Late Breaking News
Progress Notes August 2010
- Categorized in: August 2010
PLANS TO DEVELOP A FULLY AUTOMATED ONLINE CLAIMS SYSTEM for handling veterans’ disability compensation claims was announced by VA last month. According to the agency, the system will be more than a simple digitization of existing paper-based claims. It is designed to substantially reduce processing time and increase accuracy while simplifying the way that veterans interact with the claims process. The new system will guide veterans through automated, program-assisted menus to capture the information and medical evidence that will drive faster claims decisions. In the initial configuration, VA estimates the new system may assist as many as 100,000 veterans. As part of the implementation of the new claims system, VA has awarded a $9.1 million development contract to Bethesda, MD-based IBM. The IBM team will work closely with VA developers and will implement the online application system by November, permitting veterans easier and faster access to VA and more accurate and quick claims processing for the initial set of qualifying conditions.
NEW INFORMATION ABOUT THE QUALITY OF CARE available in America’s outpatient and emergency departments, including how well hospitals care for patients with heart attacks and protect outpatients from surgical infections, has been added to the new HHS website HealthCare.gov. The updated information includes data on the rates of outpatient MRIs for lower back pain, outpatient re-tests after a screening mammogram, as well as two ratios that explain how frequently outpatient departments gave patients “double” computed tomography scans when a single scan may be all that is needed. The data also includes new measures that show whether outpatients who are treated for suspected heart attacks receive proven therapies that reduce mortality such as an aspirin at arrival, and how well outpatient surgical patients are protected from infection. Previously, HHS had provided data only about the quality of care provided to hospital inpatients. In addition to outpatient care measures, HHS had updated data for outcomes of inpatient hospital care. The update includes new 30-day mortality rates and 30-day readmissions rates for inpatients admitted with heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia. These rates encompass three full years of claims data (from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2009).
STATES, TERRITORIES, AND LARGE METROPOLITAN AREAS will receive grants totaling $390.5 million this month to help hospitals and other healthcare organizations strengthen the medical surge capability across the nation. The funds will be provided through HHS’s Hospital Preparedness Program. The grants enhance community resilience by increasing the ability of hospitals and healthcare facilities to respond to the public health and medical impacts of any emergency, such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks, or acts of terrorism. All states, territories, and the metro areas of New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles County, and Washington, DC will receive the 2010 grants. The funds will be used by state and local governments to boost the readiness of hospitals and other healthcare facilities in their jurisdictions by finalizing development or improving interoperable communication systems, systems to track available hospital beds, advance registration of volunteer health professionals, processes for hospital evacuations or sheltering-in-place, processes for fatality management, strengthening healthcare partnerships at the community level, and to strengthen hospital participation in statewide and regional exercise programs.
A NATIONAL PUBLIC SERVICE AD CAMPAIGN to promote recovery from mental health problems within specific ethnic communities was launched this month by SAMHSA. The PSA, created in collaboration with the Ad Council, is designed to educate and inspire young adults to talk openly about issues of mental health. The culturally-targeted PSAs seek to motivate societal change towards social acceptance and decrease negative attitudes that may surround mental illness. These PSAs are part of a larger multicultural public service effort designed to reach Hispanic, American Indian, Chinese American, and African American communities during National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This effort was done in consultation with SAMHSA’s National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health.
ALCOHOL DRINKING RATES AMONG AMERICAN INDIANS AND ALASKA NATIVE adults is significantly lower than the national average (43.9% versus 55.2%), according to a study released last month. However, the SAMHSA-sponsored study also shows that American Indian or Native Alaska adults have a rate of past month binge alcohol drinking (five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days) well above the national average (30.6% versus 24.5%). The level of past month illicit drug use was also found to be higher among American Indian or Alaska Native adults than the overall adult population (11.2% versus 7.9%). The study is one in a series designed to provide more details on substance abuse patterns and treatment needs existing within a wide range of population groups.