Several topics that we've discussed frequently in FiercePracticeManagement made their way onto the agenda at the American Medical Association's (AMA) annual meeting this week. Voting on policies will continue through the end of today, but in the meantime, here is an overview of the AMA's recommendations and policies regarding some of the most pressing issues facing physicians:
Prescription painkiller misuse and addiction. The AMA supports physician use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP), and has adopted a new policy that calls on state governments to modernize and fully fund HIPAA-compliant PDMPs capable of sharing data across state lines (which most states' databases currently cannot). The new policy also supports the ability of physicians to delegate team members to check databases on their behalf. This last piece is vital to ensure lookups fit into practice workflow, doctors in my state of Massachusetts told me regarding the passage of state regulations mandating PDMP use. "It's important to be able to say to your administrative staff that for all new patients who are coming in with a pain complaint, 'I'd like you to print out [PMP data] and have it with the patient's paperwork when I see the patient,'" said Christopher Gilligan, M.D., a pain management specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
ICD-10. "Unsuccessful in getting ICD-10 shelved," as an article from MedPage Today put it, the AMA aims to mitigate physician hardships related to implementation by calling for a two-year grace period during which physicians will not be penalized for errors, mistakes and/or malfunctions of the system. "The bottom line is that ICD-10 will significantly overwhelm physician practices with a 400 percent increase in the number of codes physicians must use for diagnosis, which will take time away from the valuable one-on-one patient-physician interface that is the hallmark of taking the best care of patients," AMA Board Member Russell W.H. Kridel, M.D, said in an announcement. The AMA stated that it will also advocate for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create hardship exemptions for those physicians whose billing software or claims processing clearinghouses are unable to make a smooth transition. A recent commentary from FierceHealthIT argued that assistance from the federal government in implementing ICD-10 would be more beneficial than banning the new code set outright, but it remains to be seen whether a grace period will offer a viable alternative.
Childhood immunizations. Physician practices that treat children have been increasingly requiring their patients to vaccinate, but the AMA is calling on state regulators to allow immunization exemptions for medical reasons only. Currently, only but only two states bar non-medical exemptions based on personal beliefs, according to an AMA statement. To prevent a repeat of crises such as the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland, the new AMA policy recommends that states have in place an established decision mechanism that involves qualified public health physicians to determine which vaccines will be mandatory for admission to schools and other public venues. The AMA also stated that physicians and other health professionals who have direct patient care responsibilities have an obligation to accept immunization unless there is a recognized medical reason.
Of course, these are just a few of the issues covered at this week's meeting. What do you think of the AMA's new policies? What are your biggest pain points with these problems and what kind of coverage can we provide to help? - Deb (@PracticeMgt)