A Medical Device Daily

The Federal Trade Commission will hold the last of five hearings designed to explore the current state of affairs where intellectual property is concerned. According to FTC's April 8 statement, this last hearing will take place on May 4 and 5 on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley (UCB; Berkeley, California).

Also participating in the conference will be two institutes at UCB, the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology and the Berkeley Competition Policy Center. The sessions are said to be designed to "explore how markets for patents and technology operate in different industries, whether those markets operate efficiently, and how patent policy might be adjusted to respond to problems in those markets in order to better promote innovation and competition."

Some observers of the patent scene are apparently of the opinion that FTC's efforts are too little too late. Gene Quinn of IPWatchdog.com states in an April 13 blog posting that in his view, FTC "is coming quite late to the party." Quinn remarks that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office "has embarked upon wide-ranging changes over the last several years," and states that the case of Tafas v. Dudas (now Tafas v. Doll) makes it likely that PTO "will implement far-reaching rules changes that will alter the foundation of patent prosecution." Quinn also notes that the Senate Judiciary Committee recently finalized a patent reform bill for consideration by the full Senate (Medical Device Daily, April 3, 2009).

AHRQ: Colorectal cancer diagnoses flat

Colorectal cancer (CRC) screening has been a hot topic in healthcare and medical technology circles thanks to the fact that this is the third most lethal of all cancers, and the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research recently released figures from its Hospital Cost and Utilization Project that indicates that while the disease has not gone down, it hasn't gone up either.

According to AHRQ, the number of hospitalizations related to CRC in 2006 totaled more than 571,000, which comes to a rate of more than 191 stays per 100,000 population. However, that flat overall number is derived from mixed numbers under the surface. AHRQ states that the numbers, crunched from community hospitals, show that the rate of hospitalizations between 1995 and 2006 for CRC as a principal diagnosis fell by 15%, but that patients admitted with CRC as a secondary diagnosis rose by the same 15%.

As might be expected, the rates of hospitalization for CRC "is dramatically higher among patients 65 years and older," the April 6 report notes. Men aged 65 and older had the highest rates of hospitalization for CRC. The report pegs the rate of admissions for patients 65 years and older at more than 254 stays per 100,000 population for principal diagnoses, and a rate of 818 stays per 100,000 for secondary diagnoses.

There was a considerable geographic disparity in the distribution of diagnosed cases of CRC. According to AHRQ, residents of the Northeast were hospitalized for CRC at a rate of 247.6 stays per 100,000 while those living in the West had the lowest rate at 135 stays per 100,000. On the other hand, most of this was from CRC as a secondary diagnosis. Primary diagnoses were said to be roughly equal among the Northeast, the Midwest and the South, but secondary diagnoses of CRC in the Northeast were roughly 192 stays per 100,000 population, which was more than double the rate of 95.8 stays per 100,000 in the West.

As is so often the case, the distribution by sex is uneven for CRC, but the numbers are close before adjusting for age. The agency states that men accounted for 49.5% of all stays for CRC as a principal diagnosis, and 48.6% for CRC as a secondary diagnosis. On the other hand, men over the age of 65 were said to have been admitted for primary diagnoses 20% more often than women, and 24% more often for secondary diagnoses.

New pilot to reduce readmissions

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported yesterday that it has selected 14 hospitals from around the country to test a program designed to cut down on hospital readmissions. The objective of the Care Transitions program is to make the hand-off from hospitals to doctors and from specialist physicians to other specialists and primary care doctors more seamless.

Acting CMS administrator Charlene Frizzera said in the statement that government data indicate "that nearly one in five patients who leave the hospital today will be re-admitted within the next month," adding that three of the four "are potentially preventable." Frizzera asserted that this state of affairs can be rectified "by approaching health care quality from a community-wide perspective."

CMS's chief medical officer, Barry Straube, MD, said that under the program, providers at the 14 centers "will look in their own backyards to learn why hospital re-admissions occur locally and how patients transition between health care settings." He said that such "community-level knowledge" would allow Care Transition teams to "design customized solutions that address the underlying local drivers of re-admissions."

Among the communities selected for the program are Providence, Rhode Island, eastern metro Atlanta, and Harlingen, Texas.

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