Sunday, December 17, 2017

OCMA Blog

Prop 46 Update for Physicians: Proposition 46 isn’t the CURE(S)

Today in California, trial lawyers are waging an aggressive campaign to overturn California's landmark Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA).
 
On November 4, voters will be asked to weigh in on Proposition 46, a costly and deceptive measure funded and sponsored almost exclusively by trial lawyers. In addition to raising health care costs and reducing access to quality medical care, Prop. 46 could put patient prescription drug history at risk of being hacked and would force physicians and pharmacists to use an unworkable database.
 
The Controlled Utilization Review and Evaluation System, or CURES, is a statewide, government-run database that allows physicians to know which medications patients are taking. In concept, it could be a helpful tool in ensuring that patients don't "doctor shop" - or visit several doctors to get multiple prescriptions for controlled substances.
 
Though the database already exists, it is underfunded, understaffed and technologically incapable of handling the massively increased demands this ballot measure will place on it. In its current form, the CURES database is plagued with system errors and major deficiencies. The state staffer in charge of CURES recently testified that the database is "not sufficient enough to carry out the mission that we need." To see excerpts of his testimony, click here
 
In fact, in evaluating Prop. 46 the independent, non partisan Legislative Analyst noted, "Currently CURES does not have sufficient capacity to handle the higher level of use that is expected to occur when providers are required to register beginning in 2016."
 
Despite all of this, Prop. 46 includes a provision that would mandate physicians and pharmacists check the CURES database before prescribing Schedule II or III drugs - a list of medications that is far too long for this newsletter. This "CURES mandate flaw" puts physicians in the untenable position of either breaking their professional oath to give patients the best possible care or breaking the law.
 
What's more, the CURES mandate comes without any increased security to ensure that the database is up and running efficiently, effectively and safely before legally making health care professionals check it.

That's a risky gamble in these days of massive data breaches.   

In the few weeks left between now and Election Day, I cannot stress enough how important it is to spread the word about the dangers of Prop. 46.    As you've read in previous issues of this publication, Prop. 46 is really three measures carelessly thrown together by trial attorneys with the hopes that adding "sweetener" provisions - including the CURES piece discussed above  - will trick voters. The real intention is to increase the cap on medical malpractice payouts, which will increase health care costs for everyone and decrease access for those who need it most. Prop. 46 will result in money being pulled directly out of the health care delivery system and put into the pockets of trial attorneys at the expense of voters everywhere.  


How can you get engaged in the final stages of the No on Prop. 46 campaign?


- "Like" the No on 46 Facebook page

- Follow the No on 46 Twitter page

- Visit the offical campaign website at www.noon46.com


FREE Campaign Materials

OCMA has campaign materials at our offices available for physicians to pick up, including yard signs, campaign buttons, patient brochures, office posters and bumper stickers.

You can also order these materials to be sent straight to your office (yard signs only available for pick-up at OCMA). Just fill out the No on 46 order form.


No on 46 "Take Action" Contest

Take action in the No On 46 fight now through October 19, 2014 and your practice could win $500! 

Click here for information on the contest.


More information

Visit these websites in order to learn more about MICRA and Prop 46 so that you can educate your colleagues, friends, peers and family:

- The CMA website

- No on 46 campaign website

- Californians Allied for Patient Protection (CAPP) Website

 


New guidance from CDC on Ebola

Below message is from the Orange County HCA / Epidemiology & Assessment

Guidance for Safe Handling of Human Remains of Ebola Patients in U. S. Hospitals and Mortuaries (August 25, 2014) 
http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/guidance-safe-handling-human-remains-ebola-patients-us-hospitals-mortuaries.html

