Effectiveness/Efficiency

ER Docs And Out Of Network Billing. Are We In The Same Boat?

This recent article in the NYT and the NEJM study precipitating it widened the (malevolent) coverage of the fees paid by patients and insurance companies to out of network physicians.  If you are not familiar with the issue, doctors working in hospitals--who may not participate in the plans the hospitals accept--separately bill the insurance companies for higher than average charges.  Since there is no upfront negotiated discount, typically found when docs belong to a plan, the insurance company may or may not pay the asking fee.  If they do not, the often sky-high balance becomes the patient's responsibility.  From the patient's point of view, the process makes no sense; if a hospital participates in their plan, so should the docs. Not so.  Hospitals do their thing.  Professional do theirs. The problem of balance billing and out of network providers does not reside in one or two states, and the practice touches…

Count Me – and My Intuition – In

In modern medicine, we’re surrounded by EMR systems, lab tests and increasingly complex medical equipment. But I sometimes stop and wonder: Where does my intuition fit into the equation? Case in point: The other day, I had one of those days that happens in hospital medicine where nothing goes right. A patient admitted right at change of shift, with a diabetic foot ulcer as a chief complaint, was found to have an 8.0-gram hemoglobin drop from her baseline. Further questioning by the night admitting MD revealed that the patient had been having melena for several days. GI was consulted, but the lab was considered to be spurious. A stat repeat CBC and type and crossmatch was ordered. The EMR system was down, though this was not apparent at first. Because of this, it was not immediately evident that the lab could not see the order entered into the EMR system.…

Wow! A Two-fer

First I hear the American Board of Pediatrics ordains hospital medicine as a bonafide subspecialty. Then, for the adults among us, CMS issues a hospitalist specialty code.  No joke.  A specialty code--go live on April 3, 2017. This has been a laborious task and years in the making. Have a lookie: If you are scratching your head and wondering about the fuss, let me tell you the insights we will draw from the new knowledge and why it will advance our specialty.  For years, hospitalists got lumped with "generalists" when CMS, researchers, or insurance companies ventured to look at physician utilization patterns and service to the healthcare system. What was our individual and collective cost or contribution to a case?  Who understood.  Any interested party trying to untangle what a doc was producing during a hospital stay had only billing patterns, i.e., the percentage of inpatient codes one charged, to determine if…

Pressure Drop

A famous joke in hospital medicine is Mitch Wilson’s oft quoted statement: “When you have seen one hospitalist group you have seen one hospitalist group.” It is true that there is much variety in comparing one practice to another. Maybe that’s why our specialty has such vigor; we are constantly trying to learn from each other and decipher and decode the problems in hospital medicine. But there is definitely one commonality in hospital medicine: pressure. We are pressured to take more patients and own more aspects of the in-hospital and post-hospital space. We are pressured to find providers, and that’s not easy to do in an environment where your neighbor might be offering more money or fewer hours to that treasured provider. This pressure on adequate and stable staffing is worsened by the shrinking reimbursements on the hospital side. A model where there is fierce competition for providers and shrinking…

Next on #JHMChat: Ideas from Residents to Root Out Routine Labs

While the saying goes, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, I think we all assume you can teach a new dog new tricks… or at least all of us in medical education believe this! However, new research in the Journal of Hospital Medicine highlights that maybe the old dog is the key to the puzzle after all. In the case of routine labs, a practice that has already been called into question by the Society of Hospital Medicine’s Choosing Wisely list, the majority of medicine and surgery residents at University of Pennsylvania admitted that they engaged in unnecessary ordering of inpatient labs, with over a third of them occurring on a daily basis! Why is this so hard to change? Not surprisingly, one of the key culprits was it was hard-to-break habit. However, several of the top reasons were also related to the “old dog”, also known as…
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