Physician Practice Roundup—With record-high opioid deaths in 2017, the AMA urges expansion of proven treatments and more news

Hydrocodone opioid pills
The CDC released discouraging figures about opioid deaths in the U.S. last year. (Getty/smartstock)

With record-high opioid deaths in 2017, the AMA urges expansion of proven treatments

Deaths in the U.S. from drug overdoses reached a record high of 72,000 last year. 

That is a rise of about 10%, according to a preliminary estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the New York Times reported, that's higher than each of the peak yearly death tolls from HIV, car crashes and gun deaths.

In reaction, the American Medical Association yesterday called on policymakers to support proven approaches to treat opioid use disorder, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT).


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“We know what works,” said Patrice A. Harris, M.D., chair of the AMA’s opioid task force. In states that have made access to MAT a priority, mortality rates are going down, she said. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provisional numbers yet again underscore that this epidemic will not be reversed until we deal with access issues and stigma associated with opioid misuse.”

In the past year, nearly 15,000 physicians have become certified to provide MAT to patients with an opioid use disorder—a 42% increase, the AMA said.

In a bit of positive news, officials pointed out that in parts of New England, the number of overdoses began to fall, including in Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island. However, despite efforts to curb the opioid epidemic, the death toll nationwide has doubled over the last decade. (New York Times, AMA statement

HHS issues $125M in grants to nearly 1,400 community health centers 

The Department of Health and Human Services announced that it has awarded $125 million to nearly 1,400 community health centers (CHCs) across the country for quality improvement initiatives. 

The grants were unveiled at one such facility in the District of Columbia called Mary’s Center, which will receive $100,000 through the grant round to enhance its IT systems. 

HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said CHCs are at the forefront of the agency’s central goals, such as advancing value-based care, easing high costs and confronting the opioid epidemic. (FierceHealthcare)

As CMS retools its advanced payment models, providers still grapple with the tech requirements

As providers gear up to participate in CMS’ revamped payment models, one major hurdle stands in the way for many: technology. 

Deirdre Baggot, Ph.D., a healthcare business strategist who has worked with more than 200 hospitals to implement value-based payment models, told FierceHealthcare in an interview that fee-for-service healthcare didn’t really require providers to manage large data sets the way that new advanced payment models do. 

Even as providers invest in better electronic health records and other technological upgrades, plenty of the work and data remains in silos, making it hard to access and use effectively, she said. 

“CMS has released more data in the last 18 months than in the 30 years prior,” she said. “Getting this data into the hands of physicians and understanding how to manage and make more sense of it is probably where I see the biggest gap.” (FierceHealthcare)

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