In The News

Keeping Heart Healthy for African-American Men

One in every 4 men dies from heart disease every year, and African-American men—especially those who live in the southeast region of the United States—suffer from heart disease more than any other race. Why are these rates so high? Unhealthy heart habits such as poor diets, a lack of exercise, high blood pressure, smoking and not visiting the doctor regularly are just a few factors that contribute to undiagnosed heart disease.

African-American men: It isn’t too late to take control and put your heart health first. February is American Heart Month and a great time for you to take action. This month, Million Hearts is encouraging you to adopt one heart healthy lifestyle change and share your success. You can take action with a few small steps.

READ MORE: Keeping Heart Healthy for African-American Men

AHRQ Releases Health Literacy Toolkit for Primary Care Practice

Only 12 percent of U.S. adults have the health literacy skills needed to manage the demands of our complex health care system, and even these individuals' ability to absorb and use health information can be compromised by stress or illness. Experts recommend assuming that everyone may have difficulty understanding and creating an environment where all patients can thrive. Like with blood safety, universal precautions should be taken to address health literacy because we can't know which patients are challenged by health care information and tasks at any given time. AHRQ’s Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit – 2nd edition can help primary care practices reduce the complexity of health care, increase patient understanding of health information, and enhance support for patients of all health literacy levels.

Additional tools for improving health literacy:

Learn more about how to improve primary care by visiting AHRQ’s National Center for Excellence in Primary Care at: http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/systems/primary-care/index.html.

AHRQ’s Primary Care Practice Facilitation Curriculum: An Expanded Resource for Workforce Development

The AHRQ Primary Care Practice Facilitation (PCPF) Curriculum is a new resource designed to help train practice facilitators, also called practice coaches, quality improvement coaches, or practice enhancement assistants on how to take an evidence-based approach to quality improvement in primary care practices. This is the latest addition to the portfolio of AHRQ products that support the growth of practice facilitation. The PCPF Curriculum is organized into five parts:

  • Use of Adult Education Methods in Teaching PCPF Core Competencies
  • Introduction to Practice Facilitation
  • Competencies for Practice Facilitators
  • In the Practice
  • Implementing the Care Model and Patient-Centered Medical Home

“AHRQ created this resource to support development of the workforce needed to provide quality improvement assistance to primary care practices,” said David Meyers, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, AHRQ. “There are a growing number of state and national quality improvement initiatives focusing on primary care, which will increase the demand for trained practice facilitators. A great example of the timeliness of this curriculum is its use by some of the grantees in EvidenceNOW – an AHRQ initiative working with over 1500 primary care practices to advance heart health.”

The PCPF curriculum supports the education and training of practice facilitators, and can be used by organizations that want to build a practice facilitation capacity, including payers, independent practice associations, accountable care organizations, and advocacy groups. Designed to be used as a resource when preparing new and experienced facilitators to work with primary care practices, the curriculum can also provide an introduction to principles and techniques of clinical quality improvement that can be used to educate other health care professionals.

Learn more about how to improve primary care by visiting AHRQ’s National Center for Excellence in Primary Care at: http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/systems/primary-care/index.html.

Learn More about Clinical Decision Support Interventions

Clinical Decision Support (CDS) is a key functionality of health IT that contributes to improved quality of care and enhanced outcomes by avoiding errors and adverse events, improving efficiencies, reducing costs, and enhancing provider and patient satisfaction.

For the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs in 2016, eligible professionals and eligible hospitals must meet the CDS objective by:

  1. Implementing five CDS rules related to four or more clinical quality measures (CQMs) or related to a high-priority health condition for the EP, eligible hospital, or CAH's scope of practice or patient population.
  2. Enabling and implementing functionality for drug-drug and drug-allergy interaction checks.

CMS Guidance for CDS Interventions

The CDS objective gives providers flexibility in the types of CDS interventions they employ, as well as the timing of the CDS.

Providers can customize the implementation of the CDS to their own needs for their clinical practice and patient population. The CDS should be implemented at a “relevant point in patient care,” which refers to a relevant point in clinical workflows when the intervention can influence clinical decision-making before diagnostic or treatment action is taken in response to the intervention.

Additionally, providers are not limited to just “pop-up” alert CDS interventions. They can meet the objective by using other methods of CDS, including, but not limited to:

  • Computerized alerts and reminders for providers and patients
  • Information displays or links
  • Clinical guidelines
  • Condition-specific order sets
  • Focused patient data reports and summaries
  • Documentation templates
  • Diagnostic support
  • Contextually relevant reference information

Note: These functionalities may be deployed on a variety of platforms (e.g., mobile, cloud-based, installed).

To Learn More

For more information on CDS, review the specification sheets for eligible professionals and eligible hospitals.

