News in Brief: Week of July 22-26

July 24, 2013 04:18 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

TransforMED Announces 90 Practices for Medical Neighborhood Pilot

Practice transformation expert TransforMED(, a not-for-profit subsidiary of the AAFP, has been chosen by CMS to lead a national patient-centered medical neighborhood pilot that will span three years. The company will receive funding of nearly $21 million for the project from the CMS Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

As part of the pilot, TransforMED recently announced the names of 90 primary care practices, affiliated with 15 different health systems and located in 65 cities nationwide, chosen to participate in the study. According to a July 16 press release(, the practices will test the patient-centered medical neighborhood concept, which, in effect, connects primary care practices steeped in patient-centered medical home strategies with community-based health care professionals to create a health care delivery network that is efficient and coordinated and that provides high-quality care at a lower cost.

Grants Will Increase Number of Physicians Trained in Community Settings

HHS has announced $12 million in grants( to support primary care training programs in 32 teaching health centers around the country in an effort to boost the number of primary care physicians trained in community-based settings.

The grants, which are part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will help train more than 300 residents during the 2013-14 academic year, effectively doubling the number of residents trained from the previous academic year, according to the HHS press release.

The Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Payment program was created by the health care reform law and is intended to expand residency training in community-based settings. The $12 million grant will help teaching health centers train residents in family and internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, and general and pediatric dentistry.

The grant will expand the number of states with teaching health centers from 14 to 21, according to HHS. The centers are located in a variety of rural and urban areas and serve diverse populations.

CMS Announces Pioneer ACO Model Outcomes

CMS recently announced first-year outcomes generated by 32 accountable care organizations (ACOs) that are part of CMS' Pioneer ACO Model program(

According to a CMS press release(, all 32 ACOs successfully reported quality measures, achieved the maximum reporting rate and earned incentive payments. Overall, the pioneer ACOs performed better than published measurements in fee-for-service Medicare for the 15 clinical quality measures for which comparable data are available, including hospital readmissions, blood pressure control and cholesterol control for patients with diabetes.

CMS said that pioneer ACOs had taken "tangible steps" to improve care and lower costs for the more than 669,000 Medicare beneficiaries aligned to pioneer ACOs. Costs for the care of those patients grew by 0.3 percent in 2012 compared with 0.8 percent for similar beneficiaries outside the pioneer ACOs. In addition, 13 of the 32 pioneer ACOs produced shared savings with CMS, two reported shared losses, and 17 pioneer ACOs broke even.

Cost Savings, Improved Quality Result of PCMH Initiatives, Says PCPCC

The Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative (PCPCC) has released a summary( that lists key outcomes data for more than 30 patient-centered medical home (PCMH) initiatives in the public and private sectors during the past three years.

The summary provides cost and use data, as well as quality and outcomes data for each PCMH initiative. According to the PCPCC, the initiatives have improved the quality of care by increasing access to physicians and other providers and saved millions of dollars by reducing ER visits and hospital admissions.

For example, HealthPartners in Minnesota reduced ER visits by 39 percent and hospital admission rates by 24 percent through a PCMH initiative, according to the summary. HealthPartners also reduced appointment wait times by 350 percent. In addition, the initiative led to dramatic improvements in heart disease care and diabetes care.

FDA Seeks Commentary on Menthol in Cigarettes

The FDA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking( on July 24 seeking information to help the agency make informed decisions regarding potential regulatory options it might consider for menthol in cigarettes.

According to an FDA release(, the agency also is making available a preliminary evaluation( that addresses the association between menthol cigarettes and various outcomes, including initiation, addiction and cessation.

The FDA will consider all comments, data, research and other information submitted to Docket No. FDA-2013-N-0521 to determine what, if any, regulatory action on menthol in cigarettes is appropriate. If the agency decides to move forward, it will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to give the public an opportunity to weigh in on the specifics of the proposed rule.

The FDA also said it plans to support new research on the differences between menthol and non-menthol cigarettes as they relate to "menthol's likely impact on smoking cessation and attempts to quit." The agency will assess the levels of menthol in cigarette brands and sub-brands and continue to develop a youth education campaign focused on preventing and reducing tobacco use, including use of menthol cigarettes.

The notice will be available for public comment until Sept. 23 at 11:59 PM EDT.