American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Practice briefs

From the March 1999 ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright 1999 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

Subspecialty certification exam registration due April 1

If you are planning to take the 1999 American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) subspecialty certification examinations, you must register by April 1.

Tests will be given Nov. 3 in clinical cardiac electrophysiology; critical care medicine; endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism; gastroenterology; geriatric medicine; hematology; infectious disease; interventional cardiology; medical oncology; nephrology; pulmonary disease; and rheumatology.

The cardiovascular disease exam is scheduled for Nov. 3-4, and the certification examination for added qualifications in adolescent medicine will be administered Nov. 15.

The recertification examination will be held Nov. 3. In order to be eligible to sit for the test, diplomates must return all their required at-home modules to ABIM by Aug. 1 and submit their recertification final examination application by Sept. 1.

For more information, contact ABIM at 800-441-2246 or send an e-mail to request@abim.org.

New practice guidelines clearinghouse now on the Web

A new Web site sponsored by the federal government offers an up-to-date collection of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.

The National Guideline Clearinghouse (www.guideline.gov) summarizes the recommendations of hundreds of clinical practice guidelines and grades the level of evidence on which they are based. Guidelines listed on the site were produced by physician specialty groups, medical societies, managed care plans, state and federal organizations and others. The clearinghouse was produced by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research in conjunction with the AMA and the American Association of Health Plans.

Tips on office safety available

A new publication can help doctors and their office staff make their practices safer.

"Special Report: Physician Office Safety Guide" includes sample forms, checklists, and policies and procedures to meet governmental record-keeping requirements about hazardous incidents, infection control, medical device maintenance and safety and more.

The guide was produced by ECRI, a nonprofit health services research agency. For information, call ECRI at 610-825-6000, ext. 145.

Registration for ECG exam due April 23

Physicians interested in taking the Institute for Clinical Evaluation (ICE) ECG skills exam must register by April 23.

The exam is designed to measure the skills of physicians in reading and interpreting ECGs. Participants who pass the exam receive a credential signifying that they have met the ECG interpretation skill level established by ICE.

ICE is a nonprofit educational organization created by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation to improve the quality of health care by recognizing competence in specific procedural and cognitive skills.

The exam, which costs $550, is scheduled for May 22. For additional information, call 888-423-2007 or www.abim.org/ice.

New resource for job hunting

The Medical Group Management Association now lists job opportunities for physicians on a new Web site.

The Interactive Career Opportunity Network, which is free to job-seekers, features an online database of job listings posted by group practices and other health care organizations. Physicians can browse job listings by state, region or specialty and reply either via e-mail or telephone. More than 1,100 job listings have been placed on the site since it began.

Physicians can access the site on the Web at www.mgmaicon.com.

New brochure demystifies medical jargon

The Medical Library Association has released a brochure to help patients better understand medical jargon.

"Deciphering Medspeak" defines more than 100 medical terms and a list of abbreviations that physicians use for prescription drugs. The goal is to help consumers better understand articles in medical journals and advice from physicians. The brochure also offers tips on how to identify quality medical information on the Internet.

Single copies of the brochure are free; a pack of 50 costs $16.50 plus shipping and handling. To place an order, call 312-419-9094, ext. 19.

Medicare HMOs score well in satisfaction, preventive medicine

According to data HCFA recently released on the Web, Medicare HMOs and their physicians appear to be satisfying most seniors and embracing preventive strategies like mammograms and beta-blocker therapies.

In patient satisfaction surveys of more than 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries and their families enrolled in Medicare HMOs, HCFA asked beneficiaries to rank their health plans on a scale of one to 10. Almost half of those surveyed gave their health plan a 10, and another third gave their plan an eight or nine. In addition, nearly 70% of respondents said that their doctors "always" communicate well and 23% said that their doctors "usually" communicate well.

In related news, data collected as part of HCFA's Consumer Assessment of Health Plans project show that Medicare HMOs appear to be using preventive strategies to keep their seniors healthy. Approximately three-quarters of women between the ages of 52 and 69 enrolled in a managed care plan in 1996 and 1997 had at least one mammogram. Three-fourths of beneficiaries 35 years of age and older who survived a heart attack in 1997 and were eligible for beta-blocker therapy received a beta-blocker prescription when they were discharged from the hospital. In addition, half of all beneficiaries age 31 and older with diabetes received an eye exam in 1997.

HCFA plans to update both patient satisfaction results and performance measures throughout the year. For more updates and more detailed data, go to the Medicare Web site at www.medicare.gov.

AHCPR releases guide to quality

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) has released a new guide to help patients and their families make decisions about health care based on quality.

"Your Guide to Choosing Quality Health Care" is a 52-page book that takes users step-by-step through the process. It offers tips on how to choose a doctor, a hospital and a health plan, and also contains information on how to choose treatments and long-term care.

The book is available on the Web at www.ahcpr.gov.

New publication seeks to curb medication errors

In an effort to reduce the risk of medication errors, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has published a book geared to doctors and allied professionals.

"Medication Use: A Systems Approach to Reducing Errors" is a compilation of articles that describe how hospitals and other organizations can use data collection and monitoring methods to prevent medication errors.

According to David W. Bates, FACP, chief of general internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and one of the book's contributors, there are 6.5 adverse drug events for every 100 hospital admissions.

The book costs $40. To order, call JCAHO at 630-792-5800 and refer to order code MU-100.

New publication explains vaccine reporting system

A new publication from MedWatch, the FDA's medical products reporting program, gives physicians information on how they can help track and report problems with vaccines.

"Post-marketing surveillance for adverse events after vaccination" provides detailed information on how to use the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The program accepts voluntary reports from health professionals, vaccine manufacturers and the public on adverse events suspected with any U.S.- licensed vaccine.

The monitoring system and its database receive 12,000 adverse event reports every year. VAERS data have been used to identify rare events, the safety of newly marketed vaccines and the lot numbers associated with increased adverse events.

The publication, which is available on the MedWatch Web site (www.fda.gov/medwatch) has been approved for one hour of category 1 continuing medical education credit.

To report a drug event to VAERS, call 800-822-7967 or send e-mail to vaers@cais.com. Forms for written reports are available on the Web at www.fda.gov/cber/.

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