Friday, October 19, 2012

Staying Solo: Best Practices

Many doctors are throwing in the towel and seeking the perceived safety of an employed position.  The rest of us independent stalwarts continue to fight on in the struggle to remain independent, profitable, and happy.  How do we do it.
  1. Electronic claims submission
  2. Electronic payment posting
  3. Realtime eligibility verification
  4. Bidirectional laboratory interfacing
  5. Integrated EMR/PM system, ie and EHR
  6. Point of care bill collecting
  7. Aggressive collection practices
  8. Answer phones 24/7
  9. Easy and convenient scheduling
  10. Total commitment to patient well being and outcomes

Good luck and enjoy the ride.

The IU

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My E.H.R. Experience: A 15-year Journey

I have been using an E.H.R. off and on since the mid-1990s.  At that time, I was using the VA Medical Center’s system, VISTA.  Few current commercially available systems today can compare to what VISTA had in functionality back in 1999.  It was truly a fantastic system and it became for me the gold standard by which all other systems would be compared.

From July 2001 to April 2006 I went back in time, leaving the electronic world for the world of paper charts and DOS based billing systems.   I think this experience—living in both the paper and electronic worlds--taught me that medical offices run best in a digital environment.   Medical practice is too data-rich and high volume data is best managed in a digital format.  It is just that simple. 

In 2006, I left the paper world and returned to the digital one.  When I opened my own practice, I wanted to be electronic from day one.  The only problem was that I could not afford systems.  In addition, like many members of this IPA, I did not see the value in paying up to $40,000 for software.  That just seemed crazy to me, and in a way it still does.  So I built my own homegrown EMR system

I can tell you that my homegrown system was terrific and better than any paper system I ever used.  I used templates and macros and electronic faxing.  I set up in-bound lab interfaces so I never had to scan labs into my system.  I could retrieve patient charts in microseconds, rather than the days it would take to locate a chart in my old practices that were still on paper.  And I could access my charts from home or away.  The cost was the best part: a couple hundred bucks.  All software was commercially available, off the shelf, and general use.   So why the hell did I change? 

By 2008, my practice had outgrown the capacity of my system.  What worked with a volume of 35 patients per week no longer worked at 65 patients per week.   I grew tired of tinkering with my homegrown system.  Not only was I the developer, I was the IT support specialist, trainer, network engineer, and troubleshooter all wrapped into one.  I really just wanted to be a doctor and to be able to focus on patient care and growing the practice.   Plus I was swimming in post-it notes and drowning in pharmacy related issues.  To add to the stress, 2007 saw the advent of the RAC era.  At a moments notice, I could receive via mail an audit request letter for coding and compliance and potentially be liable for tens of thousands of dollars.  My system was just not equipped for any of that.   Finally, I had an EMR system and a separate billing system and they could not “speak” with one another.  So it was difficult if not impossible for me to do the type of practice analytics I needed to do to grow my practice.  I needed professional solution and I was finally willing to pay for it.

In 2009 I went live on my EHR and have never looked back.  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Facebook Advertising Experience

My Experience with Facebook Advertising

There used to be a bakery on Armitage Ave in Chicago that gave at free samples of bread.  The bread was amazing.  The bakery was in a great location and had tons of foot traffic.  The store was mobbed from opening to closing.   Ultimately the bakery closed.  Why?  I don’t know specifically but I suspect that people came to the store for the free bread but then never went on to buy a loaf.   In web parlance, the store got tons of clicks but few sales: few conversions. 

This is somewhat like my experience as a Facebook advertiser. 

II used to advertise on Facebook and may again someday but as for now, at least for what I do, I see their advertising model as flawed.  All in all, I spent a couple grand in total.  That was spread out over a number of campaigns beginning in 2010 and most recently in early 2012.   Website analytics indicated that Facebook was the number one referral source to my websites, and   I tried both pay-per click and pay-per impression and both were effective in driving traffic to my sites.   In fact, Facebook was more effective than Google in driving traffic to the site.  So sounds good, right?   Facebook would claim success and blame any failures on my website.  Perhaps they are right perhaps not. 

Let’s go a bit deeper.    Business owners care about sales.  While traffic may lead to sales, traffic in and of itself, does not help.  While both Google and Facebook will drive traffic to your website, in in effect you business, Facebook sends lurkers and window shoppers while Google sends determined customers.  My websites are fine, as evidenced by conversions of traffic to actually physical patients coming into the office.    

