The Medical Group Management Association has told the CMS that physician-recruitment guidelines in interim final regulations issued in March are too strict and could impede hospitals' ability to replace physicians and hinder recruitment of doctors by group practices. The association's formal comments on the regulations also ask for modifications to make it easier for doctors to implement information technology on a broad basis. The regulations, set to take effect July 24, create new exemptions to the federal ban on physician self-referral and clarify safe harbors for physician investment and compensation. The MGMA says the "unduly restrictive" exemption would "significantly (hamper) the ability of hospitals to assist group practices with physician recruitment." The exemption "discriminates against medical group practices by permitting hospitals to cover more costs to recruit solo-practice physicians than to recruit those in group-practice settings," the association says. For instance, hospitals may pay overhead costs to recruit a physician to a solo practice but are prohibited from providing the same incentive when recruiting a physician to a group practice, the MGMA says.
MedPAC names doc IT leader as member
Physician informaticist Arnold Milstein, M.D., has been named to the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee, which advises Congress on Medicare policy issues. The General Accounting Office and U.S. Comptroller General David Walker named Milstein as the newest MedPAC member. Milstein is medical director of the Pacific Business Group on Health and a consultant for Mercer Human Resource Consulting. He also has expertise in performance improvement for large healthcare providers and purchasers, according to the GAO. Milstein also has been a leader in the Care Focused Purchasing Initiative, a coalition of 28 large U.S. employers that will examine data and create hospital and physician report cards using quality and cost measurements.
'Wired' hospitals could save lives
Medical care would be improved and millions of dollars would be saved if hospitals were fully wired, say Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who have jointly announced a program to help put more healthcare information online. The political partisans are putting their differences aside to tout electronic prescriptions, online patient records and an integrated, paperless healthcare system. Kennedy plans to introduce legislation that would implement a paperless healthcare system by 2015. The bill seeks $5 billion in funding to build the infrastructure to get all hospitals and patients online.
Health IT caucus forming on Capitol Hill
A congressional caucus primarily devoted to the technological modernization of the healthcare industry is forming on Capitol Hill in the latest sign of the rising visibility of healthcare information technology in Washington. The bipartisan organization, calling itself the 21st Century Health Care Caucus, is chaired by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.). Vice chairs are Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). Twelve members of Congress have expressed interest in joining so far.
HIMSS to buy Dorenfest database
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, seeking to become a key source of data used in buying and selling information technology, has ventured into the thick of the sector by agreeing to acquire the assets of Sheldon I. Dorenfest & Associates, Chicago, for $6 million. Chicago-based HIMSS did not agree to acquire the company itself but will gain IT-related data on 1,500 healthcare delivery systems. It also will hire more than 30 Dorenfest employees and assume business contracts related to managing and mining the database, says Stephen Lieber, president and chief executive officer of HIMSS, a trade group for healthcare information professionals. The deal is scheduled to close July 16. The Dorenfest database, which serves mainly IT companies and consulting firms prospecting for business, will be merged with a 1-year-old HIMSS database directed at provider organizations seeking industry information on the size, makeup and budget of hospital IT operations, says David Garets, CEO of a new HIMSS subsidiary to be called HIMSS Analytics.
CMS starts small-practice IT pilot
Sixteen physicians in solo and small group practices are participating in a government-funded, six-month pilot program to learn the problems and best practices in deploying an electronic medical records system. The family physicians who volunteered for the program organized by the American Academy of Family Physicians are in practices of one, two, three, four and six physicians from six states. "They're all up and running with the application now" and are learning the system, says David Kibbe, M.D., director of the academy's IT center. The system is expected to "go live" soon, with doctors documenting patient encounters on the system, which will be hooked up to a remote database. Funded by a $100,000 grant from the CMS, the pilot looks to find ways to best use the computerized systems in what experts say will be the toughest EMR market to penetrate, small group practices.
Up to your HIPAA in LOINCs?
Electronic-standards search help is at hand. The Chicago-based National Alliance for Health Information Technology is releasing a Web-based directory of IT standards and the organizations that produce them, including the Regenstrief Institute-developed standard Logical Observation Identifier Names and Codes, or LOINC, at hitsdir.org. Those who register can access a menu that offers four ways to search: by a standard terms search box, by organization, by the name of the standard or by category. Click on the main Web page's link to standards publications for an alphabetized list of 862 standards.