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Advance Beneficiary Notice FAQs

The advance beneficiary notice (ABN) is a powerful tool for practices to educate patients about their benefits and responsibilities for Medicare non-covered services. Many of our readers still write us to ask questions about the form and the correct way to use it in the office, so we developed this Frequently Asked Questions list for the ABN to clear up some of the confusion.

We always tell the physicians we work with: “If you are going to accept insurance, you need to be the expert on insurance.” In practice this means knowing your patient’s benefits and working with them to communicate with them about what, if anything, they will owe before or after payer adjudication. No one enjoys being surprised about money!

The ABN is also a tremendous opportunity to talk about financial responsibilities with a patient. If you don’t have a credit card on file program in your practice, it’s important to be proactive about patient financial responsibilities and how they will be handled. Having a patient sign that they understand they will be financially responsible for payment for a non-covered service is a natural way to start that process.

Here are some of your most frequently asked ABN questions.

What is the ABN? What does it do?

The ABN was originally developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make sure Medicare patients were aware that if they received services that were not covered by Medicare, payment for these services would be their responsibility. By signing the ABN, the patient agrees that if Medicare (or other payer) does not pay the physician then the patient will have to pay for it. The document affirms that the patient knows they could be required to pay out of pocket. Once the ABN is signed, if you are sure Medicare won’t pay you can (and probably should) collect the patient portion listed on the form immediately. You can charge in full for the services if the ABN is signed, however the service is self-pay at that point, so I always suggest you charge your self-pay rate.

What won’t Medicare pay for?

The classic example is an annual physical, which many people assume is part of their Medicare coverage. Medicare will pay for an initial “Welcome to Medicare” visit, as well as an “Annual Wellness” visit, but the key word to hear is “visit”. These are not physical examinations. If a patient wants a physical, they will need to sign an ABN before the service saying they understand that Medicare will not pay for it. Other things that Medicare will not pay for include services without specific medical need, like labs or imaging diagnostics without diagnoses that are accepted as medically necessary. Medicare will also only pay for certain services at regular intervals, for example women who are considered “low risk” for cervical cancer can only receive a pap smear every 24 months. Note that you are not required by Medicare to get an ABN signed for services that are never covered, such as the annual physical, however, it pays to be absolutely clear when discussing payments, so I suggest you get an ABN signed by the patient regardless.

Should we just have everybody sign an ABN?

No. The ABN is to be used in specific instances for a specific service. You cannot require a patient to sign a “blanket” ABN for the year, just in case. If Mr. Smith wants a service that Medicare is unlikely to, or definitely will not pay for and the physician is comfortable ordering or performing the service, a staff member should present an ABN to Mr. Smith for that specific day’s procedure, before it is performed. If the patient is a having a series of recurring services that will not be covered, you can have one ABN signed for up to twelve months of the specific service. An example of this might be a series of physical therapy sessions.  The ABN is not a catch- all to protect from denial, however, and persistent misuse will not only be denied, but could open the door to an audit.

We are a small, busy practice; that sounds like a lot of work!

It is a lot of work for a practice! Many practices choose to not use the ABN rather then work out a protocol to implement it. The practice has to have a system in place so that the physician or staff member can explain the situation, fill out the form, answer the patient’s questions and file the ABN for posterity (they have to be kept seven years, like other records). It can be the physician in a micropractice, or a dedicated billing or customer service employee in a larger setting. Also, a note has to be made of the ABN signing in the patient’s chart so that modifiers can be added to the CPT codes for billing.

Are ABNs for Medicare only?

No. You can also have a patient sign an ABN for a private payer. This helps the patient to understand that if their insurance doesn’t cover the service specified, the patient will have to pay for it.  Medicare requires an ABN be signed in order to bill the patient, but for patients with private insurance it’s still a great opportunity to talk about non-covered services, deductibles, copays, coinsurance or any past balances if you haven’t already. A few private payers actually require a waiver/ABN to bill patients for non-covered services – check your contract to be sure.

