Physician Practice Roundup—Urgent care clinics prescribing unnecessary antibiotics and more news

Urgent care clinics prescribing more unnecessary antibiotics

Urgent care clinics are prescribing unnecessary antibiotics at almost three times the rate of traditional physician offices, according to a new study.

Urgent care clinics are prescribing antibiotics for patients with respiratory diagnoses, including the flu, colds and other illnesses for which antibiotics are inappropriate, in almost 46% of visits, the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found. That compares to 17% of visits to doctors’ offices, about 25% in emergency departments and 14% in retail clinics. Prescribing unnecessary antibiotics increases patients’ risk of side effects and contributes to the growing threat of superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics.

The study’s authors, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pew researchers, say antibiotic stewardship interventions could help reduce unnecessary prescribing in all ambulatory care settings, but that there’s an urgent need for efforts that target urgent care centers. (JAMA Internal Medicine study)

Payment increase didn’t get more primary care doctors to participate in Medicaid

Included in the Affordable Care Act was a Medicaid payment increase for primary care physicians. But the pay bump didn’t change physician participation in Medicaid or increase the volume of patients for doctors in the program, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found.

An analysis of claims data for over 20,000 physicians showed that in 2013 and 2014, the years during which payments were increased under the ACA to Medicare payment levels, there was no increase in Medicaid participation or patient volume. The goal was to improve primary care access for Medicaid patients.

In an accompanying commentary, Allan H. Goroll, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said primary care practices are already “volume overloaded” or caught in what’s been referred to as the “hamster wheel.” Healthcare must reform payment systems for primary care to create incentives for Medicaid participation, he said. (JAMA Internal Medicine study, commentary)

OIG: HHS needs to recoup $341K for former HHS Secretary Tom Price's improper travel spending

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's improper government-related travel costs wasted at least $341,000 in federal funds, according to a new government audit. 

Released by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) on Friday, the audit (PDF) said only one of 21 trips costing a total of $1.2 million followed all applicable federal requirements. For example, in the 12 trips on chartered aircraft, officials did not complete a cost comparison to commercial airline service. The OIG recommended that HHS take actions to recoup the wasted funds, including the $333,014 used for chartered flights as well as other excess travel expenses. They also recommended that HHS improve processes and internal controls.

Price came under fire last fall after it was revealed that he took as many as 24 trips on private planes, costing taxpayers as much as $400,000. The number of times he took private planes stood in contrast to his predecessors, who would typically fly commercial. (Fierce Healthcare)