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Nurse Practitioners Granted Practice Independence at VA


The Department of Veterans Affairs granted certain nurse practitioners the authority to treat patients without physician supervision.

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

Nurse Practitioners Win Practice Authority

This week, the Department of Veterans Affairs granted nurse practitioners - specifically, certified nurse practitioners (CNP), clinical nurse specialists (CNS), and certified nurse-midwives (CNM) - the right to care for veterans without doctor supervision. The ruling marks the first time that the VA established a nationwide framework for nurse practitioners to practice direct care throughout its system, reports Military.com. The American Medical Association (AMA) sent a press release out denouncing the decision. "… We are disappointed by the VA’s decision today to allow most advanced practice nurses within the VA to practice independently of a physician’s clinical oversight, regardless of individual state law. This part of the VA’s final rule will rewind the clock to an outdated model of care delivery that is not consistent with the current direction of the healthcare system," Andrew Gurman, an orthopedic surgeon and president of the AMA, said in a statement.

Obama Signs 21st Century Cures

President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law this week, making it official after the bill passed the House and Senate. The law, which funds research to cures for cancer and Alzheimer's disease, and initiatives to curb opioid abuse, offers immediate opportunities for positive impact, reports Managed Health Executive. This includes allowing more patient input into the drug development and approval process, according to Jake Caines, director of commercial strategy and performance at Curant Health. The bill also contains measures related to the promotion of adopting health IT to payments from Medicare for usage of certain products or service, Managed Health Executive reports.

Price Protecting Docs

President-elect Donald Trump's pick to run the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Rep. Tom J. Price, an orthopedic surgeon from Georgia, will likely protect doctors' interests, Kaiser Health News reports. The report says Price sponsored a bill in 2015 that would restrict efforts to reduce payments to doctors for medical services. Price is the first physician to hold the position since Louis Sullivan, who served under George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993. While many healthcare professional groups support his ascendancy to the top of HHS, others are concerned. Kaiser Health News reports that nearly 5,000 healthcare professionals signed a petition protesting his appointment.

Health Data Interoperability Alliance Formed

Two industry organizations working towards health data interoperability announced an alliance this week, according to Health Data Management. Careequality and CommonWell Health Alliance, both nonprofit organizations made up of various vendors, healthcare provider organizations, and other stakeholders, said they will collaborate formally to advance interoperability of health IT systems. The agreement will allow members of Careequality and CommonWell to exchange data with each other at no added cost or infrastructure needed.

Quote of the Week:

MACRA's Biggest Hurdles for 2017 and Beyond

"Providers should use that time as an opportunity, just as we did with ICD-10 for [an additional] year, to really understand what we are doing, so when it starts people are more savvy and aware. Anything that gets delayed by CMS is an indication we should pay some attention to it because it is likely to be a challenge."

Sarah Woolsey, MD, medical director of HealthInsight Utah, a private, nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to improving health and healthcare

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