AHRQ launches web-based tool for state performance

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released an interactive web-based tool that presents data that can be used to measure health care quality. The State Snapshot web tool is based on the 2005 National Healthcare Quality Report and the 2005 National Healthcare Disparities Report.

Data provided for each state include information on the type of care provided, such as prevention, acute or chronic, and the settings of care, such as home health. Comparisons to regional and national performance can be made and a special section focuses on diabetes care in each state and region.

The information can be used to identify opportunities for improvement in care for statewide organizations as well as groups of local organizations. To see the tool, go to www.qualitytools.ahrq.gov/qualityreport/2005/state/summary/intro.aspx.

Some HHAs will get five days notice from JCAHO

Although unannounced surveys became the norm for most organizations surveyed by the Oakbrook Terrace, IL-based Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, some organizations, including some home care agencies, can relax, knowing that they will receive a telephone call from the Joint Commission five days before their survey.

Home health organizations that are subject to the five-day notification include agencies that offer only one of the following services: home health; personal care; support services with an average daily census of between one and 30; hospices with average daily census of no more than 10; pharmacies with average daily census no more than 50; and home medical equipment with an average daily census no more than 50.

The only exception to the notification is for special unannounced surveys, such as those conducted for cause.

CMS extends coverage for some O2 patients

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will extend coverage for the home use of oxygen to Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a CMS-approved clinical trial sponsored by the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute.

Medicare currently provides coverage for home oxygen for beneficiaries with partial pressure measurements at or below 55 mmHg or oxygen saturation at or below 88%. If certain other diseases/conditions are present, coverage is provided for patients with an oxygen partial pressure of 56-60 mmHg or an oxygen saturation of 89%.

The trial will include Medicare beneficiaries with arterial oxygen partial measurements from 56 mmHg to 65 mmHg or whose oxygen saturation is at or above 89% who do not meet the current Medicare coverage requirements for home oxygen.

Can it be true? In health care, less means more

While the amount of money Medicare spends on chronically ill patients varies greatly from state to state, researchers at Dartmouth Medical School found no correlation between higher spending and better health. In fact, they said patients in states spending the least actually were better off than their counterparts in states spending the most.

The researchers looked at how often Medicare patients went to the hospital in their last six months and the number of times those patients went to the doctor in that time period. They found higher mortality rates in states with the most intense care. Their conclusion: the government could save tens of billions of dollars a year while improving care if it prevented overuse of health care.

"We need to redirect resources away from acute care and invest in infrastructure that can better coordinate and integrate care outside of hospitals — for example, home health and hospice care," the report said.