physician directories

Directories still pretty inaccurate

If you've followed us for a while, you know I've been urging practices of all sizes to take their payer directory listings more seriously for years now. It's not that insurers shouldn't do a better job. It's just that (as someone who once owned a directory company) I know how hard it is to keep directories accurate, especially if it's not your core competency (like, when your actual job is providing health insurance). It's also something that requires effort on both sides to be done properly. There's just no way around this. The insurer can't be expected to know when anything changes on your side unless you inform them. And while insurers should do a better job of accurately publishing information you provide them, mistakes are inevitable. It's up to you to catch them and make sure they're fixed. And it's absolutely worth monitoring and correcting your listings! I can think of few marketing tasks that are more directly connected to attracting new patients. Patients want to know that you're (1) in their network (2) accepting new patients and (3) convenient to them before deciding to contact you. If you're not listed accurately in their health plan directory, you're basically turning them away at your door. More on the latest study showing directories just haven't gotten any easier to maintain: https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/inconsistent-physician-directories-no-surprises-act/645307/

By |2023-05-25T14:22:03-08:00March 17th, 2023|

You’ve got a marketing advantage: capitalize on it [practice management tip: marketing]

Medical practice management is filled with unique challenges. But there's also a unique marketing advantage that practices have -- at least traditional, insurance-based practices. When your practice accepts insurance, the insurance plans you contract with, and even patients' employers, become a potential funnel of patients. The key is to be sure your practice is able to take advantage of it. Consider the process a patient will likely follow when looking for medical care. If the patient needs a new primary care practice, they'll almost surely start with their health plan's physician directory. Even if they ask for recommendations from friends and family, they will still want to confirm that your practice is in their network. And even if the patient needs a specialist and gets recommendations from their primary care physician, that in-network confirmation will still be crucial. Despite how critical it is for patients to know whether a physician is in-network for their plan or not, payer directories are often inaccurate. Any mistake in a directory can mean that your practice misses out on a patient that would have come through your doors. Some errors are particularly damaging -- like leaving a physician out of a plan altogether, displaying an obsolete or inaccurate location or phone number, or showing "not accepting new patients" when the physician is, in fact, accepting new patients. It seems logical that payers should want these directories to be accurate -- and they probably do. But it's harder to keep them updated than it might seem, and that means errors are common. Even if it's not technically your practice's responsibility, payer directory accuracy is too important to leave in the payers' hands. Someone on your practice should periodically check all payer directories, to be sure that they're sending patients to you and not passively turning them away with incorrect information. Besides the basics of accurate information, many payer directories now offer the opportunity to enhance your listings with photos and other information. Take advantage of it! It's your chance to stand out versus the competition in the best free marketing resource around.  

By |2018-07-21T16:35:20-08:00September 30th, 2018|

Filling your physicians’ schedule in Q1: Five Ways (webinar)

Whether you've got the deductible reset blues or have simply resolved to keep your schedule as full as it can be in 2016, I've got some ideas to share in my new webinar, "Five Tips to Fill the Schedule in 2016." It's free (sponsored by Kareo). Some highlights of what will be covered: Reputation management -- why it's more valuable and powerful than ever, and also easier than ever; The key segment of reputation management that must be your top priority -- and most reputation management experts never even mention it; How preventive services can help you cope with the deductible reset this year -- and for years to come; How embracing technology can become its own form of (painless) marketing, even as it gives your practice other big benefits. Of course, if you sign up, you'll have access to the recording a day or two after the presentation, so don't hesitate to register even if you think you might not make it for the live presentation. (But I hope you can join us live, because I really look forward to your questions and comments.) Here is the sign-up link.  

By |2022-01-01T22:51:58-08:00January 13th, 2016|

Your practice may be unintentionally turning new patients away

It's almost a new year -- woohoo!  Resolution time!  Fresh start!  And for many patients, brand new insurance! For many patients with new insurance, it's also time to shop for new doctors.  When they do, will they find you? By now you probably already know that there are many resources out there to help you with online reputation management (including lots of software products, and publications like this book by yours truly). But an often-overlooked part of online reputation management is especially important early in the year: payer directories. Patients rely on payer directories both when they shop for a new plan (if they want to keep their doctor(s), they'll want to be sure they're in the new plan) and when they start to use the plan (to choose a new doctor(s)). Both of these moments are among your very best opportunities to attract a patient who has just secured a plan you accept -- just the kind of patient you want. But if you're not listed in the directory, or not listed properly, your chance to attract that patients just slipped through your hands.  It's just as if your practice intentionally turned the patient away -- if your payer directory listings are not correct, the effect is no different. It may seem to you (as a sensible person) that payers should make sure their directories are accurate. And indeed they should. But, unfortunately, errors abound. Maintaining directories, it turns out, is a very difficult job.  While it shouldn't be your job, unless you assume some responsibility for monitoring these listings, you can't be sure they're correct; if they're wrong, it's  your business that pays the price. Plus, in some cases, online payer directories are adding features like photos and website links that can give your practice a promotional boost. You can't access these new features unless someone at your practice is engaging with these directories and keeping them updated and polished. Make checking and updating the directories of all your payers a top priority for the New Year. Finding and fixing even one erroneous entry can make a significant difference in

