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State of the Union: President Bush emphasizes healthcare cost control through health savings accounts, health IT

President Bush devoted time to healthcare in his State of the Union address on Jan. 31, with affordability of coverage the main concern which the Administration will focus on this year, he said. Though Bush made reference to electronic medical records and health IT, his focus was on economics and expanding the use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

The timing is good. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll released just prior to Bush’s address, 20 percent of Americans say the healthcare system in this country needs reform.

Regarding HSAs, Bush said in his speech, “We will strengthen health savings accounts — making sure individuals and small business employees can buy insurance with the same advantages that people working for big businesses now get. We will do more to make this coverage portable, so workers can switch jobs without having to worry about losing their health insurance.”

Another tactic, according to the White House, will be to allow small businesses to develop Association Health Plans (AHPs). The AHPs would enable smaller companies to pool resources to purchase health coverage, to give them the same buying power as big businesses and labor unions.

Some organizations fear that having to go with high-deductible health insurance might reduce access to care for some individuals.

Medication errors highest in radiology? Um, not so fast, say radiologists

Recently United States Pharmacopeia (USP), the official public standards-setting authority for medicines in the U.S., announced controversial results from a report that claims medication errors occur seven times more often in the radiology department than in any other area of healthcare. This conclusion was drawn by studying medication error information from 2000 to 2004 and published in the organization’s 6th annual MEDMARX Data Report.

Twelve percent of the 2,032 medication errors reported in radiological services resulted in patient harm. Radiology services also seem more likely to result in additional care and, as a result, more resources, USP said, citing flaws in continuity of care as the leading cause of the medication errors.

Radiology is not taking this report lying down. The American College of Radiology (ACR) for one described the report as “incomplete, inaccurate,” with data that lacks context.

A Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) spokesperson said that the medication errors addressed in the USP report “don’t relate specifically to radiology, or at least are not under a radiology department’s control.”

Barco releases new 2MP color PACS display

Barco has introduced a new PACS display system, NIO Color 2MP. The display can be used for a variety of medical imaging applications, including 3D PACS, ultrasound, orthopedic imaging, cardiology, ophthalmology, nuclear medicine and PET.

The NIO Color 2MP, which is now available, features a 1600x1200 resolution, 20.1-inch color LCD, with high quality under all viewing angles. The monitor is optimized to display both color and grayscale medical data sets and is fully compatible with 2D and 3D applications. Barco’s NIO Color 2MP comes with the Barcomed 2MP2CFe display controller, which is especially designed to support 3D PACS.

Study: Increasing nurse staff, face time, improves healthcare quality

By hiring more registered nurses, and adding to the time nurses spend with patients, hospitals would save more than 6,700 patient deaths and 4 million days of care in hospitals, as well as 70,400 medical complications each year, according to a study recently published in the journal Health Affairs.

The study looked at 799 acute-care hospitals spread over 11 states throughout 2005.

Hospitals might balk at the idea of hiring more nurses, but the costs would not be great, according to the study. Hospitals would likely only see a budget increase of between 0.4 percent to 0.8 percent considering the money that could be saved in handling medical errors and patient visits.

The study is expected to have considerable impact. One organization, the Michigan Nurses Association, plans to use the study’s results to push state legislators to support its Safe Patient Care Legislation which was put forward last year.

FDA sets out to better monitor medical devices

The Center For Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), within the FDA, plans to increase its ability to track post-market information on approved