MANAGED CARE February 2007. ©MediMedia USA
Sometimes even wonderful news comes with caveats. Deaths from cancer fell for the second straight year, the American Cancer Society reports. There was a drop of 3,014 cancer deaths from 2003 to 2004, the most recent year for which information is available. This was "no fluke," says John R. Seffrin, the society's chief executive officer. He mentions tobacco control policies and breathtaking clinical advances. Managed Care's cover story next month will focus on the effectiveness of these therapies and how health plans should handle them. "Health plans face a significant challenge in determining how much cancer treatment, especially experimental treatment, they will cover," says William A. Peck, director of the Center for Health Policy at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.... A simple patient education intervention encouraged patients undergoing treatment for depression to use antidepressant medications more consistently and continuously (i.e., with fewer gaps and shorter gaps), according to research by Francisca Azocar, PhD, that was published in the Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research. The collaboration between a managed behavioral health organization, an HMO, and a state employer, had a moderate impact on consistency of antidepressant medication use and on use of psychotherapy in combination with antidepressant medications. However, the intervention did not have an effect on the length of time patients stayed on antidepressant medications.... Giving physicians free electronic prescribing software is the solution that the National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative (NEPSI) has identified to address preventable medication errors, which injure at least 1.5 million Americans and claim more than 7,000 lives each year, according to the Institute of Medicine. NEPSI, a coalition led by Allscripts, a clinical software manufacturer, will provide Web-based software to physicians in solo practice or in small groups. Other members of the coalition include the technology companies Dell Computers, Cisco Systems, Microsoft, and Sprint Nextel, and the health benefits companies Aetna and WellPoint. The software can generate secure electronic prescriptions that can be sent from computer to computer or via fax to 55,000 retail pharmacies. More information is at «www. nationalerx.com», the NEPSI Web site. Physicians may also sign up at that Web site.