HEALTH

NACDS urging flexible health IT approach as HHS works to adjust patient records law

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Shifting the nation’s sprawling and disconnected healthcare system to an integrated platform, based at last on health information technology and electronic health records, is a worthy and overdue undertaking. But striking the right balance between opening the spigot of patient information to streamline care and improve decision-making by health professionals, while protecting patient privacy, is a challenge that both health professionals and government policy-makers have been grappling with since the advent of computers in physicians’ offices and pharmacies.

(THE NEWS: White House continues health IT drive as CMS offers matching funds to states. For the full story, click here)

There’s no disputing the value health IT and EHRs can bring to this nation’s fractured and sometimes irrational system of health care. A fully integrated network that exchanges patient records among health professionals would revolutionize the whole system, knocking down silos and linking up the doctors, labs, pharmacies, nursing groups and health plans that all play a key role in a patient’s health and wellbeing, and getting them finally to talk to one another. The result could be a dramatic reduction in costs for needless and redundant tests, double-filled prescriptions, drug interactions and non-adherence. It would mean a smarter and far more cost-effective network for improving patient outcomes and rationalizing the decisions made by health stakeholders in patients’ care regimens.

Understandably, the federal health officials charged with driving the health IT revolution are moving cautiously, even as they continue to open the stimulus funding spigot for adoption of EHRs to more states.

Their goal: to avoid compromising the privacy of patients’ health records in the conversion to electronic recordkeeping and transmission of patient data. But privacy concerns, argue pharmacy advocates, needn’t block the necessary flow of protected patient data that must occur if a more integrated and rational health care system is to become more than just an elusive and always out-of-reach pipe dream.

On Monday, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores took another stab at the issue, with a written plea to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. Essentially, NACDS is asking the White House to maintain a flexible and workable approach as it uses its stimulus funds and regulatory powers to usher in the electronic health revolution.

That means, NACDS told Sebelius, that the government shouldn’t impose on pharmacies and physicians a requirement that they obtain prior authorization from patients for the use and transmission of protected health records.

NACDS is on solid ground here. Two major considerations support their plea to HHS: one, the privacy of patient data is already amply protected by the privacy statutes embodied in the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA. Two, the imposition of disclosure requirements and “opt-in, opt-out” prior-authorization rules on every patient exchange with a doctor or pharmacist could create enough confusion and bottlenecks to ground the nation’s critically important transformation to health IT to a halt.

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Abbott expands Ensure shakes line

BY Michael Johnsen

ABBOTT PARK, Ill. Abbott on Thursday introduced two new nutrition shakes — Ensure Muscle Health and Ensure Clinical Strength — both formulated to help rebuild muscle mass naturally lost with age.

Ensure Muscle Health shakes contain Abbott’s proprietary ingredient, Revigor, a source of HMB (beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, an amino-acid metabolite), and 13 g of protein.

 

“Abbott scientists have been studying muscle loss for more than a decade,” stated Rob Miller, divisional VP global research and development and scientific affairs. “We’ve taken our expertise with HMB, the ingredient that has been clinically shown to support muscle mass and functionality in healthy, exercising adults, and have added it to one of our therapeutic nutrition products for people over 40 who are naturally losing muscle with age.”

 

Ensure Clinical Strength shakes offer focused clinical nutrition, coupling the benefits of Revigor and protein with Immune Balance, a unique blend of prebiotic fiber to support digestive tract health and antioxidants to support the immune system.

Clinical research has shown that beginning around 40 years of age, people can start to lose 8% of muscle mass per decade, which can lead to loss of strength and mobility. Weakness, fatigue, low energy and weight loss are signals of muscle loss.

 

In addition to two new innovative nutrition shakes, Abbott recently relaunched its product line and introduced a new, streamlined look for the Ensure brand. With an updated logo and packaging, it is easier for consumers to find the Ensure shake to fit their nutritional needs, whether it’s Ensure Muscle Health, Ensure Clinical Strength, Ensure Immune Health, Ensure Bone Health, Ensure or Ensure Plus.

 

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Milk drinkers maintain healthy weight, study finds

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON Milk drinkers are more likely to lose weight than those who skip drinking milk when on a diet, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested.

In a two-year study, researchers observed 300 overweight or at-risk men and women ages 40 to 65 years. The participants were put on low-fat, Mediterranean or low-carb diets for two years, but regardless of diet, those that consumed 580 mg of milk per day (about two glasses), lost about 12 lbs., compared with those with the lowest dairy calcium intake (averaging about 150 mg, or about half of a glass), in which participants lost just 7 lbs.

Beyond calcium, the researchers also found that vitamin D levels independently affected weight loss success, and, in line with previous research, milk and milk products were the top contributors to vitamin D in the diets of the study participants.

The study, "Dairy calcium intake, serum vitamin D and successful weight loss," was published in the Sept. 1 edition of the journal.

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