HCFA is planning to change longstanding Medicare policy to give beneficiaries more information about investigations into their complaints about care. Under the new plan, disclosed last week, investigators will have to tell patients whether their care met "professionally recognized standards" and inform them of any action against the doctor or the hospital. Currently, peer review organizations must withhold information on investigations if the physicians involved don't approve the release.
Outgoing HHS Secretary Donna Shalala late last month appointed 12 members to the department's new advisory committee on minority health. The committee was created by the Health Professional Education Partnership Act of 1998 and will provide advice on improving the health of minority populations. Louis Stokes, an attorney and former congressman from Ohio, is chairman.
The Food and Drug Administration proposed a new, simplified format for prescription drug labeling late last month that is aimed at reducing medical errors. Under the proposal, published in the Federal Register, package inserts would offer user-friendly information, allowing doctors to quickly find the most important information about a product, FDA officials said. The proposal would apply only to relatively new products.
Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals provide as good of care to heart attack patients as private facilities, a study in the Dec. 28 New England Journal of Medicine concludes. Researchers compared death rates after 30 days and one year for about 2,500 elderly men treated at VA hospitals and 29,000 elderly men cared for at private hospitals. They found no statistically significant difference, even though the VA patients had more coexisting conditions.