News in Brief: Week of May 20-24

May 22, 2013 05:00 pm News Staff
[News in Brief]

USPSTF Recommends Oral Fluoride Supplementation Starting at 6 Months

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a draft statement( on May 20 recommending that primary care clinicians prescribe oral fluoride supplementation starting at age 6 months for children whose water supply is deficient in fluoride. In addition, the USPSTF recommends that these health care professionals apply fluoride varnish to the primary teeth of infants and children starting at the age of primary tooth eruption.

The USPSTF also concluded that current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of routine screening for dental caries in children from birth to age 5 years.

According to the statement, dental caries is the most common chronic disease in children in the United States, with data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggesting that about 42 percent of children ages 2-11 years have dental caries in their primary teeth. The prevalence of dental caries in children has been increasing, particularly in children ages 2-5 years, since the mid-1990s.

Currently, the AAFP strongly recommends ordering fluoride supplementation to prevent dental caries for infants and children ages 6 months through 16 years who reside in areas with inadequate fluoride in the water supply, defined as less than 0.6 part per million.

The draft recommendation is available for comment( until June 17 at 5 p.m. EDT.

CMS Seeks More Participants for First Bundled Payment Initiative

According to a notice in the May 17 Federal Register(, CMS' Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) wants additional health care organizations to apply to participate in model one of its Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative, which began in April.

Interested organizations have until July 31 to submit an application/information intake form for the initiative, which represents the first of four episode payment models to be tested. The CMMI is experimenting with innovative payment service delivery models that will both reduce spending of federal health care dollars and preserve or enhance the quality of health care provided.

Further details( are available on the CMS website or via e-mail.

Online Tool Shows Working Pharmacy Locations in Disaster Areas

On May 21, the Rx Open online tool was activated( in response to the destruction caused by the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Run by Rx Response -- a nonprofit coalition that includes organizations involved in the manufacturing, distribution and dispensing of biopharmaceutical medicines -- Rx Open( collects real-time data and provides current mapping of individual pharmacies that are open so that physicians can refer patients to these facilities in an emergency situation. The tool also offers a county overview map that displays a high-level view of the impact of an emergency on the pharmacies in each county within the affected region. Each county is color-coded based on its pharmacies' operational status.

In addition to these online presentations, Rx Open provides a downloadable Excel file that lists all pharmacies in the affected area along with their addresses and operational status.

EHR Uptake Among Physicians, Hospitals Since 2008 Significant, Says HHS

HHS announced today that it had exceeded a goal relating to the use of electronic health records (EHRs) by America's physicians and hospitals.

According to a May 22 news release(, the agency's goal -- that 50 percent of doctors' offices and 80 percent of hospitals eligible would successfully meet requirements for the Medicare or Medicaid EHR incentive programs for achieving meaningful use of an EHR by the end of 2013 -- has been achieved.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the accomplishment a "tipping point in adoption of electronic health records." In 2008, just 17 percent of physicians reported using an advanced EHR system, and only 9 percent of hospitals had implemented EHR technology. At the end of April, more than 291,000 eligible professionals and more than 3,800 eligible hospitals had received EHR incentive payments.

CMS Invites Physicians to Learn About $1 Billion Funding Opportunity

CMS has announced a second round of funding( totaling as much as $1 billion on projects that test new payment and service delivery models. Specifically, the federal government is looking for ways to ensure the delivery of high-quality and lower-cost health care for patients enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Physicians and health care organizations who want to know more about this opportunity to secure federal dollars for health care projects can register for a webinar scheduled for May 28( from 1-2:30 p.m. EDT. Advance registration is required.