Physician Practice Roundup—Medical group fined $418K for HIPAA violations; AMA partners with Google on interoperability challenge

A physician's stethoscope
In physican practice news, a New Jersey medical group faced a fine for HIPAA violations. (Getty/millionsjoker)

New Jersey AG fines Virtua Medical Group $418K for HIPAA violations tied to vendor oversight

A network of more than 50 medical practices in New Jersey has agreed to pay more than $418,000 to resolve an investigation by the state attorney general after it was discovered patient records were leaked online by a transcription vendor.

Virtua Medical Group agreed to the settlement after state investigators found the medical group failed to implement the proper security protections, which exposed the medical records of more than 1,600 patients online. (Fierce Healthcare)

AMA partners with Google on interoperability challenge

The American Medical Association (AMA) has partnered with Google to launch a contest that challenges the startup community to come up with a solution that allows patients and clinicians to share patient-generated data.

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The “Health Care Interoperability and Innovation Challenge,” sponsored by Google, calls on participants to transfer data captured by wearables or mobile apps “into one or more phases of clinical care” that can be “transformed into accessible and actionable information for the patient and physician to improve health outcomes,” according to an announcement.

Specifically, the AMA wants to see solutions that can help assess current conditions, develop treatment plans, record outcomes or prompt clinicians to intervene when necessary. Entrants are also asked to transfer data from the clinical care environment back to a mobile device or application. (Fierce Healthcare)

Nurse executives are concerned nursing shortage is impacting care—and it's only going to get worse 

Nursing executives are worried that the industry's ongoing nurse shortage is hurting care quality and patient satisfaction. 

Staffing firm AMN Healthcare surveyed more than 200 chief nursing officers and found that more than one-third (34%) fear that nursing shortages have a "considerable" or "great" impact on care quality. In addition, 41% said that these staffing problems negatively impact the patient experience. (Fierce Healthcare)

Nurse practitioners in Virginia gain more autonomy

Lawmakers in Virginia have given nurse practitioners in that state more autonomy.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill that will allow most types of nurse practitioners with five years of full-time clinical experience to gain autonomy to practice without maintaining a contract with a supervising physician. The Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners called that a “spectacular moment,” but the bill was opposed by physicians who raised patient safety and quality-of-care concerns. (WHSV-TV report)

In Nebraska, 13 counties have no primary care doctors

The physician shortage, which is being felt in many rural areas of the country, has had an impact in Nebraska. A new report says that while the number of doctors in Nebraska have increased in the last 10 years, 13 counties still don’t have a primary care physician.

The study, conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the state, said the number of doctors has increased by 11%, but nearly a fifth of the doctors in the state are more than 60 years old and likely to retire in the near future. (Norfolk Daily News article)  

Another study ties pharma payments to physician prescribing

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine is the latest to find a link between payments from pharmaceutical companies and physician prescribing.

The study found that oncologists were more likely to prescribe certain medications when they received payments from the pharmaceutical manufacturers. Researchers examined data on payments pharmaceutical companies made to physicians in 2013 for research funding, as well as fees for speaking or consulting work, meals or travel. They then looked at how often doctors prescribed drugs to treat two types of cancer with multiple treatment options. (JAMA Internal Medicine research letter)