Spring 2016


Join Your Colleagues in Dallas for TexMed 2016

TexMed 2016, TMA’s annual meeting, is just around the corner. Join us April 29-30 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, where we will explore Bridging the Gaps. Physician leaders of different specialties from across the state come to TexMed to learn, network, and shape the future of Texas medicine.  

At TexMed you can choose from more than 80 hours of free CME programming. Topics include everything from value-based care and the future of medicine to quality initiatives and telemedicine. 

Conference attendees also can help mold TMA policy and business decisions by heading to the House of Delegates and participating in reference committee meetings. All TMA members can testify at the reference committees on resolutions presented before the house.  

And the EXPO provides a great way to see the newest in medical devices, technology, and practice services. Sign up for a free, 15-minute Quick Consult at the TMA Member Services booth #263, and meet face to face with TMA staff experts to ask specific questions on various topics, or to address your general practice needs. 

TexMed is a free member benefit, but it’s not just for physicians. Your practice manager and front office staff can benefit from attending TexMed 2016, too. Register today, or check out the Advance Program for more information.  

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 Don’t Miss the IMG Section Meeting at TexMed 2016

The International Medical Graduate (IMG) Section is a TMA membership section devoted to the unique issues and concerns of all IMG physicians. TMA’s IMG Section consists of a diverse group of physicians with a common vision. 

Join us at TexMed 2016 for the IMG Section meeting, scheduled to follow the TMA House of Delegates, on Saturday, April 30, from noon to 1:30 pm in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole.   

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Join Us for the IMG Policy Meeting Conference Call

IMG Section members will meet on a conference call prior to TexMed 2016 to discuss House of Delegates policy that is pertinent to IMG physicians. As an IMG Section member, you can help shape the environment in which you practice medicine. Join us on Wednesday, April 27, at 6 pm for the IMG Section Policy Meeting conference call. 

To be part of this conference call, email IMG Section staff, who will provide you with call-in information. 

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Don’t Miss Your Invitation to Take TMA’s Physician Survey

Check your email for your invitation to the TMA 2016 Physician Survey. Each month in 2016, TMA sends a survey asking for your opinion and experience with current issues in medicine, including out-of-network billing and the proposed Aetna-Humana merger. If you did not receive an invitation to take a survey, contact Jessica Davis today. 

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DSHS Lab Now Testing for Zika Virus

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reports the state has had 18 confirmed cases of Zika virus. One case involves a Dallas County resident who had sexual contact with someone who acquired the infection while traveling abroad. The other 17 cases were in travelers infected abroad and diagnosed after they returned home. DSHS is now testing for Zika virus at its public health lab in Austin. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages Texas physicians to report suspected Zika virus cases to DSHS. 

DSHS reports the state lab can currently handle up to 135 human specimens per week, and capacity across the state is increasing as local labs add testing capability in anticipation of a possible surge in demand.  

According to DSHS, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry Zika virus, can be found in Texas, particularly urban areas in the south and southeast portions of the state. While there is no evidence of local transmission by Texas mosquitoes now, state health officials have implemented Zika virus prevention plans in anticipation of increased mosquito activity and the potential for local mosquito transmission. 

To help ensure Texas physicians have all they need to diagnose the virus, DSHS has updated its texaszika.org website with a supplemental testing information form and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and serology specimen criteria form. The PCR test can confirm the presence of Zika virus. Serologic testing can detect Zika infection in people who may not have had symptoms, and the test can be conducted up to 12 weeks after infection. DSHS says a positive serologic test result requires confirmatory testing to pinpoint Zika because it can cross-react with other viruses, such as dengue. 

DSHS is working with local officials in the Rio Grande Valley area, a potential hot spot for Zika virus transmission, to monitor mosquito activity. The agency reports spot trapping in the area in February yielded no Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. DSHS urges communities to consider expanding their surveillance in coordination with local mosquito control efforts. 

CDC issued a Zika virus health advisory in January with information and recommendations for recognizing, managing, and reporting infections in travelers returning from Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. The advisory also provides travel guidance for pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant.  

The disease can cause fever, rash, muscle and joint aches, and red eyes and also has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly and other poor birth outcomes in some women infected during their pregnancy. 

