Reducing the chance of stroke, pneumonia, diabetes and more, in one shot
By Erica Swegler, MD
Member, TMA “Be Wise – Immunize” Advisory Panel
Imagine the headlines: “If you’re over age 65, you’re half as likely to die in the next year if you take (product XYZ)!”
“What?” you ask, “We have such a thing?” The answer is YES. If you are over age 65, you can decrease your risk of dying of any cause by about 50 percent in the coming year if you get an immunization of the high-dose flu vaccine (HD flu vaccine).more
Represent Texas at AAFP’s NCCL and ACLF in 2017
Funded delegate spots and scholarships available for NCCL and ACLF
Each year, AAFP holds the National Conference of Constituency Leaders and Annual Chapter Leader Forum together in Kansas City, Missouri. NCCL representatives and ACLF attendees from across the nation gather to discuss various issues, suggest policies and programs to AAFP, and receive leadership training. In 2017, the conferences will be held April 27-29 and TAFP is looking for members to serve on the delegation or apply for scholarships to attend.
TAFP opportunities for NCCLmore
MACRA and managing change
By Ajay Gupta, MD
TAFP President, 2015-2016
As many of you are acutely aware, our health care delivery system is undergoing dramatic changes. For those of you who have been around as long as I have, this has been a similar theme for several years. One common phrase I have heard over the years is the idea of “change.” Many of us have been frustrated by the changes in the past. These changes have been unfavorable for family medicine. One thing is clear: the current system is broken and unsustainable.
Every day patients ask my opinion on these changes. Will it help family medicine? Will private practice survive? What’s going to happen to you and your colleagues? I respond by telling them I feel our current system is indeed broken.more
Med students: Want to step out of the classroom and into the exam room?
By Herbert Rosenbaum
By the end of my first year of medical school and destined for my “last summer ever,” I left my rigorous preclinical curriculum with an unsettling combination of exhaustion and frustration. I came to medical school to help the sick, not sit in some stuffy lecture hall, spend innumerable hours meticulously studying complicated biomolecular pathways, or learn about the zebras among zebra diagnoses. Despite my excitement at the beginning of medical school, the sobering realization of the academic and impersonal nature of preclinical years disturbed me immensely. I felt my zeal slowly seeping away. And, despite the strong push for students to pursue research activities during that precious summer, I knew neither pipetting for hours nor endless analysis of chart-reviewed data could ever recharge me.
In short, I needed a doctor – a mentor who could help me reinvigorate my passion for medicine.more
Dedication and hard work of our preceptors keep the preceptorship program strong
By Perdita Henry
When the Legislature reinstated funding for the Texas Family Medicine Preceptorship Program last year, you might have heard a whoop of joy from the TAFP headquarters in North Austin. The program — in which mostly first and second-year medical students spend two to four weeks seeing patients with a family doctor — presents an excellent chance to showcase the best aspects of a career in family medicine.
While state support returning to the program was welcomed news, what makes the Preceptorship Program great is the dedication of our fantastic preceptors. Those medical students who go through the program and go on to become family physicians carry the memory of their preceptor as their own image of a real family doctor, and many count their preceptor among their most revered mentors.more
Falling leaves, falling temperatures, and the beginning of flu season
By Perdita Henry
It’s October and fall has officially arrived. As we anticipate cooling temperatures and autumn leaves, our friends in the Immunization Unit at the Texas Department of State Health Services have once again named October 1 as Texas Influenza Awareness Day.
I know, right? Break out the decorative safety face masks and the Tamiflu — it’s a party!more
2017 and MACRA are on the way, but now you can pick your pace
By Perdita Henry
The march from volume-to-value by way of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 has been steady, and as we prepare to meet 2017, anxiety about the new Quality Payment Program has left many wondering what hurdles they will have to face.
CMS recently announced the Pick Your Pace Program, specifically designed to assist medical providers at different readiness levels as they prepare for MACRA. The announcement was a welcomed development by AAFP Board Chair Robert Wergin, MD, who took it as a sign that CMS not only took into account AAFP’s comment letter in reference to MACRA but also realized physician success in implementing the new payment program benefits everyone in the health care community.more
National Immunization Awareness Month, week four: Making the most of adolescence
By Perdita Henry
The Texas Department of State Health Services is wrapping up the final week of National Immunization Awareness Month by focusing on pre-teens and teens. Once your young patients reach the age of 11, it’s recommended that they receive Tdap, HPV, meningococcal vaccines and catch up on any immunizations they may have missed. ImmTrac is a convenient tool that allows parents to keep track of vaccination schedules as their children age. Also many of your pre-teen and teen patients may be eligible to participate in the Texas Vaccines for Children Program, which provides low-cost vaccines for children from birth through age 18.
