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ePolicy News February, 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012



HHS Releases New Global Health Strategy

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Jan. 5 released its first Global Health Strategy at a forum sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation. "In a world where the flow of people and goods stretch across the globe, our only chance to keep Americans safe is if the system for preventing, detecting, and containing disease stretches across the globe,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We can no longer separate America’s health from global health.”


The HHS Global Health Strategy outlines the Department’s role and how it can achieve its global health vision of a healthier and safer world while protecting and improving the health of Americans. The goals of the strategy include:

  • Protect and promote the health and well-being of Americans through global health action;
  • Provide leadership and technical expertise in science, policy, programs, and practice to improve global health; and
  • Work in concert with interagency partners to advance U.S. interests in international diplomacy development, and security through global health action.

The strategy identifies 10 major objectives, as well as key priorities for each objective, but does not include metrics for gauging success. Assisting with workforce and laboratory capacity to support diagnosis is listed among the key priorities for enhancing global health surveillance.

“This strategy does not represent a radical new direction,” Sebelius said. “Rather, it seeks to provide a new focus going forward, so that we can use the department’s unique expertise, resources, and relationships to make the biggest impact.”



ASCP Joins ASC in Recommending New Cytology Workload Limits

ASCP is pleased to announce that it is supporting new workload recommendations from the American Society for Cytopathology (ASC). The recommendations are outlined in an ASC document Workload Recommendations for Automated Pap Test Screening. The central recommendations include:

  • Cytotechnologists’ workday should not include more than seven hours of gynecologic (Pap test) screening in a 24-hour period, provided there are no additional duties or distractions.
  • Future studies examining cytotechnologist workload should use actual hours of screening rather than lesser number of hours extrapolated to eight-hour days.
  • The average laboratory cytotechnologist productivity should not exceed 70 slides per day using the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recommendations for calculating workload (imaged slide only = 0.5 slide, full manual review = 1.0 slide, imaged + manual review = 1.5 slide).

The ASC points out that the current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) workload limits for automated image-assisted screening methods, including the Thin Prep Imaging System (TIS) and the Focal Point GS is 200 slides per day. ASCP agrees with ASC that these rates need to be reexamined. ASCP will be providing public comments at the upcoming Clinical Laboratory Improvement Advisory Committee meeting in Atlanta in support of the recommendations and further studies.

ASCP Endorses ASH Policy on Sickle Cell Trait Screening and Athletic Participation

ASCP is throwing its support behind a recently adopted policy statement from the American Society of Hematology (ASH) regarding the screening of athletes for the sickle cell trait. The statement refers to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) policy released in April 2010 that requires Division I institutions to perform sickle cell trait testing for all incoming student athletes.

The ASH statement maintains that current scientific evidence does not justify this requirement and that, therefore testing or disclosure of sickle cell trait status as a prerequisite for participation in athletic activities should not be mandatory. Instead, the statement recommends the implementation of universal interventions to reduce exertion-related injuries and deaths, since this approach can be effective for all athletes irrespective of their sickle cell status.

Moreover, ASH believes that the NCAA Division I policy, as currently written and implemented, has the potential to harm student athletes and the larger community of individuals with sickle cell trait. ASH, therefore, strongly supports increased biomedical and population-based research on sickle cell trait as it relates to exertion-related illnesses, as well as other clinical conditions.



Advocates Rally to Urge Fix to the SGR Prior to February Deadline

Although Congress reached a temporary fix at the end of 2011 to avert an impending 27.4 percent cut in Medicare physician reimbursement rates, that fix expires at the end of the month. The massive cut in reimbursement rates, which was scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, was the result of the annual updating of Medicare physician payment rates using the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR)—the formula Congress crafted in 1997 to keep spending on Medicare physician services from growing at a rate faster than the overall U.S. economy.

Lawmakers will have to come up with a longer-term solution for extending this provision beyond the deadline. ASCP along with a multitude of other healthcare organizations recently signed a letter to Representative Dave Camp (R-4-MI), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, urging repeal of the SGR. Over the years, Congress has continued to put in place temporary fixes to address the issues surrounding the SGR; the letter to Rep. Camp, however, maintains that these stopgap measures end up increasing the cost of a necessary repeal and elevate the cuts in physician reimbursement. ASCP independently continues to advocate for repeal, having recently launched an advocacy campaign that has netted nearly 1,300 messages to Capitol Hill urging Congress to fix the SGR. With this looming deadline, there is still an opportunity to weigh in and let Congressional leaders know that action is needed to resolve the issue of physician payment here.

Historically, Congress has had to step in to prevent SGR-related cuts from reducing the physician reimbursement rates each year since 2003. A permanent fix to the flawed formula has been cost; hence, Congress has limited its interventions to temporary fixes generally lasting less than two years.



      Ms. Graham

SUNY Upstate Touts Diversity, Affordability Among Attributes

In the midst of the nation’s continued struggle to put people back to work and create jobs, laboratory medicine is one of a handful of professions with job availability. Filling these laboratory profession positions requires specialized training. In an era where many laboratory training programs have closed due to state budget cuts or the inability of schools to maintain the expense of running the program, State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate is managing to maintain a vibrant training program. According to Susan Graham, MS, MT(ASCP)SH, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Clinical Laboratory Science and Associate Dean, College of Health Professions, SUNY Upstate offers a potential bargain for the academic preparation being offered, with students reaping the benefits of a private education.

Students apply classroom knowledge in the laboratory.
SUNY Upstate has access to the university hospital on-site, where students are able to see some most unusual cases. The program draws students from a 14-county region that represents urban, suburban, and rural New York. Graham maintains the program is extremely diverse not only by geographic region but also in its ethnic makeup. Upstate is comprised of traditional students, and second-career students, who account for about one third of the student body. The program is a 2 + 2 program, with everyone entering as a transfer student. Students in the program do succeed: many receive job offers prior to graduating. Graham maintains that performance during clinical rotations and a professional demeanor exhibited during these rotations is often the key to that job opportunity.

When asked about enrollment, Graham said that traditionally it ebbed and flowed with the economy; when there are tough economic times, enrollment tends to rise as people seek new careers and the healthcare industry is always in need of qualified personnel. Although she said it would be nice to see steady consistency in enrollment, the program strategy has always been to ride the wave and work to keep the exposure of the profession high. To learn more about the program at SUNY Upstate click here.




Minnesota Licensure Legislation Moves Forward, Vote Expected Soon

After repeated attempts to pass a licensure law in the state of Minnesota, the legislature seems to be inching forward to passage. With legislation currently being revised, the pathology community is weighing in on sections of the bill. ASCP has been a strong proponent of licensure and has worked with advocates previously in support of licensure. Most recently, the College of American Pathologists along with the state pathology society has agreed with the legislative language for licensure for cytotechnologists, histotechnicians, and histotechnologists. Moreover, there is shared consensus for an education requirement for histotechnicians and histotechnologists in the state. {}.


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