News

SPOTLIGHT: Medical journal claims Merck concealed data

The editors of the New England Journal of Medicine ran an unusual "statement of concern" on Thursday accusing senior scientists at Merck of intentionally concealing data from a study that showed serious cardiovascular risks associated with Vioxx. Article

ALSO NOTED: Mass. General, Brigham and Women's post profits; Westchester Medical Center turns things around; and much more...

> Partners Healthcare said Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's Hospital posted sharp jumps in profit this year. Article

> New York's Westchester Medical Center says it has turned a surplus after years of struggling. …

HHS to ban South Shore from federal programs

HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson said he plans to ban South Shore Memorial Hospital in Miami from participating in federal programs. Levinson's office issued a rare letter of exclusion prohibiting the hospital from participating in Medicare, Medicaid and all other federal health programs. The regulator said the hospital has failed to live up to a corporate integrity agreement it signed resolving a 2002 Medicare fraud case. The punishment of exclusion, while always available to …

AMA warns on reimbursement cuts

The American Medical Association said it will fight efforts to create a pay-for-performance reimbursement system for Medicare unless Congress agrees to a permanent freeze in government-set payment cuts for physicians. On Monday, AMA CEO Michael Maves sent a letter to CMS administrator Mark McClellan warning that the doctors' lobby is prepared to go to war over the contentious issue if its demands are not met. As part of the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, Congress scheduled a 4.3 percent …

Spending should focus on quality, not R&D

A new study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University argues that more should be spent on improving care quality and less on developing new drugs. VCU professor Dr. Stephen Woolf writes in the Annals of Family Medicine that more lives would be saved if the money went directly to programs that work to improve care quality processes. "For every dollar Congress gives the National Institutes of Health to develop blockbuster treatments, it spends only one penny to ensure that …

HIT: CPOE study draws heavy criticism

A study in the December issue of Pediatrics linking the introduction of a CPOE systems with an increase in mortality rates at Pittsburgh Children's Hospital is getting considerable attention. Researchers uncovered what appeared to be a significant spike in mortality rates for patients at the hospital, which uses Cerner's Millennium CPOE software. It appears that the process, which was used for CPOE in the intensive care unit (ICU), had some serious flaws; but it also …

FDA examines options for drug alert system

Faced with heavy criticism over its handling of a series of drug safety crises in the past year, the FDA is exploring ways in which it can more effectively warn physicians and the public about prescription drug safety problems. The agency is holding a two-day hearing this week to look at ways which technology and other measures can be used to track potential problems and spread the word about new information regarding risks.

- see this article from the Financial Times

SPOTLIGHT: Johns Hopkins using robotics in drug prep

Johns Hopkins will use software developed by ForHealth Technologies to automatically prepare injectable medications. The IntelliFill system uses robots to precisely measure drug ingredients and prepare syringes, improving efficiency. Some critics are not entirely sold on the worth of robots. Supporters argue that, in theory, the technology will also cut down on medication errors. Robots are becoming increasingly common in the automatic filling of drugs in pill form in hospitals and pharmacies. Article

ALSO NOTED: AHA wants more protections to promote HIT adoption;Sierra announces stock split; and much more...

> The American Hospital Association is lobbying for more protections from Congress to allow hospitals to donate computer hardware and software to doctors. Release

> Boston Scientific said it is recalling its Flextome angioplasty balloon. Article

> USA …

Hospital retreats from Emergisoft's EMR

Following yesterday's news that a CPOE system from Cerner was tied to an increase in patient mortality rates, there was more bad news for electronic medical record vendors today. Arizona-based Navapache Regional Medical Center said it will not continue a trial of the Emergisoft EMR it started last December in its emergency department. The hospital is going back to scanning paper records. That, the hospital says, is as electronic as it wants to be for now. "Emergisoft's weak point was its …

J&J unlikely to match Boston Scientific offer

Johnson & Johnson will probably not match Boston Scientific's $25 billion offer for Guidant. Media reports suggest that the Guidant board is leaning toward accepting the Boston Scientific bid. The move, which took Wall Street by surprise, has dramatically improved Boston Scientific's standing among analysts. The device maker's stock has languished over the past year, despite the success of its Taxus stent.

