It's Academic

September 2015 


New Funding Source for GME in Texas

Texas legislators this year created a permanent fund for graduate medical education (GME) expansions. Senate Bill 18 is the omnibus bill for GME expansion grant programs for the 2016-17 state biennium, which began Sept. 1. Among various provisions for funding GME expansions, the bill creates a special fund in the treasury outside the General Revenue fund. The fund will be composed of:    

  • Money transferred or appropriated by the Texas Legislature, 
  • Contributed gifts and grants, and 
  • The returns received from investment of monies.    

SB 18 directs the Texas Department of Insurance to complete an actuarial study of the state’s Medical Liability Insurance Joint Underwriting Association (JUA) by Dec. 1. The Texas Legislature established JUA in 1975 as an affordable alternative for physicians, licensed medical providers, and facilities unable to obtain reasonably priced coverage in the standard liability insurance market. 

The study will determine the assets necessary for JUA to meet known and unknown insurance claims and costs associated with those claims, and JUA administrative expenses, including liabilities for employee retirement plans. If the actuarial study identifies excess funds, JUA will have 60 days to transfer those funds to the permanent GME fund. 

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board can use the permanent GME fund only to support residency positions created through the state’s GME expansion grant programs. TMA has long supported a permanent fund for GME, and this is a significant milestone in the state’s support for GME. Look for more information on progress toward establishing the permanent fund in future issues of It’s Academic.                     

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2015 Application Cycle for TMA Award for Academic Excellence Began Sept. 1

TMA knows the difference a good educator makes in the life of a physician. The association is asking for your help in recognizing physicians who excel in teaching. Consider applying for TMA’s award program or nominating a leader or colleague. 

The program is scaled across four levels to provide recognition throughout your career, starting with the Bronze level and culminating with the Platinum level. The Platinum Award winner is selected each year from the Gold recipients and receives a $5,000 cash award. The TMA Foundation generously provides award monies.

On TMA’s website, you will find everything you need, from a description of the eligibility criteria for each award level, to the forms you can use to apply or nominate a leader or colleague. TMA will invite qualified nominees to apply for an award.

Help us recognize physicians who make a difference in the lives of other physicians and who prepare our next generation of doctors. 

Important deadlines: If you are applying yourself, the 2015 application cycle runs from Sept. 1 through Dec. 7, 2015. If you are nominating someone else for this cycle, the deadline is Nov. 13. TMA accepts nominations year-round, but nominees are bound by the annual application cycle deadlines. 

If you have questions, call the TMA Knowledge Center at (800) 880-7955, 8:15 am-5:15 pm CT, and ask for the Medical Education Department, or send an email to  

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 How to Deal With Negative Reviews and Protect Your Practice’s Online Reputation

A great online review can help attract new patients to your practice and can help build trust among potential patients. What happens, however, when your online reputation is not all you want it to be? Make no mistake: Patients not only are turning to online sources when it comes to health care matters but also are using these sources when making key decisions about seeking care. 

One study found that 48 percent of patients surveyed used doctor ratings and other online health-related reviews, with about 68 percent of those patients saying the reviews made an impact on where they decided to get care. Negative reviews can have a grave impact on the ability of physicians and practices to attract and keep patients.  

Some physicians consider suing for defamation when patients leave negative comments online, while others consider simply ignoring the problem. Both responses potentially can create problems. Lawsuits can be expensive and may not fix negative reviews, while simply ignoring the problem can hurt your online reputation. What can you or your busy practice do about comments on social media websites, review sites, and other online platforms?  

  1. Lead the conversation; don’t react to it.
    Your professional online identity is an extension of your practice. Projecting an image of knowledge and trust means tailoring all your messages that way. Properly done, your online presence can establish you as an expert. But what do you do about a negative comment from a patient? You may think that responding to a negative comment is necessary to defend your integrity, but there are important legal reasons for not doing so.

    In other industries, complaints can be directly rebutted, but in medicine, even if a patient self-disclosed medical information online, physicians are still bound by patient confidentiality. Even acknowledging that a negative commenter is a patient is a HIPAA violation. As such, it’s best to avoid responding to negative comments to remain HIPAA-compliant.   

