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Reimbursement Rates: Don’t Settle for Less

As with anything in the healthcare industry, reimbursement rates are constantly in flux. New providers are often caught between the urgency of signing contracts in order to expand their patient base and the time it takes to negotiate fees(1) that accurately reflect their experience and talent.

Lack of experience can definitely be a liability when it comes to negotiating power. Results are what providers need to prove their value to insurance networks. However, providers can’t get results without being part of a network. Lacking results, a provider’s next best asset is data. Do some homework on your available network options, also taking into consideration providers in both similar and parallel specialties. A strong medical network works just as a strong social network does: it’s who/what you know and who/what they know.

Reimbursement rates are influenced by more than a single physician’s skill. The entire office staff is a reflection of what the physician is worth, including any advance practice providers (APPs), such as PAs and APRNs(3), that support the registered physician. The office’s reputation, clinical quality, professionalism, and patient satisfaction are all measurable components that can help you make an argument for increasing your reimbursement rates every time your contract is up for renegotiation. Keep in mind that insurance companies have their own competition to ward off, and every provider that they can depend on in their provider counts is an asset in their marketing arsenal too.

Our partner, SE Healthcare, has published an insightful piece, titled “Positioning Your Practice to Negotiate the Reimbursement You Deserve from Payers.(2)” This ebook explains strategies to uncover missed opportunities and grow your revenue by maximizing reimbursement rates.

Contact us(4) today so you can take advantage of the benefits of your CARE membership to utilize the expertise of our partner, SE Healthcare. They will help you assess your current reimbursement rates and formulate a strategy to maximize your current reimbursement contracts.

Footnotes

  • https://blog.evisit.com/how-to-negotiate-higher-physician-reimbursement-rates
  • https://www.sehealthcarequalityconsulting.com/download-ebook-positioning-your-practice-to-negotiate-the-reimbursement-you-deserve-from-payers/
  • https://www.physicianspractice.com/article/pas-deserve-direct-reimbursement-their-services
  • https://care-ins.com/contact/

The Fine Line Between Supervision and Accountability

In an earlier blog, we discussed the Swiss cheese model as it relates to risk management in healthcare. Today’s article takes a deeper dive into the element of supervision in that model, especially as it relates to Advanced Practice Providers (APPs). These APPs are generally defined(1) as professionals with advanced training, such as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and Physician Assistants (PAs). A practice itself might employ APPs or managing physicians may simply have supervisory responsibilities due to contractual arrangements directly with APPs or with facilities that use APPs. In either case, APPs are able to practice independently of physicians(2).

As this video explains, APPs are essential to professional practices in that they assist with provider workload and help keep costs down. Any office that is inundated enough to outsource some of its workload to APPs runs the risk of miscommunication, inadequate care, adverse events, and subsequent litigation. This resulting litigation could potentially involve both the supervising physician and the APP. That is why it is immensely important to outline the scope of the APP’s responsibilities, taking in to account their experience and ability to make judgement calls in the absence of the supervising provider.

The RiskFit helpline, managed by OmniSure, serves as a vital resource to CARE Professional Liability Association members. The professionals that operate this helpline can answer questions about the following:

  • Developing a collaborative provider/APP agreement
  • State-specific laws regarding APP scope of responsibilities
  • Hiring protocols
  • Proper risk reduction audit procedures
  • Capturing patient satisfaction metrics

All of these aspects of APP employment need to be carefully planned and documented to avoid potential litigation issues. The partnership between CARE and OmniSure puts a wealth of expertise at your fingertips to help you fill the holes in your risk management plan so that it does not turn into a block of Swiss cheese.

Contact us today if you have questions about whether your plan provides coverage for the APPs in your practice. Laws vary based on the state where you practice(2), and are constantly changing. Put our expertise to work for you in designing a coverage plan that perfectly suits your business.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2017/03/16/advanced-practice-providers-are-key-to-americas-healthcare-future/#2c8596759985
  2. https://www.studergroup.com/resources/articles-and-industry-updates/insights/august-2016/optimizing-the-value-of-advanced-practice-provider
  3. https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/clinical-care/aprn-and-pa-scope-practice-rules-draw-fire

Risks of an AMA Discharge

The hospital term “AMA” usually refers to when a patient decides to leave the hospital and the care of the attending providers against their medical advice. The AMA designation is used so that future healthcare providers are aware of how the patient/provider relationship came to an end while the patient was hospitalized. This serves to legally shield the attending doctor and hospital from liability if a patient gets ill or dies as a result of the discharge(1).

Patients most often opt for an AMA discharge for the following reasons:

  • Cost
  • Lack of insurance
  • Disagreements over standard of care
  • Errors or mistakes in administering care
  • Previous bad experiences
  • Fear of contagion
  • Wait times are too long
  • Personal reasons

Patients who discharge with the AMA designation definitely pose a litigation risk(2). Without proper treatment and monitoring, these patients are left to make major medical decisions without the advice of a professional. And further, if a patient is in the hospital in the first place, it is likely that they cannot properly treat themselves at home for the same illness/injury. Should the patient’s case come to litigation, the outcome will hinge on what was said, done, and documented when the patient left the hospital, especially the conversation about the AMA designation(3).

