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AHRQ Stats: Mental Healthcare

Among the five costliest health conditions in both 2002 and 2012-heart conditions, cancer, trauma-related disorders, mental disorders, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma-mental health conditions showed the biggest increase in the number of patients treated. About 45 million Americans received mental healthcare services totaling $84 billion in 2012, an increase from 2002, when 31 million Americans received services for mental healthcare totaling $59 billion. Those receiving mental healthcare paid the highest out-of-pocket share of expenses (roughly 20%), whereas those treated for cancer paid the lowest out-of-pocket share (about 6%) in 2002 and 2012. (Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Statistical Brief #470, Trends in the Five Most Costly Conditions among the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2002 and 2012.)

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Study Identifies Characteristics Associated With Hospital Readmissions

Three-quarters of patients readmitted to a hospital after being discharged return to the same hospital, according to a new AHRQ-funded study. Researchers found that patients admitted for orthopedic conditions and patients who entered the hospital through the emergency department were the most likely to have a same-hospital readmission. Regarding readmissions overall, the highest rates were found in patients aged 65 to 84, though patients aged 45 to 64 who underwent spinal fusion had similar readmission rates. The condition most commonly associated with readmission was heart failure, and the conditions for which a readmission was least likely were hip and knee arthroplasty. Women made up a larger portion of readmissions across all conditions, except for heart attack. To conduct this research, investigators used the State Inpatient Databases, a component of AHRQ's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). They analyzed data on adults discharged from hospitals in 16 states. HCUP is the nation's most comprehensive source of hospital data, including information on inpatient care, ambulatory care, and emergency department visits. The study, "Patient Factors Contributing to Variation in Same-Hospital Readmission Rate," and abstract were published in the March 30 issue of the journal Medical Care Research and Review.


Animals' Presence May Ease Social Anxiety in Kids With Autism

When animals are present, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have lower readings on a device that detects anxiety and other forms of social arousal when interacting with their peers. Skin conductance levels of children with ASD rose for the first three conditions, but fell during the play session with guinea pigs. For reasons the researchers can't explain, skin conductance levels of typically developing children rose during this session. According to a study funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, companion animals-like dogs, cats, or the guinea pigs in the study-may prove to be a helpful addition to treatment programs designed to help children with ASDs improve their social skills and interactions with other people. The study, published online in Developmental Psychobiology, was conducted by Marguerite O'Haire, PhD, from the Center for the Human-Animal Bond in the College of Veterinary Medicine of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and colleagues in the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. "Previous studies suggest that in the presence of companion animals, children with autism spectrum disorders function better socially," said James Griffin, PhD, of the Child Development and Behavior Branch at NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "This study provides physiological evidence that the proximity of animals eases the stress that children with autism may experience in social situations."

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Continuing-Education Resources Explore Ways To Prevent Patient Falls and Pressure Ulcers

AHRQ's new continuing-education resources offer healthcare professionals continuing education and continuing medical education credits on improving patient safety by preventing pressure ulcers and falls in hospitals. Each year an estimated 2.5 million U.S. patients will develop a pressure ulcer, and a single large hospital could experience more than 1,000 patient falls per year. Approximately 30% to 50% of falls result in injuries, and complications from hospital-acquired pressure ulcers cause as many as 60,000 deaths each year. When patients fall in the hospital, they are more likely to stay in the hospital longer or be transferred to institutional or long-term care. Costs associated with hospital-acquired pressure ulcers could be as high as $11 billion per year. New videos and topic profiles that explore prevention of in-facility pressure ulcers and in-facility falls are available for continuing-education credit. Additional resources related to these topics include "Making Health Care Safer II: An Updated Critical Analysis of the Evidence for Patient Safety Practices," the "Preventing Falls in Hospitals" toolkit and "Preventing Pressure Ulcers in Hospitals" toolkit, and a student workbook and instructor's guide on falls prevention and management in long-term care facility.

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Outpatient Drug Expenses

Prescription drug expenses for adults totaled $267 billion nationwide in 2012. Of the leading classes of outpatient prescription drugs based on total expenses that year, metabolic drugs (used for conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and weight control) were purchased by nearly one in four adults age 18 and older at an average of $104 per prescription. Meanwhile, cardiovascular drugs (used for conditions such as heart disease, blood clots, and other circulatory disorders) were purchased by 7 in 10 Medicare patients age 65 and older at an average of $28 per prescription. (Source: AHRQ Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Statistical Brief #468, Visit for the full report.)

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