Physician Practice Roundup—CMS proposes rule to streamline Medicare compliance; Senate passes massive opioid package; and more news

A physician's stethoscope
A proposed rule that would eliminate and update regulations could save doctors hours of time. (Getty/millionsjoker)

CMS proposes rule to streamline Medicare compliance

CMS took the latest step in its Patients over Paperwork initiative on Monday, issuing a proposed rule that would eliminate or update a slew of regulations deemed “unnecessary, obsolete or excessively burdensome” on providers. 

Should the rule (PDF) be finalized, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimates that it would save providers $1.12 billion each year and eliminate millions of hours in administrative time. Through 2021, CMS projects $5.2 billion in total savings and 53 million hours of administrative burden eliminated. 

“We all know that, at times, regulations can get in the way of innovation and drive up costs,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said at a press event on Monday to mark the rule’s release. (FierceHealthcare)

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Senate passes massive opioid package, bill to ban gag clauses

The Senate approved a massive package of measures (PDF) Monday evening aimed at responding to the opioid crisis, as well as legislation to bar the use of so-called gag clauses in contracts between pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers.

Evidence grows that 'under the radar' healthcare consolidation hurts consumers

There are more and more examples of how mergers and acquisitions in healthcare are hurting consumers in California, a group of health economists said at an event hosted by the journal Health Affairs on Monday.

The percentage of primary care physicians in practices owned by hospitals increased in many Golden State counties from about 25% to nearly 40% between 2010 and 2016, according to an article in the latest edition of the journal. During the same time frame, the percentage of specialists in hospital-owned practices rose from 20% to more than 50%.

These vertical mergers are occurring “under the radar,” said Richard Scheffler, Ph.D., of the University of California, Berkeley, lead author of that study. When patients see a doctor, they do not know who that doctor works for. But the effects of these mergers, he continued, are “like a hurricane.” (FierceHealthcare)

The CDC and Joint Commission release free new infection-control resources

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The Joint Commission have released new infection-control resources for outpatient podiatry, orthopedic and pain management settings.

They released two new guides that cover infection prevention in those settings. The guides, available as pocket guides and including a checklist, cover topics such as education and training, safe injection practices, medical device reprocessing, environmental cleaning and more. (Joint Commission announcement)

Saykara raises $5M in funding for virtual assistant for physicians

Saykara, which has developed a voice and artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant for physicians, announced a $5 million investment led by SpringRock Ventures.

Other investors include NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Elevate Innovation Partners, and existing investor Madrona Venture Group. The voice-based solution is intended to address the documentation burden faced by doctors using electronic health records. (Saykara announcement)

Are doctors’ offices ready for the death of the fax machine?

Seema Verma, administrator at CMS, has called on doctors' offices to eliminate the use of fax machines by 2020. While this might seem like common sense for people outside the industry, providers today are still protective of their fax machines. The near-obsolete solution allows providers to retain control of their records and transfer them, when necessary, in a HIPAA-compliant way.

Yet the world is changing, and CMS is intent on moving providers away from faxes and toward interoperable EHRs. But before offices can make that jump, health IT staff have some work to do. (Forbes article)

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