If you are looking for additional support in the vaccination conversation with caretakers, visit ImmunizeTexasOrderForm.com. There you will find the Love Them & Protect Them ImmTrac brochure, the childhood immunization schedule, the Halt HPV brochure, and much more.more
National Immunization Awareness Month, week three: Keeping little ones safe
By Perdita Henry
Texas Department of State Health Services is kicking off week three of National Immunization Awareness Month by focusing on infants and children through age six. Did you know that there’s a website that can assist the busy parents of your littlest patients keep track of immunization schedules? ImmTrac is an online portal that allows parents to register and keep track of their child’s vaccination schedule. Safe and secure, ImmTrac is a convenient tool that can help new parents make sure they are keeping their little ones safe.
DSHS also notes that many of your tiny patients may be eligible for Texas Vaccines for Children Program which aims to ensure that all families have the tools to protect their children from vaccine-preventable diseases.more
National Immunization Awareness Month, week two: Keep mama and baby safe during pregnancy
By Perdita Henry
August is National Immunization Awareness Month and this week’s focus is on immunizations that keep pregnant women and babies healthy across the state. The Texas Department of State Health Services offers resources to help you educate your patients on the importance of vaccines during pregnancy. The Pertussis Cocooning brochure, Protect Two from the Flu brochure, and the ImmTrac newborn consent are just a few of the documents currently available for download at ImmunizeTexasOrderForm.com.
If you are planning an NIAM activity or event and would like to have it featured on the Regional Events and Activities map, fill out the NIAM activity form and email it to Linc Allen, Coalitions and Partnerships Coordinator at email@example.com
A Texas-sized problem: Texas has among the highest rate of hepatitis C, lowest HPV vaccination numbers in the U.S.
By Carolyn Aldigé and Erich M. Sturgis, MD, MPH
As a family physician, your patients rely on you — not just for annual check-ups, diagnoses, prescriptions, and treatments, but also to inform them of what they need to know to enjoy long, healthy lives. But a growing number of patients say they are not getting much-needed guidance from their primary care physicians on a major public health problem: certain viruses that can lead to cancer.more
Zika threat: CDC, DSHS have up-to-date resources for you
By Perdita Henry
The concern over Zika is increasing at a steady pace as the summer continues. Every day news reports are alerting the public to another person being diagnosed with a virus that many have never heard of. The Texas Department of State and Health Services and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention want to make sure that physicians, and the public, have everything they need to stay up to date on the latest information regarding Zika.more
What should you know about Medicare's new quality payment program?
By Suzie Buhr, BSN, RN, CPHQ
Quality Improvement Consultant for TMF Health Quality Institute
Just when your physician practice successfully participated in the Physician Quality Reporting System or achieved Meaningful Use with your electronic health record, along comes a new payment program from the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services. Beginning next year, your practice will be evaluated for the data you report in 2017, which will affect payments in 2019. The good news is by participating in PQRS and meaningful use now, you are moving in the right direction. The work you are doing for those programs will help you transition to participating in either the Merit-based Incentive Payment System or the Alternative Payment Model program. What do you need to know now to prepare for the transition?more
Need a cure for the preclinical med school summertime blues? Do a family medicine preceptorship
By Herbert Rosenbaum
By the end of my first year of medical school and destined for my “last summer ever,” I left my rigorous preclinical curriculum with an unsettling combination of exhaustion and frustration. I came to medical school to help the sick, not sit in some stuffy lecture hall, spend innumerable hours meticulously studying complicated biomolecular pathways, or learn about the zebras among zebra diagnoses. Despite my excitement at the beginning of medical school, the sobering realization of the academic and impersonal nature of preclinical years disturbed me immensely. I felt my zeal slowly seeping away. And, despite the strong push for students to pursue research activities during that precious summer, I knew neither pipetting for hours nor endless analysis of chart-reviewed data could ever recharge me.more
HHSC seeks physicians for new state advisory committees
Last year the Legislature made its regular adjustments to the list of advisory committees that report to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Department of State Health Services. These committees play important roles in bringing fresh perspectives to the agencies and family doctors who have served on them in the past have had the chance to influence state programs to benefit patients.
The full list of advisory committees with available seats can be found on the HHSC website, but two committees are of particular interest to the Academy. The new Value-Based Payment and Quality Improvement Committee is a combination of the previous Medicaid/CHIP Quality-Based Payment Advisory Committee and the Texas Institute for Healthcare Quality. Its purpose is to provide a forum to promote public-private, multi-stakeholder collaboration in support of quality improvement and value-based payment initiatives for Medicaid and other health services.
The Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Advisory Committee will advise HHSC on the operation of Medicaid managed care, including program design and benefits, concerns about the system from consumers and providers, efficiency and quality of services, contract requirements, network adequacy, trends in claims processing, and other issues. The agency is looking for primary care physicians and has a specific directive to include rural providers.more
All you need to know to be ready for the C. Frank Webber Lectureship and Interim Session
If you're headed to Austin this week to join your friends and colleagues at the 2016 C. Frank Webber Lectureship and Interim Session, we've got a great lineup of CME scheduled for you and lots of opportunities to network and make new connections. Here is a set of essential info you'll need to be prepared for a wonderful experience. Any further questions? Feel free to comment below or give us a call at (512) 329-866 or and email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Thursday, April 14 | 12 - 7 p.m.
- Friday, April 15 | 6 a.m. - 7 p.m.
- Saturday, April 16 | 7 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
C. Frank Webber Lectureship registration will be located on the main floor in the hotel lobby. The CME breakfast lecture begins at 7 a.m. on Friday. On Thursday, registration for the SAM Group Study Workshop on Mental Health in the Community starts at 12:30 p.m. and the SAM begins at 1 p.m. On Saturday, registration for the SAM Group Study Workshop on Preventive Care starts at 7:30 a.m. and the SAM begins at 8 a.m.more
The castle and the moat
By Janet Hurley, MD
One of the greatest challenges for family medicine practices today is the risk of alternative treatment options for our patients. The last decade saw the uptick of retail health centers and urgent care centers, designed to provide convenient, fast access to acute care services at times when patients want it. Smart practices have created same day access models and extended hours to reduce this risk to their practice. The next decade will see the emergence of telehealth services, such as virtual office visits, secure videoconferencing, secure email access, and online scheduling. How family physicians approach these challenges will determine their financial success heading into the future. Will they provide convenient access portals for their patients, or will they retain the “Castle and the Moat” thinking prevalent in many practices today?
In my leadership roles as chair of my organization’s customer service committee, and Operational Chief for Primary Care, I have had access to secret shopper reports, customer service survey results, and post visit survey results that give me exposure to the tangled web of access hurdles many patients experience as they try to obtain care. I have also had direct access to our consultants and executive leadership, and have had engaged discussions with experts in this field. When surveyed, most of our patients say they have very good opinions of their nurses, doctors, and staff, but some had much difficulty scheduling appointments and getting answers to questions over the phone. They dislike voicemail, and they don’t want to wait too long for their appointment. In essence, many practices have provided a quality “country club” experience to patients once they enter the facility, but there is a perceived selection process about who may enter. It would seem our “moat” needs more bridges.more
Strength in numbers
An adaptation of the 2015-2016 incoming president’s address
By Ajay Gupta, MD
TAFP President, 2015-2016
Greetings colleagues. I am humbled and honored to serve as president of this extraordinary Academy and I want to thank all of those leaders and physicians who have mentored me and guided me along the way as well as my wonderful family for their steadfast support.
I became involved in the Texas Academy in my second year of practice because it equipped me with the tools to make my practice better. As you know, TAFP provides some of the best CME available and is produced for family physicians by family physicians. The Academy has helped me maintain board certification, which as you all are aware is an important process and not easy to do. The Academy also provides a range of practice support services to help my practice be more efficient. At our statewide meetings I get the chance to network with other family physicians to hear about the latest trends in health care delivery and payment—what’s working and what’s not working.more
Accepting the maybe
By Janet Hurley, MD
In my leadership duties for the Texas Academy of Family Physicians and within my personal job as family physician and operational chief of primary care for Trinity Mother Frances Health System, I continue to see pockets of skepticism, frustration, and fear among my primary care physician colleagues. In some of my most difficult assignments, I have felt that the greatest barrier occurs when some physicians go straight to the negative with their thoughts as we begin discussions.
Our specialty is rife with physicians that go straight to the negative. When we consider the high rates of physician burnout in our country we begin to understand why this is true. Primary care physicians have felt overworked and underpaid for quite some time. The current fee-for-service payment system has created inefficient patient management practices that prevent care for simple conditions over the phone, lead to unnecessary follow-up appointments, and encourage physicians to pack more patients into their clinic day to generate volume. Transitioning these practices to a value-based payment world is truly a challenge.more
Blue Button makes finding Medicaid patient records simple
Medicaid providers can now find their patients’ medical histories on YourTexasBenefitsCard.com. Medicaid Eligibility and Health Information Services added the Blue Button to the site in September.
Once a provider or office staff receives a client’s consent, they can log in to the site and click on the Blue Button to see and download the client’s health information. The information can then be saved as a Portable Document Format document, a Clinical Document Architecture data file, or a simple text file. Once saved, it can be imported into the provider's health management tool.
The YourTexasBenefitsCard Blue Button is assembled from client data found in the current database and claims data stored in the Medicaid Claims Administrator System. It generates easily accessible patient records on the website for providers to download, import, or print.more