Confidentiality Regulations Are Proposed by Secretary Shalala
On November 3, the Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala published the “Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information” in the Federal Register. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Congress was supposed to pass confidentiality legislation by August 21; however, Congress missed the deadline. HIPAA then required the Secretary of HHS to develop regulations. Requirements in the proposal would cover physicians, health care plans and clearinghouses involved in transmitting health information electronically. Health related organizations now are analyzing the impact of the regulation on physicians, other providers, patients, institutions and researchers. Comments are being accepted until January 3, 2000.
Physician Associations Announce Health Care Information Web Site
Seven physician associations have joined to create Medem, a patient-focused Internet health care information and communication source. The Web site (http://www.medem.com) has been designed to provide patients with the most credible, high-quality health information and to help patients and physicians work together to improve the quality of patient care. The seven participating groups are the American Academy of Ophthalmology; American Academy of Pediatrics; American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; American Medical Association; American Psychiatric Association; and American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Through the Web site, consumers will be able to access medical information and will be able to communicate with physicians in a secure messaging environment. Physicians will be able to customize their own Web sites, for their own use and to provide their patients with personalized information about their health care. “The health of Americans always has been the purpose of our country's medical associations,” said H. Dunbar Hoskins Jr., M.D., chair of the Medem Board of Directors and executive vice president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Medem.com will give our patients access to information they can trust and information they can use with their physicians in order to improve their health care.” Other health care associations will be joining the effort.
Physicians with Heart Project Delivered Medical Supplies to Uzbekistan
A delegation of volunteers from Physicians with Heart, a humanitarian project sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the AAFP Foundation and Heart to Heart International, delivered medical supplies and visited clinics on a fall trip to Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic. Delegation members delivered $5.2 million worth of medicine and medical supplies in the airlift; two previous shipments of medical supplies were worth $2.9 million. Medical seminars focusing on the nature of family practice in the United States were held in five regions of the country. Next year's airlift will benefit the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, on the Caspian Sea between Russia and Iran. Family physicians interested in participating in or contributing to the airlift should contact Maya Singh of Heart to Heart International at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-787-5200.
Federal Institutes and RWJF Create Tobacco Use Research Centers
Seven academic institutions have been awarded grants totaling $14.5 million by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to create the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Centers for studying tobacco use and new ways to combat it and its consequences. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has committed an additional $14 million over five years to go along with the efforts of NCI and NIDA to improve policy understanding and communications practices of the tobacco research teams. The funds will be used for the first year of a five-year project to focus on areas where there are gaps in knowledge, such as adolescent smoking. Over the five-year research period, NCI and NIDA will spend about $70 million for the effort. The research locations are the Brown University Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, Providence, R.I.; the University of California at Irvine; the University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C.; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison; and Yale University, New Haven, Conn. “These centers promise to accelerate development of effective tobacco control interventions, speed the transfer of these approaches to communities across the nation, and create a core of new tobacco control researchers,” said NCI's Director Richard D. Klausner, M.D.
Mental Health Will Be Focus of the AAFP 2000 Education Initiative
The subject of the AAFP's Annual Clinical Focus (ACF) in 2000 will be mental health. The ACF is an educational AAFP initiative designed to provide family physicians with state-of-the-art information to assist them in providing comprehensive patient care. The four cooperating partners for the mental health initiative are the National Institute of Mental Health, American Psychiatric Association, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and National Mental Health Association. Components of “Mental Health 2000” include a video CME program, monographs, patient education handouts, articles in AAFP publications, a CD-ROM of ACF program elements at the end of the ACF year, and additional elements such as a chapter lecture series, a plenary lecture at the annual conference on patient education and programs at the Family Practice Board Review. The subject of the ACF in 1999 was diabetes.