Caregiver tip to keep people with Alzheimer’s active

People with Alzheimer’s disease need to stay active and do things they enjoy, but may have trouble deciding what to do each day. Try creating a schedule so the person does the same activities at a similar time each day and match the activities with their abilities. Doing physical activity like walking together can help both the person and the caregiver to manage stress and stay healthy.

Get more tips on how to plan activities for a person with Alzheimer’s.

Learn how to help a person with Alzheimer’s get exercise and stay physically active.

Putting Engaged and Empowered Individuals at the Center of our Health Care System

At HHS, we are working toward transforming our health care system into one that puts individuals at the center. By making prices and quality information more accessible, providing the right tools to help people navigate the system, and listening to patients, we can help engage and empower people to take control of their health, something that’s good for them and good for our communities. Personally, I have seen first-hand what a difference the right information at the right time can make to someone facing a health care decision, which is why I signed on to help expand this work at HHS.

Earlier this month, Secretary Burwell hosted leaders who represent consumers, providers, health insurers, technology companies, and other industry perspectives to share their experiences with putting individuals at the center of the health care system and to help HHS leaders recognize ways we can walk the same path. Read more...

Final Recommendation Statement: Screening for Depression in Adults

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released today a final recommendation statement on Screening for Depression in Adults. The Task Force recommends that clinicians screen all adults for depression. The Task Force found evidence that screening in the primary care setting is beneficial. To view the recommendation and the evidence on which it is based, please go to Final Recommendation Statement: Depression in Adults: Screening. A fact sheet that explains the final recommendation in plain language is also available. The final recommendation statement can also be found in the January 26, 2016 online issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

MACRA Physician Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee Announcement

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announces the first meeting of the new Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee on February 1, 2016. The Committee is required by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), and its members were appointed by the Comptroller General. On January 5, 2016, Secretary Burwell signed the Charter of the Committee. The Committee will review proposals for physician-focused payment models submitted by stakeholders based on criteria that the law requires the Secretary to establish through notice and comment rulemaking by November 1, 2016.

The Committee includes 11 members who are nationally recognized for their expertise in physician-focused payment models and related delivery of care. With authority delegated by the Secretary, the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Richard G. Frank, PhD has appointed Jeffrey Bailet, MD, as the Chairperson of the Committee and Elizabeth Mitchell as the Vice Chairperson of the Committee.

Dr. Bailet is an otolaryngologist and President of Aurora Health Care Medical Group in Wisconsin. Ms. Mitchell is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement in Maine.

Meeting information can be found by visiting the Federal Register Notice of Public Meeting.

More information on the Committee can be found at https://aspe.hhs.gov/medicare-access-and-chip-reauthorization-act-2015

More information can be found by visiting the Next Generation ACO, Pioneer ACO, Comprehensive ESRD Care Models web pages.

Finalization of the Affordable Care Act Federal Upper Limit

This notification is to update states and stakeholders on the finalization of the Affordable Care Act Federal upper limits (FUL) for multiple source drugs. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) plans to publish draft Affordable Care Act FULs calculated in accordance with the Medicaid Covered Outpatient Drug final rule with comment (CMS-2345-FC) for two months beginning in January 2016 before finalizing the FULs. The final Affordable Care Act FULs will be published in late March 2016 and will be effective on April 1, 2016 to coincide with the effective date of the final rule with comment. States will have up to 30 days from the April 1, 2016 effective date to implement the FULs. Thereafter, the FULs will be updated monthly on the Medicaid.gov website, and will be effective on the first date of the month following the publication of the update. States will, likewise, have up to 30 days after the effective date to implement the FULs. CMS also plans to publish an updated Methodology and Data Elements Guide used to calculate these draft FULs.

CMS will issue a monthly Listserv notification when the updated draft FULs are available on the Medicaid.gov website, and when the FULs are finalized. Further, CMS will continue to issue these monthly Listserv notifications to stakeholders when the updated monthly FULs are available on the Medicaid.gov website for the first six months after the finalization of the FULs.

Although CMS will no longer be publishing the draft Affordable Care Act FULs based on the methodology proposed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (CMS-2345-P) (77 FR 5345) published in February 2012, those draft files and the draft Methodology and Data Elements Guides used to calculate those FULs will be available on the Medicaid.gov website at the address provided below.

Once we publish the final Affordable Care Act FULs, the prior FULs calculated using the methodology at 42 CFR 447.332 (FUL Changes Made To Transmittal No.37 and Transmittal No.37 – FUL November 20, 2001), as in effect on December 31, 2006, under the authority of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 will no longer be in effect.

We look forward to continuing to work with you as you apply the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

For more information on the Affordable Care Act FULs, please visit http://www.medicaid.gov/Medicaid-CHIP-Program-Information/By-Topics/Benefits/Prescription-Drugs/Federal-Upper-Limits.html.