From Dr. Erin Epson, Assistant Chief / Public Health Medical Officer of the CDPH Healthcare-Associated Infections Program:
CDC has issued Interim Guidance for Environmental Infection Control in Hospitals for Ebola Virus, available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/environmental-infection-control-in-hospitals.html. Although the role of the environment in transmission of Ebola virus has not been established, in this guidance CDC recommends higher levels of precaution to reduce the potential risk posed by contaminated surfaces in the patient care environment “given the apparent low infectious dose, potential of high virus titers in the blood of ill patients, and disease severity.” Disinfection products with higher potency than what is normally required for an enveloped virus such as Ebola are therefore now recommended. Such products include Environmental Protection Agency-registered hospital disinfectants with a label claim for a non-enveloped virus (e.g. norovirus, rotavirus, adenovirus, poliovirus), and would also include bleach solution. In addition, the new guidance recommends that porous surfaces that cannot be made single use (e.g. carpeting, upholstered furniture and curtains) should be avoided in rooms of suspect Ebola virus disease (EVD) patients, and that potentially contaminated textiles (e.g. linens, non-fluid-impermeable pillows or mattresses, and privacy curtains) be discarded as regulated medical waste. This guidance regarding appropriate disinfection products and management of potentially contaminated textiles is different and replaces the environmental infection control elements of the previously issued Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Known or Suspected Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever in U.S. Hospitals.

CDC has also updated a poster depicting the sequence for putting on and removing personal protective equipment (PPE), available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/ppe-poster.pdf. This updated poster emphasizes guidance to perform hand hygiene between steps if hands become contaminated, in addition to immediately after removing all PPE. 

There are multiple acceptable sequences and methods for removing PPE. Regardless of the sequence or method used, the important principles are that the most contaminated items are removed first, and that the person removing PPE does not contaminate themselves or others during the process. If two pairs of gloves are used, the most contaminated outer gloves can be removed first and the inner gloves last, in order to limit additional contamination of remaining PPE during removal.  Performing hand hygiene between steps, and especially prior to removal of a mask or respirator, can help prevent contaminating one’s eyes and/or mucous membranes while removing the mask or respirator. Healthcare personnel should familiarize themselves and practice methods of donning and removal of any PPE used, in advance of the time when PPE will be needed. 

Availability of PPE supplies, hand hygiene, and appropriate waste containers at the point needed can be facilitated by placing any suspect EVD patient in a room with an anteroom.  An anteroom is particularly helpful if airborne isolation is implemented and respirators must be removed after leaving the patient room and closing the door. If a room with an anteroom is unavailable, a suspect EVD patient can be placed in a room that is spatially separated from other occupied patient rooms in a low traffic area (e.g., at the end of a hallway), with a designated area for hand hygiene and waste containers outside the room and separate from other patient care areas.

If you have any comments or questions or would like to be added to the distribution list, please email us at epi@ochca.com.


No On 46 Campaign Launches First Statewide TV & Radio Media Buy Highlighting the High Cost of Prop 46

Ads tell the real story behind this year’s most fiscally-reckless measure

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SACRAMENTO – The No on 46 campaign announced today that it has launched its first statewide television and radio ad buys in both English and Spanish.

The ads, “Risk” (TV :30) and “Real Story” (Radio :60), focus on the first – and most obvious – of the myriad of reasons for California voters to reject Proposition 46: the fact it is written and nearly exclusively funded by trial attorneys for their financial benefit while everyone else in California – health consumers, taxpayers, and state and local governments – will pay more.

View the ad here: http://www.noon46.com/the-real-story-video/.

Because Proposition 46 is really three different initiatives in one – all of which are too complicated, too costly and too flawed – an unprecedented coalition of more than 600 statewide and community groups have joined to oppose it, including (partial list):

  • California Teachers Association
  • California School Boards Association
  • Association of California School Administrators
  • California State Firefighters Association
  • League of California Cities
  • Urban Counties Caucus
  • Rural County Representatives of California
  • California Special Districts Association
  • California Chamber of Commerce
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California
  • AFSCME California PEOPLE
  • State Building and Construction Trades Council of California
  • California Medical Association
  • California Dental Association
  • California Hospital Association
  • California Pharmacists Association
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • American College of Emergency Physicians, California Chapter
  • California Association of Physician Groups
  • California Association for Nurse Practitioners
  • Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California
  • Community Clinics Association of Los Angeles County
  • La Clínica de La Raza
  • California Association of Rural Health Clinics
  • Central Valley Health Network
  • NAACP California
  • California Republican Party
  • Los Angeles County Democratic Party
  • Yuba County Democratic Party

To learn more, visit www.NoOn46.com


Communicable Disease News: Pertussis Epidemic in OC & Ebola Virus Update

Update on California's Pertussis Epidemic

Pertussis activity continues at epidemic levels in Orange County and statewide.
As of 8/16/2014, 250 pertussis cases have been reported in Orange County, compared with 43 cases at this time last year. Pertussis peaks in incidence every 3-5 years as the number of susceptible people in the population increases; the last epidemic in California was in 2010.

