Continuing Medical Education Legislative Activity

Within the last few months, legislators from across the country have introduced bills that involve Continuing Medical Education (CME). In this article we looked at three in particular that focus on separate areas of healthcare: nutrition, controlled substances, and Veterans Affairs.

Education and Training for Health Act of 2014(H.R. 4378), introduced April 2, 2014    

The Education and Training (EAT) for Health Act of 2014 seeks to require 6 hours of continuing medical education (CME) on nutrition for physicians employed by the federal government.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz) and co-sponsored by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) on April 2nd, encourages a stronger focus on nutrition and disease prevention in medical education. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The EAT for Health Act of 2014 notes that a large percentage of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes can be prevented and treated by proper nutrition and other lifestyle changes. Medical education is an important step towards that goal.

In 2004, 38 percent of medical schools required 25 hours of nutrition education as part of their curriculum. By 2010, that number had shrunk to 27 percent. Furthermore, “[a]ccording to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, physicians feel inadequately trained to provide proper nutrition advice. Ninety-four percent feel nutrition counseling should be included during primary care visits, but only 14 percent felt adequately trained to provide such counseling.”

“Changes in public policy are necessary to ensure physicians who are employed by the federal government are kept up-to-date on changing nutrition standards,” states the Eat for Health Act Fact Sheet. The final version of the Act proposed the following requirements:

“Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall issue guidelines to Federal agencies for developing procedures and requirements to ensure that every primary care health professional employed full-time for such agencies have at least 6 credits of continuing medical education courses relating to nutrition.” The Act states that continuing medical education relating to nutrition should include “courses on the role of nutrition in the prevention, management, and, as possible, reversal of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.”

The Act also requires that the head of each Federal agency that employs full-time primary care health professionals submit to Congress a report attesting to the extent to which the agency has adopted and enforced the guidelines.

“This isn’t just about keeping medical costs down, although that’s an important goal,” Rep. Grijalva states on is website. “More than anything, it’s about making sure Americans get the best advice about healthy living as well as medication and surgery. We can prevent diseases and injuries and live longer, healthier lives by making good lifestyle choices, and our medical professionals can help make that happen.”

Increasing the Safety of Prescription Drug Use Act of 2013 (S. 1657), introduced Nov. 6, 2013

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced the Act November 6, 2013. According to Udall, it would expand medical education training and use of timely data to ensure that patients receive prescriptions safely and legally. The bill would strengthen monitoring techniques for existing high-risk prescriptions – such as by expanding the reach of a prescription drug database across states – and implement new measures to prevent prescription drugs from falling into the wrong hands. Increased patient assessment would help refer potentially addicted patients to treatment.

Regarding continuing medical education, the Act states in Section 5:

“The Secretary of Health and Human Services…shall award grants to States to develop continuing education criteria and review processes that allow State health profession boards or State agencies to certify appropriate education and training for informed and safe prescribing of opioids and other drugs on schedule II and III under section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act ( 21 U.S.C. 812 ).”

Department of Veterans Affairs Continuing Medical Education Program (S. 1863), introduced Dec. 19, 2013

The bill directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a continuing medical education program for medical professionals with the goal of: (1) increasing knowledge and recognition of medical conditions common to veterans and family members of veterans, and (2) improving outreach to veterans and family members.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the bill in the Senate on December 19, 2013, which requires the program to include education on four issues. Education must include:

(1) dealing with patients who are veterans or family members;

(2) identifying and treating common mental and physical conditions of veterans and family members;

(3) programs and benefits available to veterans and family members through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Labor, and such other federal agencies and non-federal organizations as the Secretary considers appropriate; and

(4) the VA health care system.

The bill states that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs will carry out the program on the Department of Veterans Affairs website. Under the bill, The Secretary will also determine the curriculum of the program and the number of hours of credit to provide to participating medical professionals for continuing medical education. The bill states that the “Secretary shall carry out the program at no cost to participating medical professionals.”

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