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AHA again urges HHS to halt flawed and redundant OIG audits   08/22/2014
In a letter yesterday to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, AHA again asked the Department of Health and Human Services to immediately stop flawed and redundant audits by its Office of Inspector General. “On June 2nd, I sent the attached letter to Secretary Sebelius expressing serious concerns about OIG audits that have used extrapolation to estimate Medicare overpayments, which CMS contractors have then sought to recover from hospitals,” wrote AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack. “We asked that these practices be halted immediately and were hopeful that they had been. Last month, however, the OIG issued another audit report using extrapolation to determine the estimated Medicare overpayment to a hospital system. And, in this new audit as in the prior ones, the OIG misconstrued and misapplied numerous Medicare regulations and policies.” He said OIG’s approach “grossly exaggerates estimated Medicare overpayments, leads to excessive recoveries by Medicare contractors, and otherwise prejudices and burdens hospitals.”
CMS can award new contracts for RACs, court rules   08/22/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services may proceed to award its proposed new contracts for Recovery Audit Contractors, a federal court ruled last week. CGI, one of the current RACs, protested the proposed terms of the new contracts, which CMS has said it hopes to award by the end of this year. AHA will continue to update members as more information on the new round of contracts becomes available.
CMS delays implementation of sepsis quality measure   08/22/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will delay implementation of a chart-abstracted sepsis measure included in the inpatient prospective payment system final rule for fiscal year 2015, the agency announced today. In comments submitted in June, AHA said it was premature to finalize the bundle measure for severe sepsis and septic shock management, noting that a National Quality Forum committee has recommended revising it. “Given forthcoming research and NQF’s recommendations, with potential changes to the measure, CMS will delay data collection for the measure until further notice,” CMS said. Sepsis measure data collection was scheduled to begin on Jan. 1, 2015 for the FY 2017 inpatient quality reporting program. The delay does not affect the data collection period for any other hospital inpatient quality reporting measures. For more information, contact the quality reporting program’s support contractor at 844-472-4477 or online.
Hospital groups detail QIO contractor concerns in letter to CMS   08/22/2014
The transition to two new contractors for Quality Improvement Organization Beneficiary and Family Centered Care “is not working as it should for patients and hospitals, and will require ongoing leadership attention until it is working well,” the AHA and Federation of American Hospitals told the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today. The letter highlights challenges that patients and hospitals have faced with the BFCC QIOs processing appeals of hospital discharges. It documents long wait times for patients and hospital staff trying to get through to the QIO, miscommunications and missteps in dealing with appeals, and other issues.
DEA rule imposes strictest controls on hydrocondone combination products   08/21/2014
The Drug Enforcement Administration today issued a final rule imposing stricter regulatory controls and sanctions on people who handle or propose to handle hydrocodone combination products, drugs that contain hydrocodone and specified amounts of other substances. Effective in 45 days, the rule moves HCPs from Schedule III to Schedule II, as recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services and supported by its own evaluation, DEA said. The Controlled Substances Act places substances with accepted medical uses into one of four schedules; schedule II is for substances with the highest potential for harm and abuse. According to an analysis by HHS and the DEA, HCPs have a high potential for abuse, which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee also recommended the schedule change last year.
Ebola patients discharged from Atlanta hospital   08/21/2014
Emory University Hospital in Atlanta today discharged the last of two patients, a physician, who arrived at the hospital this month from West Africa for treatment of Ebola virus. The other patient, a missionary, was discharged Tuesday. “After a rigorous and successful course of treatment and testing, the Emory Healthcare team has determined that both patients have recovered from the Ebola virus and can return to their families and community without concern for spreading this infection to others,” said Bruce Ribner, M.D., director of Emory’s Infectious Disease Unit. The hospital has a specially built isolation unit set up in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to treat patients exposed to certain serious infectious diseases. The Emory medical team maintained extensive safety procedures throughout the treatment process and is confident that the patients’ discharge poses no public health threat, the hospital said. In other news today, CDC posted a printable factsheet on specimen collection for Ebola testing.
Report looks at advances in HAI prevention and how to improve   08/21/2014
National improvement campaigns to reduce health care-associated infections are demonstrating promising results, but need to become more efficient and effective, according to a new paper by AHA’s Health Research & Educational Trust affiliate. “We believe that HAI reduction efforts will improve if leaders view their efforts as ‘managing’ the spread of change in health care rather than ‘promoting’ it,” concludes author Stephen Hines, HRET chief research officer. “Focusing on the management of change calls greater attention to the critical issue of which changes will lead to substantial improvements.” Part of a larger report on advances in HAI prevention released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the paper shares insights from four AHRQ-funded projects led by HRET. “AHRQ’s support of large national improvement projects has both reduced HAIs and yielded important insights into how national campaigns can become more effective and efficient,” Hines said. “HRET is working very hard to apply these lessons to the campaigns we are leading for AHRQ and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.”
CDC issues Ebola guidance for environmental infection control in hospitals   08/20/2014
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday released Ebola virus guidance for environmental infection control in hospitals. The guidance covers topics related to waste, linens and recommended personal protective equipment for environmental services staff. It also includes a Q&A section on cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa has increased the need for U.S. health care facilities to be prepared to safely manage patients with compatible illness who recently traveled to West Africa. Other recent CDC guidance describes the sequence for putting on personal protective equipment, and how to collect and handle patient specimens. For more information, visit CDC’s Ebola website and webpage for health care workers.
CMS seeks comments on potential patient engagement initiatives   08/20/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is accepting comments through Sept. 15 on potential initiatives to test innovative models to engage Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program beneficiaries more actively in their health and health care. The agency is especially interested in models that use evidence-based social and behavioral insights and methods from behavioral economics, social psychology and incentive design to encourage enrollment in the models and motivate continued engagement. It plans to solicit ideas for engaging beneficiaries in Medicare Parts C and D, Medigap organizations, Medicaid and CHIP managed care, and value-based insurance design in a future request for information.
HITRUST and HHS to host cyber threat briefing tomorrow   08/20/2014
Representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigations will share their observations on current cyber threats tomorrow during the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) and Department of Health and Human Service’s Monthly Cyber Threat Briefing. To register for the briefing, which begins at 10 a.m. CT, click here. For more cybersecurity resources, AHA members can visit www.aha.org/cybersecurity.