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Road to Recovery: COVID-19 Tests, Bends, and Breaks Texas Practices - 08/03/2020

Ricardo Garza, MD, was still walking the tightrope: standing, but unable to withstand another gust of wind. COVID-19 swept away about 35% of the San Antonio solo cardiologist’s practice revenue, and that was just what he could calculate as he waited for insurers to process straggling claims. But he had returned to in-office operations without any layoffs. While some practices are surviving – and trying their best to prepare for future threats – others weren’t so lucky. On-the-ground experiences align with the Texas Medical Association’s Practice Viability Survey in showing COVID-19 was, and still is, a disruptor unlike any other – challenging or torpedoing the viability of various practice types.

Surge Response: How the Panhandle Handled One of the State’s Biggest COVID-19 Outbreaks - 08/03/2020

IN TEXAS, COVID-19 outbreaks have been especially pronounced in three types of facilities: nursing homes, jails or prisons, and meatpacking plants. The Amarillo area has plenty of all three. But it was the meatpacking plants that drew national attention to Amarillo’s COVID-19 problems. The city, which straddles Potter and Randall counties, has numerous plants that employ 12,000 to 15,000 people. In early April, Amarillo’s two hospitals began filling up with COVID-19 patients who worked at a plant in neighboring Moore County. Two weeks later, workers from a plant in Potter County flooded in.  

Quarantine’s Quandary: Some Texans Unable to Self-Isolate - 08/03/2020

As the state ramps up “contact tracing” as a key part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to stop the spread of COVID-19 and return Texas to economic normalcy, some health officials say physicians can help those for whom quarantine and isolation are a challenge.

Testing Boundaries COVID-19 made the USMLE, Clerkships a Moving Target for Med Students - 08/03/2020

Medical schools typically have predictable schedules. The timing of lectures, clerkships, exams, and even extracurricular activities tend to follow in the same grooves year after year. Students can reliably block out even minor events months ahead of time and be confident they’ll take place. All that changed with COVID-19. Since March, when the pandemic began closing down schools, businesses, and other institutions across the state, figuring out what comes next in medical school has been anything but predictable.

Pandemic Poses Legal Pitfalls: TMA Seeks Better Liability Shields - 08/03/2020

Under Texas law, physicians treating COVID-19 patients in a volunteer capacity have potential defenses against lawsuits that might arise from that care. But for non-volunteer physicians on the COVID battlefield – often working in harrowing, overloaded settings, high on patient count and low on equipment – the same liability shields don’t exist. And with a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations taking hold in June, the Texas Medical Association continued its pandemic-long push to extend liability protections to all frontline physicians, volunteer or not.

Deadline To Apply for Federal Emergency Funds is Monday - 07/31/2020

If you or your practice are considering applying for federal emergency assistance from the Provider Relief Fund, the deadline to do so is Monday, Aug. 3.

Texas Medicaid, CHIP Changes Extended Into October - 07/30/2020

As requested by the Texas Medical Association, the Health and Human Services Commission has extended some Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) flexibilities through Oct. 23.

Can You Hear Me Now? Communicating Across the COVID-19 PPE Chasm - 07/30/2020

With some of our go-to non-verbal skills now rendered ineffective due to personal protective equipment (PPE), a heightened awareness of how we connect with our patients to build trust is essential. Don’t let your PPE distance you more from your patients. Instead, redouble your efforts to foster communication and trust using proven techniques.

Need Help Managing Staff Issues During COVID-19? - 07/30/2020

If you still have questions or concerns about complying with laws impacting personnel, the Texas Medical Association has updated a frequently asked questions (FAQ) to help guide your practice during the pandemic.

Telemedicine Payments Promised, Regulations Eased - 07/30/2020

To help Texas physicians safely and effectively treat patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, several changes to telemedicine visits have taken effect, including payment for services and which platforms can be used.

