You need not be tethered to the office due to HIPAA

Spending time with family and living life should not be sacrificed to HIPAA.  That is, you can use your cell phone to communicate with your patients.  And hopefully, you will from some scenic places, or while spending some quality family time.

HIPAA does not restrict your communications to encrypted emails, and landlines.

But you do have the continued obligations to implement technical, physical and administrative safeguards in using your cellphone as you do any other communication device.

So, if you are going to use your cell phone, be smart, and safe about it.

Make sure your cell phone is password protected if it has patient information on it.  This is especially true if your phone is linked to your EHR and practice management electronic systems.   If you’re going to send emails, you have to have the same encryption safeguards that you do with your office systems.

Read More: When and why you should Switch Your EHR

Then makes sure you take steps to secure the phone physically.  That has the locator functionally on in case you lose it.  Control who you let use your phone.  That is, don’t pass it to your teenager as an amusement device, or to call the friends.

And when you do speak with patients, its like the elevator at the hospitals – be cognizant of where you are when you do speak. Don’t carry on the call in a public place, find a corner or walk away from the crowd.  And when speaking is cognizant of what you say, trying to avoid saying anything that could identify the patient, or publicly share sensitive personal health information.

A good practice is to tell your caller up front that you are on a cell phone and ask if it is ok to continue the conversation, or if they would prefer to be re-contacted when you can get to a landline or more secure location.  This lets them know where you are and lets them take part of the responsibility for the call.

Another responsibility that does not change is the obligation to document.  So, check out the recording features of your phone, again, password protection is a must.  After the call, record a simple reminder note that the call occurred, when, any medical advice is given, and on what basis you make it.  And if you are committing to calling in a prescription, make sure you record it and call it in.  You need not dictate a full not, that can wait till later, but you want enough to know what to enter into the patient’s medical record when you do.

So, get out of the office without being out of patient contact.  Far better, of course, is if you have coverage so you can get out of the office and be out of patient contact for at least a little while.

New research on how to keep patients loyal

Keeping patients loyal is crucial. However, patient confidence in provider’s abilities and how the staff cares for them is critical to patient retention.

The two important indicators of patient loyalty to a medical practice are patient confidence in the provider along with quality of care coordination. These factors surpass other issues such as wait times, practice facilities and ease of access as revealed in a recent study by healthcare consulting firm Press Ganey.research

The study finds that growing amount of patient access to provider quality data could see more patients switching physicians. This will certainly be fuelled by the Affordable Care Act as patients will have more physician options to choose from.

Press Ganey highlighted five risk factors which could lead to patients switching providers. It developed an algorithm that can be used to benchmark the risk of losing patients and suggested steps practices could take to mitigate the risks.

The identified risk factors include:

  • Confidence in provider
  • Care coordination
  • Provider concern about patient queries
  • Listening
  • Courtesy

Press Ganey developed a Decision Tree Analysis in which patients with high or low degrees of risks for leaving their physicians were divided into groups. Patients with a 1.9% risk of changing practices had “high confidence” in their providers while those with a 75% risk had “low confidence”.

Patients who expressed high confidence in their providers and felt good care coordination had a 1% risk of leaving the practice while those who thought care coordination was not good, had an 11% risk of switching providers. Patients who lacked confidence in their providers but believed the practice was good at care coordination were at a 28% risk while those patients who did not have confidence in their providers and did not like care coordination had a 90% risk of switching practices. The same risk factor methodology was applied to the other three factors determining patient loyalty as well.

“This analysis suggests that coordination of care and demonstrating concern for the worries of patients represent key opportunities for physicians and their associated medical practices to improve patient care, while also enhancing patient loyalty and supporting financial viability,” the Press Ganey researchers say.


Can more clinicians solve shortage of primary care physicians?

As a generally accepted rule, shortage of primary care providers is met by training more of them. However, looking at the problem in a different way – as a mismatch between the demand for primary care services and the system’s capacity to meet that demand – may result in faster and more cost-efficient results.primary care

One product which can help primary care physicians in improving their workflows largely is the “All-in-One” Cloud by CureMD. Click here to learn more.

Experts argue that the supply-demand gap for primary care services can be reduced by making better use of existing resources like primary care physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, medical assistants and health coaches.

Reassigning these resources can significantly improve primary care practices’ ability to meet patient needs in preventive, chronic and acute care. As per research, 17% of an average family practitioner’s time is spent on preventive care such as cancer screenings, immunizations and counseling.

Medical science has come a long way. It is allowing patients to perform many services themselves which earlier required a clinician such as home pregnancy tests, HIV tests, blood sugar checks, glucose monitoring, etc.

As technology continues to open new avenues of delivering healthcare in the industry, the future looks very promising. Soon enough, computers could be programmed to provide primary care to the patients and even be able to process medication refills for patients with diabetes, hyperlipidemia or hypertension.primary cares

The US faces a shortage of 90,000 primary care physicians by 2020 and 130,000 by 2025, as per the Association of American Medical Colleges. This is primarily the reason why there is growing concern among the healthcare regulatory authorities and physicians alike about the shortfall. The need of the hour is to tap the nation’s unused primary care capacity in a way that it is able to address the expected shortage. Technology will play a huge part towards achieving that as it can make the impossible, possible.


