Weekly Roundup: In Case You Missed It
COVID-19 By the Numbers (as of 8/14/20):

  • Alameda County: 14,558 confirmed cases, 219 deaths (including City of Berkeley data)
  • Contra Costa County: 10,482 confirmed cases, 151 deaths
  • California: 601,075 confirmed cases, 10,996 deaths (as of 8/13/20)
  • US: 5,228,817 cases; 166,317 deaths
Physician Survey

The California Medical Association (CMA) has released a survey requesting physician input on their experiences with COVID-19 testing. Understanding access to supplies, data and reporting, patient communication, and reimbursement will be crucial in helping support physician practices during this critical time. Please complete the physician survey here.
County News

On Friday, August 7, Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, announced a system error with the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange (CalREDIE) which resulted in an undercount of COVID-19 cases in California. The issue, which began July 25, has been addressed and is now accurately reporting case numbers. As such, both Alameda County and Contra Costa County's trends for cases, testing, and positivity rates may still be subject to incomplete reporting.

The Alameda County Health Care Services Agency released interim guidance on testing for COVID-19 prior to non-urgent procedures. Alameda County released a health advisory in mid-May encouraging practices to gradually resume non-urgent procedures. Due to the continued risk of COVID-19, Alameda County requests that clinicians screen all patients for symptoms of COVID-19 and for close contact to an individual with confirmed COVID-19 prior to performing non-urgent procedures. Patients with symptoms should be referred for additional care. Patients with close contact to an individual with COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days before undergoing any procedure. Clinicians may consider testing all other patients for COVID-19 prior to procedures, with a confirmed negative test required before performing the procedure.
COVID-19 Testing and Guidelines

A group of collaborative organizations across California developed a new one-page resource, Coping with Stress During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This resource caters to California families experiencing severe economic consequences resulting from COVID-19 and offers supportive information for families to support themselves during the pandemic. This resource can be distributed widely.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced an additional $1.4 billion in targeted distribution funding that will be disbursed to almost 80 free standing children's hospitals nationwide. 7 California children's hospitals have received funding.

The HHS also announced combined investments of $6.5 million in two commercial diagnostic laboratories to expand capacity to conduct up to 4 million additional SARS-CoV-2 per month. The investment in these two commercial laboratories will provide critical laboratory equipment and increase staffing and infrastructure to allow the U.S. to perform an additional 1 million tests each week by early October.

Finally, the HHS announced the details of the next CARES Act-authorized nursing home Provider Relief Fund (PRF) distribution, which will total approximately $5 billion. This funding will be used to protect residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities from the impact of COVID-19.
In Other News

Physicians for a Healthy California (PHC) is now accepting applications for the third cycle of the graduate medical education (GME) grant program, CalMedForce. In this cycle of the program, CalMedForce will award approximately $38 million to primary care and emergency medicine residency programs in California. In the first two cycles, hundreds of programs in hospitals, medical centers and community clinics received almost $76 million. All eligible residency programs are encouraged to apply, and priority will be given to programs in medically underserved areas and populations. Applications are due by September 21, 2020.

UnitedHealthcare (UHC) recently updated its Medical and Drug Policies and Coverage Determination Guidelines for UnitedHealthcare Commercial Plans to include updated documentation requirements and clinical coverage criteria effective for dates of service on or after August 1, 2020. Per the FAQ, UHC will now require the submission of images as part of the prior authorization process for certain services.