 

Mary Pat has created a generic non-Medicare ABN; if you’d like a copy, just email Mary Pat and she can send you one.

Posted in: Amazing Customer Service, Collections, Billing & Coding, Compliance, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance, Medicare & Reimbursement

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Telemedicine Pioneers: HiTech-Doctors

Communicating With Our Physicians At Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We introduced readers to HiTech-Doctors several years ago before the telemedicine boom really hit. Today, many physicians are thinking seriously about telemedicine and how adding it to their practices could meet patient demand for convenience and ease overcrowded schedules. We decided to catch up with Philip Gideon, MD, cardiologist and Chief Medical Officer of HiTech-Doctors and see what’s new.

Mary Pat: Describe HiTech-Doctors.

Dr. Gideon: HiTech-Doctors is a web-based heath care portal created to open Internet communications between provider and patient. We seek to create the safest and easiest environment for videoconferencing encounters, electronic messaging, clinical data entry, data transfer, and clinical education. Connected care is the future and is here.

 

Mary Pat: How can a practice improve patient communication using HiTech-Doctors?

Dr. Gideon: We have a high definition videoconferencing service with quality and utilities not yet seen in this industry.

  • We have developed an email service that allows safe communication with your patients.
  • For each encounter a history and physical document is generated. This data can be used in the normal workflow of generating the electronic patient chart.
  • There is a patient data entry service that allows general clinical data to be populated by the patient.
  • Interactive encounter scheduling is available to make life easier for the patient and the provider.
  • Other providers and family members can be invited into the video encounter.
  • The patients can transmit their health information in to their chart.

 

Mary Pat: How has HiTech-Doctors evolved?

Dr. Gideon: We wanted to create the next generation of electronic health record. An EHR is needed that allows the provider and patient to communicate and learn through multiple technologies in a safe easy way. We have begun to accomplish this “open chart” with our current system platform.

Additionally, the platform needed to aid providers in meeting Meaningful Use (MU) criteria for participation in government incentive programs. MU2, and particularly MU3 criteria, have some specific technological requirements that cannot at this time be fully met by most available EHR providers. We have been able to meet many of these criteria by:

  • Demographic recording and record of smoking status
  • Patient-generated data entry (medication reconciliation, BP, heart rates, blood sugars, weights, BMI, etc.)
  • Use of secure electronic messaging to communicate with patients
  • Allowing immediate ability for patients to view and download their encounter record by both document and video format.
  • Increasing after hours provider accessibility
  • Gives ability to provide summary of care record electronically

There are so many useful aspects to the platform. We believe that as MU criteria evolve and the repealed SGR mandates develop, our product will lead in the industry. We believe that, but we know HiTech-Doctors will lead in health care communication.

 

Mary Pat: What does it cost physicians and patients?

Dr. Gideon: For the provider, it is $300 for lifetime enrollment. No additional charge for individual providers.

The communications platform (secure electronic messaging or emailing) is $300 per month per practice.

For the patient, it is $20 lifetime enrollment for an individual and this includes family.

$10 will be added to the patient bill in all encounters as payment for the service to HiTech-Doctors.

 

Mary Pat: Does insurance pay for telemedicine?

Dr. Gideon: Provider practices are encouraged to notify private insurance providers of the intent to see their patients by telemedicine. The intent should state that the encounter would be billed at an appropriate level of office visit using a QT modifier. The patient would be billed a set amount which should be considered a copay or as part of the total reimbursement. A description of the service being used (HiTech-Doctors) and the cost of service should be included. Some insurance carriers may need to negotiate the fee schedule, but this is commonplace when a new service is offered in a practice.

Encounters can alternatively be billed by the provider as cash or fee-for-service. This is specifically true for Medicare and Medicaid patients using the system outside of Medicare/Medicaid telemedicine criteria (cms.gov).

Either means of payment require a credit card transaction prior to starting the encounter.

 

Mary Pat: How does a practice implement telemedicine?

Dr. Gideon: The Hitech-Doctors team has put together an implementation plan to accommodate any office or medical center.

