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NCHN Healthcare News Digest

Issue #16 | Monday, January 3, 2011 |

+ NCHN Reminders & Upcoming Events


Upcoming Committee Calls

  • January 13, 2011 @ 12:30 PM ET: 2011 Annual Conference Planning Committee Call

NCHN Orientation Sessions

NCHN will be offering two orientation conference calls on Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 3:00 PM ET and Tuesday, January 11 at 12:30 PM ET. The Orientation Session will provide an overview of the programs and services of NCHN and review the benefits of your membership. This will also give you the opportunity to meet other new NCHN members and/or recently hired network directors. (We are using the term “recently” very liberal --as some of the directors may have been in their positions for several months, but not had the opportunity to attend a NCHN conference and/or an orientation call.)

The following items will be discussed: Mission of NCHN; Strategic Plan and Goals for 2010-2013; Membership Benefits; Business Partners Program

  • January 6, 2011 @ 3:00 PM ET
  • January 11, 2011 @ 12:30 PM ET

Pre-registration is required: To register for one of these sessions, email

Peer-to-Peer Sharing Sessions with HRSA Network Planning Grantees

  • January 19 @ 1:30 PM ET
>> More information on Peer-to-Peer Sharing Sessions...

+ Alan Morgan Confirmed as Closing Speaker at 2011 NCHN Annual Conference

Alan Morgan, CEO for the National Rural Health Association, will be presenting The National Rural Health Perspective during the closing session of the 17th Annual NCHN Conference. He has more than 20 years experience in health policy development and is recognized as a national expert in rural health care policy. 

Mr. Morgan’s health policy articles have been published in: The Journal of Rural Health, The Journal of Cardiovascular Management, The Journal of Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology, Cardiac Electrophysiology Review, and in Laboratory Medicine.  He is a co-author for the upcoming 6th edition of the publication, “Policy and Politics in Nursing and Health Care.”

He served as staff for former US Congressman Dick Nichols and former Kansas Governor Mike Hayden. Additionally, his experience includes tenures with the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and with the Heart Rhythm Society where he established a Washington, DC based government affairs office. Prior to joining NRHA, he served as a federal lobbyist for VHA Inc.

The 2011 NCHN Annual Conference will be held in Scottsdale, AZ from April 17 - 20, 2011.

Visit the Conference Web Site to:

  • View the schedule
  • Make hotel reservations
  • Register online
  • Submit an application to exhibit

+ NCHN Members' News

  • January Issue of Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative's (RWHC) Eye on Health Now Available: View it online...

Share your Network's news with other NCHN Members...
Send a link to your news by email to

+ NRHA & Partners' Rural Health Policy Institute

Did you resolve to save money in 2011? Start by saving $100+ today.
NRHA and its Policy Institute hotel have extended discount deadlines until 5 p.m. EST.

Don't miss the chance to meet with congressional members, the Obama Administration and national health care experts at the 22nd annual Rural Health Policy Institute Jan. 24-26 in Washington, D.C.

Rural Americans are counting on you to deliver a unified message to Capitol Hill. NRHA will schedule face time with your state's representatives and their staffs. Continue the conversation during a reception at the United States Botanic Gardens with Washington's key policymakers.
Health reform will dramatically change the delivery of health care in rural America.
Learn how:

  • you and your facility will be impacted.
  • you can take charge to ensure health reform works for rural patients and providers.
  • to effectively advocate at the national level on behalf of rural health.

>> Go to to register by 5 p.m. EST today to save.

+ Funding available to establish AmeriCorps programs

The Corporation for National and Community Service has funding available to establish AmeriCorps programs. Grants are for programs that will offer AmeriCorps volunteers the opportunity to become involved in a range of community improvement activities.

Deadline to apply: 1/25/2011

From the RFP (pdf):
"The Corporation is carrying out Congress’s intent by targeting AmeriCorps State and National funding in these six focus areas, and is developing strategic objectives for each. In accordance with the Act, through this Notice and its other activities, the Corporation seeks to:

  • Direct the power of national service to solve a common set of challenges.
  • Expand opportunities for all Americans to serve.
  • Build the enduring capacity of individuals, organizations and communities to effectivelyuse service and volunteering to solve community problems.
  • Embrace innovative solutions that work.

