Physician Practice Roundup—Call for CMS to expand reimbursement for remote monitoring; CDC finds suicide rates have climbed and more

Doctor computer
Health leaders hope CMS will expand reimbursement for physicians to cover remote monitoring. (Getty/andrei_r)

Health tech leaders call for expanded reimbursement for remote monitoring

Nearly 50 health IT stakeholders are calling on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand reimbursement for remote monitoring services in its next physician payment rule.

In a letter (PDF) to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, several major healthcare associations, along with dozens of health IT and mobile health companies, pushed the agency to consider three Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) remote monitoring codes approved by the American Medical Association’s CPT Editorial Panel last year.

The request comes less than a year after CMS finalized a separate CPT code, effective Jan. 1, 2018, to reimburse physicians for collecting and interpreting patient-generated data. AMA's new CPT codes, however, distinguish payments for educating patients to use remote monitoring technology, using devices with daily recordings or programmable alerts, and at least 20 minutes of staff time each month devoted to interacting with patients about remote monitoring data. (FierceHealthcare)

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CDC report finds U.S. suicide rates have climbed

The public health concern of suicide has come to the fore in the last week following the high profile deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and famed chef Anthony Bourdain, both of whom took their own lives. Their deaths came just as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that showed rates of suicide have climbed dramatically in the U.S.

Suicide rates have risen nearly 30% since 1999 and mental health conditions are one of several factors contributing to suicide, according to the report. However, 54% of those who died did not have a known mental health condition. In those cases, circumstances such as relationship problems/loss, life stressors and recent/impending crises were common. (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study) .

Federal government investigating USC’s handling of complaints against campus gynecologist

The fallout continues over the University of Southern California’s handling of patient complaints against a former campus gynecologist.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has begun an investigation into the university’s response to complaints against George Tyndall, M.D., a longtime gynecologist at the campus health clinic who has been accused of misconduct.

“OCR’s investigation will assess USC’s response to reports and complaints of sexual harassment during pelvic exams as early as 1990 that were not fully investigated by the university until spring 2016 and that the university did not disclose to OCR during an earlier investigation,” the agency said.

USC’s president has been forced to resign, at least a dozen women have filed lawsuits against the university and the Los Angeles police department is conducting a criminal investigation into Tyndall’s conduct. (U.S. Department of Education announcement)

Some hospitals add chief wellness officer to address doctor burnout

To address the epidemic of physician burnout, a number of healthcare systems have added the new position of chief wellness officer.

Major medical centers such as Stanford Medicine in California, Mount Sinai Health System in New York and UAB Medicine in Birmingham, Alabama, have all appointed chief wellness officers. Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore hopes to hire one this year. (Wall Street Journal article)