FDA Denies Over-the-Counter Status for Plan B Emergency Contraception
On May 7, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted no to making Plan B emergency contraception available without a prescription. The FDA based its action primarily on the lack of data about the over-the-counter use of the product among adolescents younger than 16 years. The sponsor’s application contained no data for adolescents younger than 14 years and limited data for those 14 to 16 years of age. In addition, the application did not provide adequate data to support the use of Plan B in these groups without the intervention of a physician. More information about the FDA’s action and the “Not Approvable” status are available online at http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/planB/default.htm.
Two-Week Payment Delay for Noncompliant Medicare Claims Begins July 1
As part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), physicians who submit electronic claims that do not conform to the transactions and code sets standards will face delays in payment of at least 28 days. Claims that meet the standards will continue to be reimbursed in as few as 14 days. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) developed a contingency plan that included a July 1 deadline when it was realized that many physicians could not meet the original deadline in October 2003. According to CMS, 85 percent of Medicare claims are now HIPAA compliant. The CMS hopes the delay will convince the remaining physicians to comply. More information is available online at https://www.aafp.org/x3095.xml.
AAFP and NHTSA Provide Toolkit for Assessing Older Drivers
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have developed free patient education materials for assessing older drivers. The packet, Decisions About Driving: A Toolkit for Older Drivers and Their Families, has five handouts that include tips on how senior citizens and their family members can cope after the older person has to stop driving, and checklists to assess driving skills (i.e., changes in vision, hearing, and general physical ability). The kits are available in packages of 10. They can be ordered online at https://www.aafp.org/shop/978 or by calling the AAFP order department at 800-944-0000.
HHS Issues Grant to AAFP for Implementing Electronic Health Records
On May 28, the CMS of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded a $100,000 grant to the AAFP to support the pilot project of providing comprehensive, standardized electronic health record (EHR) software to family physicians. According to HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, the project represents a step toward the goal of promoting the use of EHRs to improve the quality and efficiency of care provided to patients. The grant will assist with planning, implementing, and evaluating a pilot project in which participating medical practices will adopt low-cost, standards-based EHRs. The AAFP will support and monitor the transition to EHRs in these practices to learn more about what factors help or complicate the transition to the new technology. More information about the grant is available online at http://cms.gov/media/press/release.asp?Counter=1075. To read about the EHR project, go to https://www.aafp.org/fpr/20040600/1.html.
CDC Survey Shows Wide Usage of Complementary and Alternative Medicine
A new nationwide report based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) 2002 National Health Interview Survey states that at least 36 percent of U.S. adults used some form of complementary or alternative medicine in the past year. Data from more than 31,000 participants showed that women, persons with higher education, persons who had been hospitalized in the past year, and former smokers are more likely than others to use alternative therapies. The survey included questions about 27 types of therapy, including acupuncture, chiropractics, herbs and botanical products, special diets, and megavitamins. According to the report, alternative therapies were used most often to treat back pain, colds, neck pain, joint pain and stiffness, anxiety, and depression. About 55 percent of participants said they believed that an alternative therapy would help them when combined with conventional medical treatments. More information on the report and survey are available online at http://nccam.nih.gov/news/2004/052704.htm.
AAFP Co-Hosts Conference on Effects of Living with Terror
The AAFP has joined the University of Haifa in Israel, the University of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and 13 other national health care associations to host an international conference. The First Annual Conference on “Living with Terror: Psychosocial Effects” took place June 28–29, 2004, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. More information is available online at http://hw.haifa.ac.il/terror_conference.
AAFP Names Assistant Director of Center for Health Information Technology
Steven E. Waldren, M.D., has been named assistant director of the AAFP Center for Health Information Technology, which is based in the AAFP offices in Washington, D.C. The center’s mission is to help members and other office-based physicians adopt and use health information technology. Dr. Waldren is a board-certified family physician. He received his master’s degree in health care informatics in May 2004 from the University of Missouri–Columbia, while completing a National Library of Medicine Postdoctoral Medical Informatics Fellowship. More information about the center is available online at https://www.aafp.org/x24654.xml.