March 8, 2013
By Allison Cohen*
Sequestration Cuts Will Affect Cutting Edge Research
CNN (3/6) reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will lose $1.6 billion from its $31 billion budget for the fiscal year that ends this September because of sequestration. These cuts threaten groundbreaking research, including projects scoring as high as the seventh percentile in NIH peer reviews. For example, research to produce a synthetic version of the blood thinner heparin at a University of North Carolina lab may lose its NIH funding despite the high level of demand for the drug and difficulties the United States has had satisfying this demand. NIH Director Francis Collins estimates that the cuts will also result in 20,000 researchers and technicians losing jobs.
EHR Use in Medical Student Education: Benefits and Challenges
AAFP News (3/6) reports that both successes and obstacles associated with medical students using electronic health records (EHRs) have become more apparent as more students gain access during clinical clerkships. Student access allows participation in patient care and helps reduce the learning curve when students subsequently enter into residency programs. Nearly all medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education allow student access to EHRs, but there is significant variation in the level of student access and interaction with the records. Barriers, including Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations, the potential for Medicare fraud, and the failure of many affiliated hospitals and clinics to invest in student modules for their EHRs remain, despite the call for earlier and increased use.
Despite Hospital Progress Toward Meaningful Use of EHRs, Healthcare Reforms will Present New Challenges
InformationWeek (3/5) reports that the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society annual survey indicates that hospitals are making progress toward meaningful use of electronic records. Of the chief information officers surveyed, 66% said their organizations had qualified for Meaningful Use Stage 1 and 75% said they plan on attesting for Stage 2 in 2014. Healthcare reforms, including creating accountable care organizations and payment reform, have been identified as potential challenges.
MedPac Continues to Debate Medicare Readmissions Policy
Congressional Quarterly (3/7) reports that the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPac) continued to discuss ways to refine and adjust Medicare readmissions policy. MedPac staff identified problems with the readmissions penalty policy, including the fact that the percent of the penalty does not change even if hospital industry performance improves in readmissions. Also, the policy does not account for ways that the socioeconomic status of patients served may affect readmissions rates. Commissioners also considered whether it would be better to take all medical conditions into consideration, rather than only the three conditions currently used, when calculating readmissions rates over a three-year period.
*We would like to thank Allison Cohen, Esquire (Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC), for providing this week's update.