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AMA Doc Talk Podcast Series
February 16, 2018
Each episode of this new AMA podcast series engages listeners with timely, relevant insight into the practice and business of medicine.

Adult Immunization Schedule for 2018 Includes Changes for Shingles and MMR
February 6, 2018
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has released its 2018 immunization schedule for adults in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Among the notable changes from last year are new recommendations regarding Shingles and Mumps.

AHRQ's Updated Toolkit Advises Medical Practices on Improving Diagnostic Testing
January 29, 2018
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has issued a revised toolkit, "Improving Your Laboratory Testing Process." It is a step-by-step quide on how to improve the safety and accuracy of the diagnostic testing process in primary care settings. The guide, an update of a 2013 AHRQ toolkit, can help primary care teams assess how laboratory tests are managed and how the process flows from ordering to follow-up. Approximately 40% of medical office visits involve diagnostic testing, with more than 2 billion lab tests performed annually in the United State, predominantyly in ambulatory care settings. The majority of errors that occur in lab testing are related to communication breakdowns.

Reporting HIPAA Breaches: Annual Deadline Approaches
January 11, 2018
The HIPAA breach notification rule requires covered entities to report breaches of unsecured protected health information to affected individuals, HHS and, in some cases, local media. If the breach involves less than 500 persons, the covered entity must report the breach to HHS no later than 60 days after the end of the calendar year, i.e., by March 1. This article outlines what breaches are reportable and the reporting requirements for differing types of breaches.

Seasonal Influenza A(H3N2) Activity and Antiviral Treatment of Patients with Influenza
January 8, 2018
In this report, the CDC provides 1) a notice about increased influenza activity and its clinical implications; 2) a summary of influenza antiviral drug treatment recommendations; 3) an update about approved treatment drugs and supply this season; and 4) background information for patients about influenza treatment.

Review of Opioid Abuse Predictors in Chronic Pain Patients
December 13, 2017
This review, published in Pain Physician, examines the current state of knowledge regarding the growing problem of opioid abuse and misuse; known risk factors; and methods of predicting, assessing, monitoring and addressing opioid abuse and misuse in patients with chronic non-cancer pain.

It's beginning to look a lot like flu season!
December 04, 2017
The CDC is reporting that several flu activity indicators are highter than is typical for this time of year. Although it is too early to predict, this may be a flu season with an early peak. Please remember to:

  • Vaccinate your patients and yourselves to protect against influenza. A flu shot is the best prevention and it's not too late!
  • Remind your staff and patients that getting vaccinated protects those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness.
  • Treat patients promptly and presumptively with antivirals, expecially patients who are at increased risk of severe illness from influenza.
  • Wash your harnds often and thoroughtly, and encourage hand hygiene and cough etiquette in patients and staff.

Click here for more information on influenza from the CDC

HHS Guidance on How HIPAA Allows Information Sharing to Address Opioid Crisis
November 10, 2017
The HHS Office for Civil Rights has released new guidance on when and how health care providers can share a patient's health information with his or her family members, friends and legal personal representatives when that patient may be in crisis and incapacitated, such as during an opioid overdose.

First Appropriate Use Criteria for Severe Aortic Stenosis Published
October 25, 2017
The American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and nine other medical groups have issued the first-ever appropriate use criteria for treating severe aortic stenosis.

HHS Unveils Improved Online HIPAA Breach Reporting Tool
August 29, 2017
This revised web tool puts important information in the hands of individuals, features improved navigation so it is easier to report an incident, and helps educate users on the types of breaches that are occurring.

CDC Updates Guidelines for Use of Influenza Vaccines
August 28, 2017
This report focuses on the recommendations for use of influenza vaccines for the prevention and control of influenza during the 2017-18 season (updated from the 2016-17 recommendations).

New Guidelines for Diagnosing, Managing Hypertension in Children and Adolescents
August 24, 2017
The American Academy of Pediatrics has published new guidelines on identifying and treating high blood pressure in children and adolescents aged 3 to 18. These are the first new national guidelines on the subject since 2004.

MLN Fact Sheet: Complying with Medical Record Documentation Requirements
July 19, 2017
This fact sheet, developed by the Medicare Learning Network (MLN), describes common CERT Program errors related to medical record documentation. It is designed to help providers understand how to provide accurate and supportive medical record documentation.

