Happy Thursday! Enjoy your NCMS Morning Rounds.

Dec. 17, 2020

Update on COVID Vaccine for NC Medical Practices

On Tuesday evening, State Health Director Betsey Tilson, MD, MPH and other state officials offered NC physicians and PAs an overview of the state’s plans to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, which began arriving in North Carolina in limited supplies this week. View the slides from the presentation here.

Dr. Tilson began with the caution that the only certainty, at this point, is that there will be glitches. The mantra for the next few months should be ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.’ She thanked those on the call for their flexibility and understanding as the state undertakes the massive work of distributing and administering the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Tilson also said she hopes to hold ‘office hours’ next week and in the weeks ahead to answer your questions and give updates on the vaccination rollout. Watch your NCMS Morning Rounds for information on how to participate in those calls.

Here are some key points, based on common questions NCDHHS has received. The points are outlined in detail in the slide deck, which also includes links to more information and resources.

The vaccine is safe:
• Vaccine development and testing was done according to regular protocols, but at ‘warp speed.’ The administrative process was abbreviated, but there was “no cutting corners on safety and efficacy of the vaccine,” Dr. Tilson said in providing background information for you to allay any fears patients may have about the vaccine’s safety.
• The speed with which this vaccine was developed was partly due to the fact that the RNA technology used in the vaccine was already in the works prior to the pandemic, giving vaccine developers a jump start.
• The vaccine contains no live virus and no stem cells. It is composed of a tiny fragment of genetic material in a lipid envelop. There are no preservatives.

Who can get the vaccine:
• Anyone over age 16.
• There is no data from the clinical trials for pregnant or lactating women, but the vaccine may be offered to them with a discussion of the risks and benefits.
• Anyone who has been previously infected with COVID-19 may receive the vaccine.
• The list of vaccine ingredients is included in the slide deck (slide 11) and anyone with a known allergy to any of the ingredients should not receive it. The severe reactions to the vaccine experienced by several people in the United Kingdom are thought to be related to polyethylene glycol, which is an ingredient in the vaccine.
• Slide 23 outlines the prioritization of vaccination. Outpatient primary care clinicians with high risk of exposure to the virus and who have two or more chronic conditions are in group 1b for vaccination. Outpatient clinicians without chronic conditions who are at high or moderate risk of exposure are in group 2. Because the timing and quantity of vaccine shipments is still unknown, it is difficult to say exactly when these groups will be vaccinated.

Vaccine reimbursement:
• The federal government is paying for the vaccine so there is no cost sharing or charge to patients who receive it.
• Public and private insurance will cover the administrative costs. Medicare/Medicaid is reimbursing for administrative costs at $16. 94 for the first dose and $28.39 for the second dose.

Tracking vaccinations:
• To be considered as a location for vaccine distribution, you must enroll in the COVID-19 Vaccine Management System (CVMS) at this link. Questions about the CVMS may be directed to [email protected].

More information on the vaccine for you and your patients is available on the NCDHHS COVID-19 website here.

Year-in-Review: NC HealthConnex

The NC Health Information Exchange Authority, which oversees NC HealthConnex, issued year-end numbers illustrating that even in a challenging year much progress was made in connecting practices to this state health data exchange.

“This year has required the health care community to adapt to a rapidly changing environment where data has been at the center of decision making,” the NC HIEA stated in its most recent newsletter. “Never before have HIEs been in such demand for the utility to track health information in near real time across the care continuum.”

By the numbers for 2020:
• 55,000+ providers with contributed records
• 6,000+ health care facilities live submitting data, including 119 hospitals
• 5,000+ health care facilities in onboarding
• 120 million+ continuity of care documents (CCDs) exchanged – 700k messages flowing daily
• 10 million+ unique patient records
• 220+ unique EHRs engaged, 80+ live
• 22 border and interstate HIEs connected + Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense.

Read all the news about NC HealthConnex here.

Governor Expresses Appreciation for Health Care Workers

In a brief, official note to health care workers, Governor Roy Cooper expressed his gratitude for all you do.

“I am grateful for your professionalism, your caring concern for each patient and for the sacrifices you and your family are making,” the Governor writes in his note, dated Dec. 15, 2020.

Read the full note here.

In the News

Pandemic Backlash Jeopardizes Public Health Powers, Leaders, Kaiser Health News, 12-15-20

Learning Opportunity

Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina has partnered with NC AHEC to provide a Connections Matter training for medical and health professionals on Jan. 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
Connections Matter is a community effort to raise awareness that fostering caring relationships with the children, families and adults matters for developing healthy brains, supportive relationships and thriving communities. Learn more and register here.

If you have policies you’d like your NCMS Board of Directors to consider, please complete the Board input form here. Thanks for reading!