Prevention is key when it comes to managing whether a patient even considers an AMA discharge in the first place. The best course of action for a hospital or provider is to diffuse any potential situations before they escalate into an AMA discharge request(4). This is best accomplished by utilizing patient advocates to mediate between the patient’s concerns and the hospital’s directives. This method ensures that both parties are heard and understood by an objective source. Plus, the likelihood of achieving a mutually agreed upon plan of care (and hence, the quality of the care itself) increases when all parties’ concerns are addressed.

Contact us today to determine if your liability coverage is sufficient if your practice incurs an AMA-related lawsuit.

Footnotes

  1. verywellhealth.com
  2. the-hospitalist.org
  3. thesullivangroup.com
  4. today.mims.com

Losing a Provider: Ensure Proper Recordkeeping

Providers change practices every day, so it’s important to have a policy in place to provide guidance for patient care and records retention. A formal policy could include the following elements(1):

  • Notify patients of provider’s departure (state laws vary as to whom the responsible party is for this notification, as do details of what to include in the notice; check with your legal counsel for specifics of your situs state)
  • Instructions for contacting departing physician (if still practicing medicine)
  • Contact information at existing practice for reassignment to another provider
  • Instructions for requesting medical records

Most importantly, the policy needs to be communicated to existing staff so that there is no disruption in continuity of care.

Managing the affected patients is only one aspect of provider departures. When it comes to medical records(2), a policy should specifically outline these elements:

  • Exact end date of departing provider
  • Specific party responsible for transferring and archiving records
  • Which party is responsible for contacting affected patients
  • Updating new provider with relevant medical history of patients

Don’t rely too heavily on electronic recordkeeping, though. Nothing beats the trained eye of a professional. Electronic health record (EHR) systems(3) are only as thorough as the data that a person has entered into the system. Mistakes and oversights are just as likely to happen on a computer screen as they are to happen on paper. While EHRs save time, space, and headaches, they might also be managed with great care upon a provider’s departure from one practice to another. Fastidious record keeping is even more important in the event of retirement or death.

If you would like additional guidance in developing these types of policies for your practice, look to other sources, such as HIPAA guidelines, payer contracts, and federal programs such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) (4).

Contact us today. We can help you formulate these types of policies to ensure that they mitigate your risk from future litigation.

Footnotes

  1. ECRI.org
  2. ama-assn.org
  3. physicianspractice.com
  4. cms.gov

CARE Joins Forces with Digital Surgery

At CARE, we strive to partner with other industry leaders who can bring high-quality, meaningful contributions to our members. In the spirit of that goal, we have joined forces with Digital Surgery, a leader in simulation training, surgical video management and storage, and automated surgical analytics. Digital Surgery’s award-winning mobile application Touch Surgery houses more than 200 surgical simulations across 14 specialties, and its content library is continuously growing. The company’s latest offering, Touch Surgery Professional, offers secure video storage and management, automated analytics, annotation tools, and sharing capabilities for peer review and training purposes.

Together, CARE and Digital Surgery offer unique benefits to members that make coverage through CARE an even more invaluable investment. For example, qualified* Touch Surgery Professional (TS Pro) members can receive up to 10% off their CARE insurance policy. Another benefit of combined membership is knowledge exchange, which grows exponentially as members exchange ideas, solutions, and best practices via the TS Pro platform.

Digital Surgery’s goal is to utilize digital technology to empower surgeons and surgical teams all over the world to create safer, better outcomes. Like many of us in the healthcare field, Digital Surgery wants its tools to help increase knowledge and improve the delivery of surgical care across the globe. 

Contact us today. We can help you maximize your membership through our collaboration with Digital Surgery. Working together, we bring these industry-leading tools and resources to you to optimize your and your team’s training, shared learning, and performance in the operating room. 

*Qualified Digital Surgery members are those who have signed up for the Touch Surgery Professional offering, available for $999 for an annual subscription. This subscription provides access to (1) all of Digital Surgery’s publicly available CG and video-based simulations, (2) Digital Surgery’s video upload and storage platform, with automated analytics for selected procedures, (3) tools to annotate videos; add instruments, notes, and assessments; and to share with colleagues or trainees for peer review or training purposes. A minimum of 50 surgical videos are required to be uploaded annually to the Touch Surgery Professional video platform in order to remain eligible for the CARE insurance premium discount.

Agents: Educate Both Yourself and Your Clients

Brokers and agents act as the liaison between medical malpractice insurance carriers and healthcare providers (including doctors, ARNPs, surgeons, dentists, behavioral health professionals, etc.). As a liaison, it’s important that you understand the complexities of this type of liability insurance. Some of your clients might be just out of medical school, or working as a subcontractor, or are going into business for themselves and no longer under the umbrella of a hospital policy. No matter their situation, your main goal is to educate your clients.

