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Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(11):2165-2166

HHS Releases Pandemic Influenza Plan

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released the HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan, a detailed guide on how the U.S. health care system can prepare for and respond to an influenza pandemic. It is the medical and public health component of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, announced earlier by President George W. Bush. The plan provides guidance to state and local partners on topics including: distribution of vaccines and antiviral drugs, especially when they are in short supply; staffing and supplies required for a surge in patients; rules and responsibilities for community decision makers; and measures to control infection and limit the spread of disease. President Bush announced $7.1 billion in funding for this national strategic plan, which includes $6.7 billion in additional 2006 appropriations for HHS. Approximately $4.7 billion would go toward vaccine production to increase stockpiles; $1.4 billion to stockpile antiviral drugs; and $555 million for surveillance, public health infrastructures, and communications (including $100 million for state and local preparedness). More information on the HHS plan and the national strategic plan is available online at

Link toAFP, FPM Articles from PubMed Now Available

American Family Physician (AFP) and Family Practice Management (FPM), both published by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), are now participating in the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) “LinkOut” program. Health care professionals, researchers, and members of the public can be taken to the full text of the article on the AAFP’s Web site ( by clicking “Free full text from AFP” or “Free full text from FPM,” when they find an AFP or FPM citation in a search of PubMed (NLM’s bibliography site). Articles published from 1998 to the present are available with this service. Previously, PubMed supplied only abstracts of articles from these two journals.

CMS Asks Physicians to Report on Quality of Care

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has created a voluntary program for physicians to report on the quality of care they provide to Medicare beneficiaries. The first phase of the new Physician Voluntary Reporting Program, which will begin in January 2006, will allow physicians to report on 36 evidence-based performance measures. CMS will provide feedback about performance to physicians who submit data by the summer of 2006. Additional quality measures are being developed and may be phased in during the next year. According to CMS, the goal of the program is to help physicians improve data accuracy, reporting rates, and clinical care. CMS will seek input from participating physicians on ways to improve the ease of reporting and usefulness of the quality measures, such as by promoting reports and analysis through electronic medical record systems. The quality measures were based on input from the National Quality Forum, the Ambulatory Care Quality Alliance, the American Medical Association Physician Consortium for Quality Improvement, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, and the RAND Corp.

HHS Adopts E-Prescribing Standards for Medicare Part D

HHS has adopted standards for the electronic prescription of Medicare Part D drugs. Although electronic prescribing will be optional for physicians and pharmacies when the new prescription drug benefit begins on Jan. 1, 2006, insurance plans participating in the program must support e-prescribing. The standards include the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) SCRIPT version 5.0 for new prescriptions, refill requests and response, prescription change requests and response, prescription cancellation requests and response, and related transactions; ASC X12N 270/271, version 4010 and addenda, for eligibility and benefits queries and responses between physicians and Part D sponsors; and NCPDP Telecommunication Standard, version 5.1, and supporting NCPDP Batch Standard, version 1.1, for eligibility queries between pharmacies and Part D sponsors. The standards were published in the Nov. 7, 2005, issue of the Federal Register.

United States and China Partner to Combat Infectious Diseases

Plans are in the works for the United States and China to develop a collaborative program that addresses emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt and Gao Qiang, Minister of Health for the People’s Republic of China, recently signed a memorandum of understanding to promote closer cooperation, capacity-building, and exchange of information about infectious diseases; severe acute respiratory syndrome and influenza, including avian influenza, were identified as priorities. The pact establishes biennial meetings between HHS and the Chinese Ministry of Health, a committee with 11 senior public health officials and recognized experts from both organizations, a secretariat for program management, and a program office for project implementation located in the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The goals are to support the public health laboratory network in China and strengthen its ability to monitor and detect infectious diseases; to train professionals from both nations in biomedical research, prevention, and control of infectious diseases; to conduct joint surveillance on emerging infectious diseases and develop prevention and control strategies, diagnostic tests, vaccines, and therapies; and to enhance both countries’ capacities to respond rapidly to outbreaks.

NIH Awards Nearly $30 Million for Research Facility Improvement

The National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded approximately $30 million in grants for 10 Research Facilities Improvement Program projects. The grants will allow public and nonprofit institutions to construct new laboratory space, renovate existing infrastructure systems, improve research imaging capabilities, and create facilities for research animals. Funding from these grants can be used for alterations and renovations, additions to existing buildings, and completion of “shell” space but does not support construction or land acquisition. These facilities must support basic clinical, biomedical, and behavioral research and research training.

AAFP President Stresses Need for Medical Home For Medicare Patients

AAFP President Larry Fields, M.D., Ashland, Ky., recently stressed the need for Medicare patients to have a medical home with a physician who has experience evaluating and treating complex health issues, adding that the Medicare payment system needs to provide incentives for medical students to go into family medicine. According to Fields, family physician offices can assist patients in understanding the new benefits under Medicare Part D by answering questions, providing information on the new prescription benefit and enrollment plans, and directing them to the toll-free number (800-633-4227). Additional information about Medicare Part D is available on the AAFP’s Web site ( The Medicare Rx Education Network Web site ( provides information on benefits, the enrollment process, qualifying for extra help, deadlines for enrolling, and resources from other organizations and agencies.

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Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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