Health Highlights: Oct. 7, 2014

Health Highlights: Oct. 7, 2014

Health Highlights: Oct. 7, 2014

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

Hands-Free Devices Don't Eliminate Distracted Driving: Study

Hands-free devices in cars are not risk-free, a new study warns.

Researchers at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety measured the driving reaction times of 167 people using voice-activated systems to make phone calls or change the radio station. They found that these drivers still had increased levels of distraction and slower reaction times, NBC News reported.

"Hands-Free is not risk-free," Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said. "There's a misunderstanding many people have that they are not increasing their chances of an accident just because they are using voice-activated systems when driving."

"The level of distraction depends on how complex the system is within a particular vehicle," Kissinger noted.

The findings confirm warnings from many safety advocates that the use of voice-activated systems won't eliminate distracted driving, NBC News reported.

Last year, distracted driving caused 3,328 deaths and injured another 421,000 people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Changes Being Made to Nursing Home Rating System

Major changes to the U.S. government's five-star rating system for nursing homes were announced Monday.

The system is meant to help consumers select nursing homes, but has been criticized for relying on self-reported, unverified data from the nation's more than 15,000 nursing homes, The New York Times reported.

The changes are meant to address some of those concerns and will take effect in January, federal officials said.

One of the new features will be an auditing program designed to assess the accuracy of the quality measures rating, which is based on information collected about every patient, The Times reported.

In addition, nursing homes will have to electronically submit quarterly reports on staffing levels, which can be verified with payroll data. Also, the percentage of residents being given antipsychotic drugs will be included when determining nursing homes' ratings.

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