>> Get more information... (Source: Rural Community Developers Network January 2011 e-News, Jan. 3, 2011)

+ Snippets from Rural Community Developers Network January 2011 e-News

An article in The Daily Yonder called “Debt Reduction and Rural America” summarizes the reports of two commissions that were charged with finding ways to cut the federal budget. The outcomes would have impacts on rural America. To read the article, and find links to both reports, go to

Healthy Food Financing Initiative. A bipartisan coalition in the House and Senate have introduced bills that will invest $500 million to dramatically reduce the number of low-income Americans living in so called “food deserts” – and helping to combat the childhood obesity crisis nationwide, and potentially creating 44,500 full-time jobs and 50,000 construction jobs. To read the press release, go to

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released Healthy People 2020, a website that features its 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans, with a focus on the role that environments play in health outcomes. To visit the website, go to

>> View the January 2011 issue... (Source: Rural Community Developers Network January 2011 e-News, Jan. 3, 2011)

+ National Awards Program to Recognize Achievements in Eliminating Healthcare-Associated Infections

HHS recently announced an awards program to recognize critical care teams and healthcare institutions that achieve excellence and sustained improvement in preventing healthcare-associated infections, specifically, central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), two areas of focus for AHRQ patient safety research. The goal of this program is to motivate healthcare and public health communities to achieve wide-scale reduction of HAIs and progress toward their elimination. HHS has partnered with  the  Critical Care Societies Collaborative to administer these awards at two levels in mid- 2011:

  • The Outstanding Leadership Award will recognize systems of excellence that result in sustained success over at least 25 months in the prevention or elimination of CLABSI and/or VAP, as well as national leadership in sharing and disseminating information.
  • The Sustained Improvement Award will recognize progress in implementing systems showing sustained and consistent reductions over a period of 18 to 24 months.

Applicants must be a unit, hospital, team, enterprise, or healthcare system of any size and in any geographic location, that provides care for critically ill patients and has at least one team member who belongs to one of the CCSC member organizations. Deadline for submitting applications is January 29.

>> Get more information about the HHS awards program...
>> Access the press release... (pdf)

(Source: AHRQ Medical Errors & Patient Safety Update, email send on Dec. 28, 2010)

+ AHRQ-Funded HIT Success Stories Published

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has released Success Stories from the AHRQ-Funded Health IT Portfolio (2009).

From the Executive Summary:
"To support its broad mission of improving the quality of health care for all Americans, the Agency has focused its health IT initiatives on the following three goals: 1) improve health care decisionmaking; 2) support patient-centered care, the coordination of care across transitions, and the use of electronic exchange of health information; and 3) improve the quality and safety of medication management. These investments are expected to enhance the usability of health IT, promote access to and adoption of evidence-based systems, and examine their impact on health care quality, safety, and outcomes. This report provides illustrative examples of various types of AHRQ Health IT Portfolio-funded projects that recently concluded (2009)." (p. 9)

>> Download the publication... (pdf) (Source: AHRQ Health IT Update, email send Dec. 29, 2010)

More from AHRQ:
>> View the 2009 AHRQ Annual Report... (pdf)

+ Electronic Health Records Incentives Registration Starts Mon Jan 3; CMS & ONC Outline Resources to Assist Eligible EHR Providers

On Wed Dec 22, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) announced the availability of registration for the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) incentive programs.  CMS and ONC encouraged broad participation and outlined online and in-person resources that are in place to assist eligible professionals and eligible hospitals who wish to participate. 

Beginning Mon Jan 3, 2011, registration will be available for eligible health care professionals and eligible hospitals who wish to participate in the Medicare EHR incentive program.  On Mon Jan 3, registration in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program will also be available in Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.  In February, registration will open in California, Missouri, and North Dakota.  Other states likely will launch their Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs during the spring and summer of 2011.

“It’s time to get connected,” said David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.  “ONC and CMS have worked together over many months to prepare for the start-up.  ONC’s Certified HIT Product List includes more than 130 certified EHR systems or modules and is updated frequently.  ONC also has hands-on assistance available across the country through 62 Regional Extension Centers.  We look forward to continuing to work with CMS to assist eligible providers in 2011 and future years.”