Pharmacy Board Limits Chloroquine Prescriptions - 07/30/2020

Per the National Institutes of Health (NIH) COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines, which cites insufficient clinical data, the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force recommends against using chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, “except in a clinical trial.”

What to Do If a Staff Member or Patient Tests Positive - 07/28/2020

The TMA COVID-19 Task Force has created a guide for what to do when someone in your office – whether a staff member or a patient – tests positive for the disease. The guide includes links to important information on disinfection, work-restriction, and legal and ethical resources.

You Need More Than PPE to Fight COVID-19 Effectively - 07/28/2020

To help community physicians during these challenging times, the Texas Medical Association Foundation (TMAF) has established the TMAF Caring for Physician Healers: Mental Health and Wellness Resources During COVID-19 Fund.

Be Aware of PPE Scams, Price Gouging - 07/28/2020

Physicians should be on the lookout for scammers, fraudulent schemes, and price-gouging involving personal protective equipment (PPE) and other equipment.

Remind Your Patients: Summer Is Here, But So Is COVID-19 - 07/28/2020

To help you remind patients, family, and friends to continue to practice what are now well-known safety precautions, the Texas Medical Association has created a video featuring TMA President Diana Fite, MD, urging Texans to stay safe.

Texas Changes Online COVID-19 Death and Case Reporting - 07/28/2020

The Texas Department of State Health Services and Health and Human Services Commission have made several changes to daily COVID-19 case and fatality reports online, the agencies said this week.

Apply for COVID-19 Relief Funds Before Next Week’s Deadline - 07/27/2020

State health leaders are encouraging physicians who treat Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) patients to apply for federal COVID-19 relief funds before the Aug. 3 deadline.

You Can Help Prevent Family Violence During COVID-19 - 07/27/2020

How has family violence changed during COVID-19 and how can medicine respond? Four members of the Texas Medical Association Subcommittee on Behavioral Health address those questions and more in a new TMA Practice Well podcast – Family Violence During COVID-19.

Caution Urged as Officials Continue to Monitor Coronavirus - 07/27/2020

State and federal health officials continue to monitor COVID-19. As of Sunday afternoon, 381,656 cases and 381,656 deaths have been confirmed in Texas, according to a tracker for Texas COVID-19 cases published by the state Department of State Health Services.

Chart Provides Steps For Patients Who’ve Been Exposed to COVID-19 - 07/24/2020

A lot of patients might not know exactly what they should do if they’ve been exposed to the illness, especially if they do not show symptoms. That’s why the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force has created a decision tree to help people understand what to do if they have been exposed to COVID-19.

State Requests Faster COVID-19 Death Reports - 07/23/2020

State health officials are asking physicians and other medical certifiers to expedite completion of death certificates through the end of August as the number of COVID-19 deaths continues to climb.

Pharmacy Board Chloroquine Restrictions Lapse - 07/23/2020

The Texas State Board of Pharmacy’s emergency rule restricting prescriptions of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, mefloquine, and azithromycin has expired, and board regulations on prescribing those drugs have now returned to normal, the board confirmed to Texas Medicine Today.

Comptroller: Texas Faces Projected Deficit for 2021 - 07/22/2020

Since October, Texas (along with the rest of the world) has become a much different place. And just nine months after he projected a budget surplus for 2021, Comptroller Glenn Hegar this week said the state is now facing a projected deficit of more than $4.5 billion.

Medicine Calls for Keeping Medicaid, CHIP Telemedicine Changes Past July 31 - 07/22/2020

The Texas Medical Association and several state specialty societies have urged Gov. Greg Abbott and the Health and Human Services Commission to extend some Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) flexibilities for at least another three months.  

Rio Grande Valley Responds to COVID-19 Surge - 07/22/2020

As the case numbers and fatalities shoot upward, as refrigerator trucks crank up their coolers in makeshift morgues, as ambulances wait for hours to unload patients, and as coronavirus-stricken physicians and nurses slip out of the workforce, elected officials in the poorest region of Texas are getting desperate.