• Friday, November 21, 2014RSS Feed

    IOM: Physical Activity Measures Should Be Among Standard 'Social and Behavioral' Domains Tracked on EHRs

    The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is recommending that future electronic health records (EHRs) include patient "social and behavioral data"—including data on physical activity—acquired through a set of 12 measures.

    The 300-plus page report, "Capturing Social and Behavioral Domains and Measures in Electronic Health Records," makes the case for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to include the measures as part of the EHR certification and meaningful use regulations.

    Data on 4 of the domains—alcohol use, tobacco use and exposure, race/ethnicity, and residential address—are already being widely collected, the report states. But additional domains should be included, each with its own measures—education, financial resource strain, stress, depression, physical activity, social connections/isolation, exposure to violence/intimate partner violence, and neighborhood compositional characteristics.

    The IOM report describes "a large body of empirical evidence" around the dose-response relationship between physical activity and improved physical and mental health throughout the lifespan, with "little evidence that an upper threshold exists." Authors write that not only is the relationship strong enough to be worth collecting data, the very act of obtaining this information from patients at outpatient visits is associated with "significant, yet small, changes in patient weight loss and [plasma glucose concentration] levels compared [with] those who were not asked about their physical activity levels."

    Authors of the report recommend that 2 "Exercise Vital Signs" questions from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System be used as the standard measures for physical activity in EHRs. The 2 questions are:

    • On average, how many days per week do you engage in moderate to strenuous exercise (like walking fast, running, jogging, dancing, swimming, biking, or other activities that cause a heavy sweat)?
    • On average, how many minutes to you engage in exercise at this level?

    Authors also reviewed the International Physical Activity Questionnaire, a 9-question form, finding it "acceptable" but "more time consuming" than the 2-question measure.

    The report noted that the additional domains would likely add to costs, and that these costs would largely fall to providers. However, the report asserts, the long-term benefits would be significant.

    "The US health system has achieved technological advances but lags behind other countries in population health outcomes," write the report's authors. "Standardized use of EHRs that include social and behavioral domains could provide better patient care, improve population health, and enable more informative research."

    APTA offers several resources on information technology and EHRs, including a webpage devoted to the use of EHRs. Additionally, APTA has long supported the promotion of physical activity and the value of physical fitness, and is involved with the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP), where the association has a seat on the NPAP Alliance board. The association also offers several resources on obesity, including continuing education on childhood obesity, and a prevention and wellness webpage that links to podcasts on the harmful effects of inactivity.

    Friday, November 21, 2014RSS Feed

    'Text Neck' the Focus of Upcoming Study

    The reasons for a person's neck pain could be as close as his or her phone.

    A recent story in the Washington Post describes the upcoming publication of a study that analyzed the burden placed on the cervical spine through the typical posture of people looking at their smartphones—head tilted down at angles as severe as 60 degrees. At that angle, researchers determined that weight on the cervical spine increases to about 60 pounds.

    According to the Post report, the "text neck" posture seen just about everywhere is like "carrying an 8-year-old around your neck several hours per day," at the rate of between 700 to 1,400 hours a year. For adolescents, that number could be 5,000 hours higher. The poor posture can lead to degeneration of the spine.

    The Post reports that the problems associated with text neck have been known for some time, and borrows quotes from a 2013 CNN interview with APTA Private Practice Section President Tom DiAngelis PT, DPT, in which he describes the dangers of the posture over time.

    The article offers suggestions from Kenneth Hansraj, lead author of the upcoming study, on how to counteract text neck. His biggest piece of advice: look down with your eyes—no need to bend your head. Second, he suggests specific exercises to improve mobility and posture.

    Friday, November 21, 2014RSS Feed

    USBJI Young Investigators Program Accepting Applications

    Physical therapist (PT) investigators have an opportunity to receive guidance in getting their research funded and "other survival skills required for pursuing an academic career" through a program that connects them with experienced researcher-mentors.

