Why COVID-19 tracking will flounder without privacy protections

Poll results show the American public has deep privacy concerns about using the tech-enabled COVID-19 tracking and tracing systems that could help limit the pandemic’s deadly toll, making the release of a document outlining the AMA’s privacy principles especially timely.

The AMA privacy principles support an individual’s right to control, access and delete personal data collected about them. Using the new privacy principles, the AMA will actively engage the administration, Congress and industry stakeholders in discussions on the future direction of regulatory guardrails that are needed to restore public confidence in data-privacy protections.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

How doctors can claim share of additional $20 billion in CARES Act aid

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has started distribution of the next $20 billion in financial relief for physician practices, groups and other health care delivery organizations that is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The relief comes under the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund in the CARES Act. The initial $30 billion in CARES Act relief was directed to hospitals and physician practices in direct proportion to their share of Medicare fee-for-service spending.

Payments from this  $20 billion are calculated so that a physician practice or group’s allocation from the entire $50 billion general distribution is in proportion to its 2018 net patient revenue. As detailed in an HHS fact sheet shared on the AMA website, all physician practices or groups are required to submit revenue information to the provider portal for later verification.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Congress adds half trillion in COVID-19 relief: How to get help

Congress reconvened this week to pass a bill delivering nearly half a trillion dollars in additional funding to replenish and supplement key programs under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The funding will go to the Paycheck Protection Program, small business disaster loans and grants, hospitals and health care providers and testing.

The AMA, leading physician organizations and state medical societies have urged congressional leaders to protect patient access to medical care by preserving the viability of physician practices across the country.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Amid pandemic, CMS should level field for phone E/M visits

The AMA and dozens of other physician organizations are calling on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide payment parity for patients who are only able to consult with their physicians by telephone and cannot or will not visit in person or conduct an audiovisual telehealth appointment using videoconferencing technology.

While key changes have been made to telehealth guidelines to boost COVID-19 care, a sign-on letter from the American College of Physicians, the AMA and many others notes that “many patients are unable to connect via telehealth with their physicians, as they may not have devices compatible to facilitate the use of telehealth.”

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

AMA: States should follow 4 signposts to safely reopen America

The White House’s coronavirus task force has unveiled a three-phase approach to “opening up America again,” offering recommendations to state and local officials as they consider whether to ease the physical distancing rules that are helping to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The AMA also is weighing in with its advice on what must be in place before relaxing the stay-at-home orders that have upended American life and taken a toll on the economy yet have helped throttle the spread of the highly infectious and deadly respiratory illness.

The goal is “to minimize the risk of another surge in COVID-19 infections and to ensure our health system’s capacity to care for newly infected patients,” said AMA President Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA. “People in our country should be confident that decisions are being made with public health as the top consideration.”

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Time for FEMA to take charge and #GetUsPPE

The AMA is calling on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to lead a national system of procuring and distributing personal protective equipment (PPE).

“This would not only provide critical clarity and reduction in administrative burden, but would also allow states and hospitals to benefit from the tremendous bargaining power of the federal government,” AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James L. Madara, MD, wrote in a letter to Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, who is heading FEMA’s Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force.

The AMA also is urging FEMA “to serve as the single national coordinator of distribution of these supplies, ensuring that states, hospitals and other facilities have one centralized agency to work through to acquire essential PPE.”

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

DEA eases some controlled-substances rules during pandemic

As hospitals, clinics and health systems seek to maximize capacity in alternate care sites to deliver supportive care for patients with COVID-19, one stumbling block has been U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) rules governing DEA-registered hospitals, clinics, manufacturers and distributors.

The satellite care locations may lack the DEA registration usually needed to handle controlled substances essential to critical care. Now the agency has announced it is making an exception to that requirement for the duration of the nationwide COVID-19 public health emergency.

My latest. The whole shebang.

First payments issued for COVID-19 financial relief

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is sending out the first $30 billion of a planned $100 billion in financial relief that Congress allocated to hospitals, physician practices and other health care organizations.

The relief comes under the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and reflects the recommendations made to HHS Secretary Alex Azar by the AMA and more than 130 other state and medical specialty associations.

To understand this and other provisions of the CARES Act, the AMA has developed a “Physician Practice Financial Relief Guide” to help doctors take advantage of the $2.2 trillion package’s loans, grants and accelerated payment options.

My lede. The whole shebang.

Plea to nation from doctors fighting COVID-19: #GetMePPE

After completing another shift as an emergency physician treating many patients with influenza-like illnesses amid the COVID-19 global pandemic that has reached every state in the nation, Megan L. Ranney, MD, MPH, changes her clothes before heading home to her husband and their two children, 11 and 8 years old.

She leaves her shoes outside, along with a plastic bag filled with her clothes, then immediately gets in the shower to wash away the pandemic gunk before touching another soul. She wipes down her smartphone, her keys and the steering wheel of her car.

But what remains safely stored inside her car’s trunk, tucked inside of a paper bag, are two increasingly precious items in a world wracked by a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE): a procedural mask and a medical grade N95 respirator.

The items, designed to be used once and then disposed of, will be reused “for as long as possible,” Dr. Ranney said in an interview.

That’s the lede to a notable story of mine recently published on the AMA website. Read the whole shebang.

Also check out these other recent stories I’ve written that address various elements of the COVID-19 global pandemic:

How Kaiser Permanente manages at burning edge of climate change

Nothing pierces through the noise like your child’s scream.

That was the sound that echoed through the smoky airwaves aglow with the flames of the Tubbs Wildfire in California, a state where millions live through the summer and fall months at the burning edge of climate change.

That dreadful cry stretched from one end of a telephone conversation to the other—to a phone held by Joshua Weil, MD, on duty that fateful 2017 night as the assistant physician-in-chief at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Rosa.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

AMA-brokered deal poised to cover residents affected by Hahnemann closure

A settlement reached with the owners of now-closed Hahnemann University Hospital would—if approved by a federal bankruptcy judge—pay for the long-tail medical liability insurance coverage for more than 1,400 residents, fellows and alumni of the hospital’s training programs. The AMA is underwriting legal representation of the orphaned residents and fellows in the case.

The settlement, filed in Chapter 11 proceedings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, would also provide the legally required coverage for the 100 attending physicians who lost their jobs when Hahnemann closed in the summer of 2019. Legal representation on behalf of displaced residents and fellows in the case is being conducted by Jeremy Ryan and the firm of Potter Anderson & Corroon, whose work is being underwritten by the AMA. Premiums for this long-tail coverage can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per physician.

My lede. The whole shebang.