From examining patient payment collections to identifying common HIPAA violations, Physicians Practice’s most popular blogs this year shed light on some of the biggest challenges medical practices are facing. Here’s a recap of the five most-read blogs of 2013:
#1. Patient Copays: To Bill or Not to Bill?
This blog, written by pediatrician Rebecca Fox, describes the difficulty of collecting patient copays. "I think patients sometimes forget that we are a business and we have bills and payroll that we must pay," Fox wrote.
She went on to describe the changes her practice has made to improve copay collections. They include:
• Asking for the patient's copay at check-in.
• Tacking on a $5 service charge if her practice must send a bill for the copay.
• Offering a discount to uninsured patients who pay cash on the same day of service.
#2. AAPS Sues Over Maintenance of Certification
This blog, written by health lawyer Martin Merritt, features a Q&A with internal medicine physician Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons (AAPS). In the Q&A, Merritt and Orient discuss the AAPS' lawsuit against the American Board of Medical Specialties over its maintenance of certification program.
" ... What we are worried about is the fact that perfectly capable physicians are being black-balled, or locked out of the ability to treat patients, because they do not have the time, or inclination to purchase a product from a private corporation, which has nothing to do with the physician’s ability to treat patients," said Orient of the lawsuit.
The blog received dozens of comments from readers voicing their support of the AAPS and thanking it for taking action.
#3. Why Physicians Should Steer Clear of Treating Family Members
This blog, written by attorney Ericka L. Adler, discusses some of the rules and regulations physicians should consider prior to treating "informal" patients such as family, friends, and acquaintances. Here are a few of Adler's key points:
• The assessment and treatment process for a relative should mirror that of a non-relative.
• Major insurers often exclude medical treatment provided to a physician’s family member from coverage.
• Physicians should be especially wary of prescribing highly addictive medications to family members.
#4. Want to Easily Violate HIPAA? Put Patient Data on a Laptop
This blog, written by healthcare IT consultant Marion Jenkins, notes the high number of data breaches that involve stolen laptops.
"Never, never, ever, ever, put any kind of patient data of any kind on any laptop, portable drive, tablet, smartphone, CD, DVD, USB key, or any other portable device," Jekins wrote. " ... As soon as you or any of your employees put electronic [protected] health information (PHI) on a laptop, you are just begging to become the next national HIPAA headline."
#5. Five Key Areas of the New HIPAA Rules for Physicians
This blog, written by Martin Merritt, features a Q&A with San Diego health lawyer Martha Ann (Marty) Knutson. In the Q&A, Merritt and Knutson discuss changes included in the HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule, which went into effect in late September.
Here are some of the key changes noted:
• The requirement that physicians use "reasonable diligence" in selecting and monitoring the actions of their business associates.
• The requirement that additional statements be included in Notices of Privacy Practices (NPPs).
• The acknowledgement of the patient's right to receive a "machine readable" copy of portions of the EHR related to him.
Interested in reading more popular 2013 blogs? Here are the final five that rounded out the top 10:
• Three Additional Income Opportunities for Physicians
• Dealing with Difficult People Part of Working at a Medical Practice
• Six Ways to Reduce Medical Practice Operating Expenses
• My Practice's Next Hire: Nurse Practitioner or Physician?
• Physicians Need to Explore the Personal Risk of Joining ACOs