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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it is returning Medical Professionals currently serving Unions to serving Veterans

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it is returning Medical Professionals currently serving Unions to serving Veterans




    (November 8, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published (today) the following information:

    Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it will be moving nearly 430 medical professionals from taxpayer-funded union work back to health care jobs serving Veterans.

    The move, which will improve VA’s ability to deliver health care to Veteran patients, will take effect Nov. 15 when VA repudiates certain provisions of master collective bargaining agreements VA accepted during the Obama administration with the following unions: American Federation of Government Employees, National Federation of Federal Employees, National Association of Government Employees and National Nurses United.

    VA has a separate employment system under title 38 of the U.S. Code for medical employees. The repudiation will apply to all of VA’s nearly 104,000 title 38 employees, eliminating all forms of taxpayer-funded union work for the following professions:
    • Physician
    • Dentist
    • Podiatrist
    • Chiropractor
    • Optometrist
    • Registered Nurse
    • Physician assistant
    • Expanded-Duty Dental Auxiliary
    “It’s common sense,” VA Acting Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd said. “Allowing health care workers to do taxpayer-funded union work instead of serving Veterans impacts patient care negatively. President Trump has made it clear – VA employees should always put Veterans first. And when we hire medical professionals to take care of Veterans, that’s what they should do at all times. No excuses, no exceptions.”

    As an example of the negative effect taxpayer-funded union time has on Veteran care, one VA registered nurse who was elected as a local union official receives 100 percent taxpayer funded union time. Although she no longer provides patient care, she continues to receive a nurse’s salary, which at VA averages more than $90,000 per year.

    Department-wide in fiscal year 2016, VA employees spent more than a million hours doing taxpayer-funded union work at a total cost of more than $49 million.

    VA is in the process of renegotiating several of VA’s national collective bargaining agreements to ensure official time allocations are putting Veterans first. The negotiations are guided by federal law that permits VA to set taxpayer-funded union work (also known as official time) amounts contractually that are reasonable, necessary and in the public interest.




    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs...
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  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Selects Pilot Projects to Demonstrate Better Approach to Disaster Medical Care

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Selects Pilot Projects to Demonstrate Better Approach to Disaster Medical Care




    (September 27, 2018) - - Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published the following information:

    In a disaster, thousands of Americans may require immediate medical specialty care, surpassing the care available in the community. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) today awarded two $3 million grants to demonstrate how a new Regional Disaster Health Response System could meet these needs, including trauma, burn or other specialty care, during a national emergency and save more lives.

    “Our nation faces real and serious threats that represent a looming risk to healthcare delivery,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Robert Kadlec. “This system offers a powerful way to form alliances and build specialized capabilities that save more lives in overwhelming, catastrophic emergencies. The system draws on the existing U.S. healthcare infrastructure, pulling together private sector and federal resources in a way that has never been done. I encourage all healthcare delivery facilities and providers to get involved.”

    Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, received the grants from ASPR’s Hospital Preparedness Program to conduct pilot projects that show the potential effectiveness and viability of a Regional Disaster Health Response System.

    The Regional Disaster Health Response System will build on local health care coalitions and trauma centers, creating a tiered system of disaster care. The system will integrate local medical response capabilities with emergency medical services, burn centers, pediatric hospitals, labs, and outpatient services, to meet the overwhelming health care needs created by disasters.

    More than 31,000 health care organizations participate in health care coalitions nationwide, which are funded by the Hospital Preparedness Program. Coalitions create partnerships among health care facilities and providers in communities, primarily from the private sector, to prepare for disasters and respond.

    In demonstrating a Regional Disaster Health Response System, each pilot project must:
    • build a partnership for disaster health response to support clinical specialty care;
    • align plans, policies, and procedures for clinical excellence in disasters;
    • increase state-wide and regional medical surge capacity;
    • improve state-wide and regional situational awareness, such as the availability of hospital beds; and
    • develop metrics and test the regional system’s capabilities.

    Nebraska Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital were selected from among 19 applicants nationwide by a panel of experts from professional associations, academia, and federal agencies.



    Courtesy: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs SAIL Report Scorecard Shows Majority of VA Medical Centers have Improved Over Past Year in Quality of Services Provided to Veterans

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs SAIL Report Scorecard Shows Majority of VA Medical Centers have Improved Over Past Year in Quality of Services Provided to Veterans



    Washington, DC - - (September 18, 2018) - - Using a web-based report scorecard that measures, evaluates and benchmarks quality and efficiency at its medical centers, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently released data that showed significant improvements at the majority of its health care facilities.

