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Dedicated Cellular Network Open to Physicians Responding to COVID-19

Physicians and other licensed health care professionals are now eligible to join FirstNet, the nation’s only public safety wireless broadband network.

FirstNet, built and maintained by AT&T with first responders and for responders, provides nationwide 4G LTE wireless voice and data. The FirstNet network features First Priority® that supports prioritized and efficient communications, as well as preemptive access to network resources for first responders during times of congestion. This helps ensure fast, efficient, and highly secure communications flow for those on the front lines responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Telehealth applications, which often require video and photos, are data intensive. The data prioritization on FirstNet helps to address that.

FirstNet was commissioned by Congress as a single, nationwide wireless broadband network in response to the communication failures that occurred during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. FirstNet is government authorized, inspected, and supervised, holding AT&T accountable to keeping first responders’ lines of communication open with dedicated mission critical solutions.

Physicians can join or switch to the network at a discounted rate, which includes unlimited data and no throttling. You can register on the FirstNet website, which includes more information on the network. You can also visit an AT&T store and show your credentials (such as a hospital badge or paystub). If you are with another carrier, early termination fees may apply from that carrier.

Remember, you can find the latest news, resources, and government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak by visiting the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.

CMS Postpones 2019 MIPS Reporting Deadline to April 30

By Joey Berlin

Originally published on the Texas Medical Association website.

With a key deadline for clinicians in the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) approaching fast amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is giving those clinicians a month of extra time to submit their data.

CMS announced Sunday it is moving the deadline for MIPS-eligible clinicians to submit their 2019 MIPS data to April 30, instead of March 31.

Even if that’s not enough time, not submitting your data by then won’t hurt your bottom line. CMS also announced that MIPS-eligible clinicians who haven’t submitted their 2019 data by the April 30 date would simply receive a “neutral payment adjustment” – that is, no payment bonus and no 7% penalty – in calendar year 2021. (MIPS bonuses or penalties for a given performance year are assessed two years later.)

MIPS is a key piece of the agency’s Quality Payment Program, which requires eligible clinicians to participate in the program either through MIPS or alternative payment models.

CMS announced the MIPS extension among a host of new measures under its “extreme and uncontrollable circumstances” policy in order to ease the burden on clinicians participating in a number of federal quality reporting programs.

“In granting these exceptions and extensions, CMS is supporting clinicians fighting coronavirus on the front lines,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a release. “The Trump administration is cutting bureaucratic red tape so the health care delivery system can direct its time and resources toward caring for patients.”

Any clinicians who have already submitted their 2019 MIPS data, or submit their data by the April 30 deadline, will be scored and receive a payment adjustment under the normal method, CMS said. April 30 is also the new deadline for clinicians to revise their submitted data, if needed, by logging in to the QPP portal. For guidance on submitting your data, download this CMS guide (PDF).

CMS also reports it is evaluating options for providing additional relief for the 2020 QPP performance year (which would affect 2022 payments). Texas Medicine Today will update physicians when CMS releases more information.

The list of new exceptions and extensions for the QPP and other federal quality reporting programs is available here.

For questions, contact the QPP Service Center at (866) 288-8292 or by email.

Remember, you can find the latest news, resources, and government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak by visiting TMA’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.

COVID-19 Activity in Tarrant County – 3/23/20

Tarrant County Public Heath’s (TCPH) report of COVID-19 activity in Tarrant County, updated Monday, March 23, 2020 at 11:15 a.m. Find more COVID-19 information from TCPH here.

