January 21, 2008

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HealthInfoNet Advances to Demonstration Phase
After a slow and sometimes difficult start, Maine's HealthInfoNet project reached an important goal last week with the announcement that $4 million had been raised which is enough to begin the demonstration phase of the project which is intended to create a linked system of patient records.  The demonstration phase will involve health systems, hospitals and groups including over 2,000 physicians.  The interoperable system will be developed by a contractor previously selected by the HealthInfoNet board and build-out is expected to take up to a year.
 On Jan. 16, Maine's HealthInfoNet (HIN) Board announced that it had reached a fundraising milestone of $4 million and would proceed with development of a demonstration project that would involve as many as 2,000 physicians in the four major medical centers and fifteen additional hospitals.  The project also includes the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Martin's Point Health Care.

Maine's four largest health systems, Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, Maine General Medical Centers, Central Maine Health Care and Maine Health  all will participate in the effort to build a statewide network of electronic health records.  While other states are working on similar projects, HIN would be the nation's first truly state-wide system.  The network is expected to be avilable to participants in the demonstration project in about one year.  HIN has contracted with 3M Health Information Systems, a subsidiary of 3M Co., and Orion Health to build the system and ensure its security.  

If successful, patients would eventually be able to log onto the system to review their own records and to track who has been accessing them.  In addition, patients of participating providers will be able to opt out of the information-sharing system.

The bulk of the funding is coming from the health systems and the Maine Health Access Foundation.  MMA has supported the effort in concept since 2004 and has been represented on the Professional Advisory Committee by Paul Klainer, M.D. of Rockland.

MMA Meeting with U.S. Attorney/Data Report on Drug-Related Deaths through 2006
Representatives of the Maine Medical Association and several other health-related organizations met this past week with the Honorable Paula Silsby, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine to review a new report on Maine Drug-Related Deaths through 2006 and to review the existing Prescription Monitoring Program.  The new report, prepared by Marcella Sorg, PhD., Director, Drug and Alcohol Research Program, Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, University of Maine and dated Jan. 3, 2008, showed that there were 167 deaths in Maine in 2006 due to drug use.  One hundred thirty-five of the deaths were accidental, with 28 being the result of suicide.  In 2005 there had been 138 accidental deaths as a result of drug use.  In 2005, there had been 138 accidental deaths.

Methadone was implicated in the highest number of deaths (67) with cocaine following at 31. Other significant drugs were oxycodone (24), heroin/morphine (31), benzodiazepines (27)

These numbers include deaths in which key drugs are mentioned as a cause as well as deaths in which "mixed drug toxicity" is the cause given on the death certificate and those key drugs are included in the toxicology findings.  The categories are not mutually exclusive, since more than one drug can cause a death. 

The number of deaths in which methadone was implicated was down slightly from 2005.

As the diversion of prescription drugs continues to be a problem in the state, MMA is again joining with the state Office of Substance Abuse to present educational sessions (offering CME) across the state addressing the issue.  In addition to reviewing the extent of the problem and preventing tips on preventing diversion, the programs present the data from the first three years of the Prescription Monitoring Program.  Anyone with a DEA number can register to request patient reports on the system at the web site hosted by the data management contractor, GHS, Inc. (www.ghsinc.com).  Questions about registration should be directed to GHS at 207-622-7153. Practices or facilities wishing to schedule the MMA-OSA program should contact Gail Begin at MMA at gbegin@mainemed.com or via telephone at 622-3374 ext. 210.

Both Ms. Silsby and Dr. Sorg will present at the MMA's 17th Annual Practice Education Seminar being held at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday, May 28th, 2008.  An advance registration form will be included with the Jan./Feb. issue of Maine Medicine.  Registration is also available on the MMA website at www.mainemed.com 


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MMA Executive Committee Completes Successful President's Retreat
MMA's Executive Committee held its annual President's Retreat this past weekend in New Hampshire.  In additional to hearing a presentation on physician leadership presented by Margaret Palmer, PhD. of Doc Executive, committee members discussed a new initiative focusing on professionalism, established new conflict of interest policies and a committee Code of Ethics and conducted its annual review of the strategic plan.

President William Strassberg, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon practicing in Bar Harbor, moderated the Retreat which included fifteen members of the committee and five staff members.

Among the issues raised and discussed that may be of interest to Weekly Update readers were the following:

  • the need to receive more feedback from members through surveys, focus groups, one-on-one discussions, etc.
  • the improving financial status of MMA, through a combination of growing membership and non-dues income.
  • the need to better communicate MMA efforts on behalf of members.
  • the need to enhance the services and benefits provided to employed physicians

The Committee has held an annual planning retreat each January for the past several years. [return to top]

MMA Legislative Committee to Resume Conference Calls on Wednesday
MMA's Legislative Committee will resume its weekly conference calls on this Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 7:00pm.  The toll-free conference call number is listed below.  Any MMA member interested in legislation and public policy is welcome to join the call, in addition to members of the committee.  The committee is chaired this year by Katherine Pope, M.D., an anesthesiologist from Cumberland Center.  Sam Solish, M.D., an ophthalmologist from Falmouth is Vice-Chair of the committee. 

The purpose of the call is to review staff recommendations on the various legislative proposals impacting on health care in Maine and to discuss legislative action on the bills previously discussed.

On the call Wednesday, participants will discuss what would be the best day and time for the conference calls for the rest of this legislative session which is expected to conclude in April.

The toll-free number for the call is 1-800-989-2842.  The passcode is 622-3374#. [return to top]

MMA to Testify Tuesday in Favor of Prohibiting Smoking in Vehicles with Children
The Maine Medical Association will join other health advocates Tuesday in supporting L.D. 2012, An Act to Protect Children in Vehicles from Secondhand Smoke.   MMA EVP Gordon Smith, Esq., will present testimony on behalf of MMA and the Maine Coalition on Smoking OR Health to the Health and Human Services Committee in support of the legislation. 

