Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Final Recommendation Statement: Screening for Colorectal Cancer

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released their final recommendation statement on screening for colorectal cancer. The Task Force now recommends that screening start at age 45. The Task Force continues to strongly recommend screening people who are 50 to 75 years old. For adults 76 to 85, the Task Force continues to recommend that the decision to screen be made on an individual basis. To view the recommendation, the evidence and modeling on which it is based, and a summary for clinicians, please go here. The final recommendation statement can also be found in the May 18, 2021 online issue of JAMA.

AMA Releases Virtual Care Framework Document

The American Medical Association (AMA), in partnership with the professional services firm Manatt Health, published a framework this week aimed at examining the benefits generated by virtual care. According to the organizations, the Return on Health initiative is aimed at understanding the value of digitally enabled care beyond dollars and cents alone. Stakeholders and decision-makers have held a magnifying glass up to the value of virtual care, and especially telehealth, as they continue to weigh regulations around its future. This new framework stresses the importance of looking beyond monetary returns on investment. Instead, it describes six distinct value streams:

  • Clinical outcomes, quality and safety
  • Access to care
  • Patient and family experience
  • Clinician experience
  • Financial and operational impact
  • Health equity

The authors note that several environmental variables can impact those value streams, including type of practice, payment arrangement, patient population, clinical use case and virtual care modality.

Many Dental Hygienists Still Off the Job

Approximately six percent of dental hygienists who had been employed were not working as of March, a slight improvement over the prior few months, according to a webinar hosted by the American Dental Association and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) on May 4. That’s 1 in 16 dental hygienists still not working due to COVID-19. Many hygienists continue not to work due to general concerns about SARS-CoV-2 or a lack of childcare, said Rachel Morrissey, an ADA Health Policy Institute research analyst. In February, the ADHA released studies showing that COVID-19 pushed about eight percent of hygienists out of the workforce and warned that a shortage of these team members would likely exist until the pandemic was over.

SAMHSA to Provide $3 Billion in State Block Grants to Support Behavioral Health

Modern Healthcare reported on May 18, 2021, that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) plans to allocate $3 billion in block grants to help states provide community-based mental health services, enhance existing services for individuals with severe mental health conditions, and improve substance use disorder prevention and treatment. The funding was included in the $1.9 trillion American Relief Plan Act Congress passed in March.

New Report Envisions Rebuilding Primary Care

With support from HRSA, the National Academy of Medicine produced a new report, “Implementing High-Quality Primary Care: Rebuilding the Foundation of Health Care.” Authors studied the state of primary care today and developed an implementation plan that builds upon the recommendations of a 1996 report and strengthens primary care services in the U.S., especially for underserved populations. This page lists upcoming webinars and links to the report itself. You can also watch a recent webinar featuring the authors.

Dr. Fauci: Americans’ “Misinterpreting” New Rules

Dr. Anthony Fauci told Axios during a virtual event that many Americans are “misinterpreting” the CDC’s new mask guidance, which lets vaccinated individuals forego masks indoors. “I think people are misinterpreting, thinking that this is a removal of a mask mandate for everyone. It’s not. It’s an assurance to those who are vaccinated that they can feel safe, be they outdoors or indoors. It’s not their fault,” Fauci added. “People either read them quickly or listen and hear half of it. They are feeling that we’re saying: ‘You don’t need the mask anymore.’ That’s not what the CDC said. They said: If you are vaccinated, you can feel safe — that you will not get infected either outdoors or indoors. It did not explicitly say that unvaccinated people should abandon their masks.” Fauci also said Americans will likely need a COVID-19 vaccine booster: “I think we will almost certainly require a booster sometime within a year or so, after getting the primary [shot], because the durability of protection against coronaviruses is generally not lifelong.”

PA Department of State Cautions on Impact if Emergency Disaster Declaration Ends

The Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS), under which the health and other professional licensure boards fall, says it has received many questions from licensed professionals about what happens to the licensing waivers if the COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration is ended. DOS has issued nearly 100 temporary waivers under authority granted by the Governor’s declaration of a disaster emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. The goal with these waivers was to respond to the extraordinary circumstances of the last year by allowing licensees to continue practicing or training in their professions. DOS accomplished this by temporarily eliminating several administrative barriers, such as allowing for online distance learning to qualify for continuing education credits, extending licensing renewal deadlines and permitting additional medical professionals to participate in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Per DOS, when the disaster declaration ends, the authority to grant these waivers will expire and they will no longer be in effect. For example, if you are a medical practitioner using telemedicine for patient appointments, you may not be able to continue that practice when the temporary waiver no longer exists. Or, if you are a dentist, podiatrist or respiratory therapist who has been given authority to administer COVID-19 vaccines under the DOS waivers, that authority will expire, and you will no longer be able to assist in the vaccination effort. With Gov. Wolf’s renewal yesterday of the disaster declaration, all waivers currently remain in effect.

HRSA Determines Six Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Are in Violation of the 340B Statute

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa sent letters to six pharmaceutical manufacturers stating that HRSA has determined that their policies that place restrictions on 340B Program pricing to covered entities that dispense medications through pharmacies under contract have resulted in overcharges and are in direct violation of the 340B statute. The 340B Program Ceiling Price and Civil Monetary Penalties final rule states that any manufacturer participating in the 340B Program that knowingly and intentionally charges a covered entity more than the ceiling price for a covered outpatient drug may be subject to a Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) not to exceed $5,000 for each instance of overcharging. Assessed CMPs would be in addition to repayment for an instance of overcharging.

PA Voters First in Nation to Restrict Governor’s Emergency Powers

May 18 was primary election day in Pennsylvania. Key in this election were the ballot questions, two of which will change the way disaster emergency declarations work in the commonwealth. The two, separate ballot questions will insert into the Pennsylvania Constitution provisions that: (1) limit disaster emergency declarations to no more than 21 days; and (2) prevent the governor from issuing a new disaster emergency declaration “based upon the same or substantially similar facts and circumstances” without the passage of a concurrent resolution by the General Assembly expressly approving the new disaster emergency declaration. Results show that both ballot questions were passed to provide the power to the legislature, instead of the Governor. We do not know how soon after the election is certified that these new rules go into effect and what the outcome will be. On May 7, 2021, the governor renewed his Proclamation of Disaster Emergency due to the opioid crisis for 90 days. The Governor renewed the emergency declaration for another 90 days this week. The renewal carries with it the power to waive certain requirements, such as those that made visits via telehealth possible during the public health emergency. Click here for the election results.