Health Highlights: April 12, 2008

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

40,000 Patient Records Reported Stolen From NYC Hospital

The hospital records of as many as 40,000 patients may have been stolen from a major New York City hospital, the Associated Press reports.

The the thief is most likely an employee, the wire service says, and the discovery of the missing records came as the result of an internal audit and a federal investigation.

The records in question did not contain health information, the A.P. quotes New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell spokeswoman Myrna Manners as saying, but they did contain a lot of personal information -- names, addresses, phone numbers, and possibly Social Security numbers.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • 40,000 Patient Records Reported Stolen From NYC Hospital
    • Nine States Chosen for Health Care Quality Improvement
    • Recalled Dietary Supplements May Pose Serious Health Hazard
    • Michaels Recalls 310,000 Writing Pens
    • Scientists Say EPA's New Smog Standard Fails to Protect Public
    • Drug, Device Makers Pledge Disclosure About Promotional Spending

While saying that there had been as yet no reports of a patient falling prey to a financial scam or fraud, Manners told the A.P. that the missing information was possibly part of a "larger criminal enterprise." She would not name the employee in question.

Officials from the U.S. Attorney's office acknowledged to the wire service there was an investigation into the missing hospital patient records but declined to elaborate. Manners said the 40,000 patients -- all of whom had been treated in the past two years -- had been notified, and that a hotline had been established for them to use as more information became available.

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Nine States Chosen for Health Care Quality Improvement

Nine states have been selected to take part in the State Quality Improvement Institute, a program to help states devise and implement action plans to improve performance in a number of health care quality indicators. The institute is a collaboration of the Commonwealth Fund and AcademyHealth.

"Our State Scorecard on Health System Performance found that we could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars if all states could achieve the level of the top performers on key indicators of health outcomes, quality, access, efficiency, and equity," Karen Davis, Commonwealth Fund president, said in a prepared statement.

"The State Quality Institute will allow states to learn best practices to improve health care quality, and is an important step toward achieving a high performing health care system in the U.S.," she said.

Each state will appoint a team to take part in an interactive process for developing policy and program strategies. The nine states selected for participation are: Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

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Recalled Dietary Supplements May Pose Serious Health Hazard

Twelve dietary supplements containing ephedra, aristolochic acid or human placenta that may pose a serious health hazard to consumers are being recalled by Herbal Science International, Inc.

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