iLoveBenefits: Industry News Blog

Emailing with your Doctor

Most adults want doctors who offer e-mail communicationA survey by Catalyst Healthcare Research found 93% of responding people said they would choose a physician who offers e-mail communication. Researchers also found one-quarter of those people would select the practice even if they were charged $25 per episode. BeckersHospitalReview.com (5/13)

Price Transparency is Coming to a City Near You

On Wednesday, the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) – a coalition of hospitals, insurers, doctors, and consumer advocates – released a report that recommends ways in which providers, issuers, and employers can make information about health care prices readily available to consumers.  HFMA also released an accompanying guide telling consumers how to get such information.  The report says that all Americans “should be able to receive accurate price estimates from a reliable source; that transparency should help people make meaningful price comparisons ahead of service; and that price estimates should be accompanied by other relevant information (e.g., quality, safety, or outcomes) that will help consumers assess the value of a healthcare service.”

What Medicare Pays Physicians

For the first time, totals of what Medicare pays individual healthcare providers is now freely available to download and browse on a government website.

Patients, other healthcare providers, journalists, and anybody else willing to sift through an Excel spreadsheet nearly 900,000 rows deep can discover what each physician, nurse practitioner, and other professional who billed Medicare Part B earned from the program in 2012.

Read more here: http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/Medicare/45166?isalert=1&uun=g436319d1067R5533480u&utm_source=breaking-news&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=breaking-news&xid=NL_breakingnews_2014-04-09

Coming Soon: Dollars to Docs

The federal government will begin releasing information how much it pays individual physicians in Medicare starting next week, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials said Wednesday.

Does this small subset of pediatricians not believe in prevention

This is a very intriguing result in a poll of primary care physcians.  What apparently is happening is that the costs of acquiring and administering the vaccines is greater than the reimbursements realized by the physicians. It is hard to know if that is true.  It is certainly worth understanding more.

According to a national survey of private pediatricians and family physicians, 10% of physicians had seriously considered discontinuing providing all childhood vaccines to privately insured patients because of cost issues.

Source: “Vaccine
Financing From the Perspective of Primary Care Physicians,” Pediatrics,
abstract only, February 24, 2014, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/02/18/peds.2013-2637.abstract

Primary Care Total Cash Comp Increases Are Greater than Specialists

According to a recent survey of 484 organizations including over 91,000 health care providers, between 2012 and 2013:

  • The overall median total cash compensation for primary care physicians increased 5.7%
  • The overall median total cash compensation for medical specialists increased 3.2%, and 2.3% for surgical specialists
  • 64% of health care organizations reported paying at least some physicians for on-call coverage
  • 74% of the survey participants reported using hiring bonuses
  • 44% of physician employers provided benefits to physicians that were more generous than those provided to other employees

Source: “SullivanCotter’s Physician Compensation Survey Reveals Decreasing Gap Between Primary Care and Specialty Physician Compensation,” Sullivan, Cotter and Associates Press Release, February 25, 2014, https://www.sullivancotter.com/sullivancotters-physician-compensation-survey-reveals-decreasing-gap-primary-care-specialty-physician-compensation/

SGR and the Individual Mandate

House Republicans say they want to tie SGR repeal legislation to a delay in the ACA’s mandate that individuals purchase health insurance. The SGR repeal was previously bipartisan, but this latest GOP proposal is likely DOA in the Democrat controlled Senate.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration admitted Thursday they don’t know how many of the nearly 4 million who purchased insurance so far under the ACA were previously uninsured. However, a couple of independent surveys say the number is an underwhelming one in 10.

Does this improve outcomes or provide incremental revenue?

Is point-of-care ultrasound the new stethoscope?
A new paper espouses the benefits of hand-held ultrasound devices over the iconic stethoscope, arguing the convenience and power of ultrasound will improve diagnosis. Writing in the journal Global Heart, Drs. Jagat Narula and Bret Nelson of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine question why sonography isn’t used more widely. However, Dr. Reid Blackwelder, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, says the stethoscope remains valuable and warns wider use of sonography could bring additional costs — both for equipment and the tests that might follow the initial assessment. CBS News (1/24), LiveScience.com (1/23), USA Today (1/24)

So, I am not against advances, but is there evidence that the outcomes are better than with a stethoscope? I know it will be more expensive. The article talks about it leading to more tests, too.

On the other hand, how about personal medicine and getting these devices as apps with sophisticated computer software that links to a ‘benchmark’ database to inform patients of potential next steps? Does that lower the number of office visits and procedures vs. putting the technology only in the hands of the clinician?

Medicare’s Value Based Purchasing Program Results from 2013

The results of the Medicare Value Based Purchasing program are in. It will affect payments to hospitals in 2014.

Of the hospitals included in the program for 2014, 1,231 will see their payments increase while 1,451 will be paid less.

More than 1,400 hospitals will see their Medicare payments docked in 2014 as a result of their performance under the CMS’ value-based purchasing program, according to newly released federal data.

Because of the way the program is structured, roughly half of participating hospitals—just over 1,300—will break even over the course of 2014, meaning their payment change is between plus or minus 0.2%, and they will essentially recoup the initial DRG payment cut, said Dr. Patrick Conway, CMS chief medical officer and director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, in a Nov. 14 blog post.

Performance-based programs boost health quality for minorities

A study in Quality Management in Health Care revealed primary care
pay-for-performance programs were associated with improvements in five health
quality domains — diabetes, coronary artery disease, heart failure, screening
and prevention, and overall care — in minority patients. However, Hispanic and
Spanish language-preferring patients did not attain improvements in heart failure
care, researchers noted. BeckersHospitalReview.com (7/16)

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