Since the city of Bangor enacted an ordinance in 2006 banning smoking in vehicles in which children are riding, more evidence has surfaced that further corroborates the need for such legislation.

In July 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General's Report was published on the impact of second-hand smoke (SHS).   The report demonstrated that while adults are now exposed to less SHS, children have not benefited from such laws.  Also in 2006, a study conducted by Harvard University researchers showed that levels of SHS in a car reach almost 12 times the level considered unhealthy to children.  Researchers at Stanford University also conducted a very thorough analysis of particulate matter levels from tobacco in vehicles.  The study concluded that smoking in a car, even if the car windows are wide open, exposes children to more SHS that if they had been sitting in a tavern that permitted smoking.

Since Bangor's ban was effective in January, 2007. many municipalities across the country and the State of California have passed similar laws and ordinances.

MMA wishes to recognize Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Bangor who has been the moving force behind this new health initiative.  Dr. Shenkin is also an assistant clinical professor of health policy at Boston University.  [return to top]

Report of Aroostook County Medical Society
The Aroostook County Medical Society met this past Wednesday to consider a series of amendments to its bylaws and to hear an update from MMA EVP Gordon Smith.  The meeting was held at Slopes restaurant in Presque Isle. 

Over thirty members and guests attended the meeting which was chaired by ACMC President Phil McFarlane, M.D. of Houlton.  Other officers include Janet Parker, M.D., Vice-President,  Ann Lin, M.D., Treasurer and Carole St. Pierre-Engels, Secretary. 

After Mr. Smith's report, the members considered the report of the bylaws revision committee which had presented draft amendments to simplify the society's bylaws and generally bring them up to date.  Discussion ensued and several adjustments were made to be considered again at the meeting in May at which time the final vote on the bylaws will take place.

Following the business meeting, members and guests recognized the retirement of long-term member Eric Nicholas, M.D. of Mars Hill.  Dr. Nicholas recently retired after practicing for over forty year in Mars Hill.  The society presented Dr. Nicholas with a suitably engraved plaque recognizing his exemplary efforts in support of patients and the ACMS. [return to top]

MMA Committee on Physician Quality Meets on Thursday, Jan. 24
MMA's Committee on Physician Quality will hold its first meeting in 2008 on this coming Thursday, Jan. 24 at 4:00pm at the offices of the Association in Manchester.  The Committee is chaired by David McDermott, M.D., of Dover-Foxcroft.

Among the items on the agenda are reports on the work of the Voluntary Physician Assessment Initiative and the office-based quality improvement program.  Updates will also be provided on the Peer Review program and the work of Quality Counts, the Maine Quality Forum and the Aligning Forces grant.

MMA committee meetings are open to any interested member, in addition to the members of the committee. [return to top]

Survey Shows Impact of Aging Physicians
There are more than 298,200 physicians between the ages of 50 and 65—36 percent of the total physician population.  The national physician search and consulting firm Merritt Hawkins & Associates conducts an annual survey to determine the practice plans and career satisfaction levels of experienced physicians.  Fifty-two percent of responding physicians in the recently released 2007 survey said that they have found practicing medicine less satisfying in the last five years—citing reimbursement issues, malpractice worries, long hours, and the pressure of running a business as contributing factors.  Forty-nine percent of physicians responding said that they plan to make a change to their practice in the next one to three years.  Some of these changes include working in non-medical fields, working on a part-time or temporary basis, and closing their practices to new patients.

The 2007 Survey of Physicians 50 to 65 Years Old notes that global physician availability will be significantly affected if physicians 50 years or older decide to see fewer patients, seep positions in non-clinical or non-medical settings, or retire permanently.  This could further exacerbate anticipated physician shortages; the Council on Graduate Medical Education is predicting a shortage of 96,000 physicians by the year 2020.

For a free copy of the report, which highlights current and upcoming trends within the aging physician population, contact Jeremy Robinson at (800) 306-1330 or Jeremy.Robinson@MHAGroup.com. [return to top]

Save the Date: MMA's 17th Annual Practice Education Seminar, May 28, 2008 in Augusta
The Association will present the 17th Annual Practice Education Seminar on Wednesday, May 28th at the Augusta Civic Center on Civic Center Drive in Augusta.  This annual program, designed for both physicians and practice managers, is intended to inform attendees of the major new laws, regulations and market trends affecting Maine medicine.  This year's program will include sessions on:

  • Physician ratings
  • Pay-for-Performance
  • Prescription Drug Abuse
  • Quality Improvement
  • Technology
  • Stark II
  • Medicare/MaineCare issues
  • Legislative/Regulatory Update
  • The role of data in transparency and accountability efforts
  • Employment law update

The program will run from 8:30am to 4:00pm.  Registrations materials will be included in the Jan./Feb. issue of Maine Medicine and will be available on-line at www.mainemed.com. [return to top]

MMA to Hold First Senior Section Meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 23
The Maine Medical Association will hold the first meeting of its new "Senior Section" on this coming Wednesday, Jan. 23.  Any physician in the state who is retired and interested in voluntary activities is welcome to attend the meeting at the MMA offices in Manchester.  The meeting begins at 11:00am and lunch will be served.

Among the topics to be discussed are volunteering at free clinics, assisting with advocacy and mentoring students.

If you are interested and have not reserved your place, please contact Lisa Martin at lmartin@mainemed.com or call her at 622-3374 ext. 221. [return to top]

For more information or to contact us directly, please visit www.mainemed.com l ©2003, Maine Medical Association