Case Status by City

CITYCASESACTIVEDEATHSRECOVERED
Arlington131210
Benbrook1001
Colleyville3300
Euless2200
Fort Worth181800
Grand Prairie1100
Grapevine1100
Haltom City2200
Keller2200
Lakeside2200
Mansfield4400
N Richland Hills2200
Southlake4400
Watauga1100
White Settlement1001
TOTALS575412

Transmission Type by City

CITYTravelKnownSourceUnknownSourcePending
Arlington5242
Benbrook1000
Colleyville1002
Euless0020
Fort Worth11241
Grand Prairie0010
Grapevine1000
Haltom City2000
Keller1001
Lakeside2000
Mansfield2020
N Richland Hills1010
Southlake3001
Watauga1000
White Settlement1000
TOTALS324147

TMB Updated Guidance on Requirements to Check the Prescription Monitoring Program

An update from Stephen Carlton, J.D., the executive director of the Texas Medical Board, published on 3/21/20. You can read the signed letter here.

The Texas Medical Board (TMB) issued initial guidance on February 7, 2020, regarding PMP checks after multiple inquiries. The guidance was intended to be helpful for licensees to understand the upcoming change in the law on March 1, 2020 and address their concerns. No TMB guidance is enforceable nor can they result in any enforcement or disciplinary action.

TMB held a meeting of the TMB Opioid Workgroup on February 18, 2020. One of the primarygoals was to obtain input regarding when to do mandatory PMP checks, who can do them, and how to document these checks. TMB took extensive input from the Opioid Workgroup
Stakeholders. This collaborative effort resulted in the following consensus:

  1. The mandatory PMP check is required only when a physician prescribes opioids, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or carisoprodol to the ultimate user for take-home use upon leaving an outpatient setting, such as a doctor’s office or ambulatory surgical center, or upon discharge from an inpatient setting, such as a hospital admission, or discharge from an emergency department visit. A mandatory PMP check is not required before or during an inpatient stay, such as a hospital admission, or during an outpatient encounter setting, such as an emergency department or ambulatory surgical center visit
  2. The physician may delegate the PMP check to any legally authorized personnel the same way physicians may delegate other tasks.
  3. A copy of the PMP check may be placed in a patient’s medical records.

Staff anticipates bringing a proposed rule to the Board consistent with this updated guidance for possible publication as soon as March 5-6. TMB believes this updated guidance fulfills the intent of the law, reflects valuable stakeholder input, and enhances the protection of Texas patients.

Click here for TMB’s latest COVID-19 news and resources.

CMS Announces Relief for Clinicians, Providers, Hospitals and Facilities Participating in Quality Reporting Programs in Response to COVID-19

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced unprecedented relief for the clinicians, providers, and facilities participating in Medicare quality reporting programs including the 1.2 million clinicians in the Quality Payment Program and on the front lines of America’s fight against the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Specifically, CMS announced it is granting exceptions from reporting requirements and extensions for clinicians and providers participating in Medicare quality reporting programs with respect to upcoming measure reporting and data submission for those programs.  The action comes as part of the Trump Administration’s response to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“In granting these exceptions and extensions, CMS is supporting clinicians fighting Coronavirus on the front lines,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “The Trump Administration is cutting bureaucratic red tape so the healthcare delivery system can direct its time and resources toward caring for patients.”

Specifically, CMS is implementing additional extreme and uncontrollable circumstances policy exceptions and extensions for upcoming measure reporting and data submission deadlines for the following CMS programs:

