“May 27, 2003 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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Here’s an early sign that health-insurance premiums will rise by significant amounts for 2004. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Producer Price Index for general acute care hospitals posted its highest-ever one-month increase, jumping 1.4% in April. For the 12 months ending in April, the general acute care hospital price index was up 6.2%. By comparison, in the late 1990s, this index increased by only 2% to 3% per year.


There’s another executive casualty in the corporate reorganization now under way at IMPATH, Inc. Earlier this month, the company announced that President and COO Richard P. Adelson had re-signed “to pursue other opportunities.” Adelson’s departure follows, by three months, that of long-time Chair and CEO, Anu Saad, Ph.D., who resigned following an audit which uncovered “discrepancies” of certain expenses.


Just when Toronto public officials thought they had beaten back the SARS outbreak, new cases surfaced. Last Friday, it was announced that at a cluster of at least 33 suspected SARS cases are now under observation, with three patients in critical condition. Officials think the link is a previously unknown case at North York General Hospital. A patient transferred from North York to St. Johns Rehabilitation Hospital may have been the source of SARS in that facility. At least one healthcare worker is believed to be infected and up to 2,200 visitors to the two hospitals are being asked to go into quarantine. Prior to Friday’s announcement, only seven people with SARS remained in Toronto hospitals, of which five were in critical condition.

ADD TO: Sars in Toronto

Toronto’s SARS outbreak has caused major disruptions to the healthcare system in Ontario because elective surgeries and other procedures were deferred during the first part of the crisis. The Toronto experience shows what could happen to hospitals in the United States if a SARS outbreak occurred in a major city. The experience is already leading to a rethinking of how hospital infection control teams interact with microbiology labs on site.


There’s a new term circulating on the Internet, according to Bruce Friedman, Professor of Pathology at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. “Because of the threat of bioterrorism, there is now great interest in monitoring constellations of signs and symptoms (i.e., syndromes) that patients present with in hospitals, particularly EDs,” he says. “This has significant implications for the world of medical informatics.” Dr. Friedman believes “syndromic surveillance” will boost the adoption of more sophisticated clinical information systems.


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