Infants under 12 months of age are at highest risk for severe infection and death. To protect this vulnerable population the following is recommended:

  • Immunize pregnant women with Tdap during every pregnancy at 27-36 weeks gestation. This dose protects mom and provides the infant with high levels of protective transplacental antibodies.
  • Encourage close contacts of infants to be up-to-date with their pertussis vaccine (cocooning).
  • Vaccinate infants and children with DTaP followed by Tdap according to the childhood immunization schedule: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpdvac/pertussis/recssummary.htm

Diagnostic Testing: Suspect pertussis cases should be tested by nasopharyngeal PCR. PCR is most sensitive within 3 weeks of the onset of the cough (up to 6 weeks for infants). Consider obtaining a CBC: a WBC count that is ≥ 20,000/mm3 with ≥ 10,000 lymphocytes/mm3 in a young infant with a cough illness is strongly suggestive of pertussis infection.

Management of Cases:

  • Treatment: Antimicrobial treatment should begin as soon as possible after diagnosis, particularly in infants. Treatment may lessen symptoms if begun early during illness and will shorten the period of infectivity.
  • Prophylaxis: The CDC and AAP recommend post-exposure prophylaxis for all close contacts of a pertussis case. However, during widespread community outbreaks, OCHCA will focus its efforts on postexposure prophylaxis for high-risk contacts, including infants under 1 year of age, pregnant women, and their contacts.
  • Infection control: Health care workers should use standard and droplet precautions, including a surgical or procedure mask and eye protection when evaluating suspect pertussis patients. Droplet precautions should be maintained until 5 days after the patient is placed on effective therapy, or if no treatment until 21 days after cough onset.
  • Management of cases in school settings: Cases should be excluded from childcare settings until completion of 5 days of antibiotic treatment, from K-12 grade schools until completion of 3 days of antibiotics, and for 21 days if no antibiotic treatment.

Resources:

General pertussis info for clinicians: http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/
Tdap for pregnant women: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pertussis/tdap-pregnancy-hcp.htm

Click here for full Pertussis Newsletter.


Ebola Outbreak In West Africa

West Africa has been experiencing a large outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) since December of 2013. As of August 15, 2,127 confirmed or suspect cases of disease including 1,145 suspected case deaths have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. It was reported last night (August 19) that Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento is testing a patient for suspected Ebloa Virus, aside from that, two United States citizens were transported to Emory University for further care after contracting the disease while caring for patients with EVD in Liberia. Though the risk of Ebola to the United States or Orange County is small, the potential exists for imported disease in persons traveling from countries where EVD is active. Medical providers should keep up to date on this outbreak and know which patients merit evaluation for EVD.

Providers should contact Orange County Public Health at 714-834-8180 (714-628-7008 after hours) immediately upon identifying any patient with potential EVD. Orange County Public Health can assist with assessment and testing of any case meeting the CDC-defined criteria for a Person Under Investigation, which includes:

1. Clinical criteria:

a. Fever of greater than 38.6 degrees Celsius or 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and
b. Additional symptoms such as severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or unexplained hemorrhage

AND

2. Epidemiologic risk factors within the past 21 days before the onset of symptoms, such as:

a. Contact with blood or other body fluids or human remains of a patient known to have or suspected to have EVD or
b. Residence in-or travel to-an area where EVD transmission is active* or
c. Direct handling of bats, rodents, or primates from disease-endemic areas.

Persons who have had direct contact with Ebola cases through healthcare work or social exposure in West Africa are at particularly high risk for developing disease. For further description of risk factors and clinical recommendations to prepare for or manage Ebola, see www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/index.html.

