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?

Rule-Out, Probable, and Possible: Importance in Documentation Guidelines Friday, Dec 19 2014 

Rule outRule out: Term used in medicine, meaning to eliminate or exclude something from consideration. For example, a normal chest x-ray may “rule out” pneumonia.

Many of us in health care have always heard the directive “never code a rule-out, possible, or probable”, which is true for coding the diagnosis! However, when coding for Evaluation & Management, it is extremely helpful to document any illnesses/injuries that the physician is ruling out because that will support the physician’s medical decision making and will guide the non-clinical/administrative personnel in the physician’s thought processes.

In the “Medical Decision Making-Diagnoses or Management Options” section of the Documentation Guidelines, CMS specifically states, “For a presenting problem without an established diagnosis, the assessment or clinical impression may be stated in the form of differential diagnoses or as a “possible”, “probable”, or “rule out” (R/O) diagnosis.” (http://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Medicare-Learning-Network-MLN/MLNProducts/downloads/eval_mgmt_serv_guide-ICN006764.pdf ; page 44)

In addition, CMS states, in the same document (page 43):

C. DOCUMENTATION OF THE COMPLEXITY OF MEDICAL DECISION MAKING
The levels of E/M services recognize four types of medical decision making (straightforward, low complexity, moderate complexity and high complexity). Medical decision making refers to the complexity of establishing a diagnosis and/or selecting a management option as measured by:
the number of possible diagnoses and/or the number of management options that must be considered;”

I highly encourage all physicians and mid-level providers to include their thought processes in their documentation guidelines. Remember, many of the “bean-counters” that decide the appropriateness of your documentation are not clinical!

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.

Woman charged extra for asking doctor too many questions Saturday, Aug 8 2009 

Woman charged extra for asking doctor too many questions | 3 ON YOUR SIDE |
Arizona | azfamily.com

by Gary Harper/3 On Your Side

August 5, 2009

A Valley woman says she has a billing problem with her doctor’s office.

The billing problem has to do with a “well woman exam,” basically it is an annual physical for women.

The woman you are about to meet says it was supposed to be covered 100% by her insurance carrier, so why does she keep getting billed by the doctor’s office?

Shannon Karal, like a lot of women, knows the importance of having an annual physical. She says, “I do all my preventative visits for dentist, doctor, any of the normal things I try to go as much as they say you should go.”

So Shannon scheduled a well woman exam at a physician’s office called Doctors Goodman and Partridge, an exam she says that is 100% covered by her insurance carrier. Shannon explains, “I just had some questions and concerns about normal things that a young woman like me would have.”

Shannon says the exam was completely paid for by her insurance, however, she keeps getting a bill for $92 from the doctor’s office so, she called to find out why and, according to Shannon, she was told she asked too many questions during her exam.

She admits, “It makes me feel like next time I go to the doctor I shouldn’t share any of my questions or concerns or take any more time out of their day because I might be charged extra for that.”

Shannon maintains the questions she asked during her exam were all normal “female-related” questions and she cannot believe she would be charged. “I would completely understand this extra charge if there was another test done or something they do for my questions. But nothing! It was all verbal.”

The office of Doctors Goodman and Partridge would not talk to 3 On Your Side about Shannon’s case citing privacy issues but after our inquiry, they sent Shannon a letter saying, “The problems evaluated and managed at that visit were above and beyond the scope of a normal well woman exam” but, Shannon says that is nonsense and feels she is being billed for asking too many female-related questions, and taking up too much of the doctor’s time. Shannon tells 3TV, “I feel like there’s a stop watch every time I go to the doctor and they’re gonna be timing me and making sure I don’t go over that time and if I do then ‘Oh, there might be an additional charge for this.'”

Helped Patient Battle Health Plan and Won! Sunday, Jul 5 2009 

Just about a week ago, I received a call from a patient who was extremely upset that she was being billed $1,400.00 by the imaging facility for a CT scan after we told her that she did not need a prior authorization from her insurance company.  Typically, this is one of those things that it’s our word against the insurance company and, historically, the insurance company seems to always win.  I guess the axiom “he who holds the money has the power” applies in this kind of situation.  The insurance company insisted that they did not have a record of our phone call to them and that they would never have told us that this patient did not need a prior authorization for the CT scan.  The patient was irate and understandably so…especially with the economy the way it is.  As a goodwill gesture and to keep peace with the patient, I would have accepted the responsibility and paid for the scan and our office would be out the money.

But…we voice record all our incoming and outgoing telephone calls using a system called Talkument.  I have all of the staff and physicians trained on what information is helpful to me when I need to investigate a telephone conversation.  In this case, I pulled the patient’s chart and the medical assistant wrote a note stating that she called the health plan on 5/23/09 at 3:13 pm and found out that no prior authorization was needed and that she talked with Ann.  I knew my medical assistant’s extension and searched based on the information that I had, and viola, I found the four minute telephone conversation between my medical assistant and the health plan representative, Ann, who said that the patient did not need a prior authorization for the CT scan!

I had a three way conference call between the patient, myself and the health plan where I played the recording for them.  The patient was ecstatic!  I had to play this information a couple of levels up the ladder and was still told that someone would have to get back to me (quite frankly, I don’t think they were ready to address the fact that the doctor’s office actually had recorded them!  Uh oh!  They were caught!)

About a week later, the health plan representative called me and stated that they would cover the cost of this CT scan “this one time”.  She still did not want to take responsibility for her company giving inaccurate information.  She made it sound like we doctored up the recording…even though we have caller ID that had the health plan’s toll-free number and the first two minutes of the recording was the automated system that announces the health plan name.  I was even told by the rep that the person with whom my medical assistant had talked with, Ann, was not an employee of this health plan.  I love the lack of accountability!

Defensive medicine is taking on a new definition.  Besides the Internet, the next best resource I have in my office is the voice documentation system for phone call recording!  The system has aided me with staffing issues, patient issues and now insurance issues.  It has definitely paid for itself in protecting my physicians and our office from lying and deceit.

Is there a difference between a “Biller” and a “Coder”? Saturday, May 30 2009 

Many practices are stymied by the difference between a “biller” and a “coder”.  Why would a practice need both?  Are there any other alternatives?

Well, there is a major difference and it is possible to find one person who can do both…if you are lucky!

A “Coder” is trained in CPT and Medicare coding guidelines.  They should understand Documentation Guidelines in determining coding for Evaluation and Management services.  In addition, they are trained in coding HCPCS and ICD-9, as well.  The coder is usually more “black and white”, they look at coding as somewhat of an exact science.  The problem that I see is when you put five coders in the same room and ask them to code the same thing, you will probably have five different answers!

The “Biller” will be more the “gray-area” thinker.  They see how claims are paid by each health plan.  They know that each health plan has their own reimbursement policies and that the “rules” are consistently inconsistent.  They may not be as well versed in the exact coding of services, but they know how each health plan reimburses specific codes and coding combinations.  If I have a question regarding how a specific health plan reimburses an office visit on the same day as a preventive medicine visit, I will ask my Biller.

Typically, you will find that an employee has either a “coder” or “biller” perspective.  Each are good and needed by physicians; however, there are some people out there who have both perspectives and they are Golden!  If a practice is fortunate enough to bring on an employee with both viewpoints, they will have a valuable asset on staff.