News in Brief: Week of Feb. 25-March 1

February 27, 2013 05:15 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

AAFP Launches Child, Adolescent Immunization Office Champions Project

The AAFP currently is recruiting 20 family medicine practices for the Child and Adolescent Immunization Office Champions Project.

The project, which is designed to help clinics develop a culture that promotes the importance of vaccines, will focus on

  • improving strong recommendations for child and adolescent vaccines,
  • reducing missed opportunities to immunize child and adolescent patients,
  • increasing parental awareness and acceptance of child and adolescent vaccines,
  • addressing myths and misconceptions, and
  • implementing evidence-based practices to improve vaccine coverage.

The 18-month project is expected to begin its implementation phase in June. The application deadline (5-page Word file. About downloads) is April 1.

Participants must designate a practicing family physician, who also is an active Academy member, to complete performance improvement modules, as well as sign an AAFP conflict of interest and consent for participation form. Practices also must

  • designate an "office champion" to participate in monthly conference calls and develop an action plan to implement office system changes to increase child and adolescent immunization rates in the practice's daily office routines;
  • conduct two reviews of 25 randomly selected child and 25 randomly selected adolescent patient charts, following parameters distributed during the course of the project; and
  • complete three practice surveys at the various phases, as well as a post-project interview.

Participating practices that hit all of the milestones set out will receive $3,000 during the course of the project to cover administrative costs, as well as recognition materials following project completion. Interested parties can contact Sandy Sheehy by e-mail or at (800) 274-2237, Ext. 3141.

CMMI Awards $20.75 Million for Medical Neighborhood Project

CMS' Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) recently awarded $20.75 million to AAFP subsidiary TransforMED and two other organizations to fund a three-year patient-centered medical neighborhood demonstration project.

According to a press release(, TransforMED; VHA Inc., a network of not-for-profit hospitals; and Phytel, a provider-led population health management organization pulled together for the effort, which is designed to improve collaboration among primary care practices, hospitals and other health care specialists.

The CMMI project will touch nearly 157,000 Medicare and Medicaid patients in 15 health systems across the country and aims to decrease overall health care costs in those communities by as much as $49 million. Participating organizations also will strive to improve both the health and health care experiences of patients.

Final Rule Requires Catastrophic Plans to Cover Annual Primary Care Visits

HHS will require catastrophic health plans to cover at least three primary care visits a year as a result of a final rule( (149-page PDF; About PDFs) that outlines health insurance standards for essential health benefits covered under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Catastrophic plans are meant to cover serious medical conditions or emergencies. But according to the final rule, they also must cover at least three primary care visits a year. The final rule outlines actuarial value levels in the individual and small group practice markets, which makes it possible to distinguish health plans that offer different levels of coverage.

Catastrophic plans offer the lowest deductibles, but they require patients to pay more out-of-pocket costs for physician visits and prescription drugs. The plans supposedly protect patients from financial disaster resulting from a medical emergency. They are only available through the individual insurance market and are limited to patients younger than age 30 and those who receive a hardship exemption or are unable to purchase insurance.

ACOs Join Forces, Create National Nonprofit Organization

There's a new kid on the block in the world of nonprofit organizations. Earlier this month, more than 60 accountable care organizations (ACOs) joined forces to form the National Association of ACOs (NAACOS)(

According to a press release(, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization will be governed by an interim board of directors until a permanent board is elected in June. The first national NAACOS conference and membership meeting will be held in March in Baltimore.

Organization leaders expect membership ranks to swell to more than 100 ACOs later this spring. NAACOS' mission is to, among other things, promote growth of the ACO model, encourage uniformity in quality and performance measures, and educate health care consumers as to why ACOs can improve their health care.

Study Calls for More Patient, Family Involvement in Care

A recent survey of patient-centered medical home (PCMH) practices found that nearly all sought patient feedback in their attempts to improve patient care. But only 29 percent of the 112 surveyed practices said they involved patients and families as advisers and used surveys to solicit patient feedback. Only 32 percent said they incorporated patients in quality improvement efforts.

That's the assessment of a study( in a recent edition of Health Affairs that was conducted by the AAFP's Collaborative Care Research Network and the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

In the study, the authors conclude that "most patient-centered medical homes use one or more methods of patient and family involvement. However, more must be done to expand an understanding of the value of involvement and the ways in which it can be achieved, particularly given the literature that questions the impact of the medical home infrastructure on patient experience."

Achieving true patient and family centeredness will require a cultural shift in thinking about how to make patients partners in their care rather than solely recipients of care, said the study's authors. "Practices must gain more experience in involving patients and families as partners and using their input for improvement and must also be exposed to more examples of the benefits of this involvement."