Provider Programs2019 Data Submission2020 Data Submission
·      Quality Payment Program – Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)  Deadline extended from March 31, 2020 to April 30, 2020.   MIPS eligible clinicians who have not submitted any MIPS data by April 30, 2020 will qualify for the automatic extreme and uncontrollable circumstances policy and will receive a neutral payment adjustment for the 2021 MIPS payment year.CMS is evaluating options for providing relief around participation and data submission for 2020.
  ·      Medicare Shared Savings Program Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs)
Hospital Programs2019 Data Submission2020 Data Submission
·      Ambulatory Surgical Center Quality Reporting ProgramDeadlines for October 1, 2019 – December 31, 2019 (Q4) data submission optional.   If Q4 is submitted, it will be used to calculate the 2019 performance and payment (where appropriate). If data for Q4 is unable to be submitted, the 2019 performance will be calculated based on data from January 1, 2019 – September 30, 2019 (Q1-Q3) and available data.    CMS will not count data from January 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020 (Q1-Q2) for performance or payment programs. Data does not need to be submitted to CMS for this time period.   * For the Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program and the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program, if data from January 1, 2020 – March 31, 2020 (Q1) is submitted, it will be used for scoring in the program (where appropriate).
·      CrownWeb National ESRD Patient Registry and Quality Measure Reporting System
·       End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Quality Incentive Program
·       Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program
·       Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program
·       Hospital Outpatient Quality Reporting Program
·       Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program
·       Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program
·       Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Quality Reporting Program
·       PPS-Exempt Cancer Hospital Quality Reporting Program
·       Promoting Interoperability Program for Eligible Hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals
Post-Acute Care (PAC) Programs2019 Data Submission2020 Data Submission
  ·       Home Health Quality Reporting Program  Deadlines for October 1, 2019 – December 31, 2019 (Q4) data submission optional.   If Q4 is submitted, it will be used to calculate the 2019 performance and payment (where appropriate).    Data from January 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020 (Q1-Q2) does not need to be submitted to CMS for purposes of complying with quality reporting program requirements.   * Home Health and Hospice Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey data from January 1, 2020 through September 30, 2020 (Q1-Q3) does not need to be submitted to CMS.   * For the Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Value-Based Purchasing Program, qualifying claims will be excluded from the claims-based SNF 30-Day All-Cause Readmission Measure (SNFRM; NQF #2510) calculation for Q1-Q2.  
  ·       Hospice Quality Reporting Program
  ·       Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility Quality Reporting Program
  ·       Long Term Care Hospital Quality Reporting Program
  ·       Skilled Nursing Facility Quality Reporting Program
  ·       Skilled Nursing Facility Value-Based Purchasing Program

For those programs with data submission deadlines in April and May 2020, submission of those data will be optional, based on the facility’s choice to report.  In addition, no data reflecting services provided January 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020 will be used in CMS’s calculations for the Medicare quality reporting and value-based purchasing programs. This is being done to reduce the data collection and reporting burden on providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

CMS recognizes that quality measure data collection and reporting for services furnished during this time period may not be reflective of their true level of performance on measures such as cost, readmissions and patient experience during this time of emergency and seeks to hold organizations harmless for not submitting data during this period. 

CMS will continue monitoring the developing COVID-19 situation and assess options to bring additional relief to clinicians, facilities, and their staff so they can focus on caring for patients.  This action, and earlier CMS actions in response to COVID-19, are part of the ongoing White House Task Force efforts. To keep up with the important work the Task Force is doing in response to COVID-19, please visit www.coronavirus.gov. For a complete and updated list of CMS actions, and other information specific to CMS, please visit the Current Emergencies Website

COVID-19 Activity in Tarrant County – 3/22/20

Tarrant County Public Heath’s (TCPH) report of COVID-19 activity in Tarrant County, updated Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 11:15 a.m. Find more COVID-19 information from TCPH here.

Case Status by City

CITYCASESACTIVEDEATHSRECOVERED
Arlington121110
Benbrook1001
Colleyville2200
Euless2200
Fort Worth141400
Grand Prairie1100
Grapevine1100
Keller1100
Lakeside2200
Mansfield4400
N Richland Hills2200
Southlake3300
Watauga1100
White Settlement1001
TOTALS474412

Transmission Type by City

CITYTravelKnownSourceUnknownSourcePending
Arlington3243
Benbrook1000
Colleyville0002
Euless0020
Fort Worth5126
Grand Prairie0010
Grapevine1000
Keller0001
Lakeside2000
Mansfield0022
N Richland Hills1010
Southlake2001
Watauga1000
White Settlement1000
TOTALS1731215

COVID-19 Activity in Tarrant County – 3/21/20

Tarrant County Public Heath’s (TCPH) report of COVID-19 activity in Tarrant County, updated Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. Find more COVID-19 information from TCPH here.