  1. Setting up computers, tablets and phones to accommodate the best virtual experience.
  2. Modification of patient scheduling workflow to allow a choice of in office or online encounters.
  3. Acquire and categorize patient email contact list.
  4. Email, postal, and in office advertisement of the new online service.

The implementation involves strategic scheduled learning teams early in the initiation. Both in-person and online availability of the HiTech-Doctors team is present as the roll out takes place and after. This combination of staff and provider education, hardware setup, advertisement, and ongoing technical and clinical support offers the best success.

 

Mary Pat: Is there technical support?

Dr. Gideon: Yes, 24/7 technical and user support are available buy phone at 1-480-588-2512. Try it!

 

Mary Pat: Since we last talked, the national conversation about telemedicine has changed radically. How has the conversation changed HiTech-Doctors?

Dr. Gideon: HiTech-Doctors has continued to promote the use of telemedicine as another form of patient:provider communication. Many levels of acceptance and regulation of video encounters need to be in place to allow broad use of telemedicine. This is the conversation at present, and it will need to continue. HiTech-Doctors hopes to help keep the momentum in the right direction towards sustaining the patient doctor relationship.

 

Mary Pat: What do you think about the interstate telehealth licensing compact?

Dr. Gideon: The compact addresses serious questions about healthcare, such as physician shortage in both rural and urban regions and poor access to care. Telemedicine stands to be an efficient tool in the solution.

There are tremendous benefits to having interstate licensure. Electronic visits are already a proven means of healthcare communication that can be gap-filling technology where there is poor access to healthcare. The compact has had progressively more backing by states and congressional leaders. Allowing providers to have interstate license gives the ability to optimize the use of the available technology.

Recently UHC announced it would cover telemedicine services for its subscribers, however, only if the services were procured through specific telemedicine intermediaries. What are your thoughts about this development?

Insurance providers are at a stage where they need to, and can, set the physician fee schedules for telemedicine given no specific value or code has been yet assigned by CMS. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona recently also consented to paying for telemedicine at only 80% of the billed visit. United Healthcare doing business with only specific telemedicine companies is a normal practice of insurance providers in this current time of managed healthcare. HiTech-doctors offers a platform that allows real medical practice to occur. It is far more than triage to keep insurance company clients out of the ER or urgent care. The real winner is the telemedicine service that allows confident and safe communication.

 

Mary Pat: What is in the future for HiTech-Doctors?

Dr. Gideon: We are excited to move with the growing pains of our healthcare system so that we stay connected to actual need. Technology through HiTech-Doctors will continue to help in producing the best health outcomes at a low cost. The other side of the HiTech-Doctors healthcare portal is better outcomes and living.

More information on HiTech Doctors is available at their website here or by calling 480-588-2512.

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Posted in: Innovation, Medicare & Reimbursement, Practice Marketing

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Wearables Will Soon Be Part of Major Shift In Medical Practice

For a long time the idea of wearable health tracking devices seemed like an idea out of science fiction, but these days the technology is real and cost effective, and wearables will have a big effect on how your practice operates. Here with more insight on the nascent wearable industry is Guest Author Anne Zieger, CEO of Zieger Healthcare. – Abe

For most doctors in private practice, the astonishing growth of health wearables has all but passed them by.

Wearable Technology Will Soon be a Major Part of Medical PracticeAccording to a leading health IT group, the use of health and fitness apps is growing 87% faster than the entire mobile industry. That’s pretty astonishing for a product category most of us hadn’t even heard of five years ago.

But to date, this hasn’t changed medical practice much. While physicians may review readings gathered by consumer-grade measurement devices such as home glucose meters, blood pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters, few are integrating data from wearables into their consult, much less integrating that data into their EMR.

The reasons for this are many. For one thing, doctors are creatures of habit, and are unlikely to change their assessment routine unless they are pushed into doing so. What’s more, their EMRs are not set up to gather fitness data in a routine and streamlined data. Then when you consider that physicians aren’t quite sure what to do with the data – short of a shocking data outlier, what does a physician do with a few weeks of exercise data? – it seems even less likely that they’ll leverage wearables data into their clinical routine.

