The fierce urgency of addressing language, literacy care barriers

In the absence of a qualified interpreter, patients with limited English proficiency can have trouble conveying critical information about symptoms and experiences. Offering reliable access to quality language and interpretive services is one strategy for improving cross-cultural communication in health care organizations. This is one pathway to quality care and shared decision-making, which some argue is not only an urgent priority, but also a clinical, legal and ethical obligation.

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Oscars’ big snafu and the AMA “Code of Medical Ethics”

The accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers issued a public apology for the errors that led to the mistaken announcement of “La La Land,” rather than “Moonlight,” as the winner of this year’s best-picture Oscar. “We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred,” the firm said in a statement.

Delivering the wrong Oscar envelope is a far cry from delivering the wrong medication to a patient. The Academy Awards oops led to some awkward moments watched by millions worldwide, but no one was injured. That is not always the case when things go wrong in medicine. The AMA Code of Medical Ethics has guidance for physicians on the proper handling of medical errors.

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Health reform: No going back on key market protections

Look around the dinner table tonight. You are very likely to break bread with one person who has a preexisting condition that, under the old rules, would have made it very difficult to secure health insurance coverage. Depending on the criteria used, as much as half of the non-elderly U.S. population has a preexisting condition. That amounts to as many as 133 million people—patients who should not be discriminated against in the health insurance marketplace. The ban on using preexisting conditions to deny coverage is one of the key health reforms that any replacement plan should maintain.

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Former CMS administrator among 10 Dr. Nathan Davis Award winners

The AMA has honored Andrew Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, with its Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service for his role in shepherding some of the most significant and successful recent initiatives in health care. Slavitt was one of 10 elected officials, administrators and public servants the AMA recognized this year.

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Health reform: Protecting insurance gains is priority No. 1

Twenty million, four hundred thousand. That’s a big number. According to the most recent data from the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) National Center for Health Statistics, that is how many more Americans have health insurance coverage than in 2010, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted.

For America’s physicians, 20.4 million is not just an abstract figure. It represents their patients—living with illness or working to prevent it—who now have health insurance coverage to support their care. And as the nation’s elected representatives consider changes to the health system, it is a number no one wants to see go in the wrong direction.

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Florida ‘gun gag’ law provisions struck down by appeals court

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down key portions of a Florida law that restricted the ability of physicians to communicate freely with their patients about firearms safety. In an en banc decision overturning an earlier three-judge panel ruling, the court ruled that Florida’s Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act infringes on the free speech rights of physicians.

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EHR switch poses learning curve in the surgical suite

When Brigham and Women’s Hospital left its legacy electronic health records (EHR) system for a commercial offering, a period of adjustment was expected. Leaders scheduled 20 percent fewer surgical cases during the first two weeks of the EHR transition, yet the switch still increased the time between procedures by 19 percent during the first month, and turnover times did not return to the pre-implementation baseline for nine months. The experience shows the importance of adjusting expectations regarding efficiencies that might be gained from a new EHR, and how strong teamwork can overcome the initial learning curve.

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EHR safety concerns uncovered, addressed with daily huddle

Faced with the daunting challenge of opening a new hospital and simultaneously going live with a new electronic health record system in 2013, the leaders of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in College Station, Texas, created a daily “safety huddle” involving dozens of representatives from nearly all clinical and other areas of the facility. The meetings helped bring to the fore EHR-related quality and safety concerns that could be rapidly addressed to protect patients.

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Survey quantifies time burdens of prior authorization

What do you do 37 times in a given workweek? If you are a fervent coffee drinker, perhaps that is how often you refill your trusty travel mug. But if you are like the physicians recently surveyed by the AMA, 37 may be the number of prior-authorization requests that you and your hardworking staffers complete each week. That is just one of the alarming results of a new survey that demonstrates the toll prior authorization is taking on patients, physicians and medical practices.

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21 principles to reform prior-authorization requirements

The utilization-management requirements that gobble up physician and staff time while interrupting or delaying appropriate care need to be dramatically reshaped to ensure they are clinically valid and implemented in a way that is transparent, timely, efficient, flexible and standardized. That is the resounding message set forth in a comprehensive set of 21 principles released Wednesday by the AMA and a coalition of 16 other organizations representing physicians, medical groups, hospitals, pharmacists and patients.

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Don’t let smartphones distract from care

The odds are good that you’re reading this on your phone right now. The overwhelming majority of physicians, residents and medical students own smartphones and many use them to keep up with medical news, communicate with colleagues and consult clinical reference tools that help them deliver better care. But these pocket computers also have the potential to distract from medical care in ways that can be harmful. There are three ways you can ensure wise clinical use of your smartphone.

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