New HHS CME Training to Educate Providers about the HIPAA Right of Access
July 11, 2017
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has launched a new video training module for health care providers on patients' right of access under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. The video module provides an in-depth review of the components of the HIPAA right of access and ways in which it enables individuals to be more involved in their own care. NOTE: Users must create a free online MedScape account to participate in the activity.

American College of OBGYNs Practice Bulletin: Clinical Management Guidelines
June 26, 2017
The purpose of this bulletin is to discuss breast cancer risk assessment, review breast cancer screening guidelines in average-risk women, and outline some of the controversies surrounding breast cancer screening. It presents recommendations for using a framework of shared decision-making to assist women in balancing their personal values regarding benefits and harms of screening at various ages and intervals to make personal screening choices from within a range of reasonable options.

CDC Guideline for the Prevention of Surgical Site Infection, 2017
June 22, 2017
The human and financial costs of treating surgical site infections (SSIs) are increasing. It is estimated that approximately half of SSIs are deemed preventable using evidence-based strategies. This new guideline from the CDC provides new and updated evidence-based recommendations for the prevention of SSI.

MACRA Final Rule and MIPS Structure Outline
June 22, 2017
The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) is a federal law that established a new way to pay Physicians who treat Medicare patients. We have compiled a list of the latest updates to MACRA and resources to help Physicians determine their participation status in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).
Additional Links for Understanding MACRA and MIPS

Medicare Overpaid in Noncompliant EHR Incentive Payments
June 12, 2017
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act established the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs to promote the adoption of EHRs and to improve health care quality, safety, and efficiency through the promotion of health information technology and electronic health information exchange.

But CMS did not always make EHR incentive payments to EPs in accordance with Federal requirements. On the basis of sample results, the Office of the Inspector General estimates that CMS inappropriately paid $729.4 million (12 percent of the total) in incentive payments to EPs who did not meet meaningful use requirements. 

HHS Updates International Cyber Threat to Health Care Organizations
May 19, 2017
HHS has updated their resources and recommendations concerning cyber threats to health care organizations.
(PDF, 311 KB)

CDC Updates Guidelines for Interpretation of Zika Testing Results
May 15, 2017
The CDC has issued a notice with updated guidance on how to interpret Zika testing results for pregnant women.
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Codeine and Tramadol Medicines: Drug Safety Communication
April 21, 2017
The FDA is restricting use of the medications Codeine and Tramadol in children and recommending against their use by breastfeeding women.
(U.S. Food & Drug Administration)

Phillips Healthcare Recalls HeartStart MRx Monitor/Defibrillator
March 31, 2017
Due to electrical issues that may prevent the device from operating properly, Phillips Healthcare recalls HeartStart MRx Monitor/Defibrillator.
(U.S. Food & Drug Administration)

Virginia Board of Medicine
The Virginia Board of Medicine is promoting regulations on prescribing opioids for pain. These regulations will take effect March 15th.

"The Great Opioid Epidemic"
A record 52,404 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2015, according to the latest CDC data. 80% of these deaths were due to the misuse of opioids.

Phishing Email
A phishing email that is on mock HHS Departmental letterhead is being circulated and targeted at employees of HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates.

HIPAA Guidance
The Office for Civil Rights has updated their “Guidance for 2016 HIPAA Desk Audits” and FAQ.

Patients' No. 1 Complaint? Front-Desk Staff
May 13, 2016
A study of nearly 35,000 online reviews of physicians nationwide has found that customer service is patients' chief frustration, not physicians' medical expertise and clinical skill.

Department of Homeland Security Issues Ransomware Warning to Hospitals
April 25, 2016
In response to a series of ransomware attacks that crippled healthcare systems across the country, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), and the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre (CCIRC) released a warning on specific types of ransomware used in recent attacks. The warning is directed at all organizations that use networked computer systems, but specifically mentions healthcare facilities and hospitals.

The Zika Virus: What You Need to Know
March 28, 2016
CDC Issues Updated Zika Recommendations: Timing of Pregnancy after Zika Exposure, Prevention of Sexual Transmission, Considerations for Reducing Unintended Pregnancy in Areas with Zika Transmission

Update (2/29/16):
FDA issues recommendations to reduce the risk for Zika virus blood transmission in the United States.