  1. Track what others say about you online.
    Your online reputation is too important to ignore. Regularly use Google Alerts and Google searches to find out what people are saying about you and your practice online. Keep in mind that current and potential patients are likely using Google or sites like RateMDs to find out more about you. Make sure you know what they are finding when they look. If you have little time to devote to this, there are online relationship management and PR services that will track your online presence and report the findings back to you. These services can offer professional solutions if you have significant online relationship management issues.

  2. Claim your online spaces.
    Create profiles on Google+, Yelp, RateMDs, Vitals, Angie’s List, HealthGrades, and other sites. If someone has created profiles for you already, claim and verify your own profile. Most specific and general review sites have an “Is this you?” button or link that lets you do this.

    Once you have your profile on review sites, include the correct information — including your contact information, hours, and a detailed description of your specialties. If possible, include a photo of yourself or your team.

    The goal is to provide a professional and inviting online presence. Keep in mind some negative reviews might be hastily written or might not contain much detail. Having authoritative facts about you or your practice online can help neutralize some defamatory remarks. 

  1. Create a strong online platform.
    Having negative reviews is not necessarily the problem. The problem occurs when those reviews are so visible they are the first things a new patient sees. It is unfair that one disgruntled patient can have a strong voice online that discourages patients from approaching your clinic or practice.

    In reality, you can develop a strong and positive online platform to counteract these messages. Creating good content about you or your team means that when patients Google your name they find accurate and detailed information about you. At the same time, negative reviews get pushed further down the search engine rankings, meaning they have less impact. 

    How can you create a strong online presence? There are a few ways: 

  • Create a professional website for yourself or your practice with plenty of regularly updated content.
  • Contribute to professional articles online.
  • Create a professional presence on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sites.
  • Be careful about what you share on personal social media sites. Some of the information can still be shared by other users, even if your settings are set to private.
  • Become a member of professional associations and directories that let you create an online presence.

  1. Ask for patient feedback.
    It is unethical — and in many cases, illegal — to post defamatory reviews of other physicians online, to pay for reviews, or to write your own glowing reviews. If you do any of these things, you may find yourself facing even more negative attention online. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with telling patients that if they are happy with their treatment they can post reviews online.

    While you may not be able to keep every patient happy and to prevent every negative review, keep in mind a strong online reputation-management strategy is essential. More patients today are going online to seek out health information. Make sure the information they find about you and your practice is informative and truthful. 

To read more articles like this, visit the TMA Insurance Trust blog or subscribe to the TMAIT newsletter. TMA’s new publication, Get Social: Put Your Practice on the Social Media Map, which provides 1.75 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™, teaches social media newcomers about branding, online ratings, and how to use social media without violating HIPAA. 

For information about physician-focused insurance coverage for individuals and medical groups, contact TMAIT today.  

About TMA Insurance Trust
Since 1955, TMA Insurance Trust has served as trusted advisors for Texas physicians, their families, and their employees. Created and exclusively endorsed by the Texas Medical Association, we at TMA Insurance Trust are proud to partner with TMA member physicians to meet their personal insurance needs and protect their livelihood. We walk alongside physicians throughout their entire career journey from medical school to residency and all the way through to retirement. Visit us at to learn more

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Do You Know a Minority Medical School Applicant Deserving of a Scholarship?

The TMA Minority Scholarship Program has provided scholarships to qualified, underrepresented minority medical students since 1998. This scholarship supports TMA’s vision, “to improve the health of all Texans,” and its long-standing priority of addressing health disparities. 

Please consider reviewing the scholarship’s qualifications and forwarding the online application to those who may benefit. Also, consider donating to the TMA Foundation so that all Texas medical schools receive funding for an annual scholarship. 

For more information about the scholarship program, email Gail Schatte at TMA, or call her at (512) 370-1600 or (800) 880-1300, ext. 1600. To contact the TMA Foundation, call (512) 370-1664, or (800) 880-1300, ext. 1664. 

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Make Your Reservations Now for TMA's Fall Conference

Join us for 2015 TMA Fall Conference at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa, Sept. 25-26. This free member benefit offers you the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and TMA staff, as well as hear a recap of this year’s legislative session and participate in discussions about Texas health care.  

