News Briefs: Week of Feb. 28 - March 4

March 02, 2011 04:20 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

iPhone App Helps FPs Prep for Maintenance of Certification Exam

The American Board of Family Medicine, or ABFM, has launched a new iPhone application to help family physicians prepare for the Maintenance of Certification for Family Physicians, or MC-FP, exam.

The ABFM Exam Prep app( turns an iPhone into a tool to help family physicians when they enter their certification or recertification years. The free, downloadable app features exam preparation documents and videos, upcoming exam dates, links to the ABFM website and the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine website, and a practice quiz with more than 200 questions that address common problems encountered by family physicians.

Reminder: File Medicare Claims Within 12 Months of Date of Service

CMS is reminding Medicare participating physicians that as of Jan. 3, 2011, any Medicare fee-for-service claim with a date of service on or after Jan. 1, 2010, must be received by the physician's Medicare contractor no later than one calendar year from the claim's date of service.

Failure to comply with the 12-month timeline will result in Medicare denying the claim, according to a recent MLN Matters article(

CMS began reaching out to physicians with guidance on the "timely filing rule," which is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, via a May 7, 2010, MLN Matters article( The agency continued its educational efforts with a second MLN Matters article on July 30( The agency also produced a podcast( on the timely filing rule for Medicare fee-for-service providers.

Vision Screening in Young Children Is Focus of USPSTF Recommendation

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, or USPSTF, has updated its vision screening recommendations( for children, calling for screening all children at least once at age 3-5 years to detect the presence of amblyopia or its risk factors. Amblyopia, which can lead to permanent vision loss, affects as many as 4 percent of preschool-aged children.

The recommendation, which has been adopted by the AAFP after review by the Academy's Commission on Health of the Public and Science, updates the task force's 2004 recommendation, in which the USPSTF recommended vision screening for all children younger than 5 years old. In its new recommendations, the task force found that current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of vision screening in children younger than 3 years.

CMS Reports 'Strong' Early Interest in EHR Incentive Programs

More than 21,000 physicians and other health care providers initiated registration for the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record, or EHR, incentive programs in January, according to CMS(

As of February 11, the agency said, more than 45,000 physicians and other providers requested information or registration help from 62 regional extension centers, which provide hands-on support for physicians and other providers who want to adopt and become "meaningful users" of electronic health information technology.

"This strong early interest in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs among providers and state Medicaid programs is most welcome and very encouraging," said CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D., in the prepared statement. "We encourage early adoption, and we're seeing the registration numbers continue on an upward trajectory."

GME Should Align With Patient Needs, Says Workgroup

A workgroup sponsored by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation and the Association of Academic Health Centers says U.S. graduate medical education, or GME, programs should be reviewed to make sure that they produce the right number and mix of physicians, especially primary care physicians.

In a Feb. 14 news release(, the foundation said the workgroup urged Congress to seek an independent, external review of how GME programs are governed, financed and regulated and called for a one-time increase in the number of medical residency slots in targeted specialties.

"We need to reconfigure our GME system to create a workforce that will meet the population's need for medical care," said George Thibault, M.D., president of the foundation, in the news release.

According to the release, the report's authors say the number of practicing physicians will not increase unless the number of residency positions is increased. The authors asked for a one-time increase of 3,000 entry-level GME positions, especially in family medicine, general internal medicine, general surgery and psychiatry.

HHS Awards More Money to Help Rural Facilities Transition to EHRs

HHS recently announced( that it is providing an additional $12 million in funds for regional extension centers to help critical-access and rural hospitals become "meaningful users" of electronic health records, or EHRs.

"Critical-access and rural hospitals are a vital part of our health care system," said David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P., national coordinator for health information technology. "Health information technology can offer rural health care providers and their patients resources and expertise that may not be currently available in their communities."

The funds, which are part of the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health Act, will help the facilities qualify for EHR incentive payments from the Medicare and Medicaid programs.