One reason why certain health plans are posting better numbers in several key clinical quality measures are “Pay for Performance” plans that reward providers with better outcomes, according to a just-released report by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), based in Washington, DC. For example, NCQA data indicates that, among health plans which publicize their data, 62.2% of patients diagnosed with high blood pressure received treatment in 2003, up from 58.4% in 2002. Labs will be interested to know that 2003 data is the first to track colorectal screening, quality of osteoporosis management, and two measures of antibiotic overuse. All three of these items can utilize laboratory tests as part of desired treatment protocols.
HSA OPTIONS FOR FEDS
Federal employees can now select either a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Health Reimbursement Account (HRA). This is the first year that the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) includes both options in its health plan offerings. It’s a step that further encourages the consumer-directed healthcare trend.
NEW MICROSCOPE USES LASER LIGHT TO VIEW UNCUT TISSUE
It’s a microscope that can view tissues without the need to cut the specimen. It was developed by researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany. The selective plane illumination microscope uses a “slice of laser light” to illuminate the specimen one layer at a time. A lens and camera system captures an image of each layer. The images, when combined, form a high-resolution picture of the entire specimen. The new microscope allows researchers to keep samples alive and study them over time, as they differentiate. In one experiment, researchers captured images of a fruit fly embryo throughout a 16-hour period.
ADD TO: New Microscope
The technology works because the laser beam is just two to eight microns wide. It only illuminates the target area and eliminates extraneous fluorescence that often fuzzes the image. Also, only organisms which are genetically altered to produce green fluorescent protein (GFP) have been studied with the new micro- scope. This eliminates the problems that occur when a specimen is dyed, then viewed through the microscope. This study was recently published in Science. Researchers say the technology is simple and they expect others to build similar microscopes.
NCCLS WITH NEW NAME, NEW EXECUTIVE VP
On January 1, 2005, NCCLS, located in Wayne, Pennsylvania, will have a new name: Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI). The new name is designed to eliminate “brand confusion among key stakeholders and constituencies in the standards- development community.” Meanwhile, it announced that Glen A. Fine will assume the position of Executive Vice President and Chief Staff Officer, effective November 1, 2004. Fine currently is Vice President, Ethics, Regulatory Compliance, and Privacy at MDS Laboratories, U.S. Inc.