Over the next few years, however, this state of affairs should change dramatically.

Data analytics systems will begin to including wearables data into their calculations about individual and population health. And physicians will be expected to become adept at using wearables to better track the health status of chronically-ill patients. In short, wearables should fundamentally change the way physicians care for patients, especially those at greater risk.

Here’s some examples of how this will play out.

Data analytics

In an effort to improve the health of entire patient populations, organizations such Louisiana-based Ochsner Health System are testing Apple’s HealthKit technology. Through HealthKit, which connects with Ochsner’s Epic Systems EMR, the health system will be able to pull in and integrate a wide range of consumer-generated data, notably input from wearables.

While Ochsner’s first big win came from its test with wireless scales for heart patients—which led to a 40% decrease in admissions—the bigger picture calls for clinicians to use wearables data too, leveraging it to track the health of it entire patient base.

Tracking the chronically ill

Though most wearable health bands are consumer devices, used largely by the already fit to help them stay that way, medical device companies are building a new class of wearable devices designed to help clinicians track serious chronic illnesses in a serious manner.

Phillips, for example, announced a few months ago that it had released a biosensor patch designed to track symptoms of COPD, send the data to a cloud-based central software platform using the patient’s wireless device, then route the results to that patient’s clinician via a pair of related apps. This gives the physician 24-hour access to key indicators of COPD status, including respiratory rate, heart activity and rhythm and physical activity.

Conclusion: Much more to come

The bottom line in all of this is that wireless monitoring of remote patients has already arrived, and that new uses for data from health bands and other fitness devices are likely to become a standard part of patient care over the next few years.

While no one is suggesting that the data and practical observations a doctor gathers during a fact-to-face medical visit are becoming less value, medical practice is likely rely more heavily on monitoring of wearable smart bands, sensors, smart bands, sensor-laden smart clothing and more as time goes by. Now is a good time to prepare for this shift in medical practice, or risk getting left behind.

Anne Zieger of Zieger Healthcare

Anne Zieger is CEO of Zieger Healthcare

Zieger Healthcare’s team of veteran marketing communications pros will help you reach out to key healthcare stakeholders and grab their attention.  With decades of experience in the industry, we know exactly how to tell healthcare stories that sell.

 

Posted in: A Career in Practice Management, Electronic Medical Records, Innovation

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What Tools Will You Need for the ICD-10 Transition? Q & A with Swiftaudit

Learn How to Crosswalk Your ICD-9s to ICD-10s

 

 

October 1, 2015 is a date that looms large for everyone involved in the operational and financial functions of any medical practice. At the time of this post’s publishing, practice administrators, managers, billers and coders have less than three months to make sure they have the processes and systems in place to minimize the business disruption from the changeover. As we talked to clients and readers about the challenges they are facing with the ICD-10 upgrade over the past several years, we started looking for tools that could help practices ease the transition.

One tool really stood out more than the others. Swiftaudit Search is a web-based coding conversion and look-up tool for both ICD-9 and ICD-10 code sets that we strongly endorse for its ability to supercharge ICD-10 coding, audits and upgrade preparations. We’ve been using Swiftaudit Search here at Manage My Practice for months now and we are very excited about how it can help our readers and clients.

We sat down with the creators of Swiftaudit Search, Chicago’s SpringSoft to ask them more about how practices can prepare for the upgrade.

Manage My Practice: Tell us about SpringSoft and how you starting working in the healthcare software market.

SpringSoft: We’ve provided software to the healthcare coding and compliance market since 1995. Our first product was E&M Coder™ for evaluation and management coding and audits. It all started when a few forward thinking doctors told us “the auditors are coming.” Given our background in corporate business systems, our research provided a couple of interesting observations at that time. One – physician offices had few easy to use software applications. Two – from a business point of view, physician offices needed help with coding and compliance. So we tackled a challenging little-understood coding issue in 1994 – the introduction of evaluation and management codes.

