News Briefs

Hospitals to share quality information

The American Hospital Association (AHA) in Chicago, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Federation of American Hospitals, along with accrediting organizations, government agencies, and quality and consumer groups have begun a new voluntary initiative that will collect and share with consumers standardized quality measures of patient care in hospitals.

At a press briefing in Washington, DC, AHA president Dick Davidson said that the initiative will begin by looking at 10 quality measures involving heart attacks, heart failure, and pneumonia. "Providing high-quality care demands that patients be informed partners in decisions about their care every step of the way," he said in a prepared statement. "Providing helpful information can only enhance a patient experience."

Hospitalists save money

Patients of hospitalists appear to have shorter and less costly hospital stays than nonhospitalists’ patients, according to a recent report in the Annals of Internal Medicine. However, these effects appeared only in the second year of use of hospitalists. One possible explanation is that hospitalists, physicians who spend their entire day caring for hospitalized patients as opposed to seeing patients in the office, may have learning curves, and some benefits of their care may not be clear until they have been practicing hospital medicine for more than a year.

Findings from 5,710 medical records at a community-based teaching hospital show that by year two of the study, hospitalists’ patients stayed in the hospital an average of about half a day less than nonhospitalists’ patients. Average hospital costs were $822 lower for hospitalists in the second year.

For more information on the report, go to the publication’s web site:

Veterans Health Initiative announced

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in collaboration with the Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards and the Employee Education System, has developed an on-line program that focuses on the special health concerns of veterans. The program, known as the Veterans Health Initiative (VHI), currently comprises 10 independent study modules that provide in-depth information about important and unique health issues of veterans and their health needs.

The program allows military medical history to be better documented and the connection between certain health effects and military service to be better understood. It is designed to prepare health care providers to better serve their veteran patients and to establish a database for further study.

The 10 modules available are: Agent Orange; Cold Injury; Gulf War; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Ex-Prisoner of War; Radiation; Spinal Cord Injury; Visual Impairment; Hearing Impairment; and Traumatic Amputation and Prosthetics.

At the end of each module, readers may take an on-line test on their knowledge of the subject.

Future plans include five new modules: Military Sexual Trauma; Infectious Disease Threats in Southwest Asia; Traumatic Brain Injury; Occupational Lung Diseases of Military Significance; and Health Effects of Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Agents on Military Personnel. These new modules are expected to be available by May 2004.

The VHI modules are available on the web at