    Compared with data from the same period a year ago, the July 2018 release of VA’s Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning (SAIL) report showed 103 (71 percent) VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) have improved in overall quality — with the largest gains seen in areas where there were VA-wide improvement initiatives, such as mortality, length of stay and avoidable adverse events. Seven (5 percent) VAMCs had a small decrease in quality.

    “This is a major step in the right direction to improving our quality of services for our Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Over the past year, we were able to identify our problems and implement solutions to fixing the issues at 71 percent of our facilities. I’m extremely proud of our employees and the progress they have made to raise VA’s performance for our nation’s heroes.”

    Additionally, of the 15 medical centers placed under the Strategic Action for Transformation program (StAT), an initiative that monitors high-risk medical centers and mobilizes resources to assist the facilities, 33 percent (five medical centers) are no longer considered high-risk and 73 percent (11 medical centers) show meaningful improvements since being placed under StAT in January 2018.

    The quarterly SAIL report, which has been released publicly since 2015, assesses 25 quality metrics and two efficiency and productivity metrics in areas such as death rate, complications and patient satisfaction, as well as overall efficiency and physician capacity at 146 VAMCs. It is used as an internal learning tool for VA leaders and personnel to pinpoint and study VAMCs with high quality and efficiency scores, both within specific measured areas and overall. The data is also used to identify best practices and develop strategies to help troubled facilities improve.





    Courtesy: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Wilkie meets with leaders at Washington DC VA Medical Center

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Wilkie meets with leaders at Washington DC VA Medical Center


    Receives update on progress and game plan for facility improvements in Veterans’ care



    Washington, DC - - (August 6, 2018) - - Today, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie visited the Washington DC VA Medical Center (VAMC), where he met with facility and regional leaders and received updates on recent progress in Veterans’ care and plans for further improvements at the facility.

    Of the 25 recommendations made to the facility in a recent Inspector General report, the facility announced it has addressed or resolved six, and is working to resolve the remaining 19.

    The DC VAMC has now put in place changes/improvements in six broad areas:
    • Bringing in skilled leaders in quality improvement, purchasing, a new deputy chief of staff and others;
    • Assuring reliable availability and sterilization of instruments for surgical procedures;
    • Establishing and maintaining an electronic inventory to identify needed equipment rapidly and in a timely fashion;
    • Implementing financial controls for purchasing supplies to maximize use of taxpayer dollars;
    • Building and maintaining effective systems that facilitate audit of current and future progress;
    • Assuring timely access to Veteran appointments, particularly in prosthetics.

    VA has identified a new permanent director for the facility, who will be announced and begin serving there in the near future. In the interim, VA announced that, beginning in two weeks, DC VAMC Chief of Staff Charles Faselis will serve as acting director of the facility. The current acting director, Adam M. Robinson Jr., will return to his previous position as director of the VA Maryland Health Care System.

    “We had a good visit today, and I appreciated hearing from facility and regional leadership on the important work that has been done to address the Inspector General’s concerns, as well as plans for resolving all its remaining recommendations,” Secretary Wilkie said. “There have been substantial improvements over the past few months in practice management, logistics and prosthetics in particular, and leaders have a strong plan ahead for even more progress in the coming weeks.”



    Courtesy: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • Veteran Affairs VEText System Transforming VA’s Medical Scheduling Process

    Veteran Affairs VEText System Transforming VA’s Medical Scheduling Process


    Text messaging improves access, reducing thousands of missed appointments


    July 24, 2018



    Washington, DC - - (July 17, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently launched VEText, a text messaging appointment-reminder system, which to date has helped VA reduce no-show medical visits by more than 100,000.

    VA introduced VEText in March and 138 VA facilities are currently using the automated interactive text-message system, which reminds Veterans of upcoming health-care appointments, allowing them easily to confirm or cancel the event.

    “Every missed appointment represents a lost opportunity to provide faster access to care for a Veteran in need,” said VA’s Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke. “VEText underscores VA’s commitment to digital modernization and represents a milestone in putting more user-friendly capabilities in the hands of Veterans and our employees.”

    According to the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) Office of Veterans Access to Care, as of July 9, more than 3.24 million patients have received VEText messages and canceled 319,504 appointments, freeing up time slots for other Veterans to use.