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Manage My Practice: Your product that is designed for medical coding has gone through several iterations since the ICD-10 mandate was first announced – how did your product evolve?

SpringSoft: We started designing what is now Swiftaudit Pro several years ago. As we designed the coding components, we realized that our ICD-10 Search features would benefit physicians during the transition to ICD-10. Again, we took on a daunting challenge. We knew we had to design an intuitive ICD-10 Search Feature. Once you find a group of codes, the next problem was to be present all of the ICD-10 coding information to describe the patient’s health condition. So now, as Swiftaudit evolves, our goal is to present the ICD-10 coding guidelines in a quick and straightforward way.

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Manage My Practice: We‘ve seen a wide variety of encoder-type products designed for hospitals and large organizations, and some designed for billing companies and consultants. What target market is the best fit for your products and why?

SpringSoft: Currently, we see our market as physician offices. Hospital and large organization coding systems have to address ‘packet’ coding, such as DRG (Diagnosis Related Groups) and HCCs (Hierarchical Condition Categories). Hospitals and large organizations will benefit from our auditing platform – SwiftAudit Pro. Providers who need to code ICD-10s will benefit from Swiftaudit Search. They can use our product to learn how code their common ICD-9 diagnosis in ICD-10 language.

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Manage My Practice: What do you hear are the biggest challenges faced by practices in making the transition to I-10?

SpringSoft: We hear that immediacy and time are the biggest challenges. Immediacy – it is always easier to learn new methods when you can consistently work in the new method. A baseline understanding helps provide context and what the changes are. We will all learn when everyone starts coding in ICD-10. Time – the change to ICD-10 is not trivial. It impacts the office’s income. Everyone will need to spend a little more time – coding in ICD-10, and time in improving their coding as payers respond to codes submitted. A practice can reduce frustration if they understand and prepare for their learning curve. Like all new methods, it takes practice to perfect.

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Manage My Practice: For many practices, their ability to utilize ICD-10 will come down to the support the EHR or Practice Management vendor has built into the software, yet many practices have not even seen how their software will work with ICD-10. What do recommend for practices whose software has not yet been updated to I-10, or whose software makes no useful correlation between I-9 and I-10?

SpringSoft: We agree with many consultants and trainers. Transition your top ICD-9 codes to specific ICD-10 codes. Be cautious of depending on published crosswalks. ICD-9s which describe ‘unspecified’ elements often are crosswalked to ‘unspecified’ ICD-10s. Experts in the industry are cautioning that ‘unspecified’ ICD-10s may not be paid. Ask your EMR vendor, will you handle all of the ICD-10 coding guidelines, such as Code First, Code Also, Use Additional Codes? Will you map to ‘unspecified’ ICD-10 codes or warn me of ‘unspecified’ ICD-10 codes? How will you help me find more specific codes? You can use Swiftaudit Search to build your Favorites Lists. We will provide you the ICD-10 coding guidelines, and provide a communication platform for your expert coders to provide you with coding tips and alerts.

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Manage My Practice: What are some of the features in Swiftaudit Search that your product has that others you’ve seen do not?

SpringSoft: We feel that our ease of use and screen design makes us stand out from the crowd. The ICD-10 code set is overwhelming. We’ve worked very hard to provide the information you need at a glance.

Swiftaudit Logo

 

Manage My Practice: Swiftaudit Pro (as opposed to Swiftaudit Search) is more for the coding and billing side of the practice. How do you see coders and billers using this product in their practices?

SpringSoft: Our background is in coding and compliance. Managers and auditors can use Swiftaudit Pro to improve their coding accuracy and educate their providers. We built Swiftaudit Pro to be a communication platform to aid discovery and process improvement between a practice’s providers and expert coders.

Readers who would like more information or would like to try Swiftaudit Search for free for 30-days can click here.

NOTE: We’ve heard of so many practices that have not started preparations for ICD-10 that that we made the 20-minute webinar “ICD-10 CM: Getting Started Today.” The video addresses strategies for the first step – crosswalking your most used ICD-9 codes into ICD-10.

