Physicians and practice managers love using online tools to help run their practices. Whether you’re submitting payroll, doing some online banking, reconciling a credit card statement or confirming patient eligibility you’re using a connected network of devices, any of which could pose a serious threat to the well-being of your practice. While I’ve blogged here on the importance of strong and regularly changed passwords, it’s every bit as critical to be disciplined and conservative with respect to connecting to Wi-Fi networks. Every time you venture out to a hotel, conference or café you’re likely seeing a variety of Wi-Fi networks with nothing to identify them other than a short name. Should you connect to “Starbucks-FREE” Wi-Fi? The following link describes just how simple it is for a hacker to set up a simple network with the goal of stealing the passwords and data of people just like me and you. The straightforward best policy is to never connect to an unknown network (and it’s hard to “know” a network if you’re away from home and work!). For this reason, I strongly recommend using the “share internet” feature of many smartphones – typically there is a monthly cost, perhaps $15 for access, and data usage counts against your monthly phone allowance. Click here to learn just how one hacker gains control over computers like yours.
Interested in learning how to get more from your relationship with your third party biller? Or considering hiring a medical billing service? "Get the Best From Your Medical Billing Service" is Laurie Morgan's most popular ebook -- and Amazon is offering it for free on October 29. Although the book is optimized for the Kindle platform, it's no problem if you don't have a Kindle device -- the free Kindle software allows you to read on virtually any tablet, computer or smartphone. Don't miss your chance to receive "Get the Best From Your Medical Billing Service" at no charge. Mark your calendar to download this valuable guide on October 29! (Feel free to forward this message to anyone you know who might be interested. And to stay on top of all promotions related to Laurie's Management Rx ebook line, follow her on Twitter @managementrx and Facebook.)
The ACA grace period’s perverse payer incentive, and why hospitals would like to pay some patient premiums
Health Affairs has a nice analysis of the ACA's 90-day grace period on cancellation of enrollment for subsidized patients who miss premium payments. But one piece of the puzzle that their article doesn't touch on is the perverse incentive for health plans not to vigorously pursue those missed premiums. Under the grace period, plans are required to reimburse providers for services rendered in the first month that the patient misses a premium payment, but not in the second and third months. However, the services a patient might need in months two and three could -- perhaps even most-likely would* -- greatly exceed the value of the premiums missed. This is why some hospitals, and now even some physicians, have started investigating whether they can pay these premiums on behalf of patients; they realize that they could be denied thousands in payments owed to them because of a patient's failure to pay a much smaller amount. And this is why health plans would undoubtedly prefer that those patients not pay their premiums -- and are unlikely to make any special efforts to collect them. The idea of providers paying these premiums to protect their own position has analogs in other markets. For example, a bank might pay off a mortgagor's tax lien to avoid losing the entire value of the property if the government forecloses. But in our world, it's not clear if other regulations that touch upon payment relationships could hold against providers who try to pay off patient premium obligations. Health Affairs notes that CMS has already made a public statement discouraging such efforts. While the AMA, MGMA and others continue to urge reform of the grace period provision, it's reasonable to assume that payers will continue to argue that the related laws actually prevent providers from stepping in to pay premiums, and that the grace period rule should remain unchanged. (And, presumably, they'd argue against another solution, such as deducting the value of missed premiums from provider reimbursements.) The bottom line is, the grace period seems unlikely to disappear any time soon. It remains very important that physicians,
If you missed Laurie’s webinar, “Front Desk Collections: the New Linchpin of Profitability,” here’s how to watch it now
If you missed Laurie's webinar, "Front Desk Collections: the New Linchpin of Profitability" (sponsored by Wellero) -- one of her most popular webinars ever! -- you're still in luck. Sign up here and watch it whenever you like. This practical presentation hits on some ways you can immediately increase profitability while avoiding pitfalls that can erode your practice's financial health. Take a look (it's free to sign up), and, if you have questions or comments after watching, please don't hesitate to contact Laurie. [yks-mailchimp-list id="87d94b707e" submit_text="Submit"]
If you missed Laurie's webinar, "Front Desk Collections: the New Linchpin of Profitability" last month, you can now view the recording online (free). Here's a link to the sign-up page: https://capko.com/miss-front-desk-collections-new-linchpin-profitability-watch/ Enjoy!
