Just this week, the nation was in an uproar over mammography recommendations put out by the USPSTF (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.) The most widespread question was….

Who or What is the USPSTF and Will it Affect Me?

In an effort to create the best plan of action for primary care health providers, the Government formed an expert panel in 1984. Thus, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force came to fruition.

USPSTF has a mission to assess benefits of health services based on age, sex and risk factors for illnesses and give advice about which of these preventive services, deemed most effective, should be implemented into primary care and looking at population statistics, which medical care is deemed most appropriate for specific populations.

The panel worked from 1984 to 1989 formulating guidelines based on a review of 2,400 published clinical research papers. The final report, which assessed clinical effectiveness of 169 preventive services including screenings, counseling, vaccinations and risk factor recommendations, was published in the Guide to Clinical Preventive Services.

In July 1990, the Department of Health and Human Services revisited the Task Force and reconvened the group to update the analysis of preventive services and to consider new evidence and new technologies which created the Guide to Clinical Preventive Services, 2nd Edition.

Since 1998, The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which is the foremost group of private-sector authorities in primary care and prevention, sponsors the Task Force.

Although the Task Force is a Government-appointed panel, it is an independent advisory arm, which gives impartial evaluations of the scientific data, comprised of 10 members who are authorities in their fields of primary car (internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, gynecology, obstetrics, geriatrics, rehabilitation and nursing).

According to the USPSTF, the advice of the Task Force is not official or meant as Public Health Service guidelines or the basis for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Yet, statements issued from this panel have not only aided in stressing the importance of prevention in health care, but also have formed the foundation of the clinical standards for many professional societies, medical organizations and quality review groups.

Nine American Academies and Colleges of the various specialties partner with the USPSTF as does America’s Health Insurance Plans, AARP , the FDA, Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the CDC (centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

So, despite protestations to the contrary, it certainly seems based on statements issued by the Task Force, medical practice ( and most probably reimbursements of services) will indeed change.

The Government will be calling the shots!