November 2, 2020

Around the nation: CDC launches new effort to prevent spread of infectious diseases in health care facilities

Daily Briefing

    Editor's note: This story was updated on Nov. 3, 2020.

    Through the national initiative, called Project Firstline, CDC will provide frontline health care workers—including nurses, physicians, and environmental service workers—with access to training modules, townhall discussions, and telementoring services focused on infection control, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from Connecticut, Georgia, and Maryland.

    • Connecticut: HHS on Wednesday announced that Aetna, which CVS Health acquired in 2018, has agreed to pay HHS' Office for Civil Rights (OCR) $1 million to resolve HIPAA violation allegations related to three incidents the company reported in 2017: an incident in which two of Aetna's web services for plan-related documents were accessible without login credentials and were being indexed by internet search engines; an incident in which Aetna had mailed out benefit notices with the words "HIV medication" visible through the envelopes' windows; and an incident in which Aetna had mailed letters to members with the logo and name of an atrial fibrillation research study. Overall, Aetna reported that the breaches affected more than 18,600 of its members, and an OCR investigation determined that Aetna had not implemented the appropriate procedures or safeguards to limit health data disclosures and protect its members' privacy. HHS said Aetna also has agreed to implement a corrective action plan, which includes having HHS monitor the insurer's compliance with HIPPA for two years. "Protecting our members' privacy is a responsibility we take very seriously," a CVS spokesperson wrote in a statement emailed to Modern Healthcare. "These incidents occurred prior to Aetna becoming part of CVS Health, and did not involve any of the company's other businesses. We have since updated our processes and procedures to further protect member information and are working cooperatively with OCR to further enhance our policies related to privacy and security" (Cohen, Modern Healthcare, 10/28).

    • Georgia: CDC on Wednesday announced a new, $180 million initiative aimed at preventing the spread of infectious diseases in health care facilities. Through the national initiative, called Project Firstline, CDC will provide frontline health care workers—including nurses, physicians, and environmental service workers—with access to training modules, townhall discussions, and telementoring services focused on infection control. Marie Cleary-Fishman, who helped develop the trainings and is the VP of clinical quality at the American Hospital Association, said, "The more we can educate health care workers on not just what to do, but why, the more likely they will do the right thing every time" (Bean, Becker's Hospital Review, 10/28).

    • Maryland: CMS on Thursday finalized a rule to update payments rates and implement other changes to the Home Health Prospective Payment System for calendar year (CY) 2021. CMS estimates that, under the final rule, aggregate Medicare payments to home health agencies will increase by 1.9%, or a total of $390 million, in CY 2021 when compared with CY 2020. In addition, CMS in the final rule makes permanent certain changes to telehealth restrictions that the agency first implemented in March, in response to America's coronavirus epidemic (Brady, Modern Healthcare, 10/29; CMS fact sheet, 10/29).
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