*As of August 15, countries where EVD is active include Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Infection Prevention and Control
Standard, contact and droplet precautions are indicated for suspected EVD. Personal protective equipment (PPE) should include gloves, gown, eye protection (goggles or face shield) and facemask. Additional PPE is necessary if copious blood or other fluid is present in the environment, including double gloving, disposable shoe covering, and leg covering. PPE should be discarded on leaving room taking care to avoid contamination when removing.

Laboratory Testing
The diagnostic test of choice for EVD is PCR testing of the blood. The virus is generally PCR-detectable from 3-10 days post-onset of symptoms. If the onset of symptoms is less than 3 days prior to specimen collection, a subsequent specimen will be required to completely rule out EVD. Testing is available through the CDC. Orange County Public Health can assist with assuring appropriate transport of specimens.

For updated information on the outbreak, including countries where EVD is active, go to: www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/guinea/index.html.

Contact Orange County Public Health at 714-834-8180 with any questions.


Noridian incorrectly denies 300,000 claims for E&M services

Last fall, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) experienced some editing issues with new patient E&M codes that resulted in incorrect claim denials. These problems started in October 2013, and was thought to have been corrected in late January 2014. The California Medical Association recently learned, however, that some claims continued to be paid incorrectly through July 15, 2014.
 
Noridian, California's Medicare contractor, in January began making mass adjustments and correcting claims subjected to overpayment recovery. Unfortunately, while implementing the corrections, Noridian inadvertently subjected established patient E&M codes to incorrect editing, resulting in incorrect denial of codes 99211- 99215.
 
Noridian has corrected the editing for both the new patient codes and the established patient codes, and claims received by Noridian on and after July 16, 2014, should be processing correctly. Noridian is now beginning the process of mass adjustments to the incorrectly denied claims. Due to the number of claims involved (~300,000 claims back to October of 2013), this process could take a month or so to complete.
 
Physicians do not need to do anything to have their claims adjusted and they should NOT resubmit the claims. The claims will be automatically adjusted.
 
For more information, see Noridian's notice on this issue.
 
Contact: Mitzi Young, OCMA Physician Advocate (888) 236-0267 or myoung@cmanet.org.

MICRA Alert and Prop 46 Resources for Physicians

In less than 100 days, voters will be asked to weigh in on the MICRA health care lawsuit measure known as Prop. 46, which will hugely jeopardize the privacy of patients' personal prescription medical information.
 
The initiative will force doctors and pharmacists to use a massive statewide database known as the Controlled Substance Utilization Review Evaluation System (CURES), which is filled with patients' personal prescription drug information. Though the database already exists, it is underfunded, understaffed and technologically incapable of handling the massively increased demands that this ballot measure will place on it.
 

Most concerning, the massive ramp up of this database will significantly put patients' private medical information at risk and the ballot measure doesn't contain any provisions or funding to help upgrade the system or increase the database's security standards. As many of you know, the CURES database contains highly sensitive patient information including personal and potentially stigmatizing details about their health. Prescription information including medication used to treat obesity, narcolepsy, conditions related to cancer and AIDS, asthma and other sensitive information are all contained within the CURES database. 

In recent weeks and months, the coalition to oppose the MICRA health care lawsuit initiative continues to grow. Teachers, health care workers, local community groups and hundreds of others have pledged to vote NO in November because they too understand the implications this measure would have on patients, taxpayers and consumers across the state.

We know that if this measure passes, it won't just be putting patients' personal medical information at risk, but malpractice lawsuits and payouts will also skyrocket, adding "hundreds of millions of dollars" in new costs to state and local governments, according to an impartial analysis conducted by the state's Legislative Analyst. State and local governments face higher costs in two ways: 
 
  • They provide health care for current and retired employees;
  • They provide health care for low-income residents through Medi-Cal and other locally run health care programs like community clinics and hospitals.

Someone will have to pay for these increased costs, and that someone is you (physicians), taxpayers and consumers/patients.
 
