ACP issues guidance on easing social distancing
On May 7, ACP issued recommendations for how medical and economic activities in the United States could be resumed in a phased and prioritized way, based on the best available evidence, in a manner that mitigates risk. The College recommended that in order to resume activities, communities need to have sufficient testing capacity, particularly for vulnerable populations, underserved communities, and those at greatest risk from COVID-19. Communities also need to have appropriate health care system capacity, including ventilators, personal protective equipment, trained personnel, and capability for effective contact tracing with privacy protections. When cases are declining sufficiently, communities need to work with public health authorities to develop risk-based plans for a phased resumption of activities, the College said. ACP also called on the federal government to do more to support state and local government and public health authorities with sufficient funding and resources.
The recommendations also address resumption of in-person medical visits and other health care services, noting that this should be based on communities' capacity for COVID-19 mitigation as described above. Ambulatory internal medicine practices should start planning how they might safely and effectively begin to resume in-person visits, including consideration of innovative workflows and schedules designed to minimize contact between patients and staff, the College said. The College recommended that public and private payers provide direct financial support to practices to offset losses of revenue and increased costs through at least the 2020 calendar year, even as in-person visits are resumed.
CMS announces payment parity for audio-only phone calls
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CMS announced on April 30 that telephone calls between patients and physicians will be reimbursed at a rate equal to in-office visits. ACP had been advocating for this change since March, repeatedly addressing it in letters to officials at CMS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ACP organized a sign-on letter with over 30 other major medical associations calling on CMS to provide pay parity and repeatedly called on Congress to do what they could to make this change happen.
The College praised CMS's action, saying “More still needs to be done to ensure that physician practices are able to remain operational and care for their patients, but this change in payment policy addresses one of the biggest issues facing physicians as they struggle to make up for lost revenue and provide appropriate care to patients.”
Information on ACP resources and advocacy related to COVID-19 can be found online.
Call for national awards and Mastership nominations
Nominations are now invited for ACP's 2020-2021 awards cycle, which will end with the bestowing of awards and Masterships during Convocation at Internal Medicine Meeting 2021. A list of awards is online.
PDF copies of the updated Awards and Masterships Booklet are available by request. Please contact John Haefele, Administrator, Board of Regents and Governance Activities, at email@example.com with any questions.
Those interested in nominating a colleague can submit their nomination letter, supporting letters, a brief biographical sketch of the nominee, and the nominee's curriculum vitae by July 1.
ICYMI: Highlights from ACP Internist Weekly
- Most specialty e-consults appropriate, reduced in-person visits in one health system. The study looked at 6,512 eligible e-consults made by 1,096 referring clinicians to 121 specialists. About 70% of electronic consultations to five high-volume specialties (hematology, infectious diseases, dermatology, rheumatology, and psychiatry) were appropriate, ranging from 61% for rheumatology to 78% for psychiatry. Future studies should estimate the effect of e-consults on quality and cost of care across health systems and over time, an accompanying editorial noted. The study and editorial were published April 14 by Annals of Internal Medicine and summarized in the April 14 ACP Internist Weekly.
- Guideline released on Ménière's disease. The guideline from the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery offers 16 key action statements, with the goals of improving timely, accurate diagnosis and achieving optimal symptom control and patient outcomes. It was published April 8 by Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery and summarized in the April 14 ACP Internist Weekly.