How can you help them decide which policy is best for them? Some key elements to discuss with them include:

  • Point out whether a policy covers bodily injury, property damage, and/or liability for personal injuries. And if so, what are the coverage limits? Be sure to note that per-occurrence and per-policy limits are two separate dollar amounts. Outline any conditions and exclusions so there are no surprises should your client be sued.
  • Know your state’s minimum requirements for insuring specific types of practices. Surgeons and OB practices have more risk potential, and therefore, need stronger risk buffers.
  • In addition to state minimums mentioned above, ask your clients how risk-averse they tend to be. How comfortable are they with lower policy caps? You don’t want them losing sleep at night (and calling you!) when they could simply make some policy adjustments to match their comfort level.
  • Discuss potential litigation costs, and specifically which legal expenses are covered by the policy.
  • Outline differences in reporting periods. Basically, they have two options: claims-made policies or per-occurrence policies.

Considering that a majority of healthcare professionals will face at least one medical malpractice lawsuit in the course of their career, their liability coverage is an important part of their success. Aligning your clients with proper coverage ensures success for both you and them.

Contact us today if you’d like to learn more about becoming an agent for CARE. We place a strong focus on serving the needs of our agent/broker network and would love to discuss partnering with you.

The Benefits of a Solid Risk Management Plan

It’s imperative to be proactive in healthcare. Not only in caring for your patients and staff, but also to stay ahead of any inherent risks to your business. A solid risk management plan reduces your liability in the first place, and acts to minimize litigation (should it happen). This protects not only your financial standing and assets, but also your firm’s market share, accreditation, reimbursement levels, brand value, and community standing.

One major benefit of instituting a risk management plan is that it improves patient outcomes too. A heightened awareness of processes, especially documentation, instills a sense of professionalism across your entire team, including both healthcare workers and office staff. This in turn reduces errors, which improves patient satisfaction and strengthens your reputation in the community. It also increases your bottom line by reducing expenses.

Risk management, at a basic level, is the responsibility of everyone employed at your business. But since everyone already has a full plate of responsibilities, their role is usually more reactive (to specific events) than proactive (looking at the big picture). You also need an expert on your team. Depending on the size of your practice, it might make sense to hire a risk manager. However, more often than not, your budget simply doesn’t have the room to take on a full-time salaried position. Partnering with a third-party risk management firm might be the perfect compromise.

Speaking of third parties, a level of risk is both assumed and mitigated whenever you contract with third parties. Not just for malpractice management, but for any services. Consider basics, such as records management and document shredding services. These may seem like simple tasks, but everything related to healthcare records needs to be considered under the watchful umbrella of compliance. Data sharing, storage, and destruction all fall under that umbrella.

Contact us today if you have questions about risk management and outsourcing those types of responsibilities. We would love to put our collective experience to work for you.

Medical Malpractice Concerns: Mitigating Your Risk

Can physicians and providers take steps to mitigate their malpractice lawsuit risk? While it may seem an inevitability, there are measures you can take to protect yourself and your practice.

The first step involves patient relations. Having a solid rapport with patients before any issues arise is the best way to instill confidence and trust. It is important to communicate to patients whenever a problem occurs. And if that issue includes a physician error, an apology is a necessary component of malpractice mitigation. An honest conversation about what went wrong builds faith in the patient/provider relationship. No one wants to do business with someone that they feel is untrustworthy. Not a mechanic, and certainly not a medical provider. The transparency of communicating the issue is paramount to patient relations, but the solution is also important. Resolve the issue and it strengthens your reputation as a problem solver.

Documentation is an important part of any malpractice avoidance strategy. Documentation is not only about maintaining detailed official patient records about diagnoses and procedures, but also includes proof of all conversations involving consent, care, complications, options, and expectations of both the provider and the patient. An often-overlooked piece of documentation is when a patient is referred to another provider. If their condition is serious, ensure that they understand the urgency in which they need treatment and follow up.

Another element largely at play is simple geography. Educate yourself on your state’s specific malpractice laws. Variations and factors include:

  • Each state’s tort reform laws differ, some require a certificate of merit before a case can proceed through the court system
  • Some states enlist the professional opinion of medical review panels, which are comprised of medical and legal professionals
  • Statutes of limitation also differ between states
  • Damage caps vary, and play a large part in whether attorneys are willing to proceed with malpractice suits

In general, it’s important to have a concrete system of checks and balances in place (this protects both providers and patients). It encourages professionalism at all points of contact and eliminates doubt that any patient is likely to have when undergoing serious/complicated medical treatment. Being deemed reliable is a great way to mitigate your malpractice suit likelihood.

Contact us today. We can analyze your firm’s liability potential and provide you with solutions to lessen your malpractice concerns.