The campaign opposed to the initiative - "Patients and Providers to Protect Access and Contain Health Costs" - is a diverse and growing coalition of trusted doctors, community health clinics, hospitals, family-planning organizations, local leaders, public safety officials, businesses, and working men and women formed to oppose this costly, dangerous ballot proposition that would make it easier and more profitable for lawyers to sue doctors and hospitals. A full and updated list of groups opposing the campaign can be found here.
 
United as one voice, advocating for patients across the state, we can defeat this ballot measure in November, but we need everyone to commit and become engaged along the way. Thank you in advance for all that you do and all that you'll continue to do. 

Join the Fight

CMA and the campaign to defeat Prop. 46 need each and every one of you to help spread the word and educate your colleagues about the critical importance of MICRA. To that end, CMA has developed a MICRA Commitment Card.

We ask that you fill out one of these cards and pledge that you will vote no on the anti-MICRA measure known as Prop. 46.

Campaign Materials

The CMA can provide your office with campaign materials such as patient brochures, posters, buttons, campaign stickers and more. Just fill out the No on 46 order form.

More information

Visit these websites in order to learn more about MICRA so that you can educate your colleagues, friends, peers and family:

- The CMA website

- No on 46 campaign website

- Californians Allied for Patient Protection (CAPP) Website

What else can you do to support MICRA?

- "Like" the No on 46 Facebook page

- Follow the No on 46 Twitter page

- Visit the offical campaign website at www.noon46.com


CDC Health Advisory: Guidelines for Evaluation of US Patients Suspected of Having Ebola Virus Disease

CDC HEALTH ADVISORY: EBOLA VIRUS

Summary
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners to better understand and manage the public health risks posed by Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). To date, no cases have been reported in the United States. The purpose of this health update is 1) to provide updated guidance to healthcare providers and state and local health departments regarding who should be suspected of having EVD, 2) to clarify which specimens should be obtained and how to submit for diagnostic testing, and 3) to provide hospital infection control guidelines.
 
U.S. hospitals can safely manage a patient with EVD by following recommended isolation and infection control procedures. Please disseminate this information to infectious disease specialists, intensive care physicians, primary care physicians, hospital epidemiologists, infection control professionals, and hospital administration, as well as to emergency departments and microbiology laboratories.

 
Background
CDC is working with the World Health Organization (WHO), the ministries of health of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and other international organizations in response to an outbreak of EVD in West Africa, which was first reported in late March 2014. As of July 27, 2014, according to WHO, a total of 1,323 cases and 729 deaths (case fatality 55-60%) had been reported across the three affected countries. This is the largest outbreak of EVD ever documented and the first recorded in West Africa.  

EVD is characterized by sudden onset of fever and malaise, accompanied by other nonspecific signs and symptoms, such as myalgia, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea. Patients with severe forms of the disease may develop hemorrhagic symptoms and multi-organ dysfunction, including hepatic damage, renal failure, and central nervous system involvement, leading to shock and death. The fatality rate can vary from 40-90%. 
 
In outbreak settings, Ebola virus is typically first spread to humans after contact with infected wildlife and is then spread person-to-person through direct contact with bodily fluids such as, but not limited to, blood, urine, sweat, semen, and breast milk. The incubation period is usually 8-10 days (ranges from 2-21 days). Patients can transmit the virus while febrile and through later stages of disease, as well as postmortem, when persons touch the body during funeral preparations. 

Patient Evaluation Recommendations to Healthcare Providers
Healthcare providers should be alert for and evaluate suspected patients for Ebola virus infection who have both consistent symptoms and risk factors as follows: 1) Clinical criteria, which includes fever of greater than 38.6 degrees Celsius or 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and additional symptoms such as severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or unexplained hemorrhage; AND 2) Epidemiologic risk factors within the past 3 weeks before the onset of symptoms, such as contact with blood or other body fluids of a patient known to have or suspected to have EVD; residence in-or travel to-an area where EVD transmission is active; or direct handling of bats, rodents, or primates from disease-endemic areas. Malaria diagnostics should also be a part of initial testing because it is a common cause of febrile illness in persons with a travel history to the affected countries.
 