CITYCASESACTIVEDEATHSRECOVERED
TOTALS423912
Arlington11 1 
Benbrook1   
Colleyville2   
Euless2   
Forest Hill1   
Fort Worth11   
Grapevine1   
Lakeside2   
Keller1   
Mansfield3   
N Richland Hills2   
Southlake3   
Watauga1   
White Settlement1   

Practical Answers to COVID-19 Questions for Your Practice – Updated

By David Doolittle

Originally published on the Texas Medical Association website.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Texas and around the country grows, what steps should your clinic take to ensure the safety of your staff and patients? 

The Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force has updated its “Frequently Asked Questions” that answer many of the questions you might have about caring for people who have been exposed to the virus.

Among the questions answered:

  • How to minimize exposure to COVID-19 in your clinic; 
  • Types of infection prevention control measures to implement in your clinic;
  • How to best prepare staff;
  • Infection prevention and control precautions to take if a patient with possible COVID-19 requires evaluation at an emergency department (ED); and
  • Infection prevention and control recommendations to give to patients with suspected COVID-19 who are well enough to go home.

The FAQ is based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), and other health organizations.

You can find the latest news, resources, and government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak by visiting TMA’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.

President’s Paragraph – December 2019

Giving Thanks

By David Donohue, MD


MY PARTNERS

Texas is growing from, and in, all directions.  A dearth of pediatric neurosurgeons in some regions of our state prompted our pediatric neurosurgical group to help.  We have been affording 24/7 coverage to children’s hospitals in two other cities over the past 18 months.   The arrival of new pediatric neurosurgeons to the afflicted hospitals has finally provided longed-for relief, especially to my partners, who shouldered more than their share of the clinical and administrative load.  It is gratifying to witness my younger colleagues deftly assume the care of pediatric neurosurgical patients in Tarrant County and beyond. My Cook Children’s neurology staff also helped keep the wheels turning this year.


TCMS COLLEAGUES

TCMS officers filled in, and advised, enthusiastically during my absences from TCMS board meetings and special events occasioned by my travels, demonstrating their usual good will and devotion to the organization.  The increasing scope of Project Access testifies to Tarrant County physicians’ altruism.  TCMS members quietly serve on unheralded committees (e.g., Physician Wellness) that do a world of good for physicians.  Any contributions I may have made pale in comparison to theirs. The Tarrant County Physician editorial committee has striven to render my dollops of prose throughout Volume 91 less incoherent, while working to create publications the whole membership can enjoy.


TCMS ALLIANCE MEMBERS

Their dedication to the family of medicine remained evident throughout 2019.  Highlighting important public health concerns, including pediatric head injury (Hard Hats for Little Heads) and immunization efforts sponsoring public education and free vaccination events (Be Wise Immunize)—vital in these days of appalling immunization agnosticism.  Their contributions continue:  community outreach, funding of Allied Health scholarships, and offering solace to families of our deceased or disabled physicians.  Together with TCMS staff, our Alliance is recruiting more young Alliance members and drawing their physician spouses into organized medicine. 


TCMS STAFF

“Things ran smoothly” is a huge understatement.   Especially satisfying is witnessing completion of the TCMS building renovation.  Our staff arranged and executed many TCMS organizational, political, and social events this year.  Beyond the business of running TCMS, our staff facilitates developing working relationships between TCMS physicians and established community players, including City Hall, the DFW Hospital Council, both medical schools, EMS, and the press.  TCMS staff are the operations backbone of Project Access.


MY WIFE

Most of all, I want to thank Angela, who encouraged me to participate in the TCMS years ago.  There is virtually no Alliance duty or position that she has not undertaken at either the state or local level.  As my term expires, she reminds me that the disappointment one senses before the incomplete project or unmet goal betrays not failure, but lofty goals yet to be achieved. 


Let’s continue aiming high.


Follow our links below to learn more about TCMS!