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Demand drives more hospitals to offer alternative therapies

The number of hospitals offering complementary and alternative medical services has tripled since 2000, driven principally by patient demand for low-risk therapies such as massage, guided imagery, meditation and the "healing touch" practice known as Reiki. Forty-two percent of the 714 hospitals surveyed said they provide unconventional therapies, and executives listed patient demand as the top criterion in choosing which therapies to offer, according to a report released in September by the American Hospital Assn.'s Health Forum and the Samueli Institute, a think tank that supports alternative medicine. In 2000, just 14% of hospitals told AHA researchers that they provided complementary therapies. "They are responding to the needs of their patients and the communities they are serving, while trying to differentiate themselves in the marketplace," said Sita Ananth, a Samueli Institute researcher who wrote the report. "These hospitals are really trying to see how they can address t ...

Delaware Blues fined for denying cardiac tests

Delaware's insurance commissioner has fined the state's Blues plan $325,000 over what the commissioner deemed inappropriate denials of nuclear cardiac imaging tests. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware "acknowledged deficiencies in claims handling" but denied violating state law. It agreed to pay the fine and spend an additional $300,000 over three years on a program developed by the American College of Cardiology to guide the appropriate use of advanced cardiac imaging tests. The news was welcomed by the ACC, which credited its Delaware chapter with helping to broker the agreement. "We hope Delaware will be a model for managing medical costs by focusing on patient-centered decision making and quality care," ACC Chief Executive Officer Jack Lewin, MD, said in a statement. "More importantly, we hope this proactive solution will prevent future cardiovascular patients from being denied the right care at the right time." The ACC program, called FOCUS, for Formation of Optimal Ca ...

Medicare sign-up question about accepting new patients becomes optional

Washington -- The agency overseeing the Medicare program will not require physicians to report whether they are accepting new Medicare patients or providing advanced imaging care. The change comes after the American Medical Association wrote the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about two new mandatory questions added to the program's enrollment applications in July. One question on paper and online versions of the application asks physicians, "Do you accept new Medicare patients?" Another question found only on the Web-based application asked, "Are you, or will you be, providing advanced diagnostic imaging services?" "Committing to make these fields optional is an important step to help alleviate some of the challenges physicians face during the enrollment process, and we will continue to monitor the forms to ensure the action is completed," AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD, said in a statement. In an Aug. 4 letter, the AMA asked CMS to remove both questions from the ...