Testing of patients with suspected EVD should be guided by the risk level of exposure, as described below:

CDC recommends testing for all persons with onset of fever within 21 days of having a high-risk exposure. A high-risk exposure includes any of the following:

  • percutaneous or mucous membrane exposure or direct skin contact with body fluids of a person with a confirmed or suspected case of EVD without appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE),
  • laboratory processing of body fluids of suspected or confirmed EVD cases without appropriate PPE or standard biosafety precautions, or
  • participation in funeral rites or other direct exposure to human remains in the geographic area where the outbreak is occurring without appropriate PPE.

For persons with a high-risk exposure but without a fever, testing is recommended only if there are other compatible clinical symptoms present and blood work findings are abnormal (i.e., thrombocytopenia <150,000 cells/µL and/or elevated transaminases) or unknown.  

Persons considered to have a low-risk exposure include persons who spent time in a healthcare facility where EVD patients are being treated (encompassing healthcare workers who used appropriate PPE, employees not involved in direct patient care, or other hospital patients who did not have EVD and their family caretakers), or household members of an EVD patient without high-risk exposures as defined above. Persons who had direct unprotected contact with bats or primates from EVD-affected countries would also be considered to have a low-risk exposure. Testing is recommended for persons with a low-risk exposure who develop fever with other symptoms and have unknown or abnormal blood work findings. Persons with a low-risk exposure and with fever and abnormal blood work findings in absence of other symptoms are also recommended for testing. Asymptomatic persons with high- or low-risk exposures should be monitored daily for fever and symptoms for 21 days from the last known exposure and evaluated medically at the first indication of illness. 

Persons with no known exposures listed above but who have fever with other symptoms and abnormal bloodwork within 21 days of visiting EVD-affected countries should be considered for testing if no other diagnosis is found. Testing may be indicated in the same patients if fever is present with other symptoms and blood work is abnormal or unknown. Consultation with local and state health departments is recommended.  
 
If testing is indicated, the local or state health department should be immediately notified. Healthcare providers should collect serum, plasma, or whole blood. A minimum sample volume of 4 mL should be shipped refrigerated or frozen on ice pack or dry ice (no glass tubes), in accordance with IATA guidelines as a Category B diagnostic specimen. Please refer to http://www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dhcpp/vspb/specimens.html for detailed instructions and a link to the specimen submission form for CDC laboratory testing. 

Recommended infection control measures
U.S. hospitals can safely manage a patient with EVD by following recommended isolation and infection control procedures, including standard, contact, and droplet precautions.  Early recognition and identification of patients with potential EVD is critical.  Any U.S. hospital with suspected patients should follow CDC's Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Hospitalized Patients with Known or Suspected Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever in U.S. Hospitals (http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/infection-prevention-and-control-recommendations.html). These recommendations include the following:

  • Patient placement: Patients should be placed in a single patient room (containing a private bathroom) with the door closed. Healthcare provider protection: Healthcare providers should wear: gloves, gown (fluid resistant or impermeable), shoe covers, eye protection (goggles or face shield), and a facemask.  Additional PPE might be required in certain situations (e.g., copious amounts of blood, other body fluids, vomit, or feces present in the environment), including but not limited to double gloving, disposable shoe covers, and leg coverings.
  • Aerosol-generating procedures:  Avoid aerosol-generating procedures. If performing these procedures, PPE should include respiratory protection (N95 filtering facepiece respirator or higher) and the procedure should be performed in an airborne isolation room.
  • Environmental infection control: Diligent environmental cleaning and disinfection and safe handling of potentially contaminated materials is paramount, as blood, sweat, emesis, feces and other body secretions represent potentially infectious materials. Appropriate disinfectants for Ebola virus and other filoviruses include 10% sodium hypochlorite (bleach) solution, or hospital-grade quaternary ammonium or phenolic products. Healthcare providers performing environmental cleaning and disinfection should wear recommended PPE (described above) and consider use of additional barriers (e.g., shoe and leg coverings) if needed. Face protection (face shield or facemask with goggles) should be worn when performing tasks such as liquid waste disposal that can generate splashes. Follow standard procedures, per hospital policy and manufacturers' instructions, for cleaning and/or disinfection of environmental surfaces, equipment, textiles, laundry, food utensils and dishware. 

