Nosey Docs; Unfair Appeal Backlog; Fat Isn't Fit

March 8, 2014

Noteworthy items from Physicians Practice.

74

Percentage of physician practices that had not yet implemented their ICD-10 transition plan, as of late 2013.

Source: 334 practice managers/administrators, billing managers, and physicians who answered Navicure and Porter Research's ICD-10 Readiness Survey

Nosey Docs

"Doctors do 'Google' their patients … but it surprises me that more physicians don't pause and think about what it means for the patient-doctor relationship. What if one finds something that is not warm and fuzzy?"

Internal medicine resident Haider Javed Warraich, in a blog appearing in the New York Times

Unfair Appeal Backlog

"Providers aggrieved by a RAC payment denial - and who are twice as likely to win the appeal as lose it - are placed in administrative purgatory for years. There is no conceivable way this can constitute adequate due process."

Daniel Landon, senior vice president of government relations for the Missouri Hospital Association, in a Jan. 9 letter to the state's congressional delegation, as reported by Modern Healthcare

Retaining Patients

It is nine times more expensive to acquire new patients than it is to retain current ones, according to healthcare consultant and practice management expert Audrey "Christie" McLaughlin, a contributor to Practice Notes, Physicians Practice's blog. So what are some inexpensive and easy ways to maximize your retention strategies? For starters, know where your new patients are coming from - for example, by asking "Who may we thank for your referral?" Then, take great care of your referral sources by sending a thank you card or giving them a friendly phone call. For more patient-retention strategies, visit bit.ly/patient_retention.

Tech Budgeting

Trying to budget for healthcare IT needs this year? It is worth taking the time to identify - to the best of your ability - exactly what you will need to spend on IT, writes Nelson Gomes, healthcare IT consultant, in a Practice Notes blog. One of the most important cost considerations: security and compliance. "If you didn't invest in conducting risk analysis and remediation in regards to HIPAA and the HITECH Act, this is definitely something you will need to do and budget for in 2014," Gomes advises. For six more important cost considerations, see bit.ly/healthITbudget14.

Fat Isn't Fit, Says Study

Can you be obese and considered fit? No, say Canadian researchers in a recent report published by the Annals of Internal Medicine. Bernard Zinman, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and director of the diabetes center at the Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and his colleagues came to this conclusion - which contradicts other 2013 research - after scrutinizing eight studies from a total of 61,368 volunteers that looked not only at life expectancy and body mass index, but also at metabolic measurements such as blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, NBC NightlyNews observed. When Zinman and his colleagues looked only at data from studies with long-term follow-up and focused just on individuals who were "metabolically healthy," they found that obesity raised the risk of death, heart attack, and stroke by 24 percent, according to reports.

More Medicaid = More ER Visits?

As Medicaid expands under the Affordable Care Act, the hope is that fewer patients will seek costly emergency room help. But a new study of patients in Oregon found that people enrolled recently in Medicaid went to the emergency room 40 percent more frequently than others. And often they sought help for conditions that could be treated less expensively in a doctor's office or an urgent care clinic, the Huffington Post noted. The research, published in January by the journal Science, used hospital records to look at ER use over 18 months for 25,000 people in the Portland area who entered the Medicaid lottery. Patients who were chosen for coverage made, on average, 1.43 ER visits, compared with 1.02 for those who were not.

Perk Up

Physicians who need their morning - or late-night - cup of joe can enjoy their indulgence guilt free. A recent Johns Hopkins study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience reveals that consuming 200 milligrams of caffeine, about the amount in one cup of coffee, improved memory function, USA Today reports. For the study, 160 participants were shown a series of images, then five minutes later, some participants took 200 milligrams of caffeine in tablet form, while others took a placebo. When participants were asked to identify images they had seen the day before, those who consumed caffeine were better able to identify differences between the new images and ones they were shown a day earlier.

EHR Access

Do you know which of your employees has access to your EHR data and why? If not, you could land yourself in hot water. Riverside Medical Group, a large group practice of Newport News, Va.-based Riverside Health System is now paying up to $1 million in identity theft insurance per patient and offering free credit-monitoring protection for nearly 1,000 patients after discovering one if its nurses snooped in its EHR, Health Data Management reported. While the nurse was terminated, there are no criminal charges pending and no indication of credit or identity theft, but the investigation continues, according to the practice.

App of the Month: iBlueButton 5.0

iBlueButton, an app for iTunes and Google Play that allows users to download or automatically receive updates in their health records on their computer or mobile device with participating providers, unveiled a few new features at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The app's latest version 5.0 is now enhanced with "caregiver" features that allow anyone to view, download, and share with doctors their own medical records, as well as those of loved ones, all via their smartphone or tablet. The service is free for the first month, and $2.99 per month after (or $19.99 per year).

Helping Patients Reduce Stress

Are you doing all you can to help patients manage stress? Chances are, it's working, suggests evidence from a recent study. The study, "A Stressed Nation: Americans Search for a Healthy Balance," is based on a survey of more than 1,130 Americans ages 18 and older and 463 healthcare providers representing a variety of specialties and disciplines. According to the study, conducted by TeleVox and Kelton Research:

• 91 percent of healthcare providers said their patients could do a better job of managing their stress.

• 66 percent of providers said that e-mails, text messages, or phone calls with personalized tips from doctors between visits would help patients better manage their stress.

• 66 percent of patients would be interested in and/or happy to receive communications from their doctor with stress-management tips.

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Physicians Practice.