Eligible professionals and eligible hospitals must register in order to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs.  They can do so, starting Mon Jan 3, at a registration site maintained by CMS.  To prepare for registration, interested providers should first familiarize themselves with the incentive programs’ requirements by visiting CMS’s Official Web Site for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.  The site provides general and detailed information on the programs, including tabs on the path to payment, eligibility, meaningful use, certified EHR technology, and frequently asked questions.

>> View the full press release... (Source: CMS Weekly Reading Materials, Dec. 29, 2010)

+ Secretary Sebelius highlights 2010 accomplishments of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

New video covers implementation of the Affordable Care Act; efforts to reduce fraud and waste; public health initiatives to address obesity, tobacco use and food safety.

In a new video released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius highlighted the work of HHS over the course of 2010.  Sebelius outlined some of the important programs and services that the department provides and discussed some of the new laws that went into effect this year and what they mean for consumers. Sebelius also praised the work of the employees of the department. 

“This year, thanks to new laws passed by Congress and signed by the President, HHS was able to take a number of steps that have directly improved the lives, health and security of Americans,” said Sebelius.  “Through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, more Americans have access to health coverage as well as new rights and benefits in their health insurance.  Efforts to improve public health and reverse the twin epidemics of obesity and tobacco use in the U.S. made significant progress.  HHS emergency response teams and public servants at almost every HHS operating division helped to ease the impact of the earthquake in Haiti and the oil spill off the Gulf Coast.  And we end the year with newly enacted legislation that will allow us to improve food safety with important new authorities and changes that are decades overdue.  I’m proud of these accomplishments and the men and women in our department who made them possible and remain firmly committed to our mission to provide critical health and human services to the people of this nation.”

>> Continue reading... (Source: | ASPA | Newsroom | News Releases, Dec. 30, 2010)

+ CMS Expands Healthcare Provider Directory, Launches First Phase of Physician Compare Web Site

[On December 30th, 2010], the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) enhanced the Physician Directory tool at with new information about physicians and other healthcare workers in their communities and the services those professionals provide.

The new feature, called Physician Compare, expands and updates CMS’ Healthcare Provider Directory, which has helped millions of beneficiaries find Medicare-participating doctors online for over a decade. The new tool expands the doctor-specific information into the suite of informational tools for Medicare beneficiaries and other consumers. 

“The new Physician Compare tool begins to fill an important gap in our online tools by providing more information about physicians and other healthcare workers,” said Donald Berwick, M.D., CMS administrator.  “This helps to pave the way for consumers to have similar information about their physicians as they have for nursing homes, home health agencies and health and drug plans.”

The new site, at, which was required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010, contains information about physicians enrolled in the Medicare program, which include Doctors of Medicine, Osteopathy, Optometry, Podiatric Medicine, and Chiropractic. The site also contains information about other types of health professionals who routinely care for Medicare beneficiaries, including nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, registered dietitians, physical therapists, physician assistants, and occupational therapists. 

The Physician Compare Web Site is designed to be consumer friendly and help all patients—whether on Medicare or not—locate health professionals in their communities. The information on the site includes contact and address information for offices, the professional’s medical specialty, where the professional completed his or her degree as well as residency or other clinical training, whether the professional speaks a foreign language, and the professional’s gender.  The tool can also help Medicare beneficiaries identify which physicians participate in the Medicare program.

In addition to information about the physician’s practice, Physician Compare also shows consumers whether the practice reported certain data to CMS through the Physician Quality Reporting System, formerly known as the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI). Currently, the PQRI reporting system is a voluntary reporting program that rewards physicians and other eligible healthcare professionals for reporting data on quality measures related to services furnished to Medicare beneficiaries.  These quality measures are based on the best available medical evidence and designed to help professionals improve care for patients. In 2009, over 200,000 professionals reported data to CMS through the Physician Quality Reporting System.

Later in 2011, CMS plans a second phase of the Web site which will indicate whether professionals chose to participate in a voluntary effort with the Agency to encourage doctors to prescribe medicines electronically, rather than through traditional paper-based prescription methods.

In future years, the Physician Compare Web site will be expanded with information about the quality of care Medicare beneficiaries receive from physicians and the other healthcare professionals profiled on the site.  The expansion will include information on quality of care and patient experience that can help consumers learn more about the care provided by Medicare-participating physicians.  CMS is required by the Affordable Care Act to develop a plan to implement this expansion by 2013.

