From better understanding physician assistant reimbursement to improving physician and staff etiquette, Physicians Practice’s most read blogs this year provided answers to tough questions.
Here’s a recap of the five most-read blogs of 2012 and a look at some of the key lessons each provided.
This blog, written by physician assistant Stephen Hanson, addressed the importance of properly billing for PA services. “PAs can definitely contribute to a healthy bottom line for any practice, and are valuable members of the patient-centered, team-based healthcare model. Make sure that your billers are well versed in the rules for billing for PA services,” wrote Hanson.
Here are some of the key tips he shared:
• The importance of verifying each payer’s coverage policies for PAs directly;
• That Medicare claims should be submitted at the full physician rate, and that the PA’s National Provider Identification (NPI) number on the claim will alert Medicare to reduce the payment to 85 percent of the physician’s fee schedule;
• And that services provided in offices may be billed under Medicare’s “incident-to” provision, as long as Medicare’s more restrictive billing guidelines are met.
In this blog, consultant Carol Stryker wrote, “The rule of thumb is that 30 percent of the activity in any type of office is wasted. My experience is that the percentage is even higher in a medical office.”
Stryker went on to provides tips for how practices can review their processes in order to improve efficiencies and eliminate waste. One way she recommended is by identifying a process at your practice that you would like to make more efficient, and by writing down each of the steps involved in that process. Then, for each step ask:
• What does this have to do with the goal? If not much, eliminate it or combine it with another step.
• Is another step performing the same function? Eliminate the less effective step.
• Is there a tool, not available when the process was first developed, that gets the job done more effectively and/or efficiently?
• Could a step be added that would have a positive influence on a subsequent step?
This blog, written by consultant James Doulgeris, referenced some sobering statistics from a survey of more than 13,000 physicians.
“I believe that the key statistics ... clearly show that the U.S. healthcare system, which has become increasingly out of control year after year for decades, is in real danger of collapse, and that the Affordable Care Act is more the last straw than culprit,” Doulgeris wrote.
Here are some of the key findings referenced in his blog:
• Over three quarters of physicians are somewhat pessimistic or very pessimistic about the future of the medical profession.
• Over 84 percent of physicians agree that the medical profession is in decline.
• Over one third of physicians would not choose medicine if they had their careers to do over.
• Over 60 percent of physicians would retire today if they had the means.
This blog, written by Practice Notes blogger Aubrey Westgate, is based on an interview with Karen Hickman, an etiquette protocol consultant who trains healthcare staff and physicians throughout the country.
“Employing good manners and knowing the proper rules of etiquette in the business arena/medical arena really can make a difference in how you are perceived by the patients,” Hickman told Physicians Practice. “It lets them know that you value them, and that your office and your staff is happy to have their business.”
Hickman’s five tips for improving etiquette include guidance regarding how physicians can remain polite when stretched for time (for instance, sitting and facing the patient, which sends the message that the physician is paying close attention and giving the patient quality attention).
In this blog, attorney Martin Merritt wrote that “record numbers” of physicians are opting out of Medicare. “According to a recent survey by the Texas Medical Association, the number of Texas physicians accepting Medicare patients dropped from 78 percent in 2000, to 58 percent in 2012,” he wrote.
Merritt went on to describe these six reasons, he said, physicians are opting out: forced pay cuts, a bureaucratic nightmare, RAC auditors, stark law, whistleblowers, and criminal prosecution
In response to Merritt’s blog, Physicians Practice asked readers, “What’s the main reason you would stop (or you have stopped) accepting Medicare patients?” The most popular response we received was forced pay cuts.
“Nationwide, [the drop in physicians accepting Medicare patients] will continue, unless something is done to reinvigorate enthusiasm on the part of providers,” Merritt Wrote. “At the moment, the government is steaming full speed ahead, in the opposite direction.”
Interested in learning more? Here are the final five blogs that rounded out the top 10 most popular of 2012:
#6. Bush Tax Cut Expiration: What It Means for Physicians
#7. Addressing Patient Financial Hardship at Your Medical Practice
#8. How Obama's Re-election Will Change Medical Practice Staff
#9. What the Supreme Court's ACA Ruling Means for Physicians
#10. Should Medical Practice Staff Get Paid When the Office is Closed?