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A doctor residing in The Woodlands has been charged with running a pill mill operation in a case where investigators invoked the Texas Medical Board's pain management rules that took effect in August. Conroe police and the DEA arrested Rezik Saqer, MD, and charged him with 10 counts involving possession and diversion of controlled substances. The authorities say they discovered Dr. Saqer's pill mill operation after a patient to whom he had prescribed painkillers, Ronald Cooper, caused a major traffic accident while under the influence, killing four people. In its press conference announcing the arrest of Dr. Saqer, the DEA referenced TMB's pain management rules, saying Dr. Saqer had not checked the Prescription Access Texas database before issuing a prescription to Cooper. This article will look at the case, its connection to the revised pain management rules, and potentially look at how TMB is working with the DEA to crack down on pill mills.
The beginning of a new year is a good time for physicians and practices to start fresh and be ready for any compliance issues and audits. We'll take a look at what practices need to do to update and customize their policies and procedures manuals, with an emphasis on what entities who perform audits (e.g. payers and government agencies) look for when they do an audit. The article will also tie in the importance of aligning a practice's policies manual with HIPAA concerns, especially in light of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announcing that early next year, it would move forward with its permanent audit program for HIPAA compliance.
Human trafficking is a burgeoning problem both across the United States and in Texas, and there's evidence that many physicians may be missing opportunities to do something about it. Texas is one of the nation's highest-volume states for human trafficking, and national studies have shown that a high percentage of trafficking survivors saw a medical professional at least once while they were in captivity without being identified or receiving proper care. This story will look at the issue and examine what kind of signs physicians can look for to potentially identify victims who come under their care. Melinda McNiel-Lopez, MD, is one physician who has been at the forefront of attempting to fight sexual trafficking in Texas; she's offered insight about what can tip a physician off that there's a trafficking victim in their care.
In a show of support for TMA's hard-fought battles to improve Medicaid, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is seeking TMA's help to further its legislative mandate to simplify the administrative hassles that plague the managed care program. The story highlights the dozen or so recommendations the congress submitted that largely target regulatory changes HHSC can tackle on its own in the short-term, including streamlining enrollment/credentialing processes and the state vendor drug program, stopping recoupments, and promoting care delivery improvements.
In yet another TMA victory, the Texas Legislature for the second session in a row put more money toward expanding graduate medical education (GME) under Senate Bill 18. To help medical schools, hospitals, and other sponsoring institutions partner up and take advantage of the roughly $50 million in new grants, TMA will spearhead a GME forum on Nov. 5 with the Texas Hospital Association and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The story will explain how, thanks to TMA's advocacy, the grant process is much more streamlined than the last round, and prioritizes not just brand new first-year positions, but also continued support for positions created in 2014 and 2015, and hopefully beyond with a permanent ongoing funding source.
As in other areas of quality improvement, TMA physicians are taking charge of patient safety, specifically when it comes to informed consent. Members of TMA's Subcommittee on Transfusion and Transplantation noticed the state consent forms for blood transfusion were outdated, and the group's recommendations were instrumental in changes made by the Texas Medical Disclosure Panel, the state regulatory body overseeing informed consent for medical treatments. We'll also highlight available physician resources, including tips from Parkland's experience on digitizing informed consent to help doctors streamline their legal obligations and focus more on their patients.
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