In an August 5, 2020, notice to providers, Blue Shield announced it would be temporarily increasing reimbursement rates for certain Evaluation and Management services to help reduce the negative impacts to practices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The increased reimbursement rates, which will reflect a flat 5% fee schedule increase, will apply to providers on the Blue Shield standard fee schedule and will be effective for dates of service from August 24 to December 31, 2020, for certain services.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) has extended a waiver that temporarily removes the ratios for physicians supervising nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Physicians can continue to supervise the number of NPs or PAs they can competently and confidently supervise without a statutory ratio in place.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center is announcing a new model, the Community Health Access and Rural Transformation (CHART) Model. This new model caters to individuals living in rural settings who may have limited access to care. The model proposes to provide increased financial stability to rural providers and provide waivers to increase operational and regulatory flexibility for rural providers.
What We're Reading - COVID-19 Resources and Guidance
FREE | CME Available | Tuesday, August 25 | 12:00 - 1:00 PM

This session focuses on self-care and understanding self-preservation. Most of us were taught that being self-centered is an undesirable trait. What if the opposite was true? Could being a little more self-centered improve your well-being and restore resiliency? In this presentation we will identify the importance of putting SELF first. We will explore the correlation between improved well-being and practicing the 3S Model: Self-Compassion, Self-Awareness and Self Care. Register Now.
FREE | Wednesday, August 26 | 12:00 - 1:00 PM
Presented by ACES Aware

This webinar will offer practical tips and examples on how providers can incorporate stress regulation strategies into their treatment planning for pediatric patients.

Presenters will:
  • Share definitions, research, and the clinical response to address toxic stress through stress regulation strategies.
  • Review the Six Stress-Busting Strategies and other ACEs Aware resources.
  • Provide concrete examples and specific strategies on how to speak to patients and caregivers about mindfulness, supportive relationships, and mental health prior to the need for a referral.

FREE | CME Available | Tuesday, September 8 | 12:00 - 1:30 PM
Presented by the California Medical Association

As a result of this activity, participants should be able to: 
  • Discuss and disseminate information on the importance of masking to patients and communities
  • Utilize behavior change strategies to encourage patients' adoption of best practices for face coverings
  • Choose the appropriate tests for patients and interpret test results based on the current state of COVID-19.
  • Make test recommendations based on test shortage issues and state testing priorities
  • Recommend protective equipment to use in clinical settings and community settings

ACCMA's On-Demand Library

FREE | Available On-Demand
On June 13, the ACCMA hosted its first Virtual Telehealth Vendor Fair. Telehealth vendors from across California and the Nation showcased their products and services so members can evaluate what solutions will work best in their practice. Vendors include Decoded Health, Doctorgram, TigerConnect, Updox, and VSee.

FREE | Available On-Demand | CME Available
This one-hour, on-demand webinar led by Linda Hawes Clever, MD, MACP, offers practical, creative, and effective remedies to deal with the crush on personal and professional lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. It contains strategies, resources, and suggestions for handling physician wellness, as well as addressing questions and answers, as we listen and see the ingenuity, guts, and devotion with which we are addressing the harrowing challenges we all face as a profession, community, and nation. Discover how to reduce personal stress and learn healthy ways to contend with the impact of COVID-19. 

FREE | Available On-Demand | CME Available
Telehealth services are expanding rapidly during the COVID-19 crisis. In partnership with Bay Area medical associations, the ACCMA teamed up with experts to develop a comprehensive webinar series to help physicians swiftly ramp up their telemedicine capabilities, from technology to practice implementation to coding. Experts discuss choosing a telemedicine platform; compliance; privacy and security considerations; billing and payment; policies, procedures, and workflow; informing your patients; and malpractice. Physicians who have experience practicing telemedicine share their practical reflections.

FREE | Available On-Demand
Medical offices and practices are essential businesses and were not required to close, but many physicians have faced difficulties with staffing, incorporating Telemedicine into their practices, ensuring waiting rooms are safe, etc. Sessions include "Getting Back Up and Running Safely," "HR and Employment Issues," and "Telemedicine and Reimbursement."
CMA On-Demand Library
FREE | Available On-Demand
Please contact ACCMA at 510-654-5383 oraccma@accma.orgwith any questions or concerns you have.
This information will also be posted online at www.accma.org/COVID-19 and will be updated frequently. Please check the ACCMA website regularly for updates.