Late Breaking News
Progress Notes May 2010
- Categorized in: May 2010
RECOVERY ACT FUNDING IS BEING USED TO HIRE NEW VA EMPLOYEES, most notably in VA benefits offices, which are backlogged with hundreds of thousands of benefits claims. The Recovery Act provided $150 million for the program to hire and train the new staffers. VA has hired 500 new staff members as permanent employees. And while Recovery Act funding for the temporary employees will expire in September 2010, the 2011 president’s budget includes funds to retain or replace these employees on a permanent basis and to hire more than 2,000 additional new processors. According to VA, the new hires do not directly decide veterans’ claims, but they are involved in general office administrative work supporting the professional adjudicators making compensation or pension decisions or processing changes in veterans’ benefits. This frees the more highly trained personnel to spend more time on their core activities.
VA INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY CUTS COSTS OF HEALTHCARE, according to a study published last month in the public health journal Health Affairs. The study, which covered a 10-year period between 1997 and 2007, found that VA’s health IT investment during the period was $4 billion, while savings were more than $7 billion. The authors noted that most of the savings are in areas that also improve quality, safety, and patient satisfaction. More than 86% of the savings were due to eliminating duplicated tests and reducing medical errors. The rest of the savings came from lower operating expenses and reduced workload. The study also looked at the success in meeting clinical guidelines through the use of electronic health records and computerized physician alerts. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes, which impacts about 25% of VA patients, was a focus of the study. VA patients with diabetes had better glucose testing compliance and control, more controlled cholesterol, and more timely retinal exams compared to Medicare’s private-sector benchmark. VA averaged about 15 percentage points higher than the private sector on preventive care for patients with diabetes. The study authors are associated with the Center for Information Technology Leadership, a research organization in Charlestown, MA, which is focused on guiding the healthcare community in making informed strategic IT investment decisions.
DR RAUL PEREA-HENZE WAS SWORN IN LAST MONTH as the assistant secretary for policy and planning for VA, a key post in the department’s transformation to provide 21st century service to our nation’s veterans. A physician with a master’s degree in public health, Perea-Henze has worked in both the public and private sectors for nearly 25 years. VA’s Office of Policy and Planning develops policy and conducts strategic planning for VA. It coordinates efforts involving transformation, innovation, and strategic management and also leads the department’s efforts on VA/DoD collaboration. In addition, it serves as VA’s focal point for data and analysis, conducting program evaluations and surveys of veterans, and managing the availability of official data. Perea-Henze’s nearly 25 years of experience in strategy and planning have included serving as a senior executive at Merck and Co and at Pfizer. He was deputy assistant secretary for administration at the Commerce Department, a White House fellow and the chief of staff for the under secretary for international trade at the Commerce Department.
THE NEW CHIEF OF THE GENOME TECHNOLOGY BRANCH OF NHGRI was announced last month as Lawrence Brody, PhD. The branch is recognized for developing innovative methods and approaches to advance our understanding about the structure and function of genomes. About 100 staff members work in GTB research groups. They engage in a wide range of genomic studies, including large-scale genome sequencing, disease gene identification, bioinformatics, and developmental genomics. The branch also focuses on developing and improving computational methods for analyzing the complex datasets being generated by whole-genome studies. Together, they are actively studying the genetic contributions to common conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, cancers, and neural tube defects, as well as to rare disorders, such as hereditary deafness, progeria and peripheral neuropathies. Brody has headed GTB’s Molecular Pathogenesis Section and has made key discoveries regarding the genetics of breast cancer and neural tube defects. Brody also serves as chief scientific officer of the Center for Inherited Disease Research, an NHGRI-affiliated facility operated by Johns Hopkins University. The center provides genotyping and statistical genetics services for investigators seeking to identify genes that contribute to human disease.
NIH DIRECTOR FRANCIS COLLINS, MD, PHD, WAS THE RECIPIENT of the 10th annual Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research for his leading role in mapping the human genome. While accepting the honor, Collins declined his portion of the $500,000 prize in order to comply with government ethics rules. Collins shared the honor with co-recipients Eric Lander, PhD, director of the Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, and David Botstein, PhD, director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University. Collectively, the work of Collins, Lander, and Botstein has helped unlock the human genome, paving the way for easier identification and study of genes associated with common diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. The Albany Medical Center Prize, often called “America’s Nobel,” was established in 2000 by the late Morris “Marty” Silverman to honor scientists whose work has translated from the bench to the bedside resulting in better outcomes for patients.