Published 1/1/2010

Second Look

If you missed these Headline News Now items the first time around, AAOS Now gives you a second chance to review them. Headline News Now—the AAOS thrice-weekly, online update of news of interest to orthopaedic surgeons—brings you the latest on clinical, socioeconomic, and political issues, as well as important announcements from AAOS.

Fraud alert: physiciansforpatients.org
A Web site operated by the organization Physicians for Patients has been improperly soliciting donations using the name and logo of AAOS, as well as those of several other medical organizations. Neither the AAOS nor any of the following organizations—American Association of Neurological Surgeons, American College of Physicians, American College of Cardiology, North American Spine Society—have any connection to Physicians for Patients. The Web site has since been shut down.

FDA issues warning statement on NPWT
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is alerting physicians to the risk of death and serious complications—especially bleeding and infection—associated with the use of negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) systems. Although rare, the complications can occur wherever NPWT systems are used. Among other recommendations, FDA states that physicians should: obtain appropriate training prior to prescribing and using NPWT, review the most recent device labeling and instructions, screen patients for NPWT carefully, and be prepared to take prompt action if potentially life-threatening complications occur. The agency has received reports of six deaths and 77 injuries associated with NPWT systems during the last 2 years.

FDA safety notification on STERIS System 1 Processor
FDA has issued a MedWatch safety notification regarding the regulatory status of the STERIS System 1 Processor (SS1) used in surgical and endoscopy suites for reprocessing (sterilizing or disinfecting) medical devices. The FDA has not approved or cleared the modified product and has received reports of malfunctions of the SS1 that have the potential to cause or contribute to serious injuries to patients, such as infections. Injuries, mostly burns from exposure to the sterilant solution, to healthcare facility staff operating the device have also been reported. Facilities with an acceptable alternative to the SS1 should transition to that alternative as soon as possible to ensure continued patient safety. If an acceptable alternative to the SS1 is not available, the facility should promptly assess its patient-care needs and sterilization and disinfection requirements and take steps to obtain legally marketed substitutes for the SS1.

Most Americans favor tort reform
According to a poll conducted for the Associated Press (AP) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 54 percent of Americans are in favor of making it more difficult to sue healthcare providers, with 32 percent opposed. Support for limits on medical liability lawsuits cut across political lines, with 58 percent of independents, 61 percent of Republicans, and 47 percent of Democrats favoring such reforms. According to data from CBO, tort limits could reduce the federal deficit by $54 billion over 10 years by reducing the practice of “defensive medicine.”

OA costs United States $185.5 billion per year
Based on data from a large, nationally representative U.S. database (1996 to 2005), medical care for osteoarthritis (OA) patients in the United States costs about $185.5 billion each year, according to a study in Arthritis & Rheumatism (December 2009). Because of the greater prevalence of OA in women, total expenditures for that group accounted for almost two-thirds of the total increase in healthcare expenditures resulting from OA. Total insurer expenditures overall were $149.4 billion per year, and out-of-pocket expenditures were $36.1 billion per year.

Court approves UnitedHealth settlement
The American Medical Association (AMA) states that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has granted preliminary approval of a $350 million settlement to resolve a class-action lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group (Minneapolis). The action, brought by the AMA and other medical societies, alleged that UnitedHealth had engaged in collusion to underpay physicians for out-of-network medical services. A previous investigation had confirmed that the company’s Ingenix database was intentionally rigged to allow insurers to shortchange reimbursements.

Surgeon General: More minority physicians
The AP reports that U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, has called for efforts to increase the number of minority physicians. Only 6 percent of U.S. physicians are minorities, and that proportion has not increased during the past 100 years. Based on 2008 Census Bureau figures, African-Americans and Hispanics account for about 28 percent of the U.S. population.