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Costco begins selling EMRs
Physicians with memberships at Costco discount warehouse stores can now pick up some technology for the office. Costco has partnered with Etransmedia Technology to sell Allscripts MyWay EHR and practice management systems at Costco stores nationally. The store hopes physicians looking to collect incentive money for meaningful use of electronic medical records will take advantage of the deal. Costco executive members can implement the integrated EMR/practice management system for $499 a month. For non-executive members, the price is $599 a month. The pricing is based on a 60-month contract, according to costcoehr.com, a website Etransmedia launched to promote the deal. The Allscripts MyWay system offered by Costco is an integrated, Web-based EMR and practice management solution that includes e-prescribing, electronic claims and a patient portal. The monthly fee includes maintenance, support and hosting as well as online training. Allscripts advertises the EMR and PM systems sep [Read more]
Comparative effectiveness research grants attract strong interest
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute has received more than 20 applications for each pilot project grant it is offering to groups that help the organization develop priorities and methods for researching the effectiveness of medical care. PCORI received 856 requests for its Pilot Project Grant Program, its first major funding opportunity. The institute will select approximately 40 awardees by the end of March, each of whom will receive a share of $26 million in pilot grant funding over two years. PCORI was created by the national health system reform law to study the comparative effectiveness of different medical treatments, devices and drugs in treating the same medical conditions. Such research has faced opposition from critics who are concerned the government and private insurance companies will use its conclusions to favor treatments that benefit a majority of people with a disease or condition, while putting sub-populations at a disadvantage. The institute's l [Read more]
CMS innovation center launched 12 projects in first year
The CMS Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation developed a dozen new initiatives to reform the health care system during its first year of operation. The Commonwealth Fund, a progressive think tank with offices in New York and Washington, published a report highlighting the center's work over the last year. The report described 12 initiatives, including alternative payment model programs that established patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations and mentor-ship programs. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services launched the innovation center in November 2010. The health system reform law provided $10 billion over 10 years to support the center's mission of testing payment and service delivery models that aim to reduce spending while maintaining or increasing quality of care. The innovation center has started to change the way people think about the health care system, said Stuart Guterman, co-author of the study and vice president of payment and s [Read more]
2-year Medicare pay patch passes House but hits roadblock
The House has approved legislation that delays Medicare physician payment cuts until 2014, while providing 1% pay raises in 2012 and 2013. However, Senate Democratic leaders and the White House rejected the House measure based on several other provisions in the GOP bill, which was passed by a largely party-line vote of 234-193 on Dec. 13. The comprehensive legislative package would extend payroll tax cuts, reform unemployment insurance and permit the construction of a controversial oil pipeline stretching from Canada to Texas. President Obama said that if the House bill were to pass, he would veto it over the pipeline provisions and several budgetary offsets that Republicans use to pay for the new spending in the bill. "Instead of working together to find a balanced approach that will actually pass both houses of the Congress, [the House bill] instead represents a choice to re-fight old political battles over health care and introduce ideological issues into what should be a simp [Read more]
Medicare begins Round 2 of DME bidding
The agency overseeing the Medicare program is moving forward with the expansion of a competitive bidding system to purchase durable medical equipment. The extension of the bidding process for medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies across the country is expected to lower costs and save Medicare and patients more than $28 billion over 10 years. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began registering equipment suppliers for the bidding process on Dec. 5, but it does not expect the new prices chosen during this second round of bidding to take effect until July 1, 2013. CMS introduced the first phase of competitive bidding in nine cities on Jan. 1, 2011. But some lawmakers and health care industry associations have worked to prevent the program from expanding to 91 metropolitan areas. Products open for bidding include oxygen supplies, wheelchairs and power scooters, enteral nutrients, continuous positive airway pressure devices, hospital beds, walkers, and negat [Read more]
More parents requesting alternative vaccine schedules
Research on the safety of delaying childhood immunizations is needed as pediatricians increasingly are faced with requests by parents to follow alternative vaccine schedules, says the author of a new study. Three in four pediatricians in Washington state said parents sometimes or frequently request an alternative immunization schedule for their child, according to the study published online Nov. 28 in Pediatrics. Of those doctors, 64% are comfortable using such a plan. Researchers did not ask pediatricians why they were comfortable following an alternative schedule. But study co-author Douglas J. Opel, MD, MPH, said it's likely that physicians want to maintain a relationship with the family so they can address their vaccine concerns and, in time, fully immunize the young patient. "Pediatricians are in a difficult spot ... because they have to balance two competing interests -- the parent's right to make health care decisions for the child and the pediatrician's obligation to p [Read more]
Military veterans to benefit from federal health training grants
New White House initiatives are prodding medical schools to train military veterans for health care jobs and encouraging health centers to hire veterans. Universities and colleges that train veterans to be physician assistants will be given higher scores when applying for federal physician assistant training grants, according to an Oct. 25 announcement by the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the Dept. of Health and Human Services. The move is part of White House efforts to connect veterans to jobs. "No veteran should have to fight for a job at home after they fight for our nation overseas," President Obama said on Nov. 7. "Our war fighters have been hit disproportionately hard by the economic downturn with unemployment rates that eclipse their non-military cohorts," said Bob Wallace, executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. The Obama administration also encouraged employers to list their job openings on a new database for vet [Read more]
Suicidal thoughts, behaviors higher among young adults and unemployed
Considering patients' age, gender and where they live could help physicians identify people who have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A study in the Oct. 21 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that suicidal thoughts are more common among females than males. Such thoughts also are more frequently reported by adults in the Midwest and West than by people in other regions of the country. The study is the first to present state-level data concerning suicidal thoughts and behaviors among U.S. adults, the CDC said. "Doctors might be able to think about the demographic composition of the population they see and determine if there are some higher-risk groups in their practice," said lead study author Alex E. Crosby, MD, MPH. "If doctors have more females and young adults, they might want to think about what kind of questions they can ask to probe a little more deeply into is [Read more]
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