Monthly Archives: August 2013

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By |2022-01-01T22:52:16-08:00August 31st, 2013|

Free Staff Time by Implementing a Patient Portal

Chances are good that your EHR includes some easy-to-implement patient portal features that can save your staff time and increase the profitability of your practice.  As an example, consider your current intake process for new patients. Most practices still use a paper form that is filled out by patient at the time of the first appointment and that is subsequently re-entered by staff into the EHR – a needlessly cumbersome and tedious process for the patient and staff.  Fortunately, almost all EHRs that include patient portals can help automate this process, sometimes completely. In the best implementations, patients can log-in to the portal and complete their forms whenever they prefer – and the data entry task for your staff essentially disappears, saving time and eliminating possible errors.  How might this feature alone affect your bottom line? Paul Louiselle reported in the Journal of Medical Practice Management (Nov/Dec 2012) that his pediatric surgery practice will save roughly $23,000 in staff time in the first year alone by automating new patient intake forms. Many duties of your front desk staff are highly repetitive and, as such, are potential opportunities for automation.  We take for granted phone trees that can help by providing directions or hours of operation in addition to simply routing calls, but it’s important to remember that at one point even these phone systems were cutting-edge technologies.  Patient portal functionality, will become ubiquitous in coming years - the sooner you implement, the more your practice can profit.  If you cannot take on another task, don't get discouraged. Many practices we help have existing staff that will embrace a new career challenge – understanding the potential for a patient portal to help your practice can be a wonderful opportunity for one of your staff to really shine. Among their many functions, patient portals often offer secure electronic communication between patients and physicians, lab results, prescription refills and other clinical features. The adoption of these and other clinical functions warrants caution.  Physicians are often and rightly concerned about how communicating with patients via the patient portal will affect reimbursement.  Physician owners or practice

By |2022-01-01T22:52:16-08:00August 29th, 2013|

Judy Capko Q&A on PCMH

Judy's webinar and follow-up Q&A on patient-centered medical homes (PCMH) are now available on Kareo.com at the following links: Q&A Webinar    

By |2022-01-01T22:52:16-08:00August 28th, 2013|

UHC’s new payment portal could help patients … and practices?

Several media outlets have reported that UnitedHealthcare has just unveiled new capabilities on its MyUHC.com patient portal that allow patients to make credit card payments for their portion of their care (e.g., deductibles, co-insurance) and better understand how the sharing of financial responsibility works.  UHC promises that the site will help make members more educated consumers about their healthcare -- presumably encouraging them to be more judicious about spending by raising their awareness of the costs of care.  The on-site demo shows that the site will offer at-a-glance summaries of all their accounts -- out-of-pocket spending, progress against deductible, even utilization of FSA and HSA accounts. The information side of this -- implemented with help from InstaMed -- looks like a huge leap forward.  Will patients embrace the payment portion as well?  It will also be interesting to see how the patient payment portion plays out for practice collections.  For example, will practices be able to easily log in to confirm that a patient has made, say, a pre-payment needed before surgery?  What reconciliation tools will be available?  And will patients be more likely to request "bill me" because they'll say they plan to pay at the portal?  The portal also is expected to allow patients to "easily" dispute claims -- what does this feature mean for practices? Another open question: the demo states that the ability to make payments may not be available for all plans.  Will this lead to more collection confusion for practices with UHC patients?  On the plus side, anything that clarifies the portion of the bill that is owed by patients -- and places the responsibility for that breakdown on the health plan, not the practice -- is bound to ease the burden practices face to explain large amounts owed to bewildered (and sometimes unhappy) patients.  Practices might even encourage patients to look up and verify their amounts due while at their front desks. Have any readers received communication from United about the new portal at their practice? To read more or check out the demo: UHC Adds Provider Payment Service to Member Portal [Health

By |2022-01-01T22:52:17-08:00August 22nd, 2013|

Patients getting lost because of internet map errors?