Big difference.      

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Guest Post: The Future of Obamacare if Romney’s Elected

Guest Post:

Title: 5 Tips for Physicians Preparing for the ACA

As election day approaches, the future of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is a hot topic among politicians, healthcare professionals and politicians alike. However, the outcome of the 2012 Presidential Election is unlikely to have an impact on the ACA.

David Fried, contributor to Software Advice, argues a victory by either Obama or Romney means the ACA, in the most part, is here to stay. To help physicians he provides 5 ways to effectively prepare for the impact of the ACA.

1. Decide How to Address Medicare and Medicaid
The decision to accept Medicare and Medicaid patients becomes even more difficult, as the ability to offset costs becomes increasingly difficult for physicians. With almost a quarter trillion dollars in Medicare and Medicare Advantage payments expected, physicians should begin to act now rather than later and addressing how to accept new patients.

2. Consider Relocating to a Rural Area
Ever wanted to relocate away from the big city? Now might be the time. The ACA rewards physicians that serve patients in what it calls “underserved areas” in the form of loan repayments and doctor scholarships. This is a great option for young doctors considering where to establish a new practice, as well.

3. Prepare for Bundled Payments
Soon, government payers will be transition to the “bundled payments” system, rather than paying physicians, labs and hospitals directly. This means that to receive payments for a patient, you may have to work with the hospital billing staff, rather than Medicare directly. Another consideration is to look into Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs. These groups of physicians coordinate group-care to bring down the cost of care for patients, for which the physicians receive half of the savings.

4. Take a Firm Stance on Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
If physicians are interested in receiving Medicare reimbursements and don’t yet have an EHR, they’ll need to move quickly. The ACA increases the requirements for patient reporting necessary to be compensated seeing government payers. Alternatively, physicians can decide to deny seeing these patients.

5. Extend Office and Practice Capabilities
The ACA will impact the number of patients that physicians will see in three ways. First, the ACA will extend coverage to 32 million additional Americans. Second, it requires insurance companies to cover more preventive care procedures. Third, it specifically prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage of pre-existing conditions. Thus, physicians could prepare to see more patients. One way they can do this is by extending hours. Another is by adding additional physicians to the practice’s staff.

Research for this post was conducted by David Fried and Software Advice.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

EMR: A problem Solver

A re-post:  See below.

If someone came to you with a solution to 3 out of the 5 biggest problems you face, you would probably take it--or at least listen to their proposal, right?

Imagine if someone said to you, "you know that persistent problem you have with your filing system, I found the perfect solution and you'll never have to deal with that again."  I don't know, I'd be all ears.

Every doctor has problems.  Filing and retrieving, lab tracking, order tracking, prescription refills, handwriting issues, messaging handling; these just name a few.   I certainly had my issues.  Many of them are now past tense issues.

Prescription issues:  99% solved.  On rare occasion I forget to initial a narcotic script or my rx printer malfunctions.

Message handling:  100% solved.

Handwriting issues: bye bye!

Filing/retrieving:  see ya.

Lab tracking: Bye bye.

I still have problems, but just not these problems.

A good thing.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Independent or Employed?

That is the question most doctors who have remained independent grapple with today. In today's environment only about 20% of US doctors are independent but that number is expected to drop even further. The reasons are financial and managerial: not enough of the former and too much of the latter. As a result, hospital employment is becoming an attractive option for many. But is it?
Hospitals face many of the huge economic burdens. Even though they get reimbursed at higher rates, they have enormous administrative costs. Even as hospital systems merge to increase market share, so do their costs. All this in a shrinking patient base that has pit health system against health system. Now some systems want to not just be the provider of health services, they aim to be the payers as well. This is an interesting turn of events. As provider your goal is to maximize payments but as payer it is to minimize payments. Who will be squeezed in such a model? Let's see?
The administrators? No way. They control the switch.
The nurses? Yes. They will need to work more for the same and less.
The doctors? Bingo.
Once you sign with a hospital, your practice is no longer yours. It is then only a matter of time before you get administratored, ie f@cked!
Hold out. Just hold out.
The IU
The last remaining independent urologist in my area.