    The United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI) and Bone and Joint Canada announced that they are now accepting applications for the Young Investigator Initiative, a career development and grant mentoring program. Investigators chosen to participate in the program will attend 2 workshops 12-18 months apart and work with faculty between workshops to develop grant applications.

    This grant mentoring workshop series is open to promising junior faculty, senior fellows, or postdoctoral researchers nominated by their department or division chairs. It also is open to senior fellows or residents who are doing research and have a faculty appointment in place or confirmed and have a commitment to protected time for research. Basic and clinical investigators, with or without training awards (including K awards), are invited to apply.

    Application requirements and more details can be found at the USBJI website. Deadline is January 15, 2015, to participate in the next workshop, April 24-26.

    According to an announcement from USJBI, 140 program participants have obtained more than $130 million in research grants. APTA is a founding member of USBJI.

    Thursday, November 20, 2014RSS Feed

    Nurses' 'Choosing Wisely' List Should Resonate With PTS, PTAs

    A recently released list of practices nurses and patients should question will likely get nods of agreement from physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) for the ways the recommendations promote early mobility in hospital settings.

    The American Academy of Nursing (AAN) became the most recent nonphysician profession to add to the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation's Choosing Wisely® campaign aimed at educating consumers and health care professionals on health care-related tests, procedures, and practices that may not be necessary or appropriate under certain circumstances. In September, APTA became the first nonphysician group to join the campaign when it unveiled its list of "5 Things Physical Therapists and Patients Should Question."

    Of particular interest to PTs and PTAs in the AAN list of "5 Things Nurses and Patients Should Question" (.pdf) are recommendations that nurses should not let older adults lie in bed or only get up to a chair during their hospital stay, that physical restraints should not be used with patients who are older and in the hospital, and that urinary catheters should not be placed or maintained in a patient "unless there is a specific indication to do so."

    "PTs know that an important contributor to hospital-associated disability is immobility during hospitalization, which leads to decreased function, increased fall risk, and increased length of stay—especially in older adults," said Anita Bemis-Dougherty, PT, DPT, MAS, clinical practice director at APTA. "The AAN Choosing Wisely list is an excellent addition to the support for greater mobility in hospitalized patients."

    Bemis-Dougherty noted that the AAN recommendations around restraints are consistent with The Joint Commission (TJC) restraint standards. In addition, she said, the AAN list correlates strongly with APTA's Choosing Wisely recommendations against using continuous passive motion machines after uncomplicated total knee replacement, and against bed rest following diagnosis of acute deep vein thrombosis after anti-coagulation therapy, unless significant medical concerns are present.

    "Improved strength in older adults is associated with improved health, quality of life and functional capacity, and with a reduced risk of falls," noted Bemis-Dougherty. "If the patient is restrained, the immobility could lead to poor outcomes."

    APTA Senior Director of Practice and Research Nancy White, PT, DPT, OCS, was involved in the development of the APTA Choosing Wisely list, and thinks that the AAN recommendations add to the reach of a campaign that's making a difference.

    "Choosing Wisely is recognized as a great way to improve outcomes of care and reduce the use of treatment approaches that are either not effective or that may even be harmful," White said. "AAN has identified several practices that are common in many hospital settings that result in prolonged and unnecessary bed rest—something that PTs know leads to poorer outcomes and prolonged hospital stays."

    Bemis-Dougherty believes that the AAN list can help APTA in its efforts "to change the culture of immobility in the hospital to one of mobility."

    "Creating that kind of change is a daunting task and can't be accomplished by PTs alone," Bemis-Dougherty said. "To have nursing recognize the problem caused by immobility is huge and hopefully can contribute to a more widespread culture of mobility that involves all health care professionals within hospital settings."