MICRA lawsuit measure assigned proposition number

Via the California Medical Association-

The unprecedentedly broad and diverse coalition working to defeat the trial lawyers’ MICRA lawsuit measure is now officially the “No On 46” campaign, following the assignment of proposition numbers to qualified ballot measures by the Secretary of State’s Office on Monday.

If approved by voters, Proposition 46 would increase health costs, reduce access to care and threaten patient privacy, all to make it easier and more profitable for lawyers to sue doctors and hospitals. In addition to increasing the overall number of medical lawsuits and the cost of health care across the board, Proposition 46 contains a number of unrelated provisions designed to mislead and deceive voters – including a little-discussed mandate relying on a massive expansion of a government-run prescription drug database, which third-party analysts say cannot be implemented as written and will leave personal medical information vulnerable to privacy breach.

For these reasons, health providers, education groups, labor unions, business organizations, working men and women, and community clinics have all announced their opposition to Proposition 46.

On Monday, two additional groups – the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (SBCTC) and the California NAACP – joined the “No On 46” campaign, pointing out the devastating effects it would have on California.

“This initiative will cost state and local governments hundreds of millions dollars and raise health costs for everyone,” said Robbie Hunter, President of the SBCTC. “That hurts job creation and will negatively impact California’s future.”

According to California’s independent Legislative Analyst, the proposed measure could increase state and local government health costs by “hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”

“This measure is terribly flawed and will reduce access to quality health care for underserved communities,” said Alice Huffman, President of the California NAACP. “At a time when we’re working hard to cover as many Californians as possible under the ACA, Proposition 46 takes us in the wrong direction. Proposition 46 will disproportionately hurt minority communities. It’s bad medicine for California.”

These two organizations join the growing list of California public entities and private organizations that have announced their formal opposition. For a complete list, please visit the campaign website, www.noon46.com.


COMING THIS NOVEMBER TO A BALLOT NEAR YOU: ANOTHER FLAWED GOVERNMENT-RUN DATABASE MANDATE WITH NEW THREATS TO PERSONAL PRIVACY

Experts Agree MICRA Measure Mandate “Won’t Work” While Opening Floodgates to Personal Prescription Drug Records of Millions of Californians with No Additional Security Safeguards 

SACRAMENTO – A coalition of business, medical, labor and civil liberties organizations have come together to fight a misguided, deceptive initiative that would increase health costs, reduce health access, and rely on a government-run computer system that isn’t close to fully functional – all while putting the prescription drug histories of millions of California patients at privacy risk with no additional security protections.

The initiative, which qualified for the November ballot on May 15, 2014, is written and funded by trial attorneys and their allies.  In addition to increasing the overall number of medical lawsuits and the cost of health care across the board, it contains a number of unrelated provisions designed to mislead and deceive voters – including a little-discussed mandate relying on a massive expansion of a government-run prescription drug database, which third-party analysts say cannot be implemented as written and will leave personal medical information vulnerable to privacy breach.   
 
“We always knew this flawed measure was bad for the pocketbooks of everyday Californians, but the more they read the fine print, the more they realize it’s equally bad for their personal privacy,” said Jim DeBoo, campaign manager for the broad-based coalition of Californians formed to oppose the initiative.  “If this measure passes, it will mandate a database that isn’t properly working and open the privacy floodgates to the sensitive personal medical data of millions of Californians with no increased security safeguards or funding.  It’s a hacker’s dream – and a privacy nightmare.”

The so-called MICRA (“Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act”) initiative requires health care practitioners and pharmacists to consult a government-run prescription drug database (known as CURES) prior to prescribing or dispensing Schedule II or III controlled substances to patients.

The mandate relies on the uploading of personal prescription drug records of millions of California patients onto the database – accessible by hundreds of thousands of users.  But the initiative fails to add new funding for its expedited expansion or require any additional security standards or safeguards to prevent hacking, theft or improper access by non-medical personnel.

