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Price on the Verge of Becoming Next HHS Secretary


Rep. Tom Price advances toward a final Senate confirmation vote, which will determine whether or not he will be the next HHS Secretary.

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

Trump Nominee Nearing Confirmation

Rep. Tom Price, the Georgia-based congressman who is a nominee for Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary is on the verge of being confirmed. Price, an orthopedic surgeon, passed the Senate Finance Committee vote this week, despite a Democratic boycott over concerns regarding Price's ethics. Media reports accused Price of buying stocks in a company and then authoring a bill to benefit from the activity. Traditionally, there is a need for at least one Democrat to be present at a committee vote, but Senate Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suspended the rules to allow Republicans to vote on Price. He moves to a final vote, which will be held in the Senate, where only a majority is required to vote him in.

Impact of the Immigration Ban on Physicians

The American Medical Association released a statement this week expressing concern over President Trump's immigration restriction order, saying in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly that it could threaten healthcare access for patients and affect current and future patients. The letter says many international medical graduates, who have been granted visas to practice in the U.S. are placed in underserved communities. They are providing vital care, said AMA President James Madara, a pathologist, who is seeking more guidance from Kelly on how the ban will affect the status of these physicians. The Medicus Firm, a staffing company, released data this week that said 31 percent of the physicians placed by its clients in 2016 were internationally trained. More than 15,000 of these came from the seven countries included in the executive order. Despite this, Medicus Firm says it does not expect the ban to have a significant long-range impact on the physician workforce.

Making Primary Care More Efficient

PwC Health Research Institute surveyed nurse practitioners, physician assistants and pharmacists, as well as American consumers, coming to the conclusion that primary care could be optimized to increase efficiency, Medical Economics reports. A few strategies that could help primary-care practices increase efficiency include developing inter-personal teams, using technology to leverage the talents of their teams, and reducing administration time. On the last strategy, PwC Health Research Institute says that a reason for primary-care practice inefficiency is physicians having to spend more than a third of their time and significant resources on practice administrative tasks.

Quote of the Week:

Physician Group Rails Against AMA, Price Nomination

"We wanted to publicize that physicians have different viewpoints, there's not an insignificant number physicians who disagree with Dr. Price's policies, who want to work hard to ensure patients [receive] more coverage. We're not all represented by the AMA."

Jane Zhu,an internist at the University of Pennsylvania Pearlman School of Medicine, and co-founder of the Clinician Action Network,an alternative to the AMA.

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