AHA pushes back on administration's charges on coding   09/25/2012
The AHA yesterday in a letter to the departments of Health and Human Services and Justice reiterated the hospital field's commitment to combating fraud and abuse and again called for national guidelines for the reporting of hospital emergency department or clinic visits using a framework the association has proposed repeatedly since 2003. The letter was in response to a letter the association received yesterday from the departments, prompted by an article in the New York Times, charging that electronic health records may be used by some hospitals and physicians to increase their Medicare reimbursements through "upcoding" and the "cloning" of records. AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock concurred that the alleged practices should not be tolerated but noted that it is also "critically important to recognize that more accurate documentation and coding does not necessarily equate with fraud." In addition, he cited the complexity of Medicare and Medicaid payment rules and reiterated the association's request for national guidelines for the reporting of ED and clinic visits, a request AHA has made 11 times. Although CMS in 2004 and 2005 stated it would consider national coding guidelines, it has yet to issue a proposal. "What's needed is clearer guidance from [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services], not duplicative audits that divert much needed resources from patient care," he said. "No one questions the need for auditors to identify billing mistakes; but the flood of new auditing programs, such as Recovery Audit Contractors, [Medicare Administrative Contractors] and others, is drowning hospitals with a deluge of redundant audits, unmanageable medical record requests and inappropriate payment denials," he added, noting respondents to AHA's latest RACTrac survey are appealing more than 40% of denials with a success rate of 75%.
CMS proposes general supervision for 15 outpatient therapeutic services   09/25/2012
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services yesterday proposed reducing the supervision level for 15 outpatient services from direct to general supervision, including certain vaccine administrations, blood collection, bladder catheter insertion and intravenous hydration services. The Hospital Outpatient Payment Panel recommended the change last month. If finalized, the CMS recommendation would allow the services to be performed under the overall direction of a physician or non-physician practitioner without requiring their presence. The panel also recommended reducing the supervision level for 13 other outpatient therapeutic services, including hospital observation, IV drug infusions, drug injections, and bladder irrigation services. CMS did not accept the panel's recommendation for those services, saying they involve physician assessment or have significant potential for patient complications or reactions that would require the immediate availability of a supervising physician or nonphysician practitioner. CMS will accept comments on its preliminary decision via e-mail through Oct. 24 at HOPSupervisionComments@cms.hhs.gov.
FCC panel recommends action on mobile/wireless health technologies   09/25/2012
A Federal Communications Commission task force yesterday issued recommendations to speed the adoption of mobile, wireless and electronic health care technologies. The report recommends that the FCC play a leadership role in advancing mobile health adoption; collaborate with other federal agencies to promote innovation and avoid regulatory duplication; build on existing programs to expand broadband access to health care; and continue to increase capacity, reliability, interoperability and safety of mobile health technologies. In addition, the panel said device and software vendors should continue to develop and deploy mobile health care solutions, and adopt standards-based technologies for simple and secure health communications. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski convened the mHealth Task Force in June to assess opportunities and challenges facing the adoption of wireless health technologies and develop recommendations to speed their adoption. The panel is co-chaired by Julian Goldman, director of the Program on Medical Device Interoperability at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, and includes several hospital representatives.
Hospital identifies principles for allocating scarce drugs   09/25/2012
A team at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, has identified principles for an ethical approach to apportioning scarce drugs using a hierarchy of clinical need and effectiveness, according to an article published online yesterday by the Archives of Internal Medicine. Built on similar models that govern some organ donations, the policy was written by the hospital's ethics committee and adopted by hospital leadership in 2011 as shortages of critical drugs occurred regularly. "Our experience has demonstrated the feasibility and utility of formulating a rational and ethically sound policy for scare resource allocation in an academic teaching hospital that could be used in a variety of health care settings," the authors write. "The method has proven to be reliable, workable, and acceptable to clinicians, staff and patients."
HRSA webinar tomorrow on next phase of organ donor campaign   09/25/2012
Hospitals are invited to learn about the next phase of the Health Resources and Services Administration's Workplace Partnership for Life organ donor registration campaign during a webinar tomorrow at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The AHA is a national partner in the campaign, a national initiative to spread the word about the importance of organ, eye, tissue, blood and bone marrow donation and encourage Americans to register as donors. To participate in the webinar, go to https://akoyaweb.conferencinghub.com/Web/Akoya1.
PBS to premiere documentary on the cost of health care    09/25/2012
PBS tonight will premiere the documentary "Money and Medicine," which examines the "medical, ethical and financial challenges" of containing health care costs and the impact rising health care costs have on the U.S. economy. The documentary focuses on two hospitals to illustrate the forces driving the rising cost of care as well as strategies to reduce "unnecessary medical spending."  End-of-life care decisions, variations in care for elective procedures and ways to reduce health spending while improving the quality of care are highlighted. The segment airs at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. Click here for local PBS stations.
HAP announces new chief executive   09/25/2012
The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania today announced as its president and CEO effective Dec. 12 Andrew Carter, currently president and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Associations of America. Carter succeeds Carolyn Scanlan, who will retire on Dec. 31 after nearly 18 years with the organization. He previously served as president of the Ohio Children's Hospital Association and principal of Carter Consulting Inc.