News in Brief: Week of Aug. 15-19

August 17, 2011 05:45 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

Results Are in on Medicare Physician Feedback Program

The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, has issued study results on the effectiveness of a program developed to give physicians confidential feedback on the resources they use to provide health care to their Medicare patients.

According to highlights( from the report Medicare Physician Feedback Program: CMS Faces Challenges with Methodology and Distribution of Physician Reports(, the GAO made specific recommendations on how CMS could improve the program. For example, the GAO pointed out that 82 percent of 9,189 sampled physicians were excluded from receiving feedback reports in 2010 and suggested that CMS use "methodological approaches" to increase physician eligibility.

The GAO also urged CMS make the reports more readable and investigate why some physicians who received reports failed to read them. The GAO suggested that CMS seek input from physicians as to the usefulness and credibility of feedback reports.

Opioid Prescribers on Track to Receive Clinical Support

Family physicians and other health care professionals will benefit from free clinical support in the use of opioid medications through a system being developed by the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, or AAAP.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, has awarded the AAAP a $1.5 million grant to develop a Prescriber's Clinical Support System. The system intends to promote the appropriate use of opioid therapies by medical professionals treating opioid-related addiction and advance the safe use of opioid medications by medical professionals treating chronic pain.

According to an Aug. 17 news release( from SAMHSA, which is part of HHS, the project will include the development of educational materials, including webinars, training at national meetings and clinical tools to assist practicing clinicians.

Application Window Open for Practice Improvement Award

The AAFP's practice management journal, Family Practice Management, is seeking applications for its FPM Award for Practice Improvement, which is offered annually to a primary care practice or organization that has made significant improvement in one or more areas during the past three years.

FPM editors are particularly looking for practices or organizations that have improved in the areas of

  • clinical outcomes,
  • clinical processes,
  • patient satisfaction,
  • staff satisfaction,
  • physician satisfaction, and/or
  • practice efficiency and productivity.

The award comes with a cash prize of $500, a framed certificate and two registrations to the Conference on Practice Improvement(, Dec. 1-4 in Newport Beach, Calif. Award entries must be submitted by Sept. 1 to be considered for this year's award.

2010 e-Rx Incentive Payment Distribution to Be Completed by Aug. 31

CMS has announced that the distribution of payments for the 2010 Medicare Electronic Prescribing, or e-Rx, Incentive Program, is well under way and scheduled for completion by Aug. 31. Physicians with questions about the status of their e-Rx incentive payment should locate their provider contact center in the Contact Center Directory( and make inquiries before the end of the month.

According to information provided to Medicare fee-for-service providers, CMS has created a four-digit code to clarify the type of incentive payment issued and the reporting year. Physicians receiving an electronic remittance advice with a 2010 e-Rx incentive payment will see an "LE" indicator and the four-digit code "RX10." Paper remittances will be labeled as an e-Rx incentive payment but will not include information about the incentive payment year.

Detailed information about the 2010 program was posted by CMS( on June 20. CMS' QualityNet Help Desk is staffed from Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT, and is available by e-mail or phone at (866) 288-8912.

Federal, State Cutbacks Threaten Care for Underserved, Says Study

The nation's community health centers are finding it increasingly difficult to expand into underserved communities and grow their capacity at existing sites because of recent federal and state funding cutbacks. That development has jeopardized care for thousands of medically disenfranchised individuals who rely on the centers for their health care. That's according to a new study report issued by the National Association of Community Health Centers.

The report, Access Endangered: Profiles of the Medically Disenfranchised(, notes that the federal government has reduced its investment in community health centers, while state governments have cut funding for the health centers to their lowest levels since 2005.

The cutbacks are occurring at a time when 60 million Americans do not have access to primary care because of shortages of primary care physicians and other primary care clinicians, according to the report.

The report also found that

  • for every $1 million in federal funding cuts, health centers lose the capacity to serve 8,297 patients;
  • one in four low-income and uninsured working adults relies on health centers for care; and
  • the number of uninsured patients at health centers grew by 36 percent nationally from 2004-09, but state funding to health centers decreased by 42 percent during just the past two years.

NACCHO Policy Rejects Personal Belief Exemptions

The National Association of County and City Health Officials, or NACCHO, has issued a policy statement( urging that personal belief exemptions be removed from state immunization laws and regulations to "reduce the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases, protect those who cannot receive vaccine due to age or medical condition, and protect those at greater risk of severe complications if they do become infected and ill."

NACCHO said in its statement that is does not oppose medical and religious exemptions to school immunization requirements.

The Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society released a position statement in May opposing any legislation or regulation that would allow children to be exempted from mandatory immunizations based on their parents' -- or, in the case of teens, their own -- secular personal beliefs.