News Briefs

CMS to offer HIV screening to Medicare beneficiaries

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced in early December 2009 its final decision to cover Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection screening for Medicare beneficiaries who are at increased risk for the infection.

The decision includes women who are pregnant and Medicare beneficiaries of any age who voluntarily request the services.

The decision was effective immediately.

CMS said that under the recently passed Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, CMS now has the flexibility of adding to Medicare's list of covered preventive services, if certain requirements are met.

According to CMS, prior to this law, Medicare could only cover additional preventive screening tests when Congress authorized it to do so.

"[This] decision marks an important milestone in the history of the Medicare program," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Beginning with expanding coverage for HIV screening, we can now work proactively as a program to help keep Medicare beneficiaries healthy and take a more active role in evaluating the evidence for preventive services."

Study: Nurses unfamiliar or unprepared for QI

A new study published in the January 2010 issue of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety explains that despite the strong focus on quality improvement in hospitals, 38.6% of novice nurses thought they were "poorly" or "very poorly" prepared in their nursing education programs to implement QI measures or "had never heard of" the term QI.

The researchers analyzed the survey responses from 436 newly licensed registered nurses from 34 states and the District of Columbia (69.4% response rate). While many nurses may observe problems and understand the need for improvement, many felt unprepared to undertake the actions necessary to do so.

QI is a systematic, data-driven set of activities designed to bring about immediate improvement in the delivery of health care and ultimately in patient outcomes.

Study: Patients unable to ID hospital meds

In a new study designed to assess patient awareness of medications prescribed during a hospital visit, 44% of patients believed they were receiving a medication they were not, and 96% were unable to recall the name of at least one medication that they had been prescribed during hospitalization.

The findings were published in December in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

"Overall, patients in the study were able to name fewer than half of their hospital medications," said lead researcher Ethan Cumbler, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Denver. "Our findings are particularly striking in that we found significant deficits in patient understanding of their hospital medications even among patients who believed they knew, or desired to know, what is being prescribed to them in the hospital."