Congressional leaders unveil SGR replacement bill   02/06/2014
Congressional leaders today unveiled legislation to replace Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate formula for physician payment updates. The SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act (H.R. 4015) would provide a 0.5% payment update for five years under the fee-for-service model as a transition, and allow further updates if needed. According to a summary posted by Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), the bill also would consolidate the current-law physician quality reporting system, electronic health record and value-based modifier programs into one; incentivize physician participation in alternative payment models; incentivize care coordination efforts for patients with chronic care needs; and expand the use of Medicare data for transparency and quality improvement. The legislation, which was agreed to last night by the six chairmen and ranking members of the committees of jurisdiction, does not include recommendations on how to offset the costs of the policy changes. Without congressional action, Medicare payments to physicians and other health care professionals will decline by a mandated 24.4% on April 1. The AHA has urged Congress to fix the physician payment formula, but to do so in a manner that does not result in reduced payments to hospitals. 
PCORI announces $206 million in funding opportunities   02/06/2014
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute is accepting applications for up to $90 million in funding for clinical studies to address practical questions faced by patients, clinicians and other decision-makers. Priority research topics include treatment strategies or options for back pain, opioid substance abuse and migraines; proton beam therapy for certain cancers; and integration of mental and behavioral health services into primary care. In addition, the institute will fund up to $81 million in new research to assess prevention, diagnosis and treatment options; improve health care systems; address knowledge gaps related to communicating and disseminating research results; reduce disparities in health and health care; and improve methods for conducting patient-centered outcomes research. Other new funding opportunities include $20 million to compare the effectiveness of obesity treatment options for underserved adults in primary care settings; and $15 million for a comprehensive study of transitional care services to prevent hospital readmissions and improve outcomes for at-risk patients. Letters of intent are due March 7. For more information, see the funding announcements.
AHA announces new governance tools for health care transformation   02/06/2014
The AHA’s Center for Healthcare Governance today announced three new tools to help hospital and health system boards guide their organizations through the significant changes underway in health care payment and delivery. Based on the Center’s 2012 Blue Ribbon Panel report “Governance Practices for an Era of Health Care Transformation,” the tools include a free Readiness Assessment, which can be downloaded or completed online to help boards compare their current practices with the key practices for transformation identified in the report. The Center also offers members a new half-day interactive educational program in the board room to help trustees enhance their knowledge and skills for governing in transformative times, and an advanced Governance Assessment Process survey to help boards evaluate the extent to which they have implemented transformational governance practices. For more on the education program and GAP evaluation tool, contact the Center at info@americangovernance.com or call (888) 540-6111.
AHA announces next members-only cybersecurity webinar   02/06/2014
AHA will host a members-only webinar Feb. 18 on “Cyber Attacks and Cyber Risk Management: Experience from the Field.” Co-sponsored by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the webinar will feature hospital information security experts from Johns Hopkins University/Johns Hopkins Health System and University of Michigan Health System, who will discuss the most likely cybersecurity challenges in health care and ways to prevent and manage them. To register for the webinar, from 1-2 p.m. Eastern Time, click here. The webinar is the last in a three-part series of AHA members-only webinars on cybersecurity issues for hospitals.