Recently, we worked with a practice that was spending several minutes on the phone -- sometimes ten minutes or even more -- giving verbal driving directions to all of its new patients. Yikes! The practice did it for two reasons.  First, they believed that patients were frequently getting lost when relying on directions from the web -- and that this was causing patients to miss appointments or arrive very late; consequently, they thought the time investment was worthwhile to prevent these problems. Second, they believed that patients valued this "personal touch." Of course, there are numerous costs associated with spending so much time with each patient on a matter that really should be more automated.  Most immediately noticeable to us was the receptionists' reluctance to interrupt the lengthy process of giving directions to pick up other incoming calls, so other patients -- perhaps patients with urgent needs -- were frustrated in their attempts to reach the practice.  Voicemail piled up -- and, quite possibly, prospective patients may just have dialed the next practice on their list of referrals. The practice's assumption about the 'personal touch' was also problematic -- they genuinely believed people valued this extra time with a 'real human,' but, really, who wants to stay on the phone ten minutes or more, jotting directions that will have to be read while driving?  This is 'service' circa 1985 at best!  Worst of all, some of the patients who were familiar with the area might even have been a little insulted at the implication that they could not find the address without spoon-fed directions. Unfortunately, problems with mapping sites and GPS systems giving inaccurate directions to your practice are not terribly uncommon -- especially if you're located in a new office park or other location on new street.  Some street names are also prone to more user error -- for example, here in San Francisco, problems when people confuse "street" for "avenue" are legendary; a location on 4th Street could be a 30-minute drive from the same address on 4th Avenue at some times of the day.  But, even though your location might be more prone than others to these

By |2022-01-01T22:52:17-08:00August 21st, 2013|

Internal theft prevention tips from Entrepreneur magazine

An article on Entrepreneur magazine's website spotlights four ways any small business -- including a medical practice -- can be the victim of crimes committed by employees.  Worth a quick read: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227689?goback=%2Egde_4802172_member_266727166#%21

By |2013-08-19T12:49:40-08:00August 19th, 2013|

Judy Capko’s upcoming webinar with Kareo

Join our founder, Judy Capko, for a free webinar sponsored by Kareo: "How to Implement a Successful Patient-Centered Program."  The focus of the webinar is the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) -- how to implement it and what it means, revenue-wise, for your practice.  Among the topics Judy will cover are: The seven guiding principles of the PCMH Key program standards and metrics used to determine and measure success How technology contributes to efficiency and reporting needs Appropriating payment based on value-added components To register -- for free! -- visit this page: http://go.kareo.com/webinar-info-web-20130821.html

By |2022-01-01T22:52:17-08:00August 16th, 2013|

The busy-work trap

Many practice managers do anything to keep staff busy -- lest doctors see them "doing nothing" and start to believe they're overstaffed. It's admirable to want to get the most from the team, but obsessing about staff utilization to the point of burdening them with unnecessary tasks is a pitfall.  Here's an example: recently we worked with a practice that had very busy phones -- it was a psychiatric practice, and more than 80% of the calls were about prescriptions, and needed to be handled by the prescriptions nurse.  The practice had experimented with a phone tree that allowed these patients to connect directly to the prescription nurse -- cutting down patient wait times substantially.  But, once they did this, the front desk was somewhat less busy since they no longer needed to answer these calls and put them on hold while hunting down the prescriptions nurse (or taking a message for her). The doctors at the practice were concerned about the perceived 'down time' -- even though patients were being processed more attentively at the front desk, and with less waiting.  So, they rationalized that the phone tree should be disabled, and that the front desk should answer all calls first, then forward them as needed.  Once the receptionists began answering every phone call -- often putting them on hold while dealing with the patient in front of them -- they certainly seemed less 'idle.'  But, patients in the office waited longer to be checked in, patients on the phone had to wait to be connected to the prescription nurse (or her voicemail), and the front desk environment was much more stressful. Worst of all, this artificial burdening of front desk staff meant that all staff were now perceived to be fully "utilized" -- i.e., no one was available for additional projects or important additions to their job content.  On our visit to the practice, one of the first things we noticed was that the front desk was doing a poor job of collecting co-pays (routinely billing them instead of collecting them at check-in).  Naturally, we urged the practice

By |2016-03-04T12:01:50-08:00August 15th, 2013|

Great payer negotiating tip from Physicians Practice magazine

Today's Physicans Practice blog has a great tip for primary care and urgent care practices: negotiate with payers for higher after-hours reimbursement.  A key negotiating point: compare costs for seeing the patient versus referring them to the ER (that ought to get some payer attention!). It's important to understand the differences between several different codes that apply (99050, 99051, 99053) to properly bill for services, and to establish a pattern -- read the full post to learn how: How to Code, Negotiate After-Hours Reimbursement at Your Practice  

By |2022-01-01T22:52:18-08:00August 9th, 2013|
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