- see this article from the AP

Simulation suggests avian pandemic could be controlled

Researchers working on the US government's Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) say that an influenza pandemic could probably be contained if the right public health measures are in place. A computer simulation of an outbreak of the H5N1 virus in Southeast Asia found that aggressive use of antiviral drugs, quarantines and other public health measures would probably be effective in limiting an outbreak. The joint Anglo-American project relies on models developed in the UK in …

IBM open-source strategy examined

This week's issue of Newsweek examines the potential impact of IBM's decision to allow companies developing applications for health and education (think EMR systems) complete and unfettered access to its intellectual property. The logic behind the strategy is straightforward: Holding on to all of those patents does the company little good; by releasing them to the world at large, IBM stands to generate more work for its consulting business. This is particularly true in …

Report calls for better disease surveillance systems

Trust for America's Health released a new report which argues that the government must do more to improve preparedness for outbreaks of disease and other health emergencies. The nonpartisan group recommends Washington put an emphasis on developing new IT systems which watch for potential epidemics. The report grades states by their preparedness levels. Ranking at the top of the list: Delaware, South Carolina and Virgina. At the bottom: Alabama, Iowa, Alaska and New Hampshire.

- see …

SPOTLIGHT: Study backs at-home hospitalizations

A study of 455 elderly patients showed that hospital-type care in the home was cheaper, more effective in terms of lower length of stay and favored by over 60 percent of the patients. "The hospital-at-home care model is feasible, safe and efficacious for certain older patients with selected acute medical illnesses who require acute hospital-level care," wrote the authors, led by Johns Hopkins' Bruce Leff in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Report (pdf)

ALSO NOTED: Cerner study backs CPOE safety; American Healthways moves to larger facility; and much more...

> A day after a major study in the journal Pediatrics found an increase in mortality rates associated with one of its CPOE implementation, a dueling study sponsored by Cerner finds the exact opposite. Release

> Disease management specialist American Healthways says it has outgrown its existing headquarters and is moving to a larger …

Unexpected mortality increase after CPOE implementation

A new article in the December issue of Pediatrics finds that mortality rates at a major academic hospital more than doubled last year after the implementation of a commercial computerized physician order entry (CPOE) system. The study, which was conducted at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, found mortality increased from to 2.8 percent to 6.57 percent. Researchers attribute the jump to the problems doctors and staff had in adjusting to the new system. Criticism of the steep …

Chutes & Ladders: Scrushy resigns from HealthSouth board

Ex-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy said he is resigning his position on the board of his old company. Last fall, the executive was acquitted on federal charges related to the massive accounting fraud at the Birmingham, AL-based hospital chain. After the trial Scrushy announced plans to win his old job back, despite warnings that a comeback was probably impossible. The new HealthSouth board was in no mood to welcome him back and will be relieved at his resignation. Scrushy remains under …

HIT: Emergency department system merges tracking, EMRs

Mission Viejo, CA-based Patient Care Technology Systems said it has released a new version of its Amelior ED patient care system for emergency departments. The system allows patient tracking using sensors and a combination of advanced technologies including active RFID, infrared and ultrawideband. Patients, staff and equipment wear wireless badges, allowing their movements throughout the department to be monitored. The software automatically inputs updates to the patient's medical record. …

University of Chicago plans $500M expansion

The University of Chicago Hospitals plans to spend $500 million to build a new hospital. The new facility will be located close to the existing Hyde Park location. The Chicago Tribune reports that the new facility will be six to 12 floors with 300 in-patient rooms. The project is one of a series of similar expansions underway in downtown Chicago. Rush University Medical Center is building on the West Side. Northwestern Memorial has a women's hospital in development as well. …