Yelp: When I want to find a good burger…not find a doctor! Friday, May 15 2015 

people-hate-us-on-yelpMy son just finished his first year of college. He is a business major, and I am interested in the viewpoints of his age group of 19 to 20-year-olds. I asked him his perspective on social media and rating sites like “Yelp”, especially in the medical industry. I had to laugh when he responded, “These sites are good for when I want to find a burger, but not trying to find a doctor.” I did have a proud mom moment!

Though I may be a bit bias, I have to say I agree with him. I have never been one to follow the crowd. I would prefer to experience all that life has to offer and make my own mind up based on my experiences. I have found that the vast majority of people who post on these sites are usually malcontents and self-absorbed. As an Administrator of a physician practice, when a patient is trying to “get their way” they typically threaten to go to “Yelp”. It is a threat and a method of intimidation. Before “Yelp”, people would threaten to file a lawsuit or contact their Senator/Congressperson…even the President!

A good portion of patient demands are unreasonable or not in the best interest of patient care. Sometimes, the patient becomes threatening or abusive toward the staff, which results in the patient being fired from the practice. Unfortunately, due to HIPAA, there is no way to defend ourselves against these accusations. Those of us who experience this firsthand know that IF people were to hear the whole story, they would understand our perspective! Would you trust a drug-seeker who is mad because we would not provide opiates since the patient is on marijuana, albeit “legally” with a medical marijuana card? Perhaps the review you are reading is from someone who is upset that they have a high-deductible health plan, and now they owe money to their doctor.

I have discovered that some reviews are in error. I had a review that mentioned a particular physician that was never a member of our practice. The review was regarding a service that we have never provided. It is nearly impossible to redact these erroneous reviews. Why would one want to trust a review that was a mistake?

Then, there is the fact that Yelp will contact the business to “help” them with their business reviews and create more positive responses…for a price. A great article that discusses this can be found at:

Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0

Bottomline, leave the reviews to film or restaurant critics…and maybe not even then! Don’t trust strangers with ulterior motives in choosing your physician. Do you want your healthcare in the hands of a trained physician or an unknown person who is trying to lash out because they didn’t get their way?

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At Odds With Others: Hang up the gloves and start talking Thursday, Jan 2 2014 

This article appeared in the March/April 2008 issue of CMA Today the monthly magazine published by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). It was written by Cathy Sivak.

This article is regarding conflict with others in the office environment and is increasingly a challenge for every office.

“Meaningful conflict actually enhances communications by relating the expectation up front between the parties. Communication can be painful, you may have to correct somebody, but in the end you gain more respect from each other,” says Charlene Burgett, MSHCM, CMA (AAMA), CPC, CMSCS

AT ODDS WITH OTHERS Article CMA Today

Boxing Gloves

What Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Know! Friday, Oct 26 2012 

Finally! A long awaited and much anticipated book about ERISA by two well-respected leaders in the health care industry! This book will provide the secrets in getting claims paid, how to fight denials, and halt recoupments using the features within the ERISA regulations.

This is a must buy! Quite frankly, this is important even if you are a layperson covered under your employer’s group health plan! These are the secrets that your insurance company doesn’t want you or your doctor’s office to know!

Book Description

Publication Date: October 15, 2012
New book helps medical practices use the secrets within the ERISA regulations to their benefit to increase practice profitability The Medical Practice Guide to ERISA: Employee Retirement Income Security Act The Federal law ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) helps the majority of medical practices make carriers pay on claims that are now being denied, delayed and recouped. Only a small percentage of practices understand how ERISA works — yet with this new book, ERISA could possibly become a practice’s best friend! ERISA is complex and most medical practices, “Don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to dealing with ERISA!” Practices are in the dark in understanding how to protect their employer’s rights in collecting the monies owed them. ERISA regulates the practice s health benefits, health benefit payments, EOBs, and most importantly, appeal rights Using this book will allow the reader to not only capture the funds on thousands of dollars that the carriers are now unfairly denying, but will empower the reader to stop the unfair recoupments, illegal timely filing and improper appeal periods that carriers mistakenly quote to physicians and hospital offices. The authors map out the smart but ingeniously simple tactics that practices can use to force insurance carriers to honor their responsibilities on the policies owned by patients — and to convince the carriers to adhere to what the policies actually require them to cover. Providing an overview of the ERISA law, the Self/Verno book provides tips, tools and techniques to leverage ERISA for practice advantage. They take a close look at real-world ERISA situations, violations and outcomes. Armed with this roadmap, physicians and executive staff can better put their resources to work– leveraging ERISA to improve practice profitability. Noteworthy Features Clear Roadmap Written in layman’s terms so practice leaders can immediately begin to implement a strategy of getting claims paid, how to fight denials and halt recoupments. Practical Guidance Includes real world examples and case studies of how medical practices can use the ERISA rules to work for them. Also included is practical information on how to use the ERISA website and answers to the most frequently asked questions about ERISA. Templates to Get You Started Sample letters (describing exact situations and how they can be handled) will get you started and help your practice take control of the process. Selected Table of Contents Healthcare Basics Definitions Laws Employee Benefits Security Administration: Frequently Asked Questions about ERISA Using ERISA Claims Issues Sample Letters – Timely Filing Denial Response, Refund Demand Layperson Response, Unpaid Claims Letter, Incorrectly Paid Claims Letter, Bundling Denial Letter, Down Coding Letter, Payment to Patient Letter Additional Resources – Helpful Websites, Layperson Documents Authorized Representation, Assignment of Benefit Form

