News in Brief: Week of Oct. 8-12

October 10, 2012 05:20 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

Free Vitamin B-12 Patient Education Brochure

The AAFP's Americans in Motion-Healthy Interventions (AIM-HI) initiative is offering members a free brochure to help them educate patients on vitamin B-12 basics, including the symptoms and potential health consequences associated with low B-12 levels, and ways to prevent and treat B-12 deficiency.

The free brochure is specific to family medicine and comes in a 25-count package. Academy members are encouraged to use it in teachable moments in the exam room, distribute it as take-home material, or place it as a handout in the waiting room.

Degree of Fellow Applications Open

The AAFP is calling on family physicians to apply for the Degree of Fellow. According to the AAFP, the Degree of Fellow recognizes AAFP members who have distinguished themselves among their colleagues, as well as in their communities, by their service to family medicine; by their advancement of health care to the American people; and by their professional development through medical education and research.

Fellows of the AAFP are champions for family medicine, says the AAFP. Being a Fellow signifies not only "tenure" but additional work in the community, within organized medicine, and within teaching, as well as a greater commitment to continuing professional development and research.

Any active, life or inactive member -- with dues and reelections in good standing -- may, upon application to the AAFP, be elected to receive the degree of Fellow. Applicants need to fulfill the following requirements:

  • must have held active membership for six years or held a combination of resident and active membership for a total of six years;
  • accrue a grand total of 100 points as defined by the application and cite experiences and activities in life-long learning, practice quality and improvement, volunteer teaching, public service, publishing and research, and service to the specialty; and
  • submit a one-time fee of $175.

Members can call (800) 274-2237 to get application information. They also can visit the AAFP website or email the Academy.

CMS Offers Resources to Assist Physicians With ICD-10 Transition

To help physicians prepare for the transition to the ICD-10-CM code set for outpatient diagnosis coding, CMS has created a number of resources(, including an ICD-10 Web page( with information created specifically for physicians as they make the transition.

In addition, physicians can stay tuned in to the latest information by signing up to receive e-mail updates( and by subscribing to CMS' "latest news(" page watch.

HHS announced the final rule( on ICD-10 late in August and set Oct. 1, 2014, as the date by which the health care industry must be in compliance with the ICD-10-CM code set.

Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Caps on Noneconomic Damages

In a ruling( that could have profound implications for the nation's physician and health care communities, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a state law that places a $250,000 cap on noneconomic malpractice awards, saying in a five-to-two decision that the law does not violate the state's constitutional protections.

Kansas enacted the tort reform law in 1988, and in its ruling, the state Supreme Court said the state's decision to put the cap in place was related to a valid legislative purpose -- to ensure the availability of quality health care and to promote affordable, available malpractice insurance for physicians and other health care providers. Therefore, the law does not violate the state's constitutional protections, the court ruled.

In a brief summary( of the decision, the state's medical society said the ruling "turned on the fact that physicians, hospitals and other health care providers are required by law to carry liability insurance and participate in the Health Care Stabilization Fund." The combination of these two measures "provides a guaranteed source of recovery for patients injured through a provider's negligence," according to the medical society. This, in turn, creates a "quid pro quo wherein individuals give up the right to recover unlimited pain and suffering damages in return for an assured source of recovery."

Study Documents Decline in Physician and Medical Provider Visits

Working-age Americans are making fewer visits to their physicians than they did a decade ago, says a new study( released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 made an average of 3.9 visits to physicians, nurses and other medical professionals in 2010, a decrease from 4.8 visits in 2001, says the study, which is based on a periodic report( that examines the relationship between the use of medical services, health status, health insurance coverage, and other demographic and economic characteristics.

"The decline in the use of medical services was widespread, taking place regardless of health status," said Brett O'Hara, chief of the Census Bureau's Health and Disability Statistics Branch.

The average number of annual visits dropped from 12.9 to 11.6 from 2001 to 2010 among working age adults who reported that their health was either poor or fair. At the same time, the number of visits declined from 5.3 to 4.2 visits for those reporting good health and from 3.2 to 2.5 for those who said their health was excellent or very good, the survey showed.

The number of visits to physicians and other medical providers became more frequent with age; 37 percent of young adults aged 18-24 did not visit a medical provider in a given year compared to 8 percent of those 65 and older. Hispanics, meanwhile, were the least likely racial or ethnic group to visit a physician or medical provider; 42 percent did not visit one during a given year, the report said.

The report also found that among uninsured adults who visited a physician or other medical provider during the year, 13 percent visited an emergency room and 10 percent visited a hospital but not an emergency room.