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Physicians get second delay in FTC enforcement of identity theft rules
Clamor from the medical community has prompted the Federal Trade Commission again to delay, this time from May 1 to Aug. 1, enforcement of new regulations to combat identity theft. The latest last-minute reprieve gives organized medicine more time to air concerns that what it considers an overreaching interpretation by the FTC of the "red flags" rules will prove burdensome for doctors. The regulations, authorized under the 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, require entities that regularly extend credit, or defer payment for services, to establish a written policy for preventing and responding to signs of identity theft. The American Medical Association and others continue to challenge the commission's view that Congress intended to consider physicians creditors under the act because they defer payments for services through insurance companies or other means. In an April 30 statement, the FTC acknowledged "the ongoing debate about whether Congress wrote this provision [Read more]
IOM warns about physician-pharma conflicts of interest
In recent months, medical schools, the drug industry and Congress have sought to crack down on perceived conflicts of interest between physicians and drug companies. Now the Institute of Medicine has joined the calls for change. The IOM issued a report April 28 warning that such conflicts could undermine the integrity of medicine, and the agency wants everyone involved in physician-drug industry relationships to rethink how they do business. The new approaches should be crafted with full disclosure at their core, the report said. Conflicts of interest "erode public trust while providing no meaningful benefits to patients or society," said IOM panel Chair Bernard Lo, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Program in Medical Ethics at the University of California, San Francisco. The report offers 16 recommendations to avoid conflicts in physicians' offices, biomedical research, medical education, journals, clinical guidelines and institutions. They include adopting confli [Read more]
Court upholds Vermont law on prescribing data privacy
A federal court in April upheld a 2007 Vermont law that lets physicians choose whether to allow their prescribing data to be sold for use in pharmaceutical marketing. The decision came on the heels of a November 2008 court ruling that upheld New Hampshire's ban on selling prescribers' information for commercial uses. This reversed a district court ruling that the ban violated First Amendment protections for commercial speech. Pharmaceutical sales representatives, also called detailers, use prescribing data to tailor their discussions with physicians and other prescribers. In his opinion upholding the Vermont law, U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha wrote that the state had demonstrated that detailing "encourages doctors to prescribe newer, more expensive and potentially more dangerous drugs instead of adhering to evidence-based treatment guidelines." The plaintiffs in the case -- medical data firms IMS Health, SDI and Wolters Kluwer Health -- said in a statement that they are [Read more]
Can a surge in physicians' use of smartphones ripple to health IT adoption?
For all the incentivizing, prompting and pleading to get physicians to adopt health IT, perhaps no one could have predicted 20 years ago that the cell phone would have the biggest impact on adoption rates. Evidence comes in a recent report, "Taking the Pulse v9.0," issued by Manhattan Research. It found that 64% of doctors, more than double the number eight years ago, are using smartphones -- iPhones, BlackBerrys, Treos and other hand-held devices with phone, wireless Internet access and robust applications that bring formerly desktop solutions to the palm. "You have to make it very easy for the average doctor," said Denis Harris, MD, a solo orthopedic surgeon from Washington, D.C., who runs most of his practice from his iPhone. Dr. Harris, 63, said that by having the technology mobile, many physicians who avoided IT adoption because they thought it would be obtrusive are now taking a second look. According to Manhattan's research, some of the most widely used mobile applicati [Read more]
California may require public notice of medical license
By this fall, California physicians may have to notify patients via a waiting-room sign or written statement that the Medical Board of California licenses them. They also may be required to provide patients the board's toll-free phone number and Web site address. Medical board officials say the notice would inform consumers about the agency's existence. Despite news releases, an extensive Web site and outreach to physician and consumer groups, not enough people are aware of the board and what it does, they said. "This is the most efficient way to reach consumers in a very brief, nonconfrontational way," board spokeswoman Candis Cohen said. But the plan doesn't sit well with some physicians, including the California Medical Assn. The physician group opposes the proposed regulation, believing that the state's physicians already inform patients that the medical board licenses them. Doctors typically hang their licenses on the wall, and the state's business and profession code req [Read more]
Broader approach to value-based purchasing sought for Medicare
Washington A comprehensive, cross-disciplinary approach to managing Medicare benefits based on the value that they provide to patients is one of the keys to major reform of the health care delivery system, said Robert A. Berenson, MD, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. Dr. Berenson, who spoke at a March 11 policy forum hosted by America's Health Insurance Plans, said this concept of value-based purchasing goes much deeper than a simple attempt to cut dollars out of the program's budget. "It's not about just trying to get costs lower, but also about getting better quality and responsiveness to patients." The Medicare physician fee schedule, for example, might be based not only on the relative costs of providing the services but also on the value provided to beneficiaries. A value-based purchaser might try to adjust payment levels to increase geriatric services for patients with multiple chronic conditions rather than boost adva [Read more]
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
SATURDAY, April 4 -- Resolvins, a new family of biologically active products of omega-3 fatty acids, may be able to remedy the inflammation of periodontal disease and restore gums to health, say Boston University researchers. Two types of resolvins are made from the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which keep blood triglycerides under control and may inhibit the progression of atherosclerosis. EPA and DHA help reduce inflammation and are often used to help people with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease, according to background information in a new release from the International & American Association for Dental Research. Resolvins of the E series (RvE1) are derived from EPA, and resolvins of the D series (RvD1) are derived from DHA. Previous research showed that RvE1 provided protection against soft tissue and bone loss associated with gum disease and actually restored lost soft tissue an [Read more]
Medicine slams FTC over forcing physicians to police identity theft
Organized medicine and the Federal Trade Commission continue to joust over the application to physicians of new identity theft prevention rules. With a May 1 compliance date just around the corner, neither party shows signs of capitulation. The FTC regulations require a variety of business entities -- mainly financial and banking institutions -- to implement a written program for preventing identity theft as well as detecting and responding to warning signs of such incidents. The commission maintains that when physicians defer payment for services, they become creditors -- entities that regularly extend, renew or continue credit -- under the "red flag" rules. The American Medical Association and dozens of state and specialty medical societies repeatedly have objected to what they believe is an unreasonably broad application of the regulations, as well as a lack of forewarning by the FTC. The commission "did not give physicians an appropriate opportunity for notice and comment [Read more]
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