News in Brief: Week of Feb. 20-24

February 22, 2012 03:40 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

AAFP Members Gain Access to Free PCMH Webinar

TransforMED is providing AAFP members with access to the archived version( (Members Only) of its free webinar, "Why Patient-Centered Medical Home? -- Getting Your Team On Board."

The webinar, which was hosted by TransforMED President and CEO Terry McGeeney, M.D., M.B.A., is available on demand. It answers questions about the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model and what it means for primary care. Viewers will learn how transforming into a PCMH practice can improve a practice's financial stability and enahnce patient and staff satisfaction.

NHSC Awards Funds to Help Strengthen Medically Underserved Communities

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) has awarded $9.1 million in loan repayment assistance to a special group of medical students in 30 states and the District of Columbia to help strengthen the nation's medically underserved communities.

The funds, which were made available by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, were awarded to fourth-year medical students who have agreed to practice as primary care physicians in communities with limited access to care. In exchange for the loan repayment assistance, the students are required to provide three years of full-time service or six years of half-time service in rural and urban areas of greatest need, according to an HHS press release(

The funds were issued as part of the NHSC's Students to Service Loan Repayment Program(, a pilot program created as part of the Affordable Care Act. That program provides loan repayment assistance of as much as $120,000.

"The average medical school debt of the students receiving these awards is more than $200,000," said Mary Wakefield, R.N., Ph.D., administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration. "The Students to Service Program relieves a tremendous debt burden, allowing them to follow their passion for primary care and serve some of the country's most underserved rural and urban communities."

Look for Changes to MCAT in 2015

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has approved changes to the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) that add an emphasis on behavioral and social sciences. The revised test will be given to aspiring physicians beginning in 2015. The revisions, which represent the first changes to the MCAT since 1991, will increase the length of the exam to about six and a half hours.

In a Feb. 16 news release(, AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch, M.D., said, "Being a good doctor is about more than scientific knowledge. It also requires an understanding of people. By balancing the MCAT exam's focus on the natural sciences with a new section on the psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior, the new exam will better prepare students to build strong knowledge of the socio-cultural and behavioral determinants of health."

A preview titled MCAT 2015: A Better Test for Tomorrow's Doctors( provides sample questions and a list of concepts and topics covered by the new exam.

Ohio Makes $1 Million Investment in PCMH Pilot Project

Ohio plans to invest $1 million in a patient-centered medical home (PCMH) pilot project( that will help 50 primary care practices attain PCMH status so they can be used as training sites.

In 2011, Ohio organized a PCMH Education Advisory Group that recruited practices for the project and established outcome measures for the pilot. Now, the Ohio Department of Health, in partnership with the Governor's Office of Health Transformation, will use the $1 million in new funds to hire a vendor to provide practice transformation consulting services to the 50 participating practices.

"The goal of the project is more about educating medical students, residents, nurses and the entire office team about delivering the PCMH model of health care than it is about transitioning practices," said Ann Spicer, EVP of the Ohio AFP. "The practices are being transformed so they can serve as education sites."

Ted Wymyslo, M.D., director of the Ohio Department of Health, said in the press statement that the health "will give priority to practices that serve underserved or minority populations, and at least 15 percent of every practice that received training dollars must support either uninsured or Medicaid-eligible Ohioans."

New Drug Abuse Website Caters to Adults With Limited Literacy

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has launched a website on drug abuse( that is specifically designed for use by adults with limited literacy skills. The Easy-to-Read Drug Facts site boasts a simple design with a large default text size, motion graphic videos and other features that make the site's content easy to read and understand.

Family physicians with patients who have literacy challenges and are battling substance abuse may find it helpful to steer these patients to the new website for more information about abuse issues. Content on the site is broken into clearly defined sections, such as Drugs That People Abuse, What Is Addiction? and Recovery & Treatment.

Among its other features, the website uses ReadSpeaker, a text-to-speech tool that provides audio versions of each page without users having to download any software. An embedded highlighting tool enables website visitors to see synchronized highlighting of the text that is being read.