Financial Management

You Have Lowered Length of Stay. Congratulations. You’re Fired.

For several decades, providers working within hospitals have had incentives to reduce stay durations and keep patient flow tip-top. DRG-based and capitated payments expedited that shift. Accompanying the change, physicians became more aware of the potential repercussions of sicker and quicker discharges. They began to monitor their care and as best as possible, use what measures they could ascertain as a proxy for quality (readmissions and hospital acquired conditions). Providers balanced the harms of a continued stay over the benefits of added days, not to mention the need for cost savings. However, the narrow focus on the hospital stay, the first three to seven days of illness, distracted us from the out weeks after discharge. With the acceleration of inpatient episodes, we cast patients to post-acute settings unprepared for the hardship they would face. By the latter, I mean, frailty risk, more reliance on others for help, and a greater need…

We Are All Accomplices In The Great American Coding Swindle

"Membership in the American Academy of Professional Coders has risen to more than 170,000 today from roughly 70,000 in 2008." "The AMA owns the copyright to CPT, the code used by doctors. It publishes coding books and dictionaries. It also creates new codes when doctors want to charge for a new procedure. It levies a licensing fee on billing companies for using CPT codes on bills. Royalties for CPT codes, along with revenues from other products, are the association’s biggest single source of income" Aint that something? Okay, I would rank Elizabeth Rosenthal up there with Atul Gawande and Lisa Rosenbaum in the pantheon of standout healthcare writers active today.  They are all docs and have more skill in their writing pinky than I have in my entire body. They have a unique talent in stitching together narratives that speak to both docs and patients in their language--and do it within…

Dont Compare HM Group Part B Costs Hospital to Hospital. It’s About the Variation Between Individuals.

I have been and will be light on the blogging these days.  However, a new JAMA online first study out looking at hospitalist Part B cost variation deserves some attention.  Bestill my heart.  It's not about groups.  It's about individual physicians.  The gap between high- and low-spending doctors in the same hospital was larger than the gap in spending between hospitals. From the editorial: In this issue, Tsugawa et al3 analyze spending by individual physicians in relation to patient outcomes. The research team compared Medicare Part B spending per hospitalization by hospitalists practicing within the same hospital. To profile each physician’s level of spending, average Part B spending per hospitalization for 2011 and 2012 was used, then applied to clinical outcomes (30-day readmission and 30-day mortality rates) for 2013 and 2014. The split-sample approach mitigates bias if a physician treats a complex set of patients in one year and therefore has…

Equal Time for Hospital Execs

Last month, I wrote a letter to hospital executives, urging them to deliberately invest their own personal time and effort in fostering hospitalist wellbeing. I suggested several actions that leaders can take to enhance hospitalist job satisfaction and reduce the risk of burnout and turnover. Following publication of that post, I heard from several hospital executives and was pleasantly surprised that they all responded positively to my message. Several execs told me that they gained valuable new insights about their hospitalists’ challenges and needs or that they planned to take action on one or more of my suggestions that had never occurred to them before.  Especially useful to them was the idea of a hospitalist “hierarchy of needs,” in which basics such as well-designed work (including adequate staffing), belonging, and esteem must be addressed before expecting hospitalists to undertake “self-actualizing” work, such as engagement in organizational performance improvement initiatives. Their…

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…
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