2008 Annual Conference Set for September 7-10

Save the date! AHRQ's 2008 Annual Conference will be held September 7-10 in Bethesda, MD, at the North Bethesda Marriott. The conference will feature exciting opportunities to learn about AHRQ's latest research aimed at improving quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of care. Conference sessions will feature leading experts involved in AHRQ-sponsored research and implementation projects. Information regarding registration and hotel accommodations will be announced shortly.

4. AHRQ Director Helps Consumers Navigate the Health Care System in a New Advice Column on the Web

AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., offers advice to consumers in new, brief, easy-to-understand columns. The biweekly columns will help consumers better navigate the health care system. Select to read Dr. Clancy's advice columns.

5. AHRQ Launches New Consumer-Oriented Video on Personal Health Records

AHRQ has launched a new consumer-oriented video on keeping a personal health record. "The Importance of Keeping a Personal Medical Record," features Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., Director of AHRQ; Ronald Stock, M.D., Medical Director of Geriatrics and Care Coordination Services, PeaceHealth Oregon Region; and David Lansky, Ph.D., Senior Director of the Health Program and Executive Director of the Personal Health Technology Initiative, Markle Foundation. Experts discuss what information you need; how to gather the information; what works best—a notebook, a computer program, or a Web-based health record; and how patients can become more engaged in their health care by maintaining a personal health record. Healthology will distribute the videos to their network of 4,500+ Web sites. These include media sites, such as CNN and ABC News, as well as disease specific sites, professional organization sites, hospital sites, patient advocacy sites, internet service providers, non-profits, government and educational sites, and others.

6. Podcast on Health Screenings and Medication Safety

This week's Healthcare 411 podcast features AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., offering consumers tips on medication safety. Colonoscopy screening trends for older Americans and the Task Force's recommendation against screening for carotid artery stenosis in people with no symptoms also are featured. This podcast was distributed to our 221 partnership organizations, including the American Health Quality Association and the Chicago Patient Safety Forum. Shorter versions of these stories will also air on 125 radio stations nationwide. Select to listen to the podcast or select to read the transcript.

7. New Evidence Report on Impact of Gene Expression Profiling Tests for Breast Cancer Finds Research Lacking

AHRQ released a new evidence report that finds that more research is needed to evaluate the clinical benefits, harms, and cost-effectiveness of gene expression profiling (GEP) tests, which have the potential to more accurately predict risk of recurrence of breast cancer compared to conventional clinical risk factors. Studies are also needed to investigate the stability of the predictive value of gene markers over populations with different genetic backgrounds. The report was prepared by AHRQ's Johns Hopkins University Evidence-based Practice Center. Select to review the report. A print copy is available by sending an E-mail to

8. 2006 HCUP Data Available

Select HCUP statewide databases from calendar year 2006 are now available for purchase, including ten State Inpatient Databases: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia; four State Ambulatory Surgery Databases: Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, and New Jersey; and three State Emergency Department Databases: Arizona, Iowa, and New Jersey. In addition, several 2005 HCUP databases were recently released, including: Statewide Inpatient Databases: Hawaii, Kentucky, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, and South Carolina; Statewide Ambulatory Surgery Databases: Kentucky, Nebraska, and South Carolina; Statewide Emergency Department Databases: Hawaii, Nebraska, and South Carolina. These databases are available through the HCUP Central Distributor. Visit the HCUP-US Web site for more information.

9. Do You Know How AHRQ's Research Is Being Used?

We are always looking for ways in which AHRQ-funded research, products, and tools have changed people's lives, influenced clinical practice, improved policies, and affected patient outcomes. These impact case studies describe AHRQ research findings in action. These case studies are used in testimony, budget documents, and speeches. We would like to know if you are aware of any impact your AHRQ-funded research has had on health care policy, clinical practice, or patient outcomes. Contact AHRQ's Impact Case Studies Program at or (301) 427-1243 with your impact stories.

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.

Carroll KN, Gebretsadik T, Griffin MR, et al. Maternal asthma and maternal smoking are associated with increased risk of bronchiolitis during infancy. Pediatrics 2007 Jun; 119(6):1104-12. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Mercer SL, De Vinney BJ, Fine LJ, Green LW, Dougherty D. Study designs for effectiveness and translation research: identifying trade-offs. Am J Prev Med 2007 Aug; 33(2):139-54. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Auble TE, Hsieh M, McCausland JB, et al. Comparison of four clinical prediction rules for estimating risk in heart failure. Ann Emerg Med 2007 Aug; 50(2):e1-e2. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Raebel MA, Carroll NM, Kelleher JA, et al. Randomized trial to improve prescribing safety during pregnancy. J Am Med Inform Assoc 2007 Jul-Aug; 14(4):440-50. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Raman G, Tatsioni A, Chung M, et al. Heterogeneity and lack of good quality studies limit association between folate, vitamins B-7 and B-12, and cognitive function. J Nutr 2007 Jul; 137(7):1789-94. Select to access the abstract in PubMed®.

Contact Information

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Current as of January 2008


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