Welcome to Practice Rounds, our weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.
AMA Cautions Americans of Flu
The American Medical Association (AMA) published a press release warning Americans to take the proper precautions as this flu season is shaping up to be the most severe in recent memory.
In the press release, AMA president David O. Barbe, MD, suggests everyone over the age of six months gets a flu vaccination if they have yet to do so. "It's not too late to be vaccinated against the flu as the CDC reports that many more weeks of flu activity are expected this season and there are multiple strains of the virus circulating," he stated.
Barbe also suggests anyone with flu symptoms stay home from work or school, wash their hands frequently, and cover their coughs and sneezes in effort to stop the flu from spreading. "It is very important that you seek treatment from your doctor early if you have flu-like symptoms, especially if you are at high risk for developing flu-related complications including those who have a compromised immune system, are pregnant, are younger than the age of 5, or are over the age of 65."
As of February 3, 63 children or infants had died because of flu. Half of those children were reportedly healthy before getting sick, according to the CDC.
Bipartisan Budget Deal Impacts Healthcare
A bipartisan budget deal passed by Congress on Friday to end a brief government shutdown includes changes for American healthcare.
Most prominently, the bill gives CMS the choice to keep cost-cutting at 10 percent of physicians MIPS score through 2021, originally it was slated to go to 30 percent in 2019. The bill would also block them from ever raising cost-cutting to more than 30 percent of providers' scores.
Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Senior Vice President Anders Gilberg supported the changes, "The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 is largely a win for physician practices. Reducing burden in the MIPS program, eliminating the unelected Medicare cost-cutting board known as the IPAB, and averting a flawed misvalued-code policy that would have resulted in drastic across-the-board payment cuts in 2019 and 2020 are all top MGMA priorities. Congress’ use of a .25 reduction to the Medicare physician payment update next year as a budgetary offset is a disappointment in an otherwise favorable bill."
Other changes to the healthcare system include, extending the Children's Health Insurance Program for 10 years, closing the "donut hole" in Medicare which left seniors responsible for prescription drug costs prior to hitting an annual limit, and the repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board for Medicare.
Furthermore, the bill includes major funding and changes for healthcare initiatives and agencies, including funding for the National Institutes of Health and the opioid crisis, totaling almost $20 billion, according to Business Insider.
Other healthcare-related funding from the deal include $4 billion for VA hospital improvements, a two year reauthorization of community health centers with $7 billion in funding, and $363 million for teaching health centers.
IT Adoption Has Positive Effect on Medical Outcomes
Since the implantation of the HITECH Act in 2009, patients have experienced an increase in quality and decrease in errors during medical care as a result of the presence of EHRs, according to a recent study from the School of Health Administration at the San Marcos-based Texas State University.
Researchers identified at least one improved medical outcome as a result of health IT adoption in 81 percent (25/37) of research studies that met inclusion criteria. The researchers believe that health care providers will continue to be incentivized to adopt health IT as policy makers respond to quality, and safety concerns and reimbursement methods transition towards value-based purchasing.
Quote of the Week
"One of the main contributors [to burnout] is when our work becomes more difficult to complete while we are simultaneously scrutinized against a wide range of rating systems and scales that may fail to convey the entire picture."
Jennifer Frank, MD on the frustration of physician rating systems