By |2022-01-01T22:51:58-08:00December 15th, 2015|

Fixing physician databases — even the CMS’s — shouldn’t be your job, but it is

Another day, another news story spotlighting the problems with physician database information -- and the impact those inaccuracies can have on patients.  This time, it's the federal NPI number database that has been revealed as less-than-perfect, as described in this story published last week by the Cincinnati Enquirer/cincinnati.com. The Enquirer's investigation found that "tens of thousands" (!) of records contain errors. If you've heard me speak on this subject or follow this blog, you won't be surprised to hear that, surprise surprise, I'm not surprised. Databases are challenging to maintain accurately -- it's much harder than you might think.  Errors are easily introduced and, often, hard to detect.  Even when the people managing directories work hard to keep them current, it's still likely that errors will occur. And then when directories depend on other databases and directories for their listing information ... well, that's going to magnify the problem, and make it much easier for an error to be introduced in multiple directories downstream before it's caught. Once that happens, the errors become the responsibility of people who are unlikely to catch them. While the Enquirer article points out many reasons the problems it uncovered with the NPI database are bad for patients -- all valid and worrisome -- these errors are, of course, bad for practices, too.  Anything that can lead to a misunderstanding or misinformation that is relied upon by a patient, fellow practitioner, or payer is a potential problem for a practice.  And the article also points out that a physician's NPI number can even be hijacked for fraudulent purposes. As with so many other issues related to directory data, the accuracy of NPI numbers and their associated information seems like it surely ought to be the responsibility of the people running the database. But many of the problems that can occur in a directory are too difficult for operators to catch with 100% accuracy (or even close) -- and the stakes are too high for your practice for you to leave the accuracy of your own information to chance. (According to The Enquirer, in this case,

By |2022-01-01T22:51:59-08:00July 14th, 2015|

Can the federal government solve the health plan directory problem? You should hedge your bets

Paraphrased from my Management Rx blog: The New York Times reports that the federal government hopes to fix a problem that many citizens complain about: inaccurate health plan directories.  When health plan directories are incorrect, patients can wind up unintentionally receiving services out-of-network, which usually leads to unexpected, significant out-of-pocket costs. The administration is naturally concerned about the impact of directory errors on patients, but out-of-date directories are a huge problem for medical practices, too.  Out-of-network errors mean the practice probably is paid less, and the patient may blame the practice for not catching the costly mistake.  Patients may share their disappointment with others, via word-of-mouth or even publicly via a review or rating. And besides out-of-network errors that everyone would like to avoid, practices lose even more when they're not listed at all by a plan they participate in, or they're listed with the wrong address, wrong specialty, or wrong status (i.e., accepting new patients or not).  When these errors occur -- and they're common -- the directory is turning prospective patients away from your practice. You can read the rest of my post at the Management Rx site. But the short version is, health plan directories are such an important source of information for prospective patients, medical practices can't afford to leave their accuracy to the insurers alone, even if the government gets involved. And on the plus side, health plan directories may be your single best source of new patients, and fixing and enhancing your listings is free!  It's rare to find a marketing effort that can be so easy, so effective, and free. My practical, step-by-step ebook on the subject -- "The Quick Guide to Online Physician Reputation Management" -- will empower you or a staff member to take control of all your online directory listings, and start seeing the benefits of being easier to find online.  It's just $6.99, but you can download a free sample at Amazon to try before you buy.  (If you don't have either a Kindle device or the free Kindle reader on another device, you can also purchase a PDF version for the

By |2022-01-01T22:52:00-08:00May 12th, 2015|

Medicare Advantage plans dropping doctors: what does it mean?

News reports have been trickling in over the past couple of weeks -- growing in number -- about Medicare Advantage (MA) plans dropping doctors. First, we heard about UnitedHealthcare in CT dropping doctors -- then news came out about the same carrier dropping patients in NY, FL, RI, NJ, and, just yesterday, OH.  Sam Unterricht, MD, the head of the State Medical Society of New York, said in a Fox Business interview a few days ago that other plans like Empire Blue Cross and Emblem were following UHC's lead in his state -- and that he expects this MA plan activity to spread nationwide. What's driving this (by all accounts, extremely sudden) behavior on the part of MA plans?  The Tampa Bay Times reports that UHC attributes it to quality ratings ("[providers that] demonstrate the highest quality at the greatest value will be rewarded for their efforts.")   But, the effort to trim MA costs as part of the funding plan for the ACA probably plays a role. Unterricth said that one of the plan representatives he spoke with said that an anticipated 8% reduction in reimbursements to MA plans from Medicare as part of the ACA was at least partly behind all the physician cuts.  The timing -- coming on the heels of news of thousands of patients dropped from individual health plans -- does suggest a connection to ACA-mandated changes in 2014. Certainly, UHC's statement that quality ratings drove the decisions isn't incompatible with Unterricht's view that ACA cuts to MA reimbursement were behind them.  After all, if reimbursements to MA plans from the CMS are going to decline, then quality related bonuses are going to be that much more important to plans going forward.  It makes sense that they would try to goose their rankings to make up lost ground on reimbursements through bonuses. What does this mean for practices that serve MA patients?  Some practices in some markets might have argued that MA is a pain: it's like the restricted, non-negotiable reimbursement of Medicare combined with the hassles of dealing with a private payer.  But, we suspect

By |2022-01-01T22:52:13-08:00November 5th, 2013|
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