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Archive for January, 2010

AHRQ and ACC to Study ICD Risks and Benefits

Friday, January 29th, 2010

A $3.5 million research project that will study the long-term benefits and risks of implantable cardioverter defibrillators  (ICDs) in patients at risk of death from ventricular fibrillation will be supported by the Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC). The project is being conducted in cooperation with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and will follow 3500 patients with ICDs from the cardiovascular Research Network.

More information is available at http://www.ahrq.gov/news/press/pr2010/accicdpr.htm

Accrediting Organizations Approved

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved The Joint Commission, American College of Radiology and Intersocietal Accreditation Commission as national accrediting organizations for physicians and others seeking to furnish the technical component of advanced diagnostic imaging services under the Medicare physician fee schedule. The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) of 2008 requires suppliers of these services under the physician fee schedule to become accredited by a designated accreditation organization by January 1, 2012.

In the meantime, CMS is reassuring hospitals that they do not have to become accredited to furnish the technical component of advanced diagnostic imaging services. The MIPPA requirement does not apply to advanced imaging services paid under Medicare’s hospital inpatient and outpatient prospective payment systems

Information is in the Federal Register at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-1457.pdf.

HRET Guide Addresses Avoidable Readmissions

Monday, January 25th, 2010

The Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) has released a guide that will help hospital administrations address the issue of avoidable hospital readmissions. The guide suggests a four-step approach that will assist hospitals in these efforts and outlines potential strategies during the various stages in the care continuum.

The guide is available at http://www.hret.org/hret/programs/readmissions.html

Permanent Director of CDRH Named

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

On January 20, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg appointed Jeffrey Shuren as the permanent director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH).  The announcement was made while launching the center’s FY 2010 “strategic priorities” report, which includes implementing recommendations from an internal 510(k) working group by September 30 and taking appropriate measures to improve the quality of clinical data submitted in premarket approval applications. 

For more information, visit www.fda.gov

Hospital Quality Continues to Improve

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

According to The Joint Commission’s annual report on hospital quality and patient safety, hospitals continue to improve the quality of patient care, saving lives and improving the health of thousands of patients. The report reviews the performance by accredited hospitals on 31 care measures for heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, surgery and children’s asthma. Between 2002 and 2008, compliance with the quality measures improved to 96.7% from 86.9% for heart attack care, 91.6% from 59.7% for heart failure care, and 92.9% from 72.3% for pneumonia care. Hospitals also showed steady improvement on surgical care measures, and more than 99% achieved the asthma care measures.

The Joint Commission’s report is available at http://www.jointcommission.org/NR/rdonlyres/22D58F1F-14FF-4B72-A870-378DAF26189E/0/2009_Annual_Report.pdf.

MedPAC Recommends Payment Changes for 2011

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) has made two hospital payment recommendations to Congress. The first recommendation is that Congress increase payment rates for the acute inpatient and outpatient prospective payment systems in 2011 by the projected rate of increase in the hospital market basket index concurrent with implementation of a quality incentive payment program.

The second recommendation is that, in order to restore budget neutrality, Congress requires the Secretary to fully offset increases in inpatient payments due to hospital’s documentation and coding improvements. To accomplish this, the Secretary must reduce payment rates for the inpatient prospective payment system by the same percentage each year in 2011, 2012, 2013.

Also, MedPAC recommended that Congress give physicians a 1% payment update in FY 2011.

More information is available at http://www.medpac.gov/

HHS Deploying U.S. Medical Personnel to Haiti

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has activated the National Disaster Medical System and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. More than 250 personnel are in the process of deploying to Haiti and over 12,000 personnel could possibly assist in the coming days. 

The medical teams include doctors, nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, emergency medical and surgical physicians, and other medical personnel from Georgia, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Florida. An International Medical Surgical Response Team will provide care for severely injured patients and five Disaster Medical Assistance Teams will provide basic medical care. These personnel will be accompanied by 22,000 pounds of medical equipment and supplies. In addition, experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will assist with checking the water and food supply. 

For the latest information, visit www.hhs.gov.

Medicare Physician Guide Available

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

The print version of the revised Medicare Physician Guide: A Resource for Residents, Practicing Physicians, and Other Health Care Professionals, which offers general information about the Medicare program, is now available from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Learning Network.  This guide covers such topics as how to become a Medicare provider or supplier, Medicare payment policies, Medicare reimbursement, evaluation and management services, protecting the Medicare Trust Fund, inquiries, overpayments and fee-for-service appeals. 

 For more information, go to http://www.cms.hhs.gov/MLNGenInfo/

NHSS and Implementation Guide Released by HHS

Friday, January 8th, 2010

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a National Health Security Strategy (NHSS) and implementation guide for protecting the public health in a large-scale emergency. Required by the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006, the NHSS sets priorities for government and non-government activities over the next four years and the guide outlines the initial implementation activities.

For more information, go to http://www.hhs.gov/aspr/opsp/nhss/nhss_iig0912.pdf.

Proposed HIT ‘Meaningful Use’ Definition Proposed

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a proposed rule defining “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHR). In addition, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) issued an interim final rule that sets standards, specifications and certification criteria for EHR technology. These rules set EHR adoption requirements that hospitals and physicians must meet under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to qualify for additional Medicare and Medicaid payments beginning in 2011 and to avoid significant payment penalties in 2015.

The interim final rule is at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/E9-31217.pdf.