    Veterans who have previously used the VA health-care system — with a cell phone number listed in their electronic health records — are automatically enrolled in VEText. Veterans can update their phone numbers during the check-in or check-out process for an appointment, at any kiosk.

    VEText is integrated with VA’s electronic health-records system and does not require manual action by VA staff. Appointments are automatically scheduled and canceled via text message, freeing staff to provide more personalized care to Veterans.

    “VEText has changed the way we communicate with our Veteran patients,” said John Ullyot, VA Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. “Veterans appreciate the convenient, user-friendly system and understand this technology not only helps them, but their fellow Veterans as well.”

    For more information about VEText, visit: https://www.va.gov/HEALTH/VEText.asp.





    Courtesy: U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
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  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration Launches Innovation Challenge to Spur Development of Medical Devices

    As Part of Efforts to Combat Opioid Crisis, FDA Launches Innovation Challenge to Spur Development of Medical Devices ‒ including Digital Health and Diagnostics ‒ that Target Pain, Addiction and Diversion


    Agency will work closely with selected applicants to accelerate product development



    (May 30, 2018) - - Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the following information:

    As part of the agency’s ongoing commitment to address the epidemic of opioid misuse and abuse, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today launched an innovation challenge to spur the development of medical devices, including digital health technologies and diagnostic tests that could provide novel solutions to detecting, treating and preventing addiction, addressing diversion and treating pain.

    Despite recent advances in some of these areas, there are still many opportunities to advance new technologies and bring new products to market to meet this urgent public health need. This challenge will provide those companies that are selected by the FDA under this new program with the opportunity to work closely with the agency to accelerate the development and review of their innovative products. The goal is to provide additional incentives for product developers to invest in products that can address aspects of the addiction crisis, and advance the development of promising technologies.

    “Medical devices, including digital health devices like mobile medical apps, have the potential to play a unique and important role in tackling the opioid crisis. We must advance new ways to find tools to help address the human and financial toll of opioid addiction,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “For example, better medical devices that can effectively address local pain syndromes can, in some cases, supplant the use of systemic opioids. This can help reduce overall use of opioids. This innovation challenge is an example of the FDA’s commitment to an all-of-the-above approach to confront the opioid epidemic, including helping those currently addicted to opioids and preventing new cases of addiction. We’re hopeful that in collaborating with public health-minded innovators, we can identify and accelerate the development of new technologies, whether a device, diagnostic test, mobile medical app, or even new clinical decision support software, that can contribute in novel and effective ways to help reduce the scope of this crisis.”

    The agency is encouraging developers to submit proposals. These could include products such as diagnostics to identify patients at increased risk for addiction, treatments for pain that eliminate the need for opioid analgesics (such as opioid-sparing or replacement therapies for acute or chronic pain), treatments for opioid use disorder or symptoms of opioid withdrawal, as well as devices or technologies that can prevent diversion of prescription opioids.

    This new challenge is open to products in any stage of development, from concept to testing. The challenge also is open to developers of currently marketed devices who are interested in demonstrating that their device has an improved benefit-risk profile as compared to opioids in the management of pain.

    The FDA will accept submissions from June 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2018, and intends to announce the selected applicants in November 2018. Submissions will be evaluated by a team from the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health based on the product’s feasibility, potential public health impact, and novelty of the concept.

    Developers accepted into the challenge will receive enhanced interactions with FDA review divisions during the development and evaluation of the proposed product. In addition, Breakthrough Device designation will be granted to those devices that meet the statutory criteria for designation without submission of a separate application. In most cases,

    the agency anticipates that applicants will eventually submit one or more formal applications to the FDA, such as an investigational device exemption, De Novo, premarket clearance (510(k)) or premarket approval application.

    “This new effort builds on the success of previous work to take a collaborative approach to promoting medical device innovation and safety, such as the 2012 challenge that led to multiple new approaches to treat life-threatening, end-stage renal disease,” said Jeff Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “The FDA stands ready to provide significant assistance and expedite premarket review of applications to help bring innovative devices that, if properly instituted, could help those at risk for addiction or treat those who might develop opioid use disorder. We also hope that in turn these novel products may also help pave the way for the development of future products that build on the latest technologies.”