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Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Day-to-Day Operations, Electronic Medical Records, Headlines, ICD-10, Medicare & Reimbursement

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MMP Classic: How to Apologize to a Patient

Sincerely Apologizing to Patients

I like to get complaints from patients.

No, I’m not a glutton for punishment. What I like about complaints is that I hear directly from the patient what is bothering them, and I have an opportunity to connect with them personally. The ideal situation is having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the patient when they are in the office.

Here’s how to apologize to a patient.

Step One: Introduce Yourself

I introduce myself and shake the patient’s hand and the hand of anyone else in the room.

Step Two: Sit Down

I sit down. There are two reasons for that. One is to send the message that they do not need to hurry – this conversation can take as long as they need it to. The second is to place myself physically below the patient. If they are in an exam room sitting on the exam table, I will sit in the chair. If they are sitting in the chair, I will sit on the step to the exam table. The message I am sending is “I do not consider myself to be above you.” It sends a strong message.

Step Three: Let Them Tell Their Story

I say “I understand we have not done a very good job with __________ (returning your calls, giving you an appointment, getting your test results back to you, etc.) Can you tell me about it?” I do not take notes as I want to maintain eye contact and focus on the patient, but I take good mental notes. The patient and/or anyone with them needs to be able to talk as long as they want. They might need to tell their story twice or many times to get to the point where they’ve gotten relief. The patient has to get the problem off their chest before the next part can happen.

Step Four: SINCERELY Apologize

I apologize, saying “I’d like to apologize on behalf of the practice and the staff that this happened. I want you to know this is not the way we intend for _______ to work in the practice.” If anything unusual has been happening, a policy has changed, or new staff have been hired, I let them know by saying “So-and-so has just happened, but that’s not your problem. We know our service has slipped, but we’re hoping we are on the way to getting it fixed.”

Don’t forget that patients can tell if you are not being sincere when you apologize.

Step Five: Answer Questions

Answer any questions the patient has. Why did the policy change? Why can’t I get an appointment when I need one? How will you fix this for me?

Step Six: Close the Meeting

If the patient complaint requires an investigation and resolution, I give the patient a date when I will be back in touch with more information. If the patient complaint does not require any resolution on the patient side, I offer my name again and give them a business card or a way for them to contact me if they have further problems.

Step Seven: Resolve the Situation

I follow-up on the information the patient has given me to find out where the system broke down or where a new system might need to be developed, and if needed, contact the patient with further information and/or resolution.

Although most people prefer not to hear complaints, paying close attention to patient complaints helps a manager to keep a pulse on the practice, know what patients are struggling with, and of course, practice humility. All good stuff.

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Posted in: Amazing Customer Service, Manage My Practice Classics

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What Doctors Can Learn from Hip Hop Mogul Jay-Z

Jay-Z could teach your Doctor something about MarketingDo you know who Jay-Z is?

If not, chances are your kids do. Jay-Z is one of the most successful rap artists of all time, and has parlayed that success into a career in fashion, merchandising, his own line of vodka, as well as an ownership stake in the NBA’s New Jersey Nets franchise that he recently sold to begin a new career as a sports agent. More than anything, Jay-Z has found a way to brand himself as someone who brings glamour, street credibility, and cool to any project he is involved with. His success, beyond the normal hard work and talent, is ultimately in marketing himself.

Where do Doctors come in?

The healthcare industry is focused on marketing more than ever. Declining reimbursement, increasing regulation, and the long-term shift from volume to value have turned the heat up on physicians, practices, hospitals and systems to change the way they  do healthcare business to cut costs, improve outcomes for patients and deliver more value. Cost matters now more than ever for all the stakeholders in healthcare, and with more competition comes the need for ways to separate yourself in the market, and engage with potential and current patients.

