Hospital Ratings May Not Be True Quality Measure

From the Washington Post:

Conventional wisdom holds that one sure way to improve health-care quality is to measure it. A study being published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association comes to the unconventional conclusion that it’s not necessarily so.

The study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine found
that going to a hospital that scored well on Medicare-mandated quality measures did not significantly reduce a patient’s risk of dying.

Proposed Changes to JCAHO Emergency Management Standards

Proposed Changes to JCAHO Emergency Management Standards

JCAHO is seeking comments on proposed revisions to the Emergency Management Standards that would require organizations to establish a more rigorous emergency management plan in response to communitywide emergencies. The proposed standards revisions emphasize a scalable approach to emergency management. These revisions would establish specific operational requirements for planning a flexible response to emergencies that could affect a single organization, multiple organizations or an entire community or region.

The proposed revisions are applicable to 24/7 facility-based care settings. Thus, the field review seeks input on the proposed revisions from these healthcare facilities.

Proposed revisions to the Emergency Management Standards can be viewed at: http://www.jointcommission.org/AccreditationPrograms/Hospitals/Standards/FieldReview/em_stds_fr.htm Comments also can be made through January 19, 2007, by going to the same Web page.

Education About Fraud, Waste & Abuse

From the NY Times:

Starting Jan. 1, companies that do at least $5 million a year in Medicaid business must educate all employees and officers on how to detect fraud, waste and abuse. Moreover, health care providers must tell employees that if they report fraud, they will be protected against retaliation and may be entitled to a share of money recovered by the government.

Health care providers must also establish policies to make sure that their contractors investigate and report fraud. A large hospital system, whether run by a Fortune 500 company or a group of Roman Catholic nuns, typically has hundreds of contracts with doctors, billing agents and other vendors.

The new requirement will also apply to many pharmacies, health maintenance organizations, home care agencies, suppliers of medical equipment, physician groups and drug manufacturers.

The Joint Commission will now be officially called…

From Health Decisions:

Beginning in January, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations–for decades commonly referred to as “The Joint Commission”–plans to change its name to “The Joint Commission.”

A December 11 memo from JCAHO President Dennis O’Leary, MD, to all JCAHO employees reveals the name change plans. “This change is simply intended make our name more memorable than the current 18-syllable Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations,” reads O’Leary’s memo, which was obtained by Briefings on JCAHO, a newsletter published by HCPro Inc., which also publishes HealthLeaders.

Congress Eliminates Medicare Pay Cut to Doctors

Despite the predictions that it wasn’t going to happen, House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise that rescinded the scheduled 5% Medicare rate cut for physicians in 2007 and established a 1.5% incentive increase – beginning July 2007 – for doctors who report on quality measures. The measure also creates a fund to stabilize physician payments in 2008. On average, ED physicians will receive a 7% increase for 2007. The House passed the measure on December 8 with the Senate following suit on December 9. The bill now goes to the White House, where President Bush is expected to sign it.

Watchful Waiting

From CNN.com

Sometimes, his doctor prescribes antibiotics. But in many cases, his parents have waited it out, using Tylenol, warm baths and some extra tender loving care to ease him through it. And he recovers on his own.

More than ever, many parents and doctors these days are taking a “watchful waiting” approach with children older than 2 who have ear infections, the most common childhood illness. Many are forgoing antibiotics because of worries about drug resistance and evidence that most ear infections will heal on their own.

“My experience is that parents are often the driving motive behind not giving antibiotics. Parents are very, very concerned about the use of antibiotics,” said Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, director of pediatric otolaryngology at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, and a consultant who helped write national guidelines on antibiotic use for ear infections.

2007 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule

December 11, 2006 — Late in the evening on Saturday, December 9, the U.S. Senate passed the “Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006” (H.R. 6111) by a vote of 79-9 with 12 not voting.  The legislation, passed by the House on December 8 contains a fix of the 2007 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, among other Medicare items.  The bill, sponsored by current House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA), tied medicare items to another legislative vehicle not related to health care.  The next step for this bill is forwarding to the President’s desk where it is expected to be signed into law.