PHARMACY

ONC releases HIT plan

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has released a plan for advancing healthcare information technology, according to published reports. The “ONC-Coordinated Federal Health Information Technology Strategic Plan: 2008-2012” sets two goals: patient-focused healthcare and population health.

Robert Kolodner, the national coordinator for healthcare I.T., said the plan will guide the federal government’s healthcare IT efforts, which seek to achieve nationwide implementation of an interoperable health IT infrastructure throughout both the public and private sector.

The goal of patient-centered care “envisions a transformation to higher quality, more-cost efficient care, meeting patients’ needs, through electronic health information access and use,” the ONC states.

The second goal, related to population health, envisions the appropriate, authorized, and timely access and use of electronic health information to benefit public health, biomedical research, quality improvement, and emergency preparedness.

The plan sets forth these strategies:

  • Commitment to the engagement of multiple stakeholders across the public and private sectors;
  • Concern for reliability, confidentiality, privacy, and security when exchanging, storing, and using electronic health information; and
  • Focus on the consumer of healthcare as a critical participant in achieving the two overarching goals of the plan.

The ONC, which works under the Department of Health and Human Services, developed the plan in collaboration with 12 agencies and staff divisions within HHS, the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and Veterans Affairs, and the Federal Communications Commission. Two federal advisory bodies, the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics and the American Health Information Community, also informed some of the strategies and milestones that are cited in the plan.

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FDA, EMEA partner on inspections program

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency have joined together to pilot a good manufacturing practice inspections program.

Under the bilateral agreement, the program will apply to facilities in both the U.S. and the European Union. Also, joint inspections of active pharmaceutical ingredient facilities in countries outside the U.S. and the EU will be part of the program.

The agencies will pilot a GMP information exchange covering inspection schedules and results. Information on facilities that have been inspected would be shared so the agencies could get greater inspection coverage and better identify API production sites in countries outside the U.S. and the EU.

“The collaboration on inspections should result in more effective use of resources and a higher safety level of product from third countries,” the European Commission, which lists new GMP initiatives the two agencies undertake, said.

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Study shows Mass. plan drops uninsurance rate, decreases expenses

BY Drew Buono

CHICAGO According to a study performed by the Urban Institute, the uninsurance rate for Massachusetts adults has dropped by more than half and residents were paying less in out-of-pocket health expenses, as reported by the Associated Press.

Researchers from the institute interviewed 3,000 Massachusetts residents in the fall of 2006, just before the law took effect, and conducted a second round of interviews a year later. The uninsurance rate among working age adults dropped from 13 to 7 percent. The biggest drop was among poorer residents.

The finding reflects the fact that nearly 350,000 residents have been added to the ranks of the insured in Massachusetts under the law, which created a subsidized health care program for those earning less than three times the federal poverty level.

The share of adults reporting out-of-pocket expenses of more than $500 dropped by four percent. The percent of low-income adults reporting out-of-pocket expenses of more than $3,000 fell eight percent.

In another positive finding, low-income adults were more likely to have a place to go when they were sick and were more likely to visit a doctor for preventative care.

One fear—that employers would begin dropping health coverage as the new law took effect—hasn’t materialized, according to the report.

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