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March 14, 2003, Issue No. 92

AHRQ News and Numbers

Other than childbirth, diseases of the circulatory system are the most common reason for hospitalization for both women and men, followed by diseases of the respiratory, digestive, and musculoskeletal systems. [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, HCUP Fact Book No. 3, 2002.]

Today's Headlines:

  1. New AHRQ Web-based tool offers hospitals quick checkup on patient safety
  2. AHRQ study links secondhand smoke to tooth decay in children
  3. Four AHRQ-funded articles featured in Health Affairs theme issue on health care quality
  4. Second AHRQ Web-assisted audio conference on bioterrorism and health system preparedness set for April 15
  5. National Quality Forum meeting scheduled for May 15-16
  6. AHRQ Web-assisted audio conferences on health workforce shortages
  7. Joint Commission, National Quality Forum seek applicants for the 2003 John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety awards
  8. New AHRQ findings on ephedra add to evidence base on the dietary supplement
  9. New evidence report summary available on venous thromboembolism
  10. Highlights from the most recent edition of our monthly newsletter
  11. AHRQ in the professional literature

1.  New AHRQ Web-Based Tool Offers Hospitals Quick Checkup on Patient Safety

AHRQ has developed a new free Web-based tool that can help hospitals enhance their patient safety performance by quickly detecting potential medical errors in patients who have undergone medical or surgical care. Hospitals then investigate to determine whether the problems detected were caused by potentially preventable medical errors or have some other explanations. The Patient Safety Indicators are part of a major AHRQ program to improve the safety of patients in hospitals, outpatient care, and other medical settings. The Patient Safety Indicators tool contains a set of measures that use secondary diagnosis codes to detect 26 types of adverse events, such as complications of anesthesia, blood clots in the legs or lungs following surgery, fracture following surgery, and four types of birth-related injuries. Select to access the press release, and select to download the tool. It requires the use of SAS or SPSS software, which are commercially available statistical programs.

2.  AHRQ Study Links Secondhand Smoke to Tooth Decay in Children

A new AHRQ-funded study shows that young children who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a much higher rate of tooth decay than children who do not grow up around smokers. The study is the first in the United States to associate secondhand, or passive, smoking with tooth decay. The researchers found that children had an increased risk of tooth decay if they had high levels of cotinine, a by-product of nicotine that is consistent with secondhand smoke exposure. The study, "Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Risk of Caries," led by C. Andrew Aligne, M.D., of Pediathink, in Rochester, NY, who worked in conjunction with researchers from the University of Rochester and the Center for Child Health Research of the American Academy of Pediatrics, appears in the March 12 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The study has received coverage by CNN, Fox News, Reuters, CBS Radio Network, and other media outlets. Select to access the press release and the abstract of the study on PubMed®.

3.  Four AHRQ-Funded Articles Featured in Health Affairs Theme Issue on Health Care Quality

Four AHRQ-funded articles about different aspects of health care quality are featured in the March/April issue of Health Affairs. The articles examine a range of issues: hospital procedure volume used as a proxy for quality, patient safety indicators as a way to benchmark performance and target opportunities for improvement, the role of insurance coverage in explaining racial and ethnic disparities, and high-cost priority conditions identified as areas of focus for improving quality of care. Select to access the press release.

4.  Second AHRQ Web-Assisted Audio Conference on Bioterrorism and Health System Preparedness Set for April 15

Mark your calendars! AHRQ announces the second of five free Web-assisted audio conference calls on bioterrorism and health system preparedness. The second Web-assisted audio conference is scheduled for Tuesday, April 15, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., EDT, and will focus on disaster planning and readiness assessment. These 90-minute audio conferences are designed to share the latest health services research findings, promising practices, and other important information with State and local health officials and key health system decisionmakers. If you already registered for all five calls in the series, you do not need to register again.

5.  National Quality Forum Meeting Scheduled for May 15-16

AHRQ is helping to sponsor the National Quality Forum meeting on May 15-16 in Los Angeles. The meeting, Safer Practices for Better Healthcare: It's Time to Act, will include interactive sessions to give organizations the opportunity to devise tailor-made implementation strategies to reduce health care errors. Deadline to register is May 1.

