American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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From the January 1997 ACP Observer, copyright © 1997 by the American College of Physicians.

Researchers look to databases to help nursing home residents

Researchers will examine two databases of computerized medical records to identify what acute care services nursing home patients need.

IPRO, a New York organization that studies quality issues in health care, will link a database that contains the names of patients in New York either recently admitted to a nursing home or nursing home patients who have a significant change in their health status, and a second database containing records of Medicare patients discharged from the hospital. By matching information in the two databases, the study hopes to identify—and prevent—serious health problems in nursing home residents.

The study is being funded by a $300,000 contract from HCFA. Nationally, 28% of nursing home patients require hospitalization in an acute care facility.

Summit issues recommendations on computerizing health information

To better computerize health information, the United States needs to adopt a modified social security number that can be used as a unique health identifier and immediately adopt security measures and confidentiality protections for health information.

Those were two recommendations from the National Summit on Health Information Solutions, which met earlier this fall to draft recommendations to advance the computerization of health information. More than 80 health care organizations, consumer groups, technology vendors and standards organizations belong to the Summit, whose recommendations may ultimately be heard by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Confidentiality in electronic age focus of new study

A new study will bring together privacy advocates who have been critical of electronic health care information and technology experts and health care administrators responsible for computerizing clinical information.

The study, to be conducted by Healthcare Open Systems & Trials (HOST) and the George Washington University Department of Health Services and Policy, will involve a series of in-depth interviews focusing on how to achieve confidentiality and privacy in institutions that use computerized health care data. Information technology experts and health care administrators will then use transcripts of these interviews to create prototype information systems that address privacy concerns.

HOST is a nonprofit consortium devoted to improving health care through the use of information technology.

Health care information infrastructure topic of April conference

The Friends of the National Library of Medicine will sponsor a conference on the nations' health information infrastructure April 14 through 16 in Washington, D.C.

"The Emerging Health Information Infrastructure: Enabling The Vision," will focus on areas such as telemedicine, enhancing consumer access to health information and privacy. Scheduled speakers include Vice President Al Gore, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.

Registration for the conference costs $250 before March 31 and $400 after that date. Information: 202-462-0992.

Drug information

Drug Interaction Decision Trees from First DataBank gives physicians guidance on how to react to a drug interaction. By prompting clinicians to furnish details about the interaction and the patient, the decision trees recommend actions—such as therapeutic alternatives, dosage adjustments and monitoring—that physicians might take. The decision trees will be introduced as part of First DataBank's Drug-Drug Interaction Module, which is included in large information systems. Information and pricing: 800-633-3453.

Drug Interaction Facts now provides drug interaction information in both print and electronic formats. The print version includes one-page drug interaction monographs on generic and brand-name drugs. The electronic version, available for PCs only, offers similar information but also allows users to search up to 20 drugs at once. Cost: $95. Information: Facts and Comparisons, 800-223-0554.

Nurses Drug Information Service offers information on prescription and over-the-counter medications for nurses. The service contains both a print and CD-ROM version Nurses Drug Facts '97, a print version of Patient Drug Information '97, a monthly newsletter and access to an online bulletin board service where users can post messages. For pricing and information, call Facts and Comparisons at 800-223-0554.

Information management

DocSTAR (Document Storage and Retrieval) is a document imaging system that allows users to scan and store up to 25,000 pages of information--including electronic images--on a single optical disk. Users can search each disk for documents by conducting a keyword search; documents can then be retrieved or printed. Prices begin at $12,590. Information: BitWise Designs Inc., 518-356-9740; fax 518-356-9749.

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