Tag Archives: national public radio

Medical groups voluntarily tighten ethics rules

Writing for NPR’s health blog, Maggie Mertens reports that while recently passed reform legislation includes the “Physician Payments Sunshine Act” (PDF) that will require companies to report any payments or gifts to physicians over $10 in value starting in 2012 (and reported and made available in a public database in 2013), some groups are getting a jump on the rules and voluntarily tightening their own conflict of interest policies.

Take, for instance, the recent decision by a bunch of medical specialty groups to stop taking industry money when coming up with guidelines for treatment. The Council of Medical Specialty Sciences, representing groups like the American College of Physicians, the American College of Cardiology and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, unveiled new rules on conflicts of interest last week. Thirteen of the member groups have adopted them so far, with the others saying they aren’t far behind. The rules also require that all funding from pharmaceutical and device-making companies to board members or groups will be publicly disclosed. Swag at medical conferences becomes a no-no, although big drugmakers had said a few years back they were going to stop the giveaways of medicine-branded pens, logoed tote bags and that sort of thing anyway.

For a discussion of the challenges reporters face when investigating conflicts of interest, read Elizabeth Bahm’s AHCJ article about a related panel at the recent Health Journalism 2010 conference, and this related article by John Fauber.

Hensley explores HIT-related privacy breaches

NPR health blogger Scott Hensley writes that the HHS’ running list of “breaches of unsecured protected health information affecting 500 or more individuals” reads like a sort of police blotter for health wonks, and explores a few of the more interesting cases.

Related: FDA committee recommends anonymous HIT error database

As expected, the FDA’s Health IT Policy Committee endorsed a database to confidentially record reports of HIT-related errors. A few months, another committee and the Office of the National Coordinator still sit between the recommendations and action.

Fluportal.org: Postmortem of a temporary resource

Fluportal.org, a Corporation for Public Broadcasting-funded site built to help public media cover H1N1 and related issues, has completed its grant and will stop updating at the end of this month.

As a fitting capstone to a very well-executed and valuable resource, the staff has posted an exhaustive, honest review of what the site did, where things went right and where they went wrong. It’s a lengthy read, but one that gives insight into how best to organize and execute a health-related, issue-oriented Web resource.

Other resources on the site look into health reporting and how to communicate information about H1N1 to the public:

Comments invited on latest draft of DSM

A new version of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has come out every decade or so (it varies widely) since 1952. dsm-5It hasn’t substantially changed since 1994, but the next revision is slated to come out in 2013. It’s a pretty big event, as the book’s diagnostic criteria are used around the world to determine who is diagnosed with mental disorders.

With the release of the new version, lines may shift and folks who were diagnosed with mental disorders may find themselves “undiagnosed.” Others will have labels changed and gain labels they didn’t have before.

The latest draft proposal of the May 2013 revisions, upon which public comment will be accepted until April 20, 2010, was posted on Feb. 9. APA workgroups will review the comments and begin trials soon after. Benedict Carey rounded up and evaluated some of the biggest proposed changes for The New York Times. In addition to bipolar disorders in children and autism spectrum disorders, Carey discusses the sheer significance of the changes.

“Anything you put in that book, any little change you make, has huge implications not only for psychiatry but for pharmaceutical marketing, research, for the legal system, for who’s considered to be normal or not, for who’s considered disabled,” said Dr. Michael First, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who edited the fourth edition of the manual but is not involved in the fifth.

“And it has huge implications for stigma,” Dr. First continued, “because the more disorders you put in, the more people get labels, and the higher the risk that some get inappropriate treatment.”

Transmitter tracks health-care workers’ washing

Despite constant reminders and a high-level of industrywide awareness, studies indicate that less than half of American health care workers wash their hands as frequently as they ought to. This contributes to the health-care-associated infections that kill tens of thousands annually. Now, NPR’s Gigi Douban reports, one Alabama hospital has resorted to high-tech monitoring devices to keep tabs on the handwashing practices of its employees.

Photo by Arlington County via Flickr.

Workers wear a special wireless transmitter, from which, Douban writes, “the hospital can tell when she entered a patient’s room, whether she washed her hands and whether she washed again on the way out. The information is sent to hospital officials, including the CEO.”

“If they’re habitually not complying, we can send them an e-mail or send them a text message, something that goes to them personally,” says Harvey Nix, CEO of Proventix, the company that developed the monitoring system at Baptist Princeton.

According to Douban, the CDC is currently investigating the effects of the technology upon the behavior of health workers.