What’s more, experts say the CURES mandate will not work as required by the measure, will not be operational by the law’s effective date and will put doctors in the impossible position of choosing between violating their oath as health providers or violating the law.

“The CURES mandate on physicians cannot be implemented as written.  CURES needs to be updated and modernized and nothing in the initiative does that.” said Tim Gage, former California Finance Director and Principal at Blue Sky Consulting.  “Therefore, the initiative will put health providers in the untenable position of either violating the new law or withholding necessary treatment from patients unless the law is suspended.”

“The consequences of mandating the use of a government-run website that experts say won’t work when required before physicians are allowed to prescribe needed medication is nothing less than a recipe for disaster,” said Dr. Richard Thorp, M.D., President of the California Medical Association.    
 
The CURES database mandate problem comes at a time of widespread reports of illegal hacking, much of it involving digital medical records. Studies show that public fears about personal privacy are at an all-time high.  Last month, it was reported the FBI had taken the extraordinary step of warning that the entire health sector was particularly vulnerable to “attacks by hackers searching for Americans’ personal medical records” (Reuters, April 23, 2014). 
 
Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported 991 separate incidences of medical data breaches involving 500 people or more, affecting a total of 30 million patients.  While many states are moving to increase protections for online prescription drug data, this measure would have the opposite effect in California.

“The public and lawmakers are really starting to understand what kinds of threats to privacy come when you start centralizing great quantities of sensitive personal information in giant electronic databases,” said Nathan Wessler, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, last week to the Wall Street Journal (May 7, 2014).

As proposed, the CURES database maintains an accessible online record of every dispensed prescription of a Schedule II or III controlled substance, including highly sensitive and potentially stigmatizing details about a person’s health.  This prescription information could include medicines used to treat anxiety, insomnia, obesity, narcolepsy, drug detoxification, pain, epilepsy, conditions related to cancer and AIDS, asthma, chronic infection, and other sensitive medical conditions.

The MICRA lawsuit measure which qualified today is formally opposed by (partial list):   

  • AFSCME California PEOPLE
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Ninth District
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 477
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California
  • Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD), AFSCME Local 206
  • California Medical Association
  • California Dental Association
  • California Hospital Association
  • California Pharmacists Association
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • American College of Emergency Physicians, California Chapter
  • California Association of Physician Groups
  • California Association for Nurse Practitioners
  • Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California
  • Community Clinics Association of Los Angeles County
  • La Clínica de La Raza
  • California Association of Rural Health Clinics
  • Central Valley Health Network
  • California Chamber of Commerce
  • California Black Chamber of Commerce
  • California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • City of Long Beach
  • American Civil Liberties Union of California 

To learn much more about the myriad hidden costs, consequences and flaws in the trial-lawyer-supported MICRA lawsuit initiative, visit the “Stop Higher Health Care Costs/Protect Access to Care” website at: www.StopHigherHealthCareCosts.com.

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The Doctors Company Alert: Windows XP Use May Trigger HIPAA Non-Compliance

Alert from The Doctors Company:

Now that Microsoft has stopped supporting the Windows XP operating system, physician practices using Windows XP face threats from viruses, Trojans, and other potential security breaches. All PC workstations and laptops using Windows XP that contain Protected Health Information (PHI) are no longer compliant with HIPAA and the HITECH Act. This includes devices used to access PHI via the Internet. HIPAA Security Rule section 164.308(a)(5)(ii)(B) states that practices must implement “procedures for guarding against, detecting, and reporting malicious software.” This is no longer possible with Windows XP.

If your practice system currently runs on Windows XP, follow these tips immediately to bring your practice into HIPAA compliance:

  • Identify all at-risk workstations and laptops.
  • Analyze the hardware in all at-risk computers to determine if they are capable of running a new operating system, such as Windows 7 or 8.
  • Upgrade all at-risk computers identified as capable of running a new operating system.
  • For computers that cannot be upgraded, either replace the hardware or purchase new computers.
  • Create a transition plan for upgrading or replacing computers.
Internet Explorer 8 is also no longer supported—if your practice is running Windows XP and using Internet Explorer 8, you may be exposed to additional threats.


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