    In the past few years, the FDA has cleared, granted, or approved more than 200 devices related to the treatment or management of pain, including 10 with new or novel technologies, such as brain and spinal cord stimulators that can relieve pain and reduce the need to administer opioid drugs to patients suffering from either acute or chronic pain. The FDA also recently granted a new indication to an electric stimulation device for use in helping to reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

    This innovation challenge is part of the FDA’s ongoing work to reduce the scope of the opioid crisis and supports several overarching goals of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Five-Point Strategy to Combat the Opioid Crisis. The FDA remains committed to addressing the national crisis of opioid addiction on all fronts, with a significant focus on decreasing exposure to opioids and preventing new addiction; supporting the treatment of those with opioid use disorder; fostering the development of novel pain treatment therapies and opioids more resistant to abuse and misuse; and taking action against those who contribute to the illegal importation and sale of opioid products. The FDA will also continue to evaluate how drugs currently on the market are used, in both medical and illicit settings, and take action where needed.

    The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.



    About the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
    The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.
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  • U.S. Veterans Administration Introduces New Feature That Allows Veterans to Securely Access Medical Images Online

    U.S. Veterans Administration Introduces New Feature That Allows Veterans to Securely Access Medical Images Online



    Washington, DC - - (April 30, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently released a new online feature through the My HealtheVet portal that allows Veterans to access their medical images and associated study reports online.

    Called VA Medical Images and Reports, the feature allows Veterans with a premium account to view, download and share copies of their radiology studies, such as X-rays, mammograms, MRIs and CTs, from the VA Electronic Health Record (EHR).

    “With VA Medical Images and Reports, patients have the option of obtaining their images and reports online, eliminating the need to visit a VA facility to acquire a copy of their information,” said VA Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie. “This feature aligns with VA Blue Button’s concept, which simplifies patient access to their personal health information by allowing them to retrieve it securely online.”

    Veterans can view a list of accessible radiology studies, which are available in My HealtheVet, three calendar days after the study report has been verified. When a request for a specific study is completed, Veterans can view a lower resolution thumbnail copy of the images and the associated radiology report online, or download a zip file that contains the report and diagnostic quality images.

    For studies with large files, Veterans can choose to receive an email notification when the download request is complete.

    To view diagnostic quality (Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine or DICOM) images, Veterans may install a free medical image viewer on their computer to view DICOM image files. The images and reports may be copied to a CD, DVD, USB flash drive, or any portable drive of their choice to share with providers, both outside of VA and across VA settings of care.
    ...
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  • Three Individuals Plead Guilty in $55 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme at Two Brooklyn Medical Clinics

    Three Individuals Plead Guilty in $55 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme at Two Brooklyn Medical Clinics





    January 30, 2017


    New York, NY - - (January 27, 2017) - - Three individuals pleaded guilty this week in connection with a health care fraud scheme involving two Brooklyn, New York clinics that caused approximately $55 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid.

    Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York, Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) New York Regional Office, Acting Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Enstrom of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) New York Office and Medicaid Inspector General Dennis Rosen of New York State Office of Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG), made the announcement.

    Olga Proskurovsky, 49, and Yuriy Omelchenko, 49, both of Brooklyn, New York, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Pursuant to their plea agreements, the defendants agreed to forfeiture money judgments in the amount of $17,216,687. Isak Aharanov, 42, of Brooklyn, New York, also pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. The defendants pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf of the Eastern District of New York.

    According to the defendants’ admissions made as part of the plea agreements, Proskurovsky served as a medical biller and Omelchenko worked as a therapist manager at Prime Care on the Bay LLC (Prime Care) and Bensonhurst Mega Medical Care P.C. (Bensonhurst). The defendants admitted that they assisted in a scheme to defraud the Medicare and Medicaid programs in which patients subjected themselves to medically unnecessary health services, including physical and occupational therapy, provided by unlicensed staff. To conceal the scheme, Proskurovsky and Omelchenko admitted that occupational and physical therapists falsified patient charts and medical billing documents.

    As part of his plea agreement, Aharanov admitted that he and co-conspirators paid patients in order to induce them to come to Prime Care, Bensonhurst and Total Rehab and Physical Therapy P.C. Aharanov further admitted that he used a bank account opened in the name of one of his companies to launder funds and generate the cash needed to make these illegal kickback payments.

    Fifteen other individuals have pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme.

    HHS-OIG, IRS-CI and the New York State OMIG investigated the case, which was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Trial Attorneys A. Brendan Stewart and Richard A. Powers of the Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney F. Turner Buford of the Eastern District of New York, formerly a Fraud Section trial attorney, prosecuted the case.

    The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 3,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $11 billion. In addition, HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.



    Information source: U.S. Department of Justice...
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