News and Publications

2020 Thoracic Symposium update, PHE extension, RO-ILS report: COVID-19 practice restrictions

July 29, 2020

ASTRO 2020: All the top science, a full schedule of education sessions and much more
Be sure to register by August 20 to take advantage of the early-bird rates and join the Patient Support Honor Roll — a portion of all early-bird fees will be donated to two cancer support organizations in the Miami area. This year’s program includes the top science presented in Plenary, Clinical Trials and late-breaking sessions, as well as Science Highlights sessions from almost every track. New this year will be Master Classes and Storytelling sessions. View this short video for a look at what you can expect at this year’s immersive and interactive Annual Meeting taking place October 25-28.

Multidisciplinary Thoracic Cancers Symposium postponed to 2021
The ASTRO Board of Directors has made the decision to postpone the 2020 Multidisciplinary Thoracic Cancers Symposium until late 2021. This decision was based on our concern for the safety and well-being of our members, their patients, exhibitors, staff and the families of all involved amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to extend our appreciation to the Symposium Planning Committees for the hard work they contributed to planning the meeting and to those who have submitted abstracts. We will provide updates as the plans for the Symposium unfold and we look forward to delivering a unique experience for the thoracic oncology community next year. Please continue to check our website for further updates.

HHS Secretary Azar signs PHE extension
Days before the public health emergency (PHE) was set to expire on July 25, Secretary Azar signed an extension of the PHE, which was first declared at the end of January in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration is expected to last for another 90 days. This is good news as many physicians have expressed concern about the impending deadline and the implication for various regulatory waivers implemented because of the pandemic, including those pertaining to telemedicine. Check out What’s Happening in Washington for more information.

Celebrating three years of the ASTRO Academy
The ASTRO Academy launched three years ago this month and now offers over 130 courses with CME, SA-CME and/or PQI credits. With a recently enhanced look, users can now easily access courses by format, disease site and topics. The homepage also highlights new courses available, such as the 2020 ASTRO Annual Refresher Course onDemand (18.75 CME credits). Check out the new look.


ASTRO alerts CMMI to potential impact of COVID-19 on RO Model
Last week, ASTRO sent a letter to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) detailing specific issues related to COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) and how they potentially impact the RO Model. In the letter, ASTRO highlighted concerns about mandatory participation, quality reporting, the trend factor and case mix methodology, all of which require modifications to account for the impact of the PHE. To read the recommendations on the RO Model, see What’s Happening in Washington.

RO-ILS theme report: COVID-19 Practice Disruptions
The Radiation Oncology Healthcare Advisory Council (RO-HAC) has been diligently reviewing RO-ILS events related to the pandemic and has released a theme report on COVID-19 Disruption to Processes. The report highlights three cases as examples of how the pandemic can create new or heighten existing error pathways. RO-HAC also provides four strategies for mitigating the overall effects of practice disruptions. In early April, RO-ILS published a case study related to how changes in CT images may be a potential indicator of COVID-19. This report continues to add to the growing guidance surrounding the pandemic. RO-ILS practices are encouraged to report all events to RO-ILS and indicate all contributing factor(s), including the pandemic. To learn more about RO-ILS and how to enroll, contact ROILS@astro.org.

APEx Accreditation to resume facility visits
With states beginning to modify restrictions, ASTRO is carefully considering how to resume facility visits. If your practice has been on hold, ASTRO staff will reach out, where appropriate, to begin scheduling surveyors based on your ability to receive visitors. If you are considering applying for APEx, you’ll be pleased to know that ASTRO is also now offering a partial payment option — with half the fee paid upon submission of the application and the balance due before finalizing your facility visit — through the end of this year. If you would like more information on APEx – Accreditation Program for Excellence®, please contact APEx Staff.

 Ask Congress for Radiation Oncology COVID-19 Relief
Congress is drafting the next round of COVID-19 relief funding and health policies, and you can help make sure your legislators know and act on the needs of the radiation oncology community. Visit astro.org/advocate to send a letter to your U.S. representative and senators and urge them to extend telehealth flexibilities, ensure additional funding to the Provider Relief Fund and expand Paycheck Protection Program eligibility.
CMS to resume Medicare audits August 3
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced through its Provider Burden Relief FAQs that it expects to lift the suspension of Medicare claims audits on Monday, August 3, and recommends that providers selected for review discuss with their contractor any COVID-19 related hardships that could affect their response timeliness.
ASTRO urges CMS to protect scope of practice and licensure
ASTRO joined 102 other physician representing organizations in sending a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma urging that CMS sunset the waivers involving scope of practice and licensure when the public health emergency concludes. Learn more.

Humana denials of CT image guidance resolved
ASTRO successfully resolved an issue with Humana regarding denials of CT image guidance when billed within 14 days of IMRT treatment planning. ASTRO sent Humana an advocacy letter explaining that it is appropriate to bill CT image guidance (77014) with IMRT treatment delivery (G6015, G6016, 77385 or 77386) and within 14 days of IMRT treatment planning (77301). Humana agreed that these claims were incorrectly being denied and will automatically reprocess the claims. Practices should not have to resubmit claims, however, if you continue to receive incorrect denials, please contact healthpolicy1@astro.org.

AMA COVID-19 Telehealth Impact survey
The American Medical Association (AMA) has issued a Telehealth Impact Physician survey to study the use of telehealth during the COVID-19 PHE. The goal of this project is to learn more about physician experiences with telehealth and identify challenges and barriers, along with the benefits of providing care via telehealth. Responses will help identify additional resource requirements, provide insights for policymakers and identify gaps in current research. The survey is expected to take approximately 15-20 minutes and should be completed by Thursday, August 13. For more information, please see What’s Happening in Washington.