Congress Passes Health Professions Reauthorization, Appropriates Funds
In the final days prior to adjournment, Congress passed bill S 1754, the Health Professions Education Partnerships Act of 1998. The legislation is critical to family medicine and other primary care education programs, because it authorizes funds for these programs. The measure, crafted by Sen. William Frist (R-Tenn.), consolidates 44 individual health professions training programs into seven general authorities. However, the measure contains a mandatory amount of not less than $49.3 million to be set aside each year for family medicine training programs of which at least $8.6 million must be used to fund family medicine academic administrative units in medical schools. The bill also establishes an Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry. Additionally, in its massive omnibus funding bill, Congress appropriated funds of $51.5 million for family practice training programs, an increase of $1.5 million from last year. These measures recognize the important role that family medicine programs have in training physicians to care for the American people.
‘Assisted Suicide’ Provision Withdrawn
Legislation that would have allowed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to investigate physicians when high doses of narcotic painkillers are utilized in end-of-life care was not approved by Congress. Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) decided not to pursue his amendment to provide this authority to the DEA, but he has announced that this subject will be an issue for him when Congress returns in 1999. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Medical Association and many other health organizations have actively opposed this further imposition into medical practice.
Awards Recognize Crucial Role of Primary Care in America
The Pew Health Professions Commission has honored leaders of the nation's health care system who have made significant contributions to the field of primary care. The awards are bestowed on individuals and organizations. The 1998 Primary Care Achievement Awards were presented in a ceremony at the “Primary Care Education for the 21st Century: Lessons from National Initiatives” meeting, held in Baltimore. The University of New Mexico School of Medicine Primary Care Curriculum received an award in the education category. The school initiated its world-renowned primary care curriculum long before other medical schools adopted a problem-based, student-centered approach to teaching primary care. The Pediatric Research in Office Settings (PROS) network received an award in the research category for the contributions of over 1,500 practitioners who are producing studies of primary care as it is delivered in pediatric practices. John W. Runyan Jr., M.D., Memphis, Tenn., received the patient care award for creating a system of neighborhood health clinics that made primary care accessible and affordable; Joel J. Alpert, M.D., president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, received an award in the education category. Bernard Ewigman, M.D., M.S.P.H., University of Missouri-Columbia, received an award in the research category. He has emphasized translating groundbreaking research into effective care for underserved populations as a researcher, educator and practicing physician.
Jane E. Henney, M.D., Is Confirmed as Commissioner of the FDA
Jane E. Henney, M.D., vice president for health sciences at the University of New Mexico, has been confirmed by the Senate as the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Henney, a native of Indiana, has worked at the FDA and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). A cancer specialist, she spent nine years at the NCI and was deputy director from 1980 to 1985. From 1992 until 1994, she was deputy commissioner for operations of the FDA. Dr. Henney will focus on attracting top scientific talent to the FDA and on implementing FDA reform. Dr. Henney's husband, Robert Graham, M.D., is executive vice president of the AAFP.
Continuous Quality Improvement Tool Released by AHCPR
The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) has made available a free computer software tool for routine self-assessments of inpatient care and evaluation of community access to primary care. The Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Quality Indicators (HCUP QIs) are designed to help hospitals assess inpatient outcomes by screening discharge data and identifying clinical areas appropriate for analysis. The 33 clinical performance measures in HCUP QIs are designed to produce comparable statistics at the hospital, community or state levels along the following three dimensions of care: potentially avoidable adverse outcomes, potentially inappropriate use of hospital inpatient procedures and potentially avoidable hospital admissions. The software is available as part of a kit: Outcome, Utilization, and Access Measures for Quality Improvement. Included in the kit are two software diskettes, a fact sheet, a user's guide, and a methods manual. The kit may be obtained by calling 800-358-9295 or writing the AHCPR Publications Clearinghouse at P.O. Box 8547, Silver Spring, MD 20907. Internet users can download the software, manuals and fact sheet from the data and surveys section of the AHCPR Web site at http://www.ahcpr.gov.