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Economists outline strategy to counter primary care shortage

Greater use of several physician practice reform strategies that are growing in popularity could help stem the primary care physician shortage, according to a study in the January Health Affairs. Using simulation methods to estimate the projected need for primary care doctors, researchers from the Columbia Business School in New York and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in Philadelphia highlighted various operational changes that are becoming more widely adopted. These include the use of health care teams, more reliance on non-physicians and improved information technology methods. Taken together, they could help to eliminate shortages by increasing access to care, the study suggests. Primary care teams, for example, are in sync with the objectives of patient-centered medical homes, which aim to boost access, the study said. The researchers cited Geisinger Health System’s “shared practice” approach, which is part of the health system’s medical home model, ...

Keys to drug compliance may be trust and pill shape

Patients who give their physicians low grades are likelier to have lapses in drug adherence, said a study of nearly 10,000 Northern California patients with diabetes. Thirty-nine percent of patients who said they never or only sometimes have confidence in their primary care physicians skipped their cardio-metabolic medicines at least 20% of the time, the study said. That is a non-adherence rate 11 percentage points higher than for patients who said they usually or always trust their doctors. Similar drug compliance gaps were found for patients who said their doctors did not involve them in decisions or understand their problems with treatment, or put the patient’s needs first, said the study. The findings shed light on the critical role the patient-physician relationship plays in achieving the optimal drug compliance essential to attaining treatment goals, said Neda Ratanawongsa, MD, MPH, lead author of the study, which was published online Dec. 31, 2012, in Archives of Inte ...

HHS settles first small data breach case at medical practice

For the first time, the Dept. of Health and Human Services has reached a settlement over a data breach that affected fewer than 500 people, reinforcing its message that no medical practice is too small to be held accountable for not following privacy and security laws. On Jan. 2, Hospice of North Idaho settled a 2010 security case by agreeing to pay $50,000 to HHS. The case stemmed from a stolen laptop with unencrypted data containing the protected health information of 441 patients. HHS reached the agreement after a long investigation by its Office for Civil Rights, which found that the practice never conducted a risk assessment to safeguard patient data, a requirement under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The agency also found that there were no policies and procedures to address mobile security, despite the fact that the practice routinely uses laptops as part of its field work. “This action sends a strong message to the health care industry that, ...