A health advisory on the sexual transmission of Zika virus sent to physicians by the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services (DCHHS) advises clinicians to consider Zika virus infection in patients (including pregnant women) with two or more compatible symptoms (fever, rash, conjunctivitis, or joint pain) within two weeks of travel to an area with active Zika virus transmission. The department says the infection also should be considered in patients with compatible clinical syndrome but without travel history who report recent unprotected sexual contact (within the previous two weeks) with a person with a compatible history of illness and history of travel. 

TMA and the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have prepared guidance for physicians on the Zika virus and pregnant patients. 

To discuss testing, clinicians can contact the DCHHS epidemiology division at (214) 819-2004 or (214) 677-7899.  

State health officials continue to encourage people to follow travel precautions. CDC is currently advising pregnant women to delay travel to foreign countries where Zika is being transmitted.  

More Information
General information about Zika virus
Information for clinicians
Protection against mosquitoes
Zika virus travel notices  

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New Mexico Law Protects Patients’ Access to Care in Texas

Texas doctors will continue to receive a full range of liability protections even when treating New Mexico patients. That issue was in doubt until the New Mexico Legislature took decisive action Feb. 17. 

The legislation preserves vital access to Texas physicians and hospitals for residents of Eastern New Mexico who routinely cross the state line for care. The Texas Alliance For Patient Access (TAPA) says the New Mexico legislature recognized access to health care is a public policy priority. Without legislation, thousands of patients would lose ready access to primary and specialized care, said Howard Marcus, MD, TAPA chairman. 

Under the legislation, the medical liability laws of the state in which a patient received care now will govern cases involving New Mexicans seeking medical care across state lines, provided the patient signs a written consent before receiving treatment. The House and Senate passed the bill unanimously. Gov. Susana Martinez signed the measure into law on March 3. 

The new law is good news for Texas because the state’s doctors and hospitals have expressed a reluctance to treat visiting New Mexico patients. That followed a New Mexico court ruling that questioned where and under which state laws a suit can be filed if an alleged medical mishap occurs. That case, Montano v. Frezza, is pending before the New Mexico Supreme Court. (Read “Border Battle” in the November 2015 issue of Texas Medicine.)  

For Texas doctors, this meant accepting increased liability risk and costs when treating New Mexico patients. Consequently, many Texas doctors and hospitals were reconsidering their willingness to accept the transfer or referral of a New Mexico patient for elective care. 

The New Mexico law has big implications for access to care in the state. According to the American Medical Association, the Eastern New Mexico counties of De Baca, Guadalupe, Harding, Quay, Roosevelt, and Union have no cardiologist; no neurologist; no plastic surgeon; no orthopedic surgeon; no radiologist; and no ear, nose, and throat doctor. Of those counties, only Roosevelt County has an oncologist. 

Recent data from the New Mexico and Texas departments of health show 13 counties in Southern and Eastern New Mexico send more than 22 percent of their hospitalized patients to Texas for care. 

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TMA Workshop Focuses on E&M Coding Made Easy

E&M services are the target of many audits by government and commercial payers. While other services may have higher claim dollar amounts, E&M services are the overwhelming leader by volume of services billed and a huge target for audits. To keep audits at bay, TMA is offering professional coders a full-day coding workshop for office staff — E&M Coding Made Easy, April 19 in Austin from 8:30 am–4:30 pm CST — presented by auditing expert Shannon Deconda. TMA also will offer a webcast specifically for physicians — E&M Services From the Physician Perspective — from 6 to 8 pm CST April 19.  

Completion of the E&M documentation and coding seminar will help professional coders and physicians:  

  • Establish medical necessity for the level of service provided,
  • Lower the risk of payment recoupment and audits, and
  • Get paid what is due the first time.  

The workshop will delve into how payers mine physicians’ billed levels of services to identify and focus audits on over-utilized codes.  

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Update Your TMA Online Profile So Referring Colleagues Can Find You

When prospective patients and referring colleagues visit TMA’s online Find a Physician directory (the most frequently visited page on the TMA website) or the DocbookMD mobile app, will they be able to find you? 

“Take a few moments to check the data in your online membership profile  and make any corrections needed,” said Steven L. Cole, DO, chair of the TMA Committee on Membership. “Be sure to confirm your contact information under the Address tab. 

“While you’re at it, click on the Interests tab to tell us exactly which professional topics you need to know the most about,” Dr. Cole continued. “Thanks in advance for helping us keep our membership lists accurate and for helping us use your membership dollars for purposes more worthwhile than shuffling paper.” 

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

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Are You Getting the Most From Your TMA Membership?

Check TMA's return on investment calculator to see what other benefits and services you can tap into. 

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