1. Congratulations to Dr. Shanaz Fatteh for successful organization of Women Physicians Networking Event 2016. Please watch the video.

2. Meaningful Use

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the Meaningful Use criteria employed to measure qualification for the Medicare provisions of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive program will cease to become the standard in 2016 for Medicare physician and clinician participants. Citing regulatory changes passed in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), the Acting Administrator of CMS, Andy Slavitt, noted that the new focus on patient and value-based outcomes in MACRA permits for a shift away from the current standards’ emphasis on the use of technology. In a speech to the J.P. Morgan Annual Health Care Conference, Slavitt stated that the replacement for Meaningful Use will be developed with a focus on four themes:
  • Patient outcome-based criteria;
  • Provider customization of EHR programs to meet individual needs, as opposed to a one-size fits all approach;
  • Supporting new entrants to the EHR market to encourage EHR communication with new apps, analytic tools, and other new technology; and
  • Interoperability between EHR programs.
CMS promises to work with physicians’ organizations, including the American Medical Association, to develop a new approach for physicians participating in Medicare that is both simpler and more responsive to physicians’ needs. A follow-up blog post from CMS regarding the upcoming modifications to the EHR Incentive Program noted that the changes to the program have not yet been implemented and physicians must still meet all current criteria in the meantime. Additionally, the new program will not do away with every aspect of the current system because MACRA only addresses Medicare payments to physicians and current law still requires the measurement of meaningful use of EHR technology. However, the new approach is anticipated to ease the burden of compliance on physicians with respect to tracking meaningful use. Providers that currently participate in the EHR Incentive Program should keep abreast of any new regulations CMS issues to ensure that they maintain compliance with all requirements for participation in the future. The announced change in regulations also will likely require a reevaluation of current EHR software to guarantee that the software has the capability to track and report any new measurement that CMS might require going forward. Access the full text of Slavitt’s speech. Access the CMS blog post on the implementation of a replacement program.

3. Retail Clinics

Use of retail clinics may not lower healthcare costs The New York Times (3/7, Abelson, Subscription Publication) reports a new study published in Health Affairs is raising new doubts as to whether retail health clinics save money, given that its authors “concluded that the clinics led to slightly higher spending because people used them for minor medical conditions they would typically have treated on their own.” According to the study authors, the increased usage “outweighed the savings that resulted when people went to a cheaper retail clinic instead of to the” physician or emergency department (ED). In order to reach these conclusions, researchers examined insurance claims data from Aetna, and found “that 58 percent of retail clinic visits were for services that they would not have otherwise sought, resulting in a net increase in spending of $14 per person per year.” On its website, CNBC (3/7, Mangan) reports these findings come “as the number of retail clinics – found in pharmacies, grocery stores and mega-retailers such as Walmart and Target – has reached nearly 2,000 since they first appeared a decade ago.”

4. Acting Surgeon General- Florida

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President, IPOF