EMR Adoption and Change Resistance Management

You’re a medical practice manager with eyes on that CMS incentive program and its time to go EMR shopping. You’ve picked a product, everything looks great, the budget’s been allocated, partners & providers are with you, the vendor’s shared their magical implementation plan and you can’t wait to order the hardware.

This is where you slow down and go back to that smooth implementation plan to take a good look at it for the part that talks about “CHANGE RESISTANCE MANAGEMENT”. What! There isn’t one? Maybe you think you do not need one.  After all what can be so challenging about adopting an electronic medical record and a practice management system that will only require tweaking your business workflows while twisting arms of the back office staff. Also, don’t worry about the grumpy old radiology technician who firmly believes that technology ended with the invention of x-ray machines. The MAs’ won’t bite you just because the charts are now a few clicks away, far from that trusty old file closet.

Maybe you thought that it’s not the vendor’s responsibility to help you manage the commotion their product is going to cause at your front desk while the billers refuse to send the claims out in the back office. Your doctors probably don’t care about what product they are signing up for as long as they can still create notes on paper, slap them on scanners and beam them into an EMR.

A good EMR vendor with a mature implementation team will discuss change resistance with you; in fact they would ask you to establish all your business critical operations before sharing the implementation project plan with you. Chances are they will also share their workflows and rebuttals against each item you’ll share with them. This is usually the first step an implementation team will take with you. They should also ask you about the key staff members at the practice for establishing implementation partnerships. The chief biller at the practice can work with the vendor to facilitate a smooth deployment while acting as a key – post live communication person for his or her department. Same is the case with front desk, facility (lab, radiology etc…) and provider representatives at the practice.   A half decent implementation team will design their trainings around the concept of toning down the resistance that may surface with the adoption of their product.

Access to legacy data, adequate trainings, an established knowledge base and efficient pre live implementation communication are some of the key factors that contribute towards reducing the intensity of change resistance. Establishing a communication plan with the vendor before the start of the implementation process really pays off, since calling them every 20 minutes for the next six months is not healthy, certainly not for a practice. Find out if your vendor offers portal based communication such as e-ticketing or an action list.

Never underestimate the importance of legacy data so don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to data migrations. Find out what you’re paying for and make sure your staff gets a memo about what information will be accessible in the new EMR and what needs to be saved in Human Readable Format on a shared network. Insist on test data migration if your vendor has not offered one already and get a consensus on it from all stake holders.  A good vendor will probably ask you to sign an approval on the test data migration before conducting a final one.

Ask for training agenda against each scheduled session and then adhere to time and staff requirements.  Insist on post live Q&A sessions and share your staff’s concerns with the vendor beforehand.

Find out what kind of online training material is offered by your vendor and promote its usage amongst your staff. Identify leaders in all the departments and establish an effective leadership that can assist you in finding and implementing solutions  while communicating with vendors on your behalf.

Finally it does not matter how new the technology may be; the same old rule of “Nobody likes change” still applies.



Practice Management Software – A New Office Manager

In the healthcare industry, increased cost associated with the operations of medical practice is one of the issues that one would possibly hear physicians, especially the solo providers, whining about. Every now and then you would come across healthcare professionals complaining about the very fact that efficient management of both the administrative and financial operations is, but a delayed, result of enormous monetary costs. Hiring additional dedicated resources to control the administrative and financial side of the practice is one of the reasons behind the increasing operational costs. Fortunately, health IT has a remedy to this problem as well.  Applications like practice management are available to help physicians streamline the business operations on their own,  without having them spend hefty amount of money.

“Why do physicians even have to be spendthrift when they have practice management available to them? Today, established vendors even provide all-in-one, affordable solutions that could help physicians address both their clinical as well as administrative needs by merely paying a minimal monthly subscription fee”, says a San Francisco based health IT consultant.

Certainly, I tend to agree with the aforementioned statement. With practice management software in place physicians can perform all the non-clinical tasks by themselves. Practice management helps them optimize all the business workflows within seconds – thereby saving valuable time and money. From scheduling appointments to noting patient demographics to sending electronic messages, the built-in practice management modules help physicians streamline all these administrative tasks. The software also ensures that there exists seamless workflow transition between the front and back office so that no barriers hamper the billing operations once the clinical actions are completed.

Furthermore, cloud based practice management software has also helped in curbing the costs associated with traditional hosted servers. This means that after spending an affordable amount on implementing practice management, physicians do not have to waste more money on software upgrades and maintenance.

Considering the financial slump and appalling conditions of the economy, physicians cannot afford to spend a good deal of money on first hiring additional resources and then training them to manage the business operations of the practice. Instead they could simply implement practice management software and eliminate the need of an office manager. While adversaries would proclaim that this might end up hampering physicians’ productivity – making them less attentive towards their core responsibilities, the advocates would not back out on supporting practice management software and helping physicians realize the potential benefits this technology can bring to them.