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CMS releases home health final rule   10/30/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today released the final rule for the home health prospective payment system for calendar year 2015, which updates Medicare payment rates to home health agencies and implements the second year of the four-year phase in of the rebasing of this payment system. Overall, as proposed, the rule reduces home health payments by 0.3% from 2014 payment levels, a $60 million reduction. The regulation also simplifies the requirements for the congressionally-mandated face-to-face encounter policy, which requires a physician to meet face-to-face with patients transitioning from general acute-care hospitals and other settings to home care to certify that the service is medically necessary. The final rule eliminates the requirement for the inclusion of a narrative in the physician's certification of need. Further, in a move supported by the AHA, the agency will replace the current schedule for therapy reassessments with a requirement that such reassessments occur every 30 days, a longer interval than proposed, in alignment with the AHA's recommendation. The regulation also establishes a minimum threshold for determining whether HH agencies have submitted sufficient patient assessment data to calculate quality measures. The rule takes effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
FDA approves first vaccine to prevent serogroup B meningococcal disease   10/30/2014
The Food and Drug Administration yesterday approved the first U.S.-licensed vaccine to prevent invasive meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B in individuals aged 10-25. N. meningitidis is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis. Previous meningococcal vaccines approved for use in the U.S. have not covered this serogroup of bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 500 cases of meningococcal disease were reported in the U.S. in 2012, of which 160 were caused by serogroup B. As part of the accelerated approval process, the manufacturer will conduct further studies to verify the vaccine’s effectiveness against additional strains of serogroup B.
FDA approves rapid Ebola test for hospital laboratories   10/30/2014
The Food and Drug Administration this week authorized emergency use of a rapid test for Ebola virus by hospital laboratories certified to perform moderate or high complexity tests under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988. The emergency use authorization allows such hospitals to conduct the test in-house, without having to send the sample to an outside lab. The test is for detecting the virus in individuals with Ebola signs and symptoms in conjunction with epidemiological risk factors. It produces results in about one hour, according to FDA. For more on the BioFire Defense FilmArray Biothreat-E test, click here.
IOM workshop Monday on Ebola research priorities   10/30/2014
The Institute of Medicine will webcast a public workshop Monday on research priorities to inform public health and medical practice for domestic Ebola virus disease. According to the planning committee, “The workshop will help inform future research that could be conducted under real-world conditions (i.e., during an event) that would provide public health officials and the general public with additional accurate information about virus transmission, mitigation of health risks, and appropriate measures to prevent the spread of disease.” For more information and to register for the webcast, click here.
Medical school enrollment climbs 1.4%   10/30/2014
Enrollment in U.S. medical schools grew 1.4% in 2014 to a record 20,343 students, the Association of American Medical Colleges announced yesterday. Applications to U.S. medical schools rose by 3.1%, to 49,480. Since 2002, enrollment at the nation’s medical schools has increased by 23.4%, and 17 new medical schools have been established. “As we face a worsening shortage of both primary and specialty physicians over the next two decades, Congress must increase federal support for residency training by lifting the 17-year-old cap on residency training positions imposed under the Balanced Budget Act,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch, M.D. AHA continues to recommend that the cap be lifted to create at least 15,000 new resident positions, as included in the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act (S. 577/H.R. 1180).
NY health system shares Ebola preparedness guide; NC PPE video available   10/30/2014
North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, NY, yesterday released an Ebola preparedness guide for health care organizations and local governments. “Based on our 15 years of experience in preparing for public health crises stemming from natural disasters, terrorism, infectious disease outbreaks, major power outages and other emergencies, we decided to prepare and share an Ebola Preparedness Manual that could serve as a valuable resource to others on the front lines of protecting the public health during this emergency,” said Michael Dowling, president and CEO of the health system. North Shore-LIJ is one of eight New York hospitals and health systems designated as Ebola treatment centers. In other Ebola-related news, the North Carolina Division of Public Health recently posted a video in collaboration with state partners demonstrating donning and doffing of personal protective equipment in hospital Ebola isolation units.
Reminder: Hospitals must respond to CMS appeals settlement offer by Friday   10/30/2014
Friday is the deadline for acute care and critical access hospitals to accept a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services offer to settle certain patient status claim denials. The AHA urges hospitals to carefully evaluate the terms of the CMS offer, including a close review of CMS’s frequently asked questions document, as the agency has provided updated information about the claim settlement terms and process as recently as this week. In particular, hospitals that pursue the settlement should carefully examine how CMS applies patient deductibles to the proposed settlement amount for each claim. Although the FAQ document indicates that CMS will deduct patient deductibles from the settlement amount, it is not clear how CMS will determine whether and how a deductible is to be applied to each claim eligible for settlement. In addition, although CMS had originally stated that hospitals that have trouble meeting the Oct. 31 deadline would be able to request an extension, the agency seems to have eliminated that option. Instead, CMS has created a process by which hospitals may request a list of claims potentially eligible for the settlement offer – or “potentials list" – and stated that a hospital’s request for a potentials list will be accepted as an intent to participate in the settlement offer. Hospitals may request a potentials list by following specific instructions on the Inpatient Hospital Reviews webpage.
HHS to host Ebola preparedness call Friday for hospitals and health systems   10/29/2014
Hospital executives, emergency management directors and safety officers are invited to participate in a conference call Friday with leaders from the Department of Health and Human Services and other government agencies on preparing health care systems to protect health and safety should an Ebola patient present at their facility. For details and how to access the call, at 3 p.m. ET, click here. For additional Ebola preparedness resources, including replays of previous calls, visit www.cdc.gov and www.aha.org/ebola.
HPOE guide offers framework for stratifying REAL data   10/29/2014
A new guide from the AHA's Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence initiative provides a framework that hospitals and health care systems can use to stratify data on patient Race, Ethnicity And Language to identify and address health care disparities. Steps in the framework include assembling a working group that is focused on health care disparities data; validating the REAL data; identifying the highest priority metrics for stratification; determining if stratification is possible on the selected metrics; and stratifying the data to identify quantitative trends, results and areas in need of improvement. “Stratifying REAL data is part of the larger effort surrounding the use of health care disparities information, and with these data, hospitals and care systems can effectively target interventions,” the authors note. HPOE is the AHA’s strategic platform to accelerate performance improvement and support delivery system transformation in the nation’s hospitals and health care systems. For more information, visit www.hpoe.org.
Reminder: AHA RACTrac survey data due Friday   10/29/2014
The AHA encourages all hospitals to submit data to its quarterly RACTrac survey by Friday. Hospitals are asked to submit data, even if they are not currently experiencing Recovery Audit Contractor audits. The survey helps AHA gauge the impact of Medicare's RAC program on hospitals and advocate for needed changes. For more information on the RACTrac initiative, including a new RACTrac claim-level tool, data definitions and question list, visit www.aha.org/RACTrac. To register for the survey or for technical assistance, contact RACTrac support at (888) 722-8712 or ractracsupport@providercs.com.