Most medical practices aim to establish scheduling parameters based on perceived capacity and the appointment time needs or constraints of the physicians and providers that see the patients. But there’s so much more to maintaining an ideal schedule that meets demands of patients, offers smooth workflow for physicians, and ensures the physicians achieve ideal productivity standards. Begin by taking reviewing the schedule of the past 30 days. What went wrong (no shows, idle providers), what went right, and why? For example, what is the average number of visits per day for each provider? And is it consistent? How many holes are left in the schedule? Is this because schedulers are leaving gaps, or are missed appointments the problem? Identifying what's sabotaging your goal of an efficient schedule is the first step. The next is figuring out what can you do to fix it. It can be fixed, and one thing is for sure, ignoring it guarantees you will continue to experience the same (or greater) inefficiency then you have in the past and that’s going to hurt your profits. Toss out past habits and be willing to give your scheduling system and the attitude behind it a fresh start. Physicians must learn to maximize the percentage of their time spent with patients. Patients should be physician-ready when the doctor enters the exam room and that staff is properly trained so the physician can delegate tasks that do not require their level of expertise. Honor the appointment schedule. Let staff know what your expectations are and hold them accountable and above all – start on time to stay on time. This is the beginning of respecting the schedule and running a smooth system. If you don’t value the appointment schedule neither will your patients or your staff and you can bet the loss productivity this causes will cost you plenty. Medical practices are already feeling the pinch of constraints and changing dynamics brought on by marketplace and regulatory trends. Physicians and managers are concerned about the unpredictable future of private practice. But the best way to take charge of your future
An article today on usatoday.com reports that Healthgrades has rolled out new metrics drawing inferences about physician and hospital quality from health plan claims data. They're analyzing physicians' level of experience with specific procedures (based on frequency in the claims) and aiming to combine this data with patient reviews and other quality data they can tie back to their physician profiles, such as doctors' hospital affiliations and complication data from those hospitals. USA Today thinks the new approach could be "game changing." But even if doesn't dramatically change the game for the ratings sites themselves, certainly these new measures will be another data point that patients who already visit Healthgrades will consider -- and that means it's also one more way that incorrect information can silently undermine your practice and your marketing efforts. Say, for example, your surgery practice has affiliations with multiple hospitals, but somehow Healthgrades has only accessed the one with the most complications, or the one where your physicians have performed the fewest procedures. Omissions of the other hospitals from the calculations could cause Healthgrades to report that your physicians have less experience than they do, or that they're affiliated only with lower quality hospitals. For a patient choosing between two physicians, data like this could easily persuade the patient to choose the other option over your practice. Bottom line: an incomplete picture could do just as much damage as a negative review! This is just one more reason to be sure you're registered on Healthgrades and have reviewed and updated all of your listing information -- including verifying and updating things like hospital affiliations and procedures performed. (And once you've updated the facts, you'll have the chance to polish up the image portions of your profile, too, too.) And if you've been intimidated by the process of working with physician ratings sites and claiming and updating your physician profiles, my ebook -- The Quick Guide to Online Physician Reputation Management (Vol. 1) -- can help you get started quickly and without stress. It will help you prioritize and show you just what you have to do.
A not-too-surprising-but-still-interesting tidbit: a new poll by Sermo (the physician-only social network) shows that a majority of doctors disagree with the decision to hire a non-physician political professional as the "czar" leading the nation's Ebola defense. Read more about it on Sermo's blog: http://blog.sermo.com/2014/10/20/doctors-reject-ron-klain-as-ebola-czar/ Do you agree with the majority?
When I was in business school, the idea of continuing ed for MBAs was occasionally bandied about. It just seemed odd that other professions like law and medicine made ongoing education and improvement a priority while ours didn't. Of course, the most obvious response to this is that the competitive nature of the business world makes mandating continuing ed unnecessary for MBAs and other business professionals. If you're not constantly learning and adapting, your skills can quickly become outdated -- and it's almost impossible to hide that in a typical business setting. That's why companies invest in corporate training and conferences, and why ambitious managers read (or at least skim) all those hot business books and why they network so much more regularly than physicians. In business, everyone takes charge of their own continuing ed -- and if they don't do so, someone else who is more in step with new ideas will come along and, as the saying goes, eat their lunch. In medical practices, though, we sometimes find physicians don't appreciate the need for ongoing business education for their managers. I've personally even encountered physicians who describe their managers as "fully trained." Perhaps it's because continuing education for managers isn't a regulatory requirement that physicians don't understand how important it is. Whatever the reason, if you're a physician who is not encouraging (and funding) ongoing education for your manager(s), you're making a mistake. No field has as much constant change as medicine. Medical practice managers, billing managers, and other practice business leaders need to not only stay on top of normal business evolution (e.g., technology change, marketing and communications change), they have to keep up with medicine-specific changes (e.g., regulation, research, clinical standards, insurance). Investing in continuing education for your managers is frankly cheap in comparison to the risk and costs associated with falling behind. So when your manager asks for budget for a conference, book or online education program, think twice before saying no. And if your manager never asks for these things, think about whether you've unintentionally discouraged a behavior that is essential to your practice's