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Consumer Error Reporting System to Be Piloted
An Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) pilot set to launch next year will tap patients as a source of information about potential medical errors. The pilot is designed to move beyond current reporting systems, which fail to catch many types of errors, and go directly to patients and their caregivers, who will be solicited for feedback about their health care experiences through fliers distributed at hospital kiosks and pharmacies. Those reporting incidents or other safety concerns would then be contacted and interviewed by telephone or through an online questionnaire. Aggregated patient feedback could be a "gold mine" in terms of revealing patterns of adverse events and informing hospitals' quality improvement efforts, AHRQ officials and other experts say.

Social Factors Tied to Readmissions, Outcomes
Social factors such as age, race, employment status, living situation, and educational and income levels play a role in the post-discharge recovery of patients with heart failure and pneumonia, according to an article published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine that reviewed 72 studies examining the reasons why people died or were readmitted to the hospital. On October 1, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began using readmission rates and patient outcomes as part of its formula determining hospital payments.

To address hospital leaders' concerns that many factors affecting post-discharge outcomes are beyond their control, legislators authorized the Community-Based Care Transitions Program as part of the Affordable Care Act. Under the program, community organizations reach out to recently discharged patients to provide home visits, transportation to office visits, meals, legal aid, and other care intended to promote their recovery.

$7.7 Billion in Meaningful Use Incentive Payments Distributed, New Tool to Test EHRs for Stage 2 Quality Reporting
As of September 2012, some $7.7 billion in incentive payments had been distributed to health care providers demonstrating meaningful use of health information technology, according to CMS officials. In addition to meeting 15 required objectives in use of their electronic health record (EHR) systems, participating hospitals and health care professionals must choose five objectives from a menu of 10 items. Of these items, the following were the most commonly chosen by health care professionals: use of drug formularies, immunization registries, and patient lists. Among hospitals, the most commonly selected menu objectives were advance directives, clinical laboratory test results, and drug formularies.

Providers will be getting help in preparing their EHR systems to participate in Stage 2 of the meaningful use program thanks to an open-source tool called Cypress that can test whether EHRs are ready to report data on clinical quality measures to CMS. The tool, to be released in an alpha version on Nov. 2, 2012, will be freely available for use by EHR vendors and testing labs.

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