Questions? Contact the TMA Knowledge Center at (800) 880-7955, Monday-Friday, 8:15 am-5:15 pm CT, or email

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 Medical Students and Graduates Needed for Computer-Based Case Simulations Field Trial

The National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) has developed new software to deliver the Primum® Computer-based Case Simulations (CCS) component of Step 3 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The new software incorporates user-adjustable display features, specifically text magnification and reverse color, or color inversion. NBME will conduct a field trial of the software from Nov. 16, 2015, through Feb. 29, 2016, at select Prometric test centers. NBME needs medical students and graduates with varying levels of visual ability (with or without visual impairments) to participate in the field trial. Encourage eligible students and graduates to apply by Sept. 18.  

Individuals who anticipate taking USMLE Step 3 at a future date may benefit from participation. Those who have already passed USMLE Step 3 are not eligible to participate. The field trial will include some cases not currently available as Step 3 CCS practice cases on the USMLE website

NBME will randomly select approximately 650 participants who are:    

  • Students or graduates of medical schools in the United States or Canada accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education or the American Osteopathic Association.
  • Students or graduates of medical schools outside the United States and Canada who have applied to the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates for certification.   

NBME plans to send notification emails to those selected to participate on or around Oct. 5. 

The Primum CCS field trial is a half-day exam. The testing day will be divided into:    

  • A 15-minute tutorial;
  • Five 21-minute blocks, each containing one 20-minute case;
  • Six 11-minute blocks, each containing one 10-minute case;
  • One 20-minute block with CCS feedback; and
  • 10 minutes total break time (taken between blocks).   

For more information, email NBME, or visit the USMLE website.  

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Request for Proposals for Population Health Outcomes Research Due Oct. 16

The Association of American Medical Colleges is teaming up with The Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation to issue a request for proposals for Advancing Implementation Science in Community/Academic Partnered Research. The partnership offers an opportunity for academic medical centers to collaborate on research that has the potential to improve population health outcomes. The research should facilitate collaboration among researchers, community organizations, and health system leaders. Proposals are due Oct. 16.  

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Stay Up to Date on Important Drug Information With PDR Alerts

Make sure you're receiving U.S. Food and Drug Administration-mandated (FDA) and product-related patient safety alerts the minute FDA issues them by registering for Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) Drug Alerts. This free service also provides information on drug recalls and approvals.

Once registered to receive PDR Drug Alerts, you’ll have access to a 12-month alert history master file, and you can appoint a member of your health care team to manage practice alerts. And if no one has reviewed an alert within 72 hours, PDR sends a reminder letter. 

The PDR Network also offers mobilePDR, available free to TMA members. 

MobilePDR includes:  

  • FDA-approved full drug labeling,
  • Concise point-of-care information, and
  • Weekly drug updates.  

Log on to to download it. It is available for all major mobile platforms, including iPhone/iPod/iPad Touch, Android, BlackBerry, Palm, Palm Pre, Symbian, and Windows Mobile.

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This Month in Texas Medicine

The September issue of Texas Medicine features a cover story on on Austin Regional Clinic’s announcement that it no longer will accept new pediatric patients whose parents don’t permit vaccinations. In the issue, you’ll also find information on the new payment systems that will replace Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate formula; Austin Internal Medicine Associates’ decision to close its doors due to impending ICD-10 implementation and burdensome government regulations; an electronic health record research project that illustrates the need for physicians to get involved in usability testing; Medicare’s move to pay for chronic care management; and the Texas Medical Board’s stricter chronic pain management rules. Check out our digital edition

You can subscribe to RSS feeds for TMA Practice E-Tips, TMA news releases, Blogged Arteries, and Texas Medicine. More

It's Academic is for physicians in academic settings. For more information about TMA’s efforts on behalf of medical education and academic physicians, visit the TMA Council on Medical Education’s Subcommittee for Academic Physicians page and Advocacy page on the TMA website.

Please share with your colleagues who are not TMA members and ask them to join.

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    The State legislature is unable to support the existing medical schools adequately. Another institution, no matter where it is located, would put more unnecessary strain on already stretched finances. Find the money to treat the ones you have better before straining draining resources.
    William E. Powell, M.D.

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