IHA Daily Briefing: March 21

In Today’s Issue
AHRQ Safety Program for Telemedicine: Improving Antibiotic Use
Supporting Patients Through Reduced Rx Costs and Services
TJC: Revisions to CAH and Hospital Elements of Performance
FDA Update on Plastic Syringes Made in China
COVID-19 Information 
Briefly Noted
Leading the News

AHRQ Safety Program for Telemedicine: Improving Antibiotic Use
A new quality improvement program, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s “Safety Program for Telemedicine: Improving Antibiotic Use,” is being offered at no cost to help improve patient safety and reduce harm associated with antibiotics. Through monthly 20-minute virtual presentations and support from experts, this program will work with healthcare practices and providers across the country to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use and improve antibiotic prescribing for patients who receive care over telemedicine. 

Benefits of participating include:

  • Improving efficiency and patient satisfaction with antibiotic prescribing, using approaches such as scripting for live and patient portal interactions.

  • Performing better on antibiotic-related quality measures (e.g., Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set [HEDIS], Merit-based Incentive Payment System [MIPS], and The Joint Commission Antimicrobial Stewardship standards).

  • Receiving continuing education credits (CEUs), continuing medical education credits (CMEs), and American Board of Internal Medicine Maintenance of Certification (MOC) points through live and/or self-paced materials.

Click here to register for the program. Interested individuals can learn more at an upcoming informational webinar. Click here to view upcoming dates and times, and to access recordings, transcripts and slides from previous webinars.

IHA’s Midwest Alliance for Patient Safety (MAPS) is leading efforts to prevent medical error through resource sharing, education and data collection/analysis. As a certified Patient Safety Organization (PSO) since 2010, MAPS provides disclosure privileges, confidentiality and protections for reported patient events. Click here to learn more about MAPS benefits and how to become a member.

Supporting Patients Through Reduced Rx Costs and Services
Since pharmaceutical companies began limiting access to lifesaving medications, leaders with Ascension Illinois are seeing a harmful downside for patients. 

Pharmaceutical companies have implemented restrictions that force Ascension Illinois hospitals to select only one contract pharmacy within a defined mileage radius under the federal 340B drug discount program. Many pharmacies that dispense specialty medications are farther than the typically allowed 40-mile radius from the hospitals. As a result, Ascension Illinois hospitals have been restricted from helping patients access critically needed specialty medications at affordable prices.

As part of the 340B program, drugmakers are required to sell prescription drugs to healthcare providers at discounted rates, which hospitals invest in programs and services that benefit patients, along with lowering patient drug costs. Drugmaker restrictions, which began in 2020, have worsened health disparities and overall health for many Illinoisans.

Ascension Illinois hospitals—part of a nonprofit, Catholic health system in Illinois and 18 other states—have used their 340B savings to:

  • Help patients with their prescription drug costs;

  • Assist patients through infusion clinics, specialty pharmacies and retail pharmacies;

  • Provide post-discharge medications at no charge to qualified patients; 

  • Provide post-discharge and chronic disease therapy management to patients, totaling over 10,000 visits annually;

  • Support patients on high-cost, high-acute specialty medications, which has reduced patient out-of-pocket expenses by over $1 million annually;

  • Hold Medical Mission at Home events that provide free medical, vision and dental services to those in need; and

  • Offer the evidence-based Mental Health First Aid training to community partners that work with youth and first responders.

As hospitals have faced increased labor, drug and supply costs in recent years, lost 340B savings are squeezing hospitals even more. For Ascension Illinois hospitals, the 340B program not only helps patients but also enables hospitals to better serve their communities.

IHA is advocating for Senate Bill 3727 to prohibit drugmakers from interfering with hospital pharmacy contracts. See our 340B landing page, “Increasing Access to Affordable Drugs,” for more hospital stories, and an infographic and fact sheet on the impact of drugmaker restrictions.

Contact us with questions.

TJC: Revisions to CAH and Hospital Elements of Performance
Effective July 1, 2024, The Joint Commission (TJC) has announced approved revisions to several Elements of Performance (EPs) for Critical Access Hospitals and hospitals. These revisions maintain consistency between the Critical Access Hospital and hospital accreditation programs, and align the requirements more closely to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Conditions of Participation. The revised requirements address issues related to patient rights and the resolution of complaints. In addition, TJC revised EC.02.02.01, EP 19, for both Critical Access Hospitals and hospitals to clarify that organizations need to account for the disposal of regulated medical waste in their procedures. Issues related to disposal of regulated medical waste will be scored at revised EP 19.

FDA Update on Plastic Syringes Made in China
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a recommendation on Tuesday advising U.S. healthcare organization to immediately transition away from using plastic syringes made by Jiangsu Caina Medical Co. Ltd. and Jiangsu Shenli Medical Production Co. Ltd., unless use of these syringes is absolutely necessary until transition can be completed. The FDA cited potential quality and performance issues due to leaks, breakage and other problems. The recommendations do not apply to glass syringes, pre-filled syringes, or syringes used for oral or topical purposes, the FDA said. 

The agency advised healthcare providers to check the manufacturing location of the syringes by reviewing the labeling and outer packaging, or contacting the supplier or group purchasing organization. The FDA also recommended healthcare organizations use syringes not manufactured in China, and if they only have syringes manufactured in China, then continue to use them as needed until you are able to use alternative syringes and closely monitor for leaks, breakage and other problems. 

COVID-19 Information
The Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) has launched a weekly Infectious Respiratory Disease Surveillance Dashboard that will be updated weekly on Friday. This report provides the public with the latest data on hospital visits, seasonal trends, lab test positivity and demographic data. 

Click here to visit the IDPH COVID-19 resources webpage. IDPH will continue to report the weekly number of people with COVID-19 admitted to hospitals from emergency departments, deaths and vaccinations, with COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus information also reported through the dashboard of the Illinois Wastewater Surveillance System.

Briefly Noted
Black, Asian and Hispanic patient patients are less like to receive an email response from their doctors on an online patient portal, according to a new JAMA Network Open study. AXIOS reported that while only 21.1% of patients in the study were white, they received 46.3% of the responses from attending physicians. Although Black patients were 3.95% less likely to receive a response from the physician, they were about three points more likely to receive a response from a registered nurse. 

Leading the News

At Least 2 State Legislators Lose Their Seats in Primary Election. A Look at the General Assembly Results
WTTW reported (3/20) that, “At least two sitting members of the Illinois state legislature – including the longest-serving member of the General Assembly – won’t be returning to Springfield next year after losing their primary races Tuesday.”

The financial losses for hospitals stemming from Change attack: 5 numbers to know
Becker’s Hospital Review reported (3/20) that, “Hospitals, pharmacies and medical groups nationwide are continuing their efforts to recover from the cyberattack on UnitedHealth Group's Change Healthcare in February.”

The Joint Commission’s 2024 patient safety goals for hospitals
Becker’s Hospital Review reported (3/20) that, “The Joint Commission released a simplified breakdown of eight patient safety goals for hospitals in 2024. The commission published an easy-to-read resource outlining goals for nine sectors of healthcare, including nursing facilities, surgery, hospitals and behavioral care.”