Original Story:
The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus, and its suspected links to birth defects, as an international public health emergency.

Click here for the World Health Organization Fact Sheet.
Click here for the Center for Disease Control Information Center.

FDA outlines cybersecurity recommendations for medical device manufacturers
February 2, 2016
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a draft guidance outlining important steps medical device manufacturers should take to continually address cybersecurity risks to keep patients safe and better protect the public health. The draft guidance details the agency’s recommendations for monitoring, identifying and addressing cybersecurity vulnerabilities in medical devices once they have entered the market. The draft guidance is part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts to ensure the safety and effectiveness of medical devices, at all stages in their lifecycle, in the face of potential cyber threats.

AHRQ Releases Patient Safety Tool
January 18, 2016
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently announced the release of a new Action Planning Tool to assist healthcare professionals improve patient safety in almost any healthcare environment. Designed to be used by those who are already utilizing AHRQ's Surveys on Patient Safety Culture, the "tool" provides guidance on how to turn those survey results into a program for enhancing patient safety. Included in the tool is an Action Plan Template to help users document goals, needed resources, and timelines for improving the patient safety culture whether care is delivered in a hospital, medical office, nursing home, or ambulatory surgery center.

AMA Reaches ICD-10 Deal
July 8, 2015
In a joint press release, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the American Medical Association (AMA) announced new guidance to assist healthcare professionals in the transition to ICD-10, the disease classification system that has been used internationally for years but had not been previously implemented in the United States. The organizations announced parallel education programs, including "webinars, on-site training, educational articles, and national provider calls" to help all healthcare providers prepare for the switch from ICD-9 to ICD-10 which will occur on October 1, 2015.

In addition, CMS announced that for the first year of implementation it will not deny claims simply because the ICD-10 code is inaccurate—so long as it comes from the appropriate "family of codes." Also, CMS will not penalize doctors if the transition causes difficulty in calculating scores under various quality programs and will authorize advance payments to physicians whose claims are not processed within certain time frames due to difficulties stemming from the transition to ICD-10.

CMS stated that it would, at AMA's request, create an ICD-10 Ombudsman to help healthcare professionals transition to the updated coding system. While certainly helpful to the medical community, the announcement appears to mark AMA's retreat from its prior efforts to have ICD-10 implementation delayed again, or to allow the simultaneous use of ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes after the October 1 deadline.

Volunteer for Final ICD-10 End-to-End Testing Week by May 22
May 15, 2015
Physicians who want to ensure their claims will be processed by Medicare following the Oct. 1 implementation of the ICD-10 code set should volunteer by May 22 for a special end-to-end testing week being conducted by CMS July 20-24.

Physicians will have a chance to test sample claims using ICD-10 codes with Medicare Administrative Contractors and the Common Electronic Data Interchange contractor. The testing is available to those physicians who submit claims directly to Medicare. Click here to download an application form.

BREAKING: FDA issues endoscope warning following superbug outbreak
February 19, 2015
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a general warning to health providers regarding the use of medical endoscopes for complex endoscopic procedures.

Meaningful Use - CEHRT
December 11, 2014
In the December 2014 issue of MEDICAL MUTUAL Notes from the Chair newsletter, an article reminded readers about demonstrating meaningful use of Certified Electronic Health Record Technology. Click here for more information from the CMS.

Lararoscopic Power Morcellators
November 24, 2014
In an updated safety communication, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against using laparoscopic power morcellators.

Physician Payment Sunshine Act
CMS 'Sunshine Act' Portal Delayed; MMS, AMA Petition to Push Database Launch to March 31, 2015.

CMS will delay the public launch of a new a portal listing payments from drug and medical device makers to physicians. The agency's Open Payments System will not be open to the public on Sept. 30, though no new launch date was specified. There has been widespread concern among the medical community about the accuracy and integrity of the database, especially after glitches left the portal unusable for most of this week.

Original Story:
On September 30th, 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will publish payments providers received from drug and device manufacturers as part of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. Physicians who register with CMS can review their Physician Payment Sunshine Act data and correct any errors reported by pharmaceutical and drug manufacturers before they’re made public. Registration is available under the CMS Enterprise Portal.

To assist Physicians in preparing for the release, the American Medical Association (AMA) has created an online Physician Sunshine Act Toolkit which contains information about the release, steps to register, and an app to track payments.