Health Highlights: July 14, 2010

By on July 14, 2010

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Common Waterborne Diseases Have High Health Costs: Study

Hospitalizations for three common waterborne diseases — Legionnaires’ disease, cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis — cost the U.S. health care system as much as $539 million a year, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data on health insurance claims between 2004 and 2007 and calculated that the total estimated costs for the three diseases was between $154 million and $539 million, including $44 million to $147 million in direct government payments for Medicare and Medicaid.

Estimated annual costs for the individual diseases were: Legionnaires’ disease, $101-$321 million; cryptosporidiosis, $37-$145 million; giardiasis, $16-$63 million. Inpatient hospitalization costs per case averaged more than $34,000 for Legionnaires’ disease, more than $21,000 for cryptosporidiosis and about $9,000 for giardiasis.

The study was presented Wednesday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“These cost data highlight that water-related diseases pose not only a physical burden to the thousands of people sickened by them each year, but also a substantial burden in health care costs, including direct government payments through Medicare and Medicaid,” study author Michael Beach, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a CDC news release.


Use Of Physical Restraints in U.S. Nursing Homes Decreases: Report

The use of physical restraints on U.S. nursing home residents decreased by half from 1999 to 2007, says a federal government report.

During that time, the percentage of nursing home residents who were kept physically restrained went from 11 percent to 5 percent, says the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Physical restraints include belts, vest and wrist ties or bands, and special chairs or bedside rails that keep people seated or in bed.

The use of physical restraints on Asian/Pacific Island and Hispanic nursing home residents decreased from nearly 16 percent to 7 percent, while their use on American Indian/Alaska Native residents decreased from just over 10 percent to 6 percent.

The use of physical restraints went from just over 10 percent to 5 percent among whites and from 10 percent to 4 percent among blacks.


Suicide Attempts Common Cause of Drug-Related ER Visits

Suicide attempts accounted for more than one in 12 drug-related hospital emergency department visits made by American adolescents in 2008, according to U.S. government research.

That 8.8 percent rate among adolescents is higher than the rate among those ages 18 to 25 (6.6 percent) and more than double the rate among those age 25 and older (4.4 percent), said the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The majority of adolescent drug-related suicide attempts were made by females (72.3 percent). Females also accounted for the majority of cases of drug-related suicide attempts among those ages 18 to 25 (57.6 percent) and over age 25 (57.7 percent).

Pharmaceutical drugs were involved in more than 90 percent of drug-related suicide attempts among people of all ages. Acetaminophen products were most often used by adolescent females (28.5 percent), while anti-anxiety drugs were the most commonly used substances in cases involving females age 25 or older (49.9 percent). Adolescent males where three times more likely than same-age females to have used anti-psychotic drugs (14.3 percent vs. 4.3 percent).


U.S. Seeks to Cut HIV Infection Rate

The U.S. HIV-AIDS strategy announced Tuesday by the Obama administration aims to reduce new HIV infections by 25 percent over the next five years.

Each year, about 56,000 people in the United States are infected by HIV, a rate that has remained unchanged for about a decade, the Associated Press reported.

“We’ve been keeping pace when we should be gaining ground,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a White House event to announce the new plan.

Among the other main points of the strategy: focusing HIV prevention efforts on the highest-risk populations, which include gay and bisexual men, as well as blacks; increasing access to care, with the goal of getting 85 percent of patients into treatment within three months of being diagnosed with HIV infection; and increasing public education about HIV, even in communities with low infection rates.

“The progress we’ve made in the past 30 years has come with an unintended side effect — Americans have become less fearful of HIV and AIDS. We can’t afford the kind of complacency,” said Sebelius, the AP reported.

Currently, about 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV.


White House Plan Pushes Computerized Medical Records

Greater patient safety and lower costs are among the promises in a five-year White House plan to get more doctors and hospitals to use computerized medical records.

The plan, announced Tuesday, will offer money to help pay for the systems. Doctors’ offices will eligible for as much as $44,000 through Medicare and $63,750 through Medicaid, while hospitals will be eligible for millions, the Associated Press reported.

The incentives could reach $27 billion over 10 years, but it’s hoped that more efficient delivery of medical care will lead to long-term savings for the health system.

Health providers who don’t have computerized medical systems by 2015 will face cuts in Medicare payments, the AP reported.

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