Posts Tagged ‘prevention’

HHS Awards $100 Million to Public Health Initiatives

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Affordable Care Act sends $100 million to public health agencies.Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services is awarding nearly $100 million in grants to support locally based public health and prevention services. The money will support several public health initiatives, including substance abuse; mental health; stop-smoking hotlines; HIV testing and prevention; and obesity treatment and prevention.  According to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, some of the funding also will be spent on health information technology.

“From providing tools to help people stop smoking to new HIV testing and prevention programs to a critical investment in mental health, these Affordable Care Act prevention grants will help people get what they need to stay healthy and live longer,” Sebelius said.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will receive $75 million of the funding for its state and local public health programs.  Approximately $26 million of the CDC money will fund epidemiology, lab and health information systems in the health departments of all 50 states, two territories and the nation’s six biggest cities.

The funding is intended to help public health departments participate in “meaningful use” of electronic health records by implementing high-tech reporting.  Another $21.7 million in CDC funds will promote HIV testing and prevention.

Healthcare’s Best-Kept Secret: Nurse Practitioners

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

If healthcare reform is to successfully overcome the realities of Washington politics, there is one problem in covering the millions of Americans who lack insurance coverage – the physician shortage.  Currently, there is a 30 percent shortage of primary-care physicians, and with less than 10 percent of 2008 medical school graduates choosing that career track.  When Massachusetts enacted mandates for universal health insurance in 2006, the state’s primary-care physicians48019286 were overwhelmed.  A similar scenario could occur on a national scale.

Nurse practitioners — who have advanced nursing degrees, are licensed by the state and often are allowed to prescribe medications — may fill that void because they can treat and diagnose patients at less cost than physicians.  Medicare reimburses nurse practitioners at 80 percent of what they pay doctors for similar services.

Nurse practitioners are vital to healthcare reform because they focus on patient-centered care and preventive medicine.  The House of Representatives has listed nurse practitioners as primary-care providers on their healthcare reform legislation bill.  The profession lobbied intensely to include this legislative language so they can play an important role in a revamped health system.

“We seem to be healthcare’s best-kept secret,” said Jan Powers, health policy director for the Academy of Nurse Practitioners.  Although nurse practitioners typically have less medical education than physicians, they are well trained in skills such as bedside manner and counseling.  “In the United States, we are so physician-centric in our health system.  But it should be about wellness and prevention, not about procedures and disease management,” said Rebecca Patton, president of the American Nursing Association.

Wellness Is a Proactive Approach to Healthcare

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Now is the time for healthcare providers to take a proactive approach to the well-being of their respective communities and target markets.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), signed into law by President Obama on February 17, contains $1 billion for the new Prevention and Wellness Fund.  This Fund will make available resources for funding immunization programs; infection prevention programs; and the prevention of mpj040515400001chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.  Based on statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70 million people in the United States (approximately 25 percent of our total population) live with cardiovascular disease.  Wellness programs have a direct impact on the prevention of these diseases and will be an important components of any preventative program.

Healthcare providers have historically been hesitant to invest in wellness and fitness centers due to the capital resource requirement and uncertain return on investment.  With careful planning and strategic development, these facilities can bring a substantial new revenue stream into the organization.  Skeptics may point to the Medical Fitness Association, which reports that in 2008 there were approximately 950 medically based wellness and fitness centers in the United States, with one-third reporting operating losses.

While such risks do exist, investing in wellness facilities and programs that directly address the prevention of chronic disease have the potential for more than satisfactory financial results.  If managed with a clear direction, thought and competence, these facilities can provide a financial return far more attractive than the equities market has offered in the recent past.  The resources allocated to fight chronic disease will come back tenfold in cost reductions over the long term.

Now is the time to invest in the well-being of our future.  We should not wait for another opportunity like the one Congress and President Obama have provided.  We need to take advantage of this now.

Physician Shortage vs. Aging Baby Boomers a “Perfect Storm”

Monday, April 6th, 2009

As 78 million aging baby boomers deal with more chronic conditions, the country is facing a serious shortage of physicians. Compounding the crisis is the fact that between 1985 and 2006, the percentage of physicians aged 55 and older climbed from 27 percent to 34 percent, according to statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).  Approximately 250,000 active physicians are expected to retire between now and 2020.  These shortages are especially critical among surgeons and family medicine practitioners.

The doctor deficit has its roots in the 1980s and 1990s when medical schools capped their enrollments at 16,000 students per year because they believed that managed care would create a physician glut.  6a00d8341caabc53ef00e5516c58f68833-800wiThe exact opposite has happened and medical schools were “woefully wrong” in their assessment, according to Josef Fischer, chairman of surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.  “It’s going to be tough in this situation to make it better.”

Accordingly, medical educators have identified the problem and are finally accepting more applicants.  During 2008, nearly 17,800 students started medical school — the largest class ever.  By 2015, medical schools hope to achieve a 30 percent increase in enrollment over 2002 levels.  Still, Fischer warns of “a perfect storm” forming, because it takes three to seven years to train physicians at a time when the number of senior citizens in the United States is growing fast.  With training for surgeons often exceeding seven years and few pre-med students focused on primary care as a career, additional enrollments are only a first step in the right direction.

Many doctors would prefer a career in primary medicine, focused on prevention and health, but the reality of medicine in today’s environment is that reimbursement for physician services is decreasing.  The healthcare system itself is discouraging the very best and brightest talent from pursuing primary care.  Fixing what is broken in the system at a time when prevention should be more important than ever requires fast action if we are to meet our needs in the next decade.