5 things specialists can learn from each other to boost mask-wearing

When it comes to COVID-19, physicians of all specialties are struggling to better understand, diagnose, treat, and limit the spread of the deadly disease. One thing that’s become crystal clear is that it’s vitally important for patients to #MaskUp to protect others from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Getting that message across to patients and families can be difficult. In addition to the communications challenge of explaining the evolving science on the efficacy of mask-wearing, there is resistance among some patients who have encountered disinformation among Facebook friends and in Twitter trends.

It is critical that physicians help patients understand their risks for transmission through clear and simple communication that is firmly rooted in science. The AMA is partnering with other leading health organizations to encourage people to mask up to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Five AMA members took time to discuss insights from their specialties that physicians of all stripes can apply to help spread the message to mask up.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

How Google, Apple can help assure contact tracing guards privacy

Technology behemoths Google and Apple have joined forces to create functionalities for their popular smartphone operating systems that automatically notify users of potential exposures to people with COVID-19.

In the Google-Apple announcement, the companies say their systems won’t track users’ location, that users control whether they receive exposure notifications, that only public health authorities can use the system, and that neither Google, Apple, nor other users can see a user’s identity. Both Google’s Android operating system and Apple’s iOS require users to opt in to the functionality.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

FDA’s SARS-CoV-2 vaccine review needs major dose of transparency

As the federal government’s “Operation Warp Speed” works to quickly deliver a safe, effective vaccine to protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection, the AMA is calling for a big boost in the transparency of the process.

“With COVID-19 vaccine development moving at a rapid pace, it is critical that we ensure physicians are continuously informed of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) plans for review and that they are provided with the utmost level of transparency regarding the process for authorization or licensure, standards for review, and safety and efficacy data as soon as possible,” AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James L. Madara, MD, wrote in a letter or FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

With supplies short, COVID-19 tests should go where most needed

Continuing shortages of reagents, viral transport media, pipettes and other supplies means 2020 will continue to negatively affect the nation’s COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction testing capacity. Given that sobering fact, the AMA and other organizations with expertise in medical testing are urging Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to ensure the nation’s limited testing resources go to patients with medically identified needs or to public health surveillance efforts.

My lede. The whole shebang.

Also check out this other new story on a California bill to allow nurse practitioners to practice without physician supervision.

Dr. Fauci outlines 5 ways to blunt COVID-19 pandemic’s resurgence

The U.S. remains “right in the middle of the first wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic, with national case counts hovering around 50,000–60,000 per day and more than 1,000 people dying daily, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, explained during a JAMA Network™ livestreamed video interview.

“We’ve got to get those numbers down,” stressed Dr. Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force and director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). “If we don’t get them down, we’re going to have a really bad situation in the fall … as you get indoors and you get the complications of influenza season.”

The goal is to get the daily nationwide caseload below 10,000 before September. In the interview with JAMA Editor-in-Chief Howard Bauchner, MD, Dr. Fauci detailed these five keys physicians should be stressing with patients to protect themselves, their families and their communities from the deadly, contagious respiratory illness.

My lede. The whole shebang.

Amid PPE shortage, AMA collaboration offers supplier for doctors

As community spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 began to take hold around the country in March, Fort Worth, Texas, allergist-immunologist Susan R. Bailey, MD, turned to her practice’s supply cabinet for personal protective equipment (PPE).

“The only masks we had in our office when the pandemic started was one box of 10 N95 masks that I had bought during the H1N1 pandemic in 2010, and I was amazed we still had them,” said Dr. Bailey, who was inaugurated as the AMA’s 175th president in June. “There are—just coincidentally—10 people in our office, and everybody got one and we said, ‘This is all you get until we can find some more.’”

That search for more PPE has proven extraordinarily frustrating, and added yet one more administrative burden amid a time of great stress for Dr. Bailey’s three-physician independent specialty practice.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

And here are some other articles I’ve written for the AMA website:

COVID-19 doesn’t require end-run around scope-of-practice laws

The AMA and 78 physician organizations are urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to step back on a memo encouraging all VA medical facilities to let certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) practice without physician oversight during the COVID-19 national health emergency.

The issue goes beyond CRNAs, however. An April VA directive memorializes VA policy to let health professionals in 32 specialties practice across state lines and encourages facilities to allow health professionals to practice within the full scope of their license, registration or certification. The letter urges the VA to amend the directive to defer to state scope-of-practice laws.

“This combination in effect circumvents state scope of practice laws for the 32 health care professionals defined in the directive. Such a far-reaching expansion is overly broad, unnecessary and threatens the health and safety of patients within the VA system,” says the letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

Another new one this week for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Drafting error could mean 21% tax hit on CARES Act relief funds

The AMA and many other stakeholders in health care are urging Congress to rectify an apparent CARES Act drafting error that, if left unaddressed, could mean that entities receiving relief funds under the legislation might have to pay taxes on the money they got from the government.

Organizations representing nurses, dentists, hospitals, optometrists, physical therapists and hospices  joined the AMA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others in asking Congress “to clarify and correct” what they “believe are the unintentional tax consequences of policies meant to provide vital funding to health care providers through the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) and other programs as part of the nation’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

CPT code approved for SARS-CoV-2 antigen testing

The AMA Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®) Editorial Panel has adopted a new CPT code to report antigen testing of patients suspected of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The code joins other COVID-19 testing codes already approved by the CPT Editorial Panel, an independent body convened by the AMA that has the sole authority to expedite the review of proposed changes and additions to the CPT code set.

“The new CPT code for antigen testing to detect the coronavirus is the latest in a series of CPT codes developed in rapid response to the pandemic,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD. “Moving quickly during this crisis to meet the medical coding needs of the health care industry has enhanced the reporting of innovative tools now available to advance medicine’s overarching goals of reducing the COVID-19 disease burden, improving health outcomes and reducing long-term care costs.”

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

New AMA president: COVID-19 can spur positive changes in health care

Earlier this month, Susan R. Bailey, MD, became the third consecutive woman to hold the office of AMA president. Her early tenure has been eventful, and Dr. Bailey has already weighed in on the U.S. Supreme Court’s groundbreaking decision protecting LGBTQ Americans from workplace discrimination, the need for continued vigilance against COVID-19, and more.

Dr. Bailey recently shared time to discuss her life in private practice and how the pandemic is shining a harsh new light on the administrative barriers and other obstacles that interfere with physicians’ ability to deliver high-quality care.

My latest for the AMA is a Q&A . The whole shebang.

As COVID-19 cases rise, no time to let guard down on prevention

The AMA is reminding American patients not to let their guard down on vigilance against the coronavirus as 21 states have reportedly seen upticks in the daily average number of new COVID-19 cases this week, compared with last week.

The seven-day average rose 92% in Alabama, for example. Other states seeing big increases in COVID-19 cases are Oregon (84% rise in seven-day average) and South Carolina, where the seven-day average rose 60%.

“In far too many states—in rural and urban locations—we are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases that could lead to further illness, deaths and other potentially dangerous impacts on health systems across the country,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.