    APTA's Choosing Wisely list is offered in several forms, including consumer-focused versions in English and Spanish, and an expanded version containing citations on the association's Center for Integrity in Practice website. Resources on that site also include a ProfessionWatch paper from Physical Therapy that details the process of the list's development and provides professional context for APTA's decision to partner with the ABIM Foundation.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014RSS Feed

    Humana Resumes MPPR Policy

    After a 9-month delay, the Humana health insurance corporation has restarted a multiple procedure payment reduction (MPPR) policy that applies to Medicare Advantage and commercial insurance plans.

    On October 29 Humana reinstated the MPPR policy on the initial claims adjudication for non-facility providers. The policy will be applied to facility settings in late January.

    The 50% reduction applies to the practice expense (PE) portion of the relative value unit (RVU). Humana will pay 100% of the first code with the highest PE RVU, and all codes billed after that will be reduced by multiplying the PE portion of the code by 50%. For Medicare advantage plans, Humana will apply the reduction regardless of whether the therapy services were provided in 1 therapy discipline or multiple therapy disciplines.

    Humana originally implemented this policy in the fall of 2013 and applied the program retroactively, requiring physical therapists (PTs) to pay back portions of reimbursement that Humana claimed exceeded MPPR standards. APTA raised questions about the accuracy of the overpayment calculations and concerns about the administrative burden of the overpayment recovery process on PT practices, among other issues. As a result of those efforts, Humana temporarily ceased application of the MPPR policy in January 2014 to focus on correcting its payment logic and refunding inappropriate overpayment recoveries.

    Members who have questions about the reimbursement policy and suspect a calculation error should contact APTA at advocacy@apta.org.

    Need more information on MPPR? Visit APTA’s MPPR webpage. Resources include FAQs, strategies for managing contracts, approaches to verify payment accuracy, and more.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014RSS Feed

    APTA Posts Summary of Changes to Veterans Care

    The US Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) has issued an interim final rule amending regulations in the Veterans Choice Program, which allows eligible veterans to receive care from non‐VA entities and providers in certain circumstances. APTA is helping members understand how the changes could affect physical therapists (PTs).

    APTA posted a summary (.pdf) of the interim rule (under the "summaries" header) from VA. Many of the changes focus on definitions in Veterans Choice and clarifications around the non-VA providers who can provide hospital and medical services through the program. The APTA summary provides highlights of provisions that may impact PTs, including copayment regulations, program scope, key terms, eligibility requirements, payment rates, and other issues.

    The interim final rule took effect on November 5.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014RSS Feed

    Volunteers Needed to Focus on Early-Career Members

    The best way to ensure a healthy future for physical therapy is to ensure that physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) get involved in APTA early in their careers.

    Now's your chance to help.

    APTA is calling for volunteers to serve on the Recruitment and Retention of Early-Career Members Task Force, the group charged with analyzing and evaluating existing membership trends and current outreach practices for early career PTs and PTAs, and identifying innovative strategies to increase membership value. Deadline for application is December 1. Complete details on the task force can be found on APTA's Volunteer Groups webpage.

    APTA relies heavily on its volunteers, who gain valuable leadership and growth opportunities while working with some of the most outstanding physical therapists in the country.

    Interested? Complete a volunteer interest profile, then click on the "Apply for Current Vacancies" button and select the task force you're interested in joining.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014RSS Feed

    TBI Reauthorization Act Ready to be Signed by President

    Legislation that will enhance government-sponsored research and data collection on traumatic brain injury (TBI) will move to the president's desk for signature, now that the TBI Reauthorization Act (S. 2539) has been passed by the House of Representatives. Individual House and Senate versions of the legislation were passed in the summer and fall, but last week the House decided to adopt the Senate version instead of reconciling the 2 bills.

    APTA was among the organizations advocating for the legislation as part of the association's broad push to bring attention to TBI and rehabilitation in general.