“Today’s release of Physician Compare moves us closer towards CMS’ goal to improve the quality of healthcare for people with Medicare in all the places where they receive care, including the doctor’s office,” said Berwick. “By using a considered, step-wise approach to spotlighting quality of care, we can create a tool that will help doctors and patients for decades to come.”

CMS has been working closely with healthcare stakeholders as it develops its future plans for the Physician Compare Web site, and will continue to do so through public meetings and forums, as well as through the regular processes to update the Physician Fee Schedule. 

(Source: CMS News Release Update, Dec. 30, 2010)

+ Health IT expected to be medical industry’s top challenge of 2011

Health information technology will be the healthcare industry’s most significant challenge of 2011, largely because of increased investments involving “meaningful use” of electronic health records, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute. The research firm’s annual list of “ Top Health Industry Issues” cites implementation of EHRs as the top challenge, as medical care providers attempt to upgrade patient record keeping by 2012 to qualify for federal incentives. Mobile and wireless technologies will also be priority items for doctors and hospitals, as they attempt to improve communication with patients and between each other. And health IT will be challenged by mergers as larger outside, non-medical players continue to enter the market. Other issues include an increased need to inform the public about health IT--for example, less than half of consumers polled for the survey know what a health information exchange is, and 86 percent do not access information electronically, according to PwC.

>> View the full story... (Source: Telemedicine and e-Health News Alter, Dec. 28, 2010)

+ Medicare Rural Health Clinics Waiver of Coinsurance and Deductible Claim Processing

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has identified an issue when Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes are reported for preventive services recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) with a grade of A or B on Rural Health Clinic claims (71X) for dates of service on or after Sat Jan 1, 2011.  Since the additional revenue line(s) are not separately payable, the contractors have been instructed to move the charges associated with these revenue lines to the non-covered field and to override reason code 31577.  This will allow the claim to continue processing and not delay payments.  After the changes for CR7208, transmittal 2122, are implemented on Mon Apr 4, 2011, contractors will mass-adjust these claims to ensure the charges are reflected as covered.  Providers should not attempt to resubmit affected claims as their FI or MAC will be initiating adjustments for the sole purpose of correcting the charges.  Providers should anticipate the initiation of these adjustments within 30 calendar days after the implementation of CR7208.

(Source: CMS News Release Update, Dec. 30, 2010)

+ Shining a Light on Health Insurance Rate Increases

Health insurance premiums have risen rapidly, straining pocketbooks for American families and businesses. Since 1999, the health insurance premiums for family coverage have risen 131 percent. Premium increases have forced families to spend more money for less coverage. And insurance companies have been able to raise rates without explaining their actions or justifying the reasons for their high premiums.     

The Affordable Care Act brings an unprecedented level of scrutiny and transparency to health insurance rate increases. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurance companies publicly justify any unreasonable rate increases, consumers who experience large increases will know why they are paying the rates that they are.  On December 21, 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services, working in partnership with states, proposed a new regulation to implement this important consumer protection.

>> Continue reading... (Source: Update, Dec. 22, 2010)

+ CDC: Prevention Research Centers' Selected Contributions to Public Health

The PRCs have contributed to scientific results and public health at local, state, national, and international levels. Examples of achievements are summarized and organized here by type of contribution.

Achievements associated with CDC’s Winnable Battles are noted. This term describes public health priorities having large-scale impact on health and for which effective strategies are known.

>> View Selected Contributions by category... (Source: CDC PRC Program Update, Dec. 22, 2010)

+ Brain Teaser: Should You Be Institutionalized?

Well, coming back from the Holidays to a packed Inbox that makes us all feel overwhelmed...

It doesn't hurt to take a hard look at yourself. This little test should help you get started.

During a visit to a mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director what the criteria is that defines if a patient should be institutionalized.

"Well," said the Director, "we fill up a bathtub. Then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup, and a bucket to the patient and ask the patient to empty the bathtub."

Okay, here's your test:
1. Would you use the spoon?
2. Would you use the teacup?
3. Would you use the bucket?

"Oh, I understand," said the visitor. "A normal person would choose the bucket, as it is larger than the spoon."

What was the director's response?

>> View the answer... (and more Brain Teasers)

(Source:, accessed January 3, 2011)

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