KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Issues In Health Delivery: Hospital-Spread Infections; Finger-Prick Blood Tests For Diabetes; Medicare Spent Millions On Unnecessary Stents

News outlets report on a variety of issues and developments related to quality of care and health delivery systems.

The Associated Press: The University of Maryland Medical Center is cracking down on hospital-spread infections, "one of the nation's leading causes of preventable death, claiming an estimated 99,000 lives a year." The hospital employs infection preventionists, "part of an evolution under way as hospitals are pushed to slash those rates or lose lucrative Medicare dollars" who check "for infection-control steps, looking to identify the inevitable spots where fast-paced care can allow the bugs an entry. Doctors and nurses are under orders to heed their advice."

"The program is unusual. There are only about 8,000 to 10,000 infection preventionists nationwide … But with some other steps, it's starting to pay off: This surgical ICU has gone 24 weeks without a single case of one of the most insidious hospital infections, where bacteria infiltrate the bloodstream through that easy-to-contaminate IV catheter called a central line. Hospital-wide, those central line infections have dropped 70 percent in the past year" (Neergaard, 12/7).

The Washington Post: "Federal health officials are investigating the use of finger-prick blood tests to screen Americans for diabetes, one of the nation's fastest-growing and most serious public health problems. The quick tests were approved to monitor patients, and some may be far less accurate for diagnosing the ailment, erroneously alarming people that they have the incurable, life-threatening disease or falsely lulling others into thinking they are healthy, delaying care that could prevent serious complications" (Stein, 12/7).

The Associated Press/ "A Senate investigation found that Medicare spent millions of dollars for stents implanted by a Maryland doctor accused of putting them in patients who didn't need them, according to a report released Monday." The "questionable implantations cost the Medicare program $3.8 million between 2007 and 2009," and Senator Max Baucus, chair of the committee that released the report, "said the case could be a sign of a larger national trend of wasteful medical device use" (12/6).

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