ACA Reaches Unprecedented Support, Survey Finds

At a time when its very existence is in doubt, the Affordable Care Act has never been more popular, according to a recent poll.

Welcome to Practice Rounds, our weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.

ACA Support Eclipses 50 Percent

At a time when its very existence is in doubt, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has never been more popular. According to a recent poll from Gallup, the health law surpassed majority public approval for the first time ever. Gallup says that 55 percent of the public approve of the ACA, up from 42 percent in November of last year. While Democrats and Republicans have mostly polled the same, Independents have begun to shift their opinion favorably in the direction of the ACA. In November, only 40 percent of Independents were in favor of the ACA. Last week, that number had jumped to 57 percent. While most Americans are in favor of the ACA, only 26 percent say they want to keep it as is. Instead, most want to see the law undergo significant changes.

Half of Docs' Day Spent on "Desktop Medicine"

A new research study in Health Affairs reveals that physicians' day is spent split evenly between seeing patients and "desktop medicine," according to Healthcare Informatics. Researchers looked at the work of 471 primary-care physicians, who collectively worked on 765,129 patients' EHRs. On average, physicians spent 3.08 hours on office visits and 3.17 hours on "desktop medicine" each day. The definition of desktop medicine is responding to patients through a patient portal, sending staff messages, reviewing test results, responding to patients' online requests for prescription refills or medical advice, or ordering tests.

Health IT Leaders Praise New ONC Chief

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) named Donald Rucker, MD, former Siemens health IT exec, as the National Coordinator for Health IT, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). While Rucker has yet to formally be introduced by HHS, he is listed on the staff directory. Health IT industry stakeholders have responded positively to the nomination. "During the many years of interacting with Dr. Rucker, we have found him to be thoughtful, extremely knowledgeable, and well informed on a broad range of health IT issues, including interoperability, standards, and the health IT user experience," the Health Information and Management Systems Society said in a statement, according to Healthcare IT News.     

Court Overturns Patient Firearms Law

A controversial law surrounding physicians and guns was recently ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, Medical Economics reports. The law stated that providers couldn't ask patients if they own firearms unless the provider believes the information is relevant to patient safety. The 11th Circuit Court said the law violated medical professionals' constitutional right to free speech. As such, physicians are allowed to ask and document gun ownership. A provision that said healthcare professionals cannot refuse service to people who own guns was upheld.

Quote of the week:

Amid ACA Uncertainty, Value-based Care Will Survive

"It became pretty obvious that Republicans are not a monolith on healthcare issues. They may agree at a general level in the opposition to the ACA, but they differ on the specifics on how to [replace it]," Eric Cragun, senior director for health policy at Advisory Board