You can purchase through Amazon by clicking on this link:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Medical-Practice-Guide-ERISA/dp/0988304007/ref=pd_rhf_cr_p_t_1

OAISYS Call Recording Case Study Tuesday, Oct 2 2012 

A few years ago, I did a video case study for OAISYS on their call recording solutions. I never thought, until now, to include it on my blog…here goes!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6Ikzy87h5A&feature=plcp

 

 

 

 

ICD-10-CM implementation date is October 1, 2014 Saturday, Sep 1 2012 

The final rule setting the ICD-10-CM implementation date as October 1, 2014 was released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on August 24, 2012.

Why am I being Charged for my “FREE” physical? Saturday, Sep 1 2012 

Due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), or commonly called “Obamacare”, Health Plans are starting to cover Preventive Medicine services at 100% with no copays, coinsurance or deductible. Unfortunately, insurance companies are not informing patients that dealing with medical issues during these preventive medicine visits will result in an out-of-pocket charge that could result in a co-payment, or a substantial out-of-pocket expense if they have not met their deductible. Insurance companies require all services to be itemized and coded appropriately. One of the primary reasons is to prevent the health plans from paying for services that are not covered. Providers cannot code problem visits as preventive because this would be insurance fraud and could result in the insurance company denying the claim, dropping the physician from their network, and/or, if a government plan, the physician can face imprisonment and fines.

This has resulted in patients becoming angry with their doctor’s offices. Many practices are trying to figure out how to deal with this issue. At my practice, we notify patients before their preventive visit by posting signs on the exam room walls and the medical assistant provides a written notification for the patient to sign that they understand the billing policy. We are also trying to have the physician alert the patient, during the preventive medicine visit, when their concerns become a medical visit and may result in an out-of-pocket expense to the patient. Depending on the severity of the patient’s concern, the physician may be obligated to address the medical issue because, if he didn’t, it could result in a bad outcome for the patient. For example, if the patient states that they have been dizzy and having terrible headaches, this could mean that the patient may have a brain tumor or other significant medical issue. If the physician ignored this complaint, it would harm the patient or could harm others if the patient were driving a vehicle and had an episode. In addition, this would easily become a malpractice lawsuit against the physician.

Some physicians have chosen not to do both a preventive medicine visit and a problem visit on the same day. If the patient is scheduled for a wellness visit and a problem comes up, the physician would either make the decision to change the visit to a problem-oriented visit and reschedule the preventive if the problem is high risk; or have the patient return to deal with the problem issue at a later date if the problem is a low risk. This method keeps the appointments separate and easier for the patient to understand the difference. The downside is that it requires the patient to come back for a second visit, taking additional time off work, to deal with something that could have been handled during one visit.

I’d rather buy a month’s worth of Starbucks than…pay my doctor bill Wednesday, Jul 6 2011 

One of the biggest frustrations we have in the health care industry is due to patients not understanding their own health insurance benefits. Oftentimes, patients think that just because they carry insurance, that means that everything is covered and they don’t have to pay anything. Patients receive health care service and a month later they discover that their insurance doesn’t cover that particular service; however, instead of accepting the responsibility of paying, many patients fight, demand, and threaten the physician’s office staff to make the balance go away.

This phenomenon has gotten worse in the past twenty years or so. I subscribe to the theory that much of this mentality is due to the inception of HMO’s. In the beginning, HMO’s had either zero patient financial responsibility, or an exceptionally low out-of-pocket cost. People have been conditioned in thinking that health care is an entitlement. After about a decade, due to insurance companies (and employer groups) not being able to withstand the expense of higher utilization of “free” health care, they began to make the consumer more responsible by charging higher co-pays and not covering certain services. Unfortunately, most Americans expect the same Cadillac coverage without any additional expense (beyond their insurance premium and co-pay).

A major challenge in physician practices is to help their patient’s understand their insurance company’s reimbursement policies, all the while maintaining good will. Physicians are finding themselves having to develop various financial informed consent forms to assure that the patient understands that they may be responsible for some of the cost. Medicare has required this, in the form of Advanced Beneficiary Notices (ABN), for years.  Even so, we often hear patients state, “I signed it but didn’t read it.”  Or, “I was afraid if I didn’t sign it that I wouldn’t get the service.” Perhaps the days of accountability are long gone.