    If signed by the president, the finalized, bipartisan legislation will:

    • Allow the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue grants to states and advocacy systems to improve access to TBI-related rehabilitation and community services
    • Provide funding to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to gather data on TBI and conduct public education programs that include prevention
    • Direct the Secretary of HHS to develop a TBI coordination plan
    • Direct CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct a scientific review of the management of children with the TBI

    The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Sen Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and cosponsored by Sen Bob Casey (D-PA).

    Besides its efforts in support of TBI reauthorization legislation, APTA has participated in the Joining Forces initiative, promoted the Protecting Student Athletes From Concussions Act (H.R. 3532) (.pdf), and participated in a congressional Brain Injury Awareness Day in March. Concussion management awareness was also the focus of this year's student-led Flash Action Strategy, which resulted in the largest concussion-related grassroots effort in APTA history.

    APTA provides extensive resources to its members on the role of physical therapy in brain injury treatment and recovery, and offers a TBI webpage that includes continuing education courses and links to other interest groups.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014RSS Feed

    Education Leadership Fellowship Program Accepting Applications; Deadline Dec 1

    Physical therapist and physical therapist assistant education program directors interested in developing their leadership skills have an opportunity to participate in a yearlong fellowship program designed to do just that.

    APTA's American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education’s accredited Education Leadership Institute (ELI) Fellowship, a collaborative with the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy, Education Section, Physical Therapist Assistant Educators Special Interest Group, and APTA, now is accepting applications for 2015. Submission deadline is December 1, 2014, 5:00 pm ET.

    This yearlong, invitational, blended learning (online and onsite components) fellowship program includes experienced mentorship, and is designed to develop emerging and novice (0-7 years) physical therapist and physical therapist assistant education academic program and residency and fellowship directors with leadership skills to facilitate change, think strategically, and engage in public discourse to advance the physical therapy profession.

    Applicants are selected based on the strength of their application and meeting all eligibility criteria. To learn more about the Education Leadership Institute Fellowship, go to the ELI webpage.

    Considering the fellowship experience? Check out the video testimonials of ELI graduates.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014RSS Feed

    Obamacare Enrollment Period Opens With Moderate Premium Increases, Some Changes to Cost-Sharing

    The November 15 startup of the second open enrollment period for insurance under the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) insurance exchange system is marked by some increases in premiums, and cost-sharing amounts for physical therapy and other services that will generally hold steady—with exceptions that will result in significant increases and decreases in a few cases.

    As reported in Bloomberg.com, the Washington Post, and elsewhere, the average premium for a "silver" plan will rise by 2% in 2015, while the average "bronze" plan increase will be closer to 4%.

    At a more granular level, different parts of the country are seeing more significant increases—and a few reductions. For example, Alaska residents will experience a 28% increase to marketplace premium rates that are already among the highest in the country, while Mississippi residents well see a 19% drop in premium rates for a bronze plan.

    The approved rates released by CMS also contain information on deductibles and cost-sharing increases or decreases, depending on the plan. While there are variations, in general, physical therapists (PTs) can expect to see a continued trend toward higher cost-sharing and more limited participation in narrow networks, said Gillian Leene, senior regulatory affairs specialist at APTA.

    "In 2014, we saw high deductibles and high cost sharing, such as copays and coinsurance, for patients with coverage through the health insurance exchange plans, which in many cases limited access to physical therapist services," she said. "Additionally, many plans sold on the health insurance exchanges are narrowing their provider networks to contain costs and have very limited out-of-network coverage."

    Leene suggested that the startup of the open enrollment period is a good time for PTs to reacquaint themselves with the ACA through APTA's Health Care Reform page, and in particular via the association's series of resource documents titled Making Sense of Health Reform. Topics covered in the series include narrowed networks, cost-sharing, and the grace period. "It's a great way for PTs to understand practical implications and get a few tips on how to mitigate some of these issues," she said.

    Sharing information and experiences is another way to stay on top of health care reform. Members are urged to contact APTA with any issues they're experiencing through the association's feedback form.