Health of the Public
A Request from State Health Officer Kathy Lofy, MD, and Secretary of Health John Wiesman, DrPH, MPH
As efforts continue to understand and manage the COVID-19 outbreak, the state Department of Health is providing updated resources and asking for our assistance.
A letter from the Secretary of Health discusses the department’s efforts to rebuild, surge, and strengthen case and contact investigations so they can rapidly isolate cases and quarantine contacts. They believe full discovery of COVID-19 cases and timely contact tracing is essential to suppress transmission in the community and avoid a rebound in COVID-19 activity. The full letter is available here.
In support of these efforts, the department has provided new state testing guidance at: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/Interim-2019NovelCoronavirusQuicksheetProviders.pdf
Finally, Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Washington State Department of Health are asking healthcare providers to complete a survey so they can better understand access and barriers to SARS-CoV-2 testing in the community. This survey is meant for licensed practicing professionals who might order SARS -CoV-2 PCR testing for their patients.
Please click on the link to complete the survey: Hcwsurvey
Our Family Physician community has valuable information to share, and will later benefit from seeing the data gathered throughout the state.
There’s Still Time Left to Register for Annual Scientific Assembly!
WAFP’s 2020 Annual Scientific Assembly will be held online Saturday, May 9, beginning at 9 a.m. The event is free for all WAFP members.
The featured speaker is Kathy Lofy, MD, the state health officer and chief science officer for the State of Washington. Dr. Lofy will provide an update on the state’s efforts to combat COVID-19 and the role family physicians can play.
Other topics include hypertension, discussing goals of care with patients, US Preventive Services Task Force updates and psychiatric treatments for primary care.
Attendees will also have the opportunity to provide feedback on the medical student and resident poster competition. This will help support family physicians of their future and the important research they are undertaking. Please register and enjoy online CME and community.
Represent Your Chapter at the 2020 House of Delegates
We are less than a week away from the annual House of Delegates meeting, and many local chapters have room for more delegates. Your involvement is critical!
The business portion of the House of Delegates will begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday, May 7, and is expected to last approximately two hours. Following the main session, there will be opportunities to testify in support of or in opposition to this year’s slate of resolutions (you may also comment on the resolutions using the fields on each resolution page). A schedule of the committee meetings and their assigned resolutions is included here. And, in lieu of the traditional family fun night, we will hold a virtual happy hour at 3 p.m.
AAFP President Gary LeRoy, MD, FAAFP, will update the House on the AAFP’s work and swear in WAFP’s new leadership.
An important note! Because the meeting will be held online vs. in person, the format of the House is changed.
WAFP Resources Bring Family Physicians Together
The WAFP wants to keep you in touch with the family physician community and provide important resources that meet your needs.
Knowing you likely receive more email than is easily manageable, we communicate only important updates to you! You’ll continue to receive updates from us on Department of Health bulletins, federal and state financial resources for your practices, and legislation or proclamations that affect our community.
In addition, WAFP has begun hosting Saturday morning “Coffee and Conversation” via zoom where we spend an hour discussing emergent issues related to the current health emergency. Past topics have included Behavioral Health, Testing, Public Health Perspectives across the state, and Financial Resources. The online format allows us to bring together physicians across the state; we learn from each other and keep in touch.
Our next session is likely Saturday, May 23 at 9:30 a.m. We’ll announce the topic and provide access information as the date gets closer.
If you need resources or have an idea for a Saturday call, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Silent Auction to Move Online; More Details Coming Soon
The WAFP Foundation fundraising silent auction has moved online this year and will launch in the next few weeks. You’ll have the opportunity to bid on a wide range of unique items and experiences – including getaway packages, recreation opportunities, entertainment and sports events all over the state. Support from our generous donors is especially critical this year as we work to support our membership in new and creative ways during this pandemic. Look for more information coming soon!
WAFP Signs onto Letter Asking FDA to Reconsider REMS Categorization of Mifepristone
WAFP was among the signers on a letter to the Food and Drug Administration asking it to reconsider requiring in-person dispensation for mifepristone.
The requirements are part of Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), which govern the use of certain treatments.
“The REMS on mifepristone is requiring patients, unnecessarily, to access medical services in-person, instead of using telemedicine and mail-order pharmacy options,” the letter stated. “This unnecessarily raises the risk for many individuals, including medical providers who are required to see patients in-person to dispense or prescribe medication, their staff, and their patients.”
Washington Family Physician Welcomes Submissions
WAFP’s journal, Washington Family Physician, is accepting submissions from members. We know there is important research and work occurring throughout the state, and we want to give your colleagues the opportunity to learn from you.
Articles with a scientific basis are preferred, though commentary will be considered. Length is flexible.
If you have any questions or ideas, please email them to Brian Hunsicker, WAFP’s director of external affairs, at email@example.com.
Inslee Announces Easing of Restrictions for Outdoor Activities
As of May 5, state parks will be available for day use and other outdoor activities will be allowed to resume, according to an announcement from Gov. Jay Inslee.
State public lands managed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife will also be available for day use. Fishing, hunting and golfing will also be allowed to resume so long as appropriate safety precautions are taken.
