HHS Asks for Comments on Health IT Strategic Plan

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is putting the final touches on a strategic plan for establishing better sharing of health information between the federal government and private sector, and is asking for public comment on how to best implement a “Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap” set for release next year.

The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, 2015-2020 is now available for review and comment through February 6, 2015. According to an HHS news release, the strategic plan “represents a coordinated and focused effort to appropriately collect, share, and use interoperable health information to improve health care, individual, community, and public health, and advance research across the federal government and in collaboration with private industry.”

Full story of HHS comments on IT strategic plan at APTA

Joint Commission Seeks Comments on New Integrated Care Certification Program

The Joint Commission is seeking feedback on standards for a voluntary integrated care certification program for accredited hospitals, critical access hospitals, and ambulatory health care organizations.

According to an announcement from the commission, the aim of the program is to “provide a pathway for hospitals and ambulatory care settings to demonstrate that they can come together to deliver clinically coordinated care, treatment and services.” The commission believes that the most likely candidates for certification are accredited organizations in the early stages of establishing or seeking to strengthen their ambulatory-hospital relationships.

Full story of new integrated care program at APTA

Obesity, Inactivity Rates Continue to Worsen as Other Health Indicators Improve Nationwide

The latest national health ranking report is a mixture of good news and bad news about the state of health among US citizens, with obesity and inactivity rates landing squarely on the “bad news” side.

According to the UnitedHealth Foundation (UHF) “America’s Health Rankings” report, increasing rates of obesity and inactivity are among the “national challenges” faced by the country since publication of its 2013 report. UHF estimates that obesity rates climbed 7% in 2014, to 29.4% of all Americans. Physical inactivity also rose by 3%, with 23.5% of Americans reporting that they did not participate in physical activity for the past 30 days.

The report estimates that in the 25-year history of its analyses, obesity rates have increased by 153%, from 11.6% to nearly 30%, while physical inactivity rates have remained relatively stable.

Full story of obesity rates worsen nationwide at APTA

Malware Infection Results in $150,000 HIPAA Fine

Malware on a personal computer is troubling enough, but when it comes to computers used by health care providers, the viruses can result in federal fines for patient privacy violations.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), this was a lesson recently learned by Anchorage Community Mental Health Services (ACMHS), which was fined $150,000 for not preventing malware from infecting its computers. The malicious programming breached the protected electronic health information of 2,743 individuals in violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

According to an OCR news release, ACMHS adopted HHS security rule policies in 2005 but never followed them. The introduction of the malware into the ACMHS system was “the direct result of ACMHS failing to identify and address basic risks, such as not regularly updating their IT resources with available patches and running outdated, unsupported software,” according to an HHS/OCR resource.

Full story of Malware HIPAA fine at APTA

Calling All (PT and PTA) Artists: Time to Go International

Admit it: inside that physical therapist or physical therapist assistant exterior, there’s a frustrated artist yearning to break free.

Well now’s your chance to release that inner visionary—but you don’t have long to act.

December 15 is the deadline to submit your entry for the World Confederation for Physical Therapy’s (WCPT) art and health competition. The work of the finalists will be displayed in an exhibition at the WCPT Congress 2015, May 1-4 in Singapore, the largest international gathering of physical therapists in the world.

For more information on PT and PTA artist, visit APTA

Foundation Ready to Make Center of Excellence a Reality; Announcement Coming in February

The Foundation for Physical Therapy is poised to make the dream of a physical therapist-focused Center of Excellence (COE) a reality with its February announcement of the $2.5 million grant recipient to launch and manage the COE.

The Center of Excellence for Health Services and Health Policy Research and Training will be dedicated to expanding the number of physical therapist (PT) scientists specializing in health services and health policy research. The groundbreaking initiative will provide PTs accepted into the program with training and skills necessary to examine the most effective ways to deliver, organize, and finance health care delivery.

Full story of COE at APTA

House Passes Bill to Allow Tax-Exempt Savings for Individuals With Disabilities

The US House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would help Americans with disabilities achieve a greater level of independence, and strong bicameral, bipartisan support makes the legislation nearly certain to pass in the Senate.

On December 3, the House overwhelmingly approved the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE), a bill that allows people with disabilities to establish tax-exempt savings accounts that would not disqualify them from receiving Medicaid and Social Security benefits. Currently, disability benefits are not provided to individuals with more than $2,000 in assets earning more than $680 a month.

Full story of tax-exempt bill for people with disabilities at APTA

Does Meniscal Surgery Increase Risk of OA?

Surgery for meniscal tears may increase the risk of osteoarthritis and cartilage loss, according to results of a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) on December 3.

According to an RSNA press release, the study examined magnetic resonance imaging of 355 knees that developed osteoarthritis in the past 5 years—31 knees that had meniscal surgery a year prior to the arthritis diagnosis, and 281 knees that had meniscal damage but no surgery. The study group was compared with a control group with no meniscal damage, matched for age, gender, BMI, and arthritic severity. Patients in the study were mostly overweight with an average age of 60.2. Two-thirds of the subjects were women.

RSNA reports that “‘all 31 of the knees that underwent meniscal surgery during the prior year developed osteoarthritis, compared with 165 (59%) of the knees with meniscal damage that didn’t have surgery.”

Full story of meniscal surgery at APTA

Diverse PT Research Projects Garner Foundation Grants

The use of transcranial direct current stimulation in conjunction with constraint-induced movement therapy, the underlying disease process among individuals at high risk for rheumatoid arthritis, a combination of stem cell therapy and tailored rehabilitation for patients poststroke, and the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral-based therapy for patients after spine surgery will be the subjects of research projects recently awarded $200,000 in grants from the Foundation for Physical Therapy (Foundation).

Bernadette Gillick, PT, MSPT, PhD, is this year’s recipient of the $80,000 Magistro Family Foundation Research Grant. Gillick, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, is conducting a 2-year project to study the effectiveness of transcranial direct stimulation combined with constraint-induced movement therapy to improve hand function in children with weakness after stroke. She was a former recipient of Foundation Promotion of Doctoral Studies II (PODS II) scholarships in 2009 and 2010. The Magistro grant is funded by the Magistro Family Foundation Endowment Fund.

Full story of PT research from the Garner Foundation at APTA

APTA Debunks 7 Common Physical Therapy Myths

A recent survey conducted by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) confirmed 7 of the most common myths about physical therapy. While the demand for physical therapists continues to rise and many consumers are experiencing the transformative effects of physical therapy, some misconceptions persist. APTA is debunking common ones during National Physical Therapy Month in October to better enable consumers to take charge of their health and improve their overall fitness, mobility, and quality of life.

Below are 7 of the most common myths about physical therapy, followed by corresponding facts.

  1. Myth: I need a physician’s referral to see a physical therapist.
    Fact: The survey revealed 70% of people think a referral or prescription is required for evaluation by a physical therapist. However, all 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC) allow patients to be evaluated by a physical therapist without a physician’s prior referral. In addition, 48 states and DC allow for some form of treatment or intervention without a physician referral or prescription (Oklahoma and Michigan being the exception.) Beginning November 1, 2014, patients in Oklahoma will be able to seek treatment from a physical therapist without a physician referral. On January 1, 2015, patients in Michigan will be able to do so, as well.

For the full list of the these therapy myths, visit APTA