This summer Jay-Z put out a new album and he did it in a very unique way

To promote his album, Jay-Z ran a commercial during Game 5 of the 2013 NBA finals announcing that he had recorded a new album, and that it would be available to download, free of charge for the first million people to download it from a mobile app made especially for the release. The catch? The album would only be free to people who had a Samsung mobile device – a mobile phone or tablet. Jay-Z signed an exclusive deal with Samsung to promote the album (modestly titled Magna Carta Holy Grail), Samsung products and the free mobile app to get the album before it was available via retail. Because of the hype (and the price, of course) the million downloads happened almost as soon as the album was made available on July 4th.

    • Samsung purchased the albums from Jay-Z, so RIAA certified the album Platinum immediately.
    • Samsung was able to associate themselves with one of the biggest music releases of the year, and guarantee that only their current (and future) customers were first to hear it.
    • More than that, using the permissions of the mobile app, both Jay-Z and Samsung were able to get tons of valuable market research about the internet and mobile habits of the downloaders.
    • The fans (at least the first million of them with a Samsung) got a brand new album from Jay-Z for free.

This is a basic form of content marketing, but it was groundbreaking for an artist as big as Jay-Z and a company as big as Samsung.

What can doctors learn?

Market research is critical. Jay-Z made a few million selling the digital copies of his album to Samsung, but the information he gained from the app downloads was priceless for future collaborations. 

The more you know about your patient base and where they come from, the better. For niche specialists, your market might be global so you’ll need to know more about them to reach them. Market research can take many forms, from hard data from census and surveys to anecdotal methods as simple as asking one of your patients “What could we be doing better?” In a future where providers are reimbursed based on value, leveraging the data in your EMR to understand your patient population as a whole will be critical to many of your most important business operations.

You gain by giving things away for free. By buying and giving away a million Jay-Z albums, Samsung became aligned with a major force in global culture and music  – and probably sold a few phones too.

What about all of the questions you hear over and over again on the phone and in office visits? Seasonal stuff about allergies, sunburns, the flu and physicals for sports. What if you gave this info away to anyone who wanted it on your practice website? With the changes coming in the ACA, what if your practice manager wrote a post or white paper about how your patients can prepare for what will and won’t change? If your practice offers a special service that is hard to find locally for many people, what if you prepared an ebook about how your particular therapy benefits patients, or how they can change other lifestyle habits to complement their current therapy? All of these things are ways to reach a wide variety of people, gain credibility, and give away high-quality free information that can be converted to marketing leads for your practice.

Separate yourselfJay-Z probably couldn’t have released his first album in this manner. Jay-Z has been successfully building his brand for almost twenty years now though. The name Jay-Z has come to mean quality.

To compete and thrive, healthcare providers must be able to offer a level of service and execute that service in a way that makes them stand out from the crowd. If someone moves to town and Googles the name of family practice doctors in your area, do you know whose practice comes up in the results, and how you can capitalize on that? If people ask their neighbors who is the best cardiologist in town, would they say your name? If you treat a more specialized population, where do they gather to compare caregivers, and what do they say about you? To brand yourself today as a quality care provider, you have to actively highlight and grow your footprint and reputation for outstanding value and patient satisfaction.

Physicians and other healthcare providers may never listen to Jay-Z, or any rap. But chances are, Jay-Z’s marketing example could lead the way.

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Posted in: Innovation, Leadership, Practice Marketing, Quality, Social Media

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5 Ways Technology Can Help Your Patient Relationship Management

Using Technology to Improve Patient Relationship ManagementPatient relationship management is about more than just healthcare issues; it’s about building a connection that leaves your patients feeling that you genuinely have their personal interests in mind. We all love to be recognized, and your patients appreciate it when you recall what their children’s names are, what you discussed with them during their previous visit, and where they went for their vacation.

It’s pretty impossible to keep track of everything if you have several hundred patients, however. That’s where technology can help you. Remember the old box of patient card files on which you’d make notes? Now, keeping track is just so much easier with the various tools available to physicians.