“If we see a sharp uptake in the number of people who are getting sick or are not following appropriate steps, then we won’t hesitate to scale this back again,” Inslee said in a statement. “This is not a return to normal. This is only a beginning phase of relaxing outdoor recreation restrictions.”
Camping and public gatherings remain prohibited.
CMS Suspends Advance Payment Program, Pledges Review of Accelerated Payment Program
Citing the availability of funds elsewhere, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced in late April that it was suspending the Advance Payment Program and would re-evaluate pending and new applications to the Accelerated Payment Program.
Collectively, the programs provide funding when there is a disruption in claims submission or processing – including during a public health emergency or a presidential disaster declaration.
CMS noted other streams of funding remain available, including the Provider Relief Fund and through the recently passed CARES Act.
“This is weird news from CMS,” tweeted Lisa Bari, a health care and technology policy specialist formerly of the CMS Innovation Center. “I’m pretty sure that health care providers are still suffering, probably more today than a few weeks ago. Smaller practices are at imminent risk of closure, and many larger providers are going through furloughs and layoffs.”
Survey: COVID-19 Leaves Primary Care Clinics in Dire Financial Picture
Nearly half of primary care clinicians have laid off or furloughed staff, and 45 percent are not sure if they have enough cash on hand to remain open for the next four weeks, according to the most recent Quick COVID-19 Primary Care Survey by the Larry A. Green Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Adding to the bleak outlook: Two-thirds of respondents indicated that less than half of what they do is reimbursable, and 85 percent have reported large decreases in patient volume. Six in 10 said they had no or limited capacity for testing, and more than half reported they had no PPE.
A summary of the most recent results includes a sampling of commentary, including this from a respondent in Washington: “Many of my patients are limited by income, language, technology, health literacy and are unable to access care via video virtual visits, so I call them, knowing that I am likely not to be reimbursed. I’ve been wearing them same mask for more than a week, likely exposing my family to infection. It’s frustrating not to have support, and it is not sustainable.”
A new survey is released weekly.
WCAAP Develops Resources for Child Care Amid Pandemic
The Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has released resources for clinicians who treat young children and their families.
- Promising Practices features clinic-based innovations intended to help families feel more at ease when vaccinating children 0 to 2 years old.
- A patient-facing flyer helps families navigate new clinical experiences enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- WCAAP guidance on telehealth well child care during the shelter-in-place order.
- Shared practices from pediatric providers on PPE conservation.
- Keeping safe at home: shared practices by and for health care providers.
The flyers are available in multiple languages; email WCAAP to check availability.
DOH: Flu Activity is Low and Decreasing, but ILI Activity is Increasing
Flu has claimed 96 lives this flu season in Washington, and the state Department of Health reports low (and decreasing) activity with influenza.
However, influenza-like illness activity is increasing. According to DOH, “these trends may reflect overlapping influenza and COVID-19 epidemics and/or surveillance artifact associated with changes in health-care seeking behaviours and limited availability of testing supplies.”
The 96 deaths are the lowest at this point in the flu season since 2015-16.
Tdap Immunization Rules Changing for 2020-21 School Year
Beginning this fall, all students attending grades 7 through 12 must have one dose of the Tdap vaccine or a valid exemption, according to the Washington State Department of Health. Previously, DOH notes, students must have had the vaccine by sixth grade.
DOH suggests that clinics consider walk-in appointments for immunizations when the 2020-21 school year begins.
For more information, DOH has set up a webpage dedicated to the Tdap and other immunization changes which are set to take effect this fall.
PMP System Upgrade Delayed
The Washington State Department of Health has announced that a planned upgrade of the state’s prescription monitoring system will now go live on May 5.
DOH and the vendor supplying the software for the PMP identified a critical issue that will prevented the new platform from going live on April 21.
Users with questions about the system are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perinatal Mental Health Training Session Coming to Lacey in June
Perinatal Support of Washington and UW Medicine are sponsoring a session for training on perinatal mental health. The event will be held June 10-11 at the Thurston County Fairgrounds in Lacey; a prescriber breakout session on June 10 will be available virtually if needed.
The training is open to any provider who cares for pregnant or postpartum patients. Click here to learn more.
The UW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences also supports a free perinatal psychiatry consult line, which is funded by the Washington State Health Care Authority. The line is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 877-725-4666 (PAL4MOM). A flyer is available for display.
AAFP Student and Resident Leadership Positions Open
There are two new positions for this cycle, as the FamMedPAC Board and the American Family Physician journal will now sponsor student and resident representation.
Please note that a letter of support from WAFP is required to apply for these positions. If you are interested in applying or want to learn more, please contact Alyssa McEachran, WAFP’s director of pipeline and practice enhancement, at email@example.com.
WAFP’s deadline to apply is Friday, July 10.
AAFP Foundation Establishes COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund
Donations are now being accepted to help family medicine practices cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The AAFP Foundation’s recently announced COVID-19 emergency relief fund will help support Family Medicine Cares USA clinics that are struggling to meet the needs of their community; enhance AAFP telemedicine efforts that aid family physician private practices; and tackle challenges created or heightened by COVID-19.
While the fund intends to focus on those areas initially, the AAFP Foundation has committed to flexibility as the pandemic continues.
To learn more about the program, please contact the AAFP Foundation.