- The week ahead in health IT interoperability offers a chance to get questions answered about how the 2016 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule final rule affects Medicare quality reporting programs. You can join the Medicare Learning Network call, hosted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), on Dec. 8 at 1:30 p.m. ET. Click here to access the registration page.
CMS plans to cover changes to the Physician Quality Reporting System, EHR Incentive Program, Comprehensive Primary Care initiative, Value-Based Payment Modifier, Medicare Shared Savings Program and the Physician Compare database. The agenda also includes information on moving toward the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System and Alternative Payment Models under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.
Also noteworthy for the coming week:
Policy and Standards committees in action. The Health IT Policy Committee continues its work on health information infrastructure and the exchange of patient medical information with a full-day meeting on Dec. 8 starting at 9:30 a.m. ET. The meeting agenda has not yet been posted. Click here to join the call. The Health IT Standards Committee will hold a virtual meeting on Dec. 10 starting at 9:30 a.m. ET. You can join the call here. A joint meeting of the API Task Force, originally scheduled for Dec. 11, has been cancelled.
Big things expected of pharmacy data in 2016. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) holds its 2015 Midyear Clinical Meeting this week in New Orleans. Among the discussions will be a look at the top trends expected to impact hospital and health system pharmacies in 2016. McKesson Corporation expects healthcare organizations to prioritize the integration of pharmacy analytics to track and monitor drug spending and use, patient care and quality. The company says lack of interoperability of health records between pharmacies and providers continues to be a patient safety issue.
Anthem-Cigna merger approved by shareholders. Nearly all the shareholders of insurance giants Anthem and Cigna approved a $48 billion merger that would create the nation’s largest payer, the Associated Press reports. The deal now moves on for scrutiny by federal and state regulators; if okayed, the acquisition by Blue Cross-Blue Shield coverage provider Anthem would close in the second half of next year. Anthem, based in Indianapolis, is currently the country’s second-largest health insurer, while Cigna, based in Bloomfield, Conn., ranks fourth in enrollment. Last week, the American College of Physicians (ACP) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice calling out the Anthem-Cigna deal, as well as a proposed Aetna-Humana merger, for “potential negative effects they could have on competition in the health insurance market.” ACP urges regulators to block mergers that could “significantly increase health insurer concentration resulting in decreased choice and increased cost for patients and employers ... [and prevention of] physicians from negotiation over provision of health services with those insurers.”
National Influenza Vaccination Week runs through Dec. 12. Medicare Part B covers one vaccination and its administration each flu season for Medicare beneficiaries. Medicare may cover additional seasonal flu vaccinations if medically necessary. Find the latest influenza statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here. State, regional and national vaccination reports for the 2014-2015 flu season are available here.