6.  AHRQ Web-Assisted Audio Conferences on Health Workforce Shortages

AHRQ announces a new series of two free Web-assisted audio conference calls on "Health Workforce Shortages: Quality Concerns and Policy Options." These calls will be held Wednesday, April 23, and Wednesday, April 30. The April 23 call will focus on "The Nursing Crisis: Improving Job Satisfaction and Quality of Care." The April 30 call will focus on "Caregivers and Quality in Long Term Care." Each call will begin at 2:00 p.m. and run until 3:30 p.m., EDT.

7.  Joint Commission, National Quality Forum Seek Applicants for the 2003 John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety Awards

Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and the National Quality Forum are accepting applications for the John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety Awards, which are designed to recognize individuals and health care organizations that are making significant contributions to improving patient safety. The deadline for nominations is May 27. The 2003 awards will be presented at the NQF Annual Meeting on September 29-30, in Washington, DC.

8.  New AHRQ Findings on Ephedra Add to Evidence Base on the Dietary Supplement

New findings from an AHRQ evidence report, which are also synthesized in a March 26 JAMA article, are helping to add to the scientific evidence about ephedra, a dietary supplement that has garnered increased media attention since the February 17 death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler. On March 7, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson and FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., announced that FDA is proposing new labeling and manufacturing standards for all dietary supplements, including ephedra. The AHRQ evidence report, Ephedra and Ephedrine for Weight Loss and Athletic Performance Enhancement: Clinical Efficacy and Side Effects, was developed by AHRQ's Southern California Evidence-based Practice Center. It notes that ephedra and ephedrine sometimes are used for weight loss or enhanced athletic performance, but the efficacy and safety of these compounds are uncertain. Select to access the summary, and the FDA press release about the proposed labeling changes. Print copies of the AHRQ summary and full report are available by sending an E-mail to

9.  New Evidence Report Summary Available on Venous Thromboembolism

We issued the summary of a new evidence report, Diagnosis and Treatment of Deep Venous Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism, that was developed by AHRQ's Evidence-based Practice Center at the Johns Hopkins Evidence-based Practice Center in Baltimore. The report findings indicate that for treatment of deep venous thrombosis, low-molecular-weight heparin is more efficacious than unfractionated heparin for reducing thrombus extension and recurrence, with less risk of major bleeding and death. For treatment of pulmonary embolism, low-molecular-weight heparin is likely to be as effective and safe as unfractionated heparin. Select to access the summary. A print copy of the summary is available by sending an E-mail to

10.  Highlights From the Most Recent Edition of Our Monthly Newsletter

The new issue of Research Activities is in the mail. Among the key articles:

  • Almost one-third of depressed primary care patients reported either hazardous drinking, use of illicit drugs, or misuse of prescription drugs.

Just under one-third of depressed primary care patients misuse drugs or alcohol. Problem drinking, marijuana use, and the misuse of prescription sedatives and opioids (synthetic narcotics) are particularly common. Clinicians should broadly screen all depressed patients for substance misuse, including patients with only a few depressive symptoms who do not meet the criteria for depressive disorder.

Other articles are:

  • Prolonged bottle feeding of young children may lead to childhood obesity and iron deficiency anemia.
  • Researchers explore the most effective management of patients with chronic hepatitis C.
  • Researchers examine access to care and quality for Medicaid MCO enrollees who have disabilities.
  • Factors beyond private dental insurance coverage influence a person's use of dental care.

Select to access these articles and others.

11.  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.

Cherkin DC, Deyo RA, Sherman KJ, et al. Characteristics of visits to licensed acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and naturopathic physicians. J Am Board Fam Pract 2002 Nov-Dec; 15(6):463-72. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Korthuis PT, Asch S, Mancewicz M, et al. Measuring medication: Do interviews agree with medical record and pharmacy data? Med Care 2002 Dec; 40(12):1270-82. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Olsen IE, Richardson DK, Schmid CH, et al. Intersite differences in weight growth velocity of extremely premature infants. Pediatrics 2002 Dec 6; 110(6):1125-32. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Tsai AC, Lurie P, Sehgal AR. An outbreak of Web sites selling ciprofloxacin following an outbreak of anthrax by mail. Am J Med 2002 Oct 1; 113(5):424-7. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Neumann PJ, Levine BS. Do HEDIS measures reflect cost-effective practice? Am J Prev Med 2002 Nov; 23(4):276-289. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Contact Information

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Current as of March 2003


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