July Texas Medicine Stories

Counterfeiters Stealing Drugs, Demand for Telemedicine Increasing Among Top Stories 

 

July 10, 2014 

Counterfeiters stealing drugs (and a potential 21st-century solution), telemedicine helping doctors care for rural patients, and improving patients’ health understanding highlight July’s Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Texas Medicine magazine, the association’s official publication.

A Necessary Pain: E-prescribing Controlled Substances Is Worth It
Criminals recently counterfeited a Houston-area physician’s prescription pad and falsely prescribed schedule II controlled substances, like narcotic pain pills — in the physician’s name. Eventually one alert pharmacist noticed a discrepancy and flagged the doctor about the crime. The physician, Cheryl White, MD, is still seeking help from government regulatory officials and law enforcement to solve this mess. She says about 75 people across Texas have filled prescriptions illegally using her name since May.

Worst of all, Dr. White says, she can’t make it stop because going through government channels to do so means denying her real patients their urgently needed pain medications. Government agencies that oversee these prescribing privileges take weeks to reissue new credentials for her to prescribe these controlled medicines. “I have cancer patients and cannot potentially suspend their treatment for several weeks,” the physician says. One possible solution to close the loophole on this crime is electronic prescribing. Physicians say the practice is difficult and costly to adopt, but it shows promise and would dodge crafty criminals like the ones the Houston-area physician encountered.

Digital Doctor: As Telemedicine Evolves, So Do Policies Aiming to Ensure Patient Safety
Imagine “visiting” the doctor via video, similar to a Skype call. Some physicians currently use telemedicine — in which physicians and health care providers use electronic communication tools to care for patients — and it’s growing more common. James Luecke, MD, credits telemedicine with helping save the life of a baby he was delivering in tiny Alpine, Texas, where a specialist miles away was only available by telemedicine. Physicians, patients, and policymakers alike recognize telemedicine can help improve access to care — especially for patients who are miles from the doctor. TMA wants to make sure patient safety is paramount in this practice, and the first step is establishing a proper patient-physician relationship: The physician first must see the patient face-to-face.

The More Your Patients Know: Institute Promotes Texans’ Health Literacy
Slightly more than one in 10 people are estimated to have a “below basic” understanding of health care. Underinformed patients and ineffective health care communication contribute to poor health outcomes and cost billions of dollars in wasteful health care spending each year. Patrick Carter, MD, who serves on the TMA Council on Legislation and the Texas Institute of Health Care Quality and Efficiency, says, “The more people know about health care, the more they will be able to be an important part of the decisionmaking.” From focusing on clear explanations to taking walks, this article explores some TMA physician initiatives to improve the health — and understanding — of Texans.

Lifting the Veil: Price Transparency Efforts Target Physicians
How much does a medical procedure or a physician’s treatment actually cost? Unlike most business environments, physicians typically do not determine how much patients pay for their care. Instead other factors like health insurance regulations, insurance contract rates, and deductibles, as well as the patient’s condition, largely determine patients’ out-of-pocket costs. Pricing is complex: Doctors have a set price (their “billed charge”) for different care services, though few patients actually pay that amount. TMA Board of Trustees member Gary W. Floyd, MD, says even he has a hard time determining what his patients’ costs are — a far cry from when his 1980s pediatric practice charged $12 for a new patient visit and the patients settled up with their insurance company. TMA officials say physicians must participate in efforts to increase health billing transparency to ensure system-wide changes are beneficial to patients.

Please visit the TMA website to start reading. 

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 47,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 112 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.

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Contact: Pam Udall
phone: (512) 370-1382
cell: (512) 413-6807
Pam Udall 

Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320
Brent Annear


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