News in Brief: Week of Feb. 17-21

February 19, 2014 03:30 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

Study Reveals Patients Use Online Physician Ratings to Limited Degree

A group of researchers recently studied the use of online physician rankings and how people use the sites. What they found is public awareness of the existence of online physician ratings is lower than awareness of online ratings for other products or services, such as automobiles or services unrelated to health.

Forty-one percent of respondents said online ratings were "unimportant" in their decision process. Nineteen percent considered them "very important," and 40 percent said they were "somewhat important." The study results( were reported in a research letter in the current issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The research also found that a physician's online ratings were considered less important when choosing a physician than other factors, such as

  • whether a physician accepts a patient's insurance,
  • convenient location,
  • word of mouth from friends or family members, and
  • years of experience.

Among respondents who said they used an online ratings site, 35 percent said they chose a physician based upon positive ratings, and 37 percent avoided a physician with poor ratings. For individuals who did not consult an online ratings site, 43 percent said they did not trust the information reported on such sites.

AAFP to Review, Comment on Draft Recommendation on CAS Screening

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) this week issued a draft evidence report( and draft recommendation statement( regarding screening for carotid artery stenosis (CAS). Specifically, the task force recommended against screening for CAS in the general adult population.

The draft recommendation applies only to adults without neurologic signs or symptoms, including any history of transient ischemic attack or stroke.

According to the USPSTF, no direct evidence exists regarding the benefits of screening for CAS. And whereas adequate evidence indicates that in selected trial participants with asymptomatic CAS, carotid endarterectomy (CEA) by selected surgeons reduces the absolute incidence of all strokes or perioperative death by about 3.5 percent compared with medical management, the magnitude of this benefit would be less among asymptomatic individuals in the general population.

Given that adequate evidence indicates both the testing strategy for CAS and treatment with CEA can cause harms, the task force concluded with moderate certainty that the harms of screening for asymptomatic CAS outweigh the benefits.

The AAFP last visited this issue in 2007, when it recommended against screening for asymptomatic CAS in the general adult population. As with any draft recommendation from the USPSTF, the Academy will review the current proposal and submit any indicated comments to the task force by the March 17 deadline.

New 1500 Claim Form Mandatory on April 1

Physicians who submit claims to Medicare should be preparing to use the new 1500 claim form -- designated as "version 2/12" -- that was approved by CMS and the Office of Budget and Management last summer.

Beginning April 1, payers no longer will accept the old 1500 form for payment.

Among other things, the new form( has been revised to accommodate the ICD-10-CM diagnosis code set that is scheduled for implementation on Oct. 1. Physicians who submit paper claims can get copies of the new form from their suppliers. Physicians filing electronic claims should contact their software vendors to schedule an upgrade to their practice management systems.

Additional resources about the new form are available( from the National Uniform Claim Committee.

CMS Simplifies PQRS with Interactive Timeline

CMS recently released an interactive Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) timeline( to help physicians keep track of key program deadlines between 2014 and 2016.

Users can scroll over timeline dates, click and pull up a more comprehensive chart with details about milestones to be met by that date and links to additional resources.

Reporting for the 2014 PQRS program year ends for group practices and individuals on Dec. 31.

HHS Issues Notice of Privacy Practices in Spanish

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act's privacy rule requires physicians and health plans to give patients information about their rights with respect to the privacy of their personal health information.

In an effort to ensure that physicians and health plans are serving their Spanish-speaking patients in a culturally sensitive manner, HHS recently translated several models of its "Notice of Privacy Practices" into Spanish. According to a 2012 survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 38 million people age five or older said Spanish was the primary language spoken in their homes.

Physicians have four formats from which to choose. Additional information and links to the privacy notices are available from HHS.

AAFP Updates Privacy Policy

The AAFP has updated its privacy policy to better reflect the current state of technology and changes in privacy policy best practices.

According to the Academy, "The AAFP is committed to protecting the privacy of its members and customers." The policy spells out how the AAFP collects and uses information from its websites and via voluntary interactions with the AAFP.