AMA, Anthem try new tack: Working together to improve health care

Two major health care organizations announced today they are working together to figure out mutually agreeable ways to improve patients’ access to health care that is timely, high quality and affordable. This year, the AMA and Anthem—whose health plans cover more than 40 million people—will pursue collaboration in four key areas to:

  • Enhance consumer and patient health care literacy.
  • Develop and implement value-based payment models for primary and specialty care physicians.
  • Improve access to timely, actionable data to enhance patient care.
  • Streamline or eliminate low-value prior-authorization requirements.

“Physicians caring for patients across the country have many ideas about how we can reduce health care costs and administrative burdens while improving clinical outcomes, and we need the collaboration of Anthem and all health plans to implement those strategies,” AMA Board Chair Gerald E. Harmon, MD, said. “The AMA looks forward to finding common ground on ways to improve the delivery of affordable, high-quality, patient-centered care.”

My lede at AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

Concussion-like symptoms found in U.S. personnel in Cuba

A case series published by JAMA this week is shedding light on the medical mystery of U.S. government personnel working on assignment in Havana, Cuba, who have reported neurological symptoms they associated with very loud sounds and air pressure changes.

Physicians and other specialists at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain and Injury Repair examined 21 of the 24 workers identified by the State Department as being injured. They did so about 200 days after the workers reported being exposed to high-volume buzzing and grinding-type noises and vibrations similar to the way air rolls into a moving car with the windows partially rolled down.

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1 in 3 physicians has been sued; by age 55, 1 in 2 hit with suit

New research details how the threat of medical liability litigation hovers over physicians like a cloud and imposes rising costs on the nation’s health system.

More than one in three physicians, 34 percent, have had a medical liability lawsuit filed against them at some point in their careers, says one of three trend reports published by the AMA’s Division of Economic and Health Policy Research. The longer physicians are in practice, the likelier it is that they will have experienced a lawsuit.

My latest at AMA Wire. Read the whole shebang.

Patients and politics: What the AMA “Code of Medical Ethics” says

With the dawn of a midterm election year and major issues affecting the nation’s health system on the agenda, questions arise about the role physicians should play in discussing political topics with patients.

In a recent JAMA opinion essay, Harvard Medical School Professor Jerry Avorn, MD, argued that “a strong case can be made that rather than being a taboo subject, discussing transformational changes in health care coverage with patients could be seen as a core responsibility of all clinicians—physicians, nurses, pharmacists, therapists.”

Such communications are “necessary to ensure the capacity of health care professionals to continue to provide patients with the health care they seek from us,” he added. “The intimate connection between coverage and clinical care also offers a direct and unassailable way to communicate this information.”

The AMA Code of Medical Ethics has guidance for physicians on this sensitive issue.

My lede at AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

10 New Year’s resolutions for your health and your family’s

The waning months of 2017 probably began with gobbling a few unclaimed Halloween treats, might have continued with the Thanksgiving coma and may yet conclude with a headache on New Year’s Day. However you may have fared during the holiday season, the new year offers everyone another opportunity to make healthier choices for themselves and their loved ones.

The lede to my latest story in AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

When appearing in media, physicians carry special responsibility

Taking an active role in the mass media is one way that physicians can use their knowledge and expertise to help improve the nation’s health, but the roles of doctor and media personality sometimes come into conflict. The AMA House of Delegates has adopted new ethical guidance for physicians appearing in the media.

“Physicians have well-recognized responsibilities to use their knowledge and skills for the benefit of the community as a whole,” says the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs report adopted at the 2017 AMA Interim Meeting in Honolulu, and “stepping into the media environment can serve as an extension of this public function.”

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Opioids emergency declaration must be followed with smart action

President Donald Trump today directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. With the move, aimed at tackling the epidemic tied to hundreds of daily overdose deaths across the nation, the president also ordered other federal agency and department leaders to use any appropriate emergency authority they have to address the problem.

The president specifically announced a plan “to overcome a restrictive 1970s-era rule that prevents states from providing care at certain treatment facilities with more than 16 beds for those suffering from drug addiction.” He said several states had sought relief from this and other requirements and promised that “approvals to unlock treatment for people in need” would “come very fast, not like in the past.”

My lede. The whole shebang.

Individual market-stabilization bill earns physician support

A compromise, bipartisan Senate proposal that would extend cost-sharing reduction payments through 2019 and implement other changes aimed at stabilizing the individual health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act should be passed by Congress.

That was the message put forth today by the AMA, which has long urged legislators to take action to address the instability that could be caused by the lack of funding for the CSR payments, which help reduce the out-of-pocket costs borne by low-income Americans.

My latest at AMA Wire. Read the whole shebang.

“Dreamers” bolster physician workforce, should be allowed to stay

To help alleviate the physician shortage and improve access to care, Congress should move quickly to enact legislation that would allow those granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status—often dubbed “dreamers”—to live and work legally in the U.S. An estimated 5,400 previously ineligible physicians could be introduced into the U.S. health system over the coming decades through a DACA-like legislative fix.

My latest at AMA Wire. Read the whole shebang.

Genome editing and the AMA “Code of Medical Ethics”

An international team of researchers recently published, in the journal Nature, their study using genome editing to correct a heterozygous mutation in human preimplantation embryos using a technique called CRISPR-Cas9. This bench research, while far from bedside use, raises questions about the medical ethics of what could be considered “genetic engineering.” The AMA “Code of Medical Ethics” has guidance for physicians conducting research in this area.

My latest at AMA Wire. Read the whole shebang.