News in Brief: Week of Nov. 5-9

November 07, 2012 04:20 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

AAFP Has Great American Smokeout Resources for Members

The Great American Smokeout is fast approaching, and the AAFP's Ask and Act( tobacco cessation program wants to help members make the most of it.

The Nov. 15 event is a great opportunity for family physicians to talk to patients about quitting tobacco use. Ask and Act has many resources available to help physicians help patients with their tobacco cessation efforts, including a toolkit, office resources, and patient education materials( from

AAFP Foundation Looking for Volunteers to Help Sandy Victims

The AAFP Foundation is providing aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy( through its partner organizations Heart to Heart International and International Medical Corps.

Family physicians who are licensed in New York and who would like to volunteer can e-mail the Foundation for more information.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 6, the Foundation had raised more than $8,000 in donations to help with disaster relief, but it would like to raise more.

Study Finds That Least-Experienced Physicians Account for Higher Costs

Physicians who are newer to the medical profession account for higher health care costs than their more experienced colleagues and are more likely to be negatively affected by health care plans that employ physician cost profiles as a way to control expenditures.

That's the conclusion of a recent study( released by the RAND Corp. and published in the November Health Affairs.

The study, based on Massachusetts insurance claims from 2004-2005, found that physicians with less than 10 years of experience in the medical field accounted for health care costs that were 13.2 percent higher than physicians who have worked in the field for 40 years or more. The study's findings could have far-reaching implications for physician payment now that commercial health plans and government payers increasingly are using physician cost profiles to control health care spending, according to the authors of the study.

Residents Urged to Apply for RWJF Clinical Scholars Program

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) invites all physician residents to apply for the RWJF Clinical Scholars program( The program offers two years of graduate-level study and research in a university-based, post-residency training program. Clinical scholars receive a generous funding package.

The intent of the program is to foster the development of physicians who can lead the transformation of America's health care system. Clinical scholars are expected to conduct innovative research and work with communities, organizations, medical professionals and health care policymakers to address some of the most pressing issues related to the health and well-being of Americans.

Interested residents can read more about program and download an electronic application( The application deadline is Feb. 28, 2013.

GAO Study Prompts Calls for Better Monitoring of Self-Referrals

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is calling on CMS to improve its ability to identify self-referral of advanced imaging services and to better track increases in those services after a GAO study( found that referrals for these services are much higher among physicians who have a financial stake in procedures.

The GAO estimates that in 2010, physicians with a financial stake in ordering MRIs and CT scans issued 40,000 more referrals for the tests than they would have if a financial stake did not exist. These additional referrals cost Medicare $109 million, according to the GAO.

"To the extent that these additional referrals were unnecessary, they pose unacceptable risks for beneficiaries, particularly in the case of CT services, which involve the use of ionizing radiation that has been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer," the study says.