One of the biggest threats we hear from patients is that they will leave our practice if we don’t write off their balance. Not much that you can do about that. Health care is a business and we cannot pay the bills with altruism. In addition, it is fraud to bill the insurance company for services and write off the patient’s responsibility. Aside from financial hardship cases, routine adjustments of patient responsibility can get a physician excluded and/or fined by the government when it is a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid. Worst case scenario for commercial insurance is the insurance company dropping the physician from their network.

With lower reimbursements, practices really need to devote more energy in collecting all revenues due. The average overhead for a primary care physician practice is reaching 60%. There are no government subsidies for physicians, other than rural health care, community health care centers and native american health centers. More and more physicians are closing their offices, retiring early, selling their practices to hospitals, transitioning to concierge medicine, or going to cash only practices. This is devastating to primary care because of the physician shortage; however, many specialists are also getting hit hard as well.

Do I need to hire a bouncer for my medical practice? Sunday, May 10 2009 

The bad economy has resulted in many people losing their jobs, their homes, and/or their insurance coverage. People are overly stressed and panicking; resorting to actions that they would probably not have done under normal circumstances. One such response that I have seen increase in my practice is disrespectful behavior and abuse by patients toward me, my staff and the physicians.

The staff is trained on appropriate “customer” service techniques and they know that if they cannot diffuse the situations they need to ask for assistance from a supervisor. There have been extreme situations that require me, as the Administrator, to intercede. I can remain calm and in control in just about all situations. Confrontation, though not sport, is not something that I fear. I have had several experiences, however, that have given me pause.

One such moment was a result of a patient who demanded that we change his name in our computer system from his legal name to the name he preferred. His insurance card and driver’s license both had his legal name. Our system only allows one version of the patient’s name. Because it is mainly for billing, we have to use the name that appears on the patient’s insurance card or the claim would get denied. Several people attempted to explain this fact in a calm manner; however, the patient was very adamant. The front office supervisor called me to discuss the issue with the patient and, again, I proceeded to explain the reasoning behind using his legal name. I suggested that he notify his health plan and have them change his name on his insurance card and we would be able to accommodate his request. Apparently, he did not find that to be a reasonable suggestion and became increasingly irate and lunged over the counter at me, while yelling. As I was backing up, I asked him not to lunge toward me. He continued to yell, adding that he wasn’t lunging, all the while he is halfway over the counter hands flailing in the air.

On another occasion, a male patient wanted the medical assistant to code his labwork with a diagnosis code that would be covered by his insurance; however, it was not an accurate code for the services provided and not something approved by the physician.  She tried to explain this to him and he verbally assaulted her in the hallway on the way to the lab.  I was notified of this episode and confronted him about what had transpired.  He was very aggressive.  He proceeded to tell me that it was none of my business, even though I introduced myself as the Administrator of the practice.  I explained that what he did was not acceptable and his language was offensive and that is why it is my business.  I asked him to explain what had happened so I could attempt to respond to his concern and attempt to rectify the problem.  He proceeded to explain the request for the code change and that the medical assistant would not comply.  Unfortunately, I could not grant his request and attempted to explain the reasoning behind it.  His anger level rose another level and he yelled that I was supporting my employee and I was not providing “customer” service.  Vulgar name calling began spewing out of his mouth.  As I was trying to get him to calm down, I saw his right arm cock, fist closed, and knew that I was about to receive a blow.  Luckily, I was very aware of my surroundings and had my peripheral vision in tune…I backed away, picked up the telephone and called the police.  The patient left the office screaming.

These are just two of the more extreme examples of what I have personally experienced.  I fear for the safety of my staff, the physicians and myself.  Recently, I installed security locks on the doors between the reception area and the back office.  The ones that require someone from the back to “buzz” the door to unlock it.  About a year ago, I installed panic buttons at check-in and check-out.  When depressed, an alarm sounds and an immediate call notifies the police department.  I have only had to use the panic button once, but that was for an employee who was not happy that she was terminated and would not leave the premises.

I remain concerned and cautious regarding the safety in our office.  The threats are ever increasing, some of the known causes of these threats include:

  • Insurance companies creating an antagonistic reaction in patients toward their physicians.
  • Entitlement mentality that health care is a right.
  • Poor economy and resulting financial problems experienced by patient.
  • Belief that physicians are “rich” and the patient needs the money more than the physician.
  • Narcissistic society, “I want what I want when I want it and I am not accepting no for an answer!”.
  • Our society has entrenched the “squeaky wheel” mentality and many people start out with that approach.

I don’t have the answers.  I am very interested in hearing other people’s stories, recommendations, and thoughts to improve safety.  Please comment!