#1: Keep Electronic Records

If you’re a typical technophobe and don’t relate well to unfamiliar software programs, your record-keeping can be as easy as a Word or Text document for each patient. Set up a template for yourself that lists the data you want to keep track of, and simply enter the information into the file after each patient visit. Information could include fields such as:

  • Personal info
  • Family details
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Allergies
  • Medication
  • Visits

As long as you update the patients’ records diligently after every visit, this patient relationship management system will work for you, although it doesn’t enable you to communicate regularly.

#2: Use a Spreadsheet

A slightly more sophisticated way of keeping records than basic documents, Excel spreadsheets offer data sorting abilities that are useful. You can also keep all your patients’ information in one file, which saves you having to track and open multiple files. Use the worksheet tabs to categorize and group patients by type of illness or some other criteria that’s meaningful to you.

#3: Set Up a Database

There are multiple free and paid database programs available that you can use to set up a patient relationship management system. From Microsoft Office’s Access program through to Apache Open Office’s Baseand the software will not only store the information you add but generate reports, graphs, reminders and a mailing list that you can use with an email marketing program for communication purposes.

#4: Get a CRM Program

Commercial CRM programs such as InTouch CRM and BatchBook enable medical practices to store patient information,communicate via email or text message, and keep track of message opens and click throughs.  A customized CRM program can do the same for your practice. Not only does the program have the ability to store all relevant information about each patient, but you can set up alerts to identify critical changes in the patient’s condition based on data input from one visit to the next – without having to do a manual evaluation.

The patient relationship management program compares current data with data from previous consultations, such as blood pressure readings and cholesterol screening results. If the comparison generates an alert, you can proactively contact the patient to discuss it. At the same time, the system can generate automatic emailing of information to the patient to help educate him.

#5: Implement a Patient Portal

Cream of the crop is the digital patient portal, which enables you to store all information about your patients including test results. Patients get a secure login that lets them view their health records as well as make appointments online or communicate with you via a question facility or a discussion forum. You can set up automated emails based on criteria such as birthdays (personal info), allergies (seasonal) and medication refills needed.

Whatever method you choose to help you with your patient relationship management, keeping the information up to date is vital to enable it to be successful.

Greg FawcettAbout the Author: Greg Fawcett is President of leading North Carolina medical marketing firm Precision Marketing Partners. In this capacity Greg helps healthcare service entities to research their target markets, build their brands and develop creative strategies to reach patients.

Posted in: Amazing Customer Service, Day-to-Day Operations, Innovation, Leadership, Practice Marketing

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[Guest Post] – 7 Tactics to Improve Patient Retention in Your Medical Practice

Tactics For Retaining Patients in your Medical Practice MarketingAttracting new patients to your practice is one thing, but keeping them can be an entirely different issue. The days when you got to treat all members in a family from the cradle to the grave are long over, and regular attrition is an ongoing concern. You may not be able to avoid losing patients who move from their current location to another city or state, but you can try to avoid losing patients to other medical practices.

From primary care physicians through optometrists and gynecologists, patient retention is an important factor in the success of the practice. Here are 7 tactics you can use to keep your patients coming back for more.

Tactic #1: Think of Your Patients as Clients

Let’s face it, your patients need you probably more than you need them. Far too often, however, medical professionals treat patients as if they are doing them a favor by seeing and treating them. Even if it isn’t true about your practice, how certain are you that your patients feel as if you value them? By thinking of them as clients and fostering a customer service attitude among your practice staff, you can ensure that your patients feel important and cherished. The customer doesn’t always have to be right – he just always has to be king!

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Posted in: Amazing Customer Service, Day-to-Day Operations, Innovation, Leadership, Practice Marketing, Quality

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Explaining the State Health Insurance Exchanges in Seven Minutes: A Video for Your Medical Practice Website

Seven Minutes to Learn About State Insurance Exchanges

I came across this video from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and thought “This is exactly the kind of content medical practices can use for their website and social media content.” In this seven-minute video, the “YouToons” learn how the coming healthcare reform will affect them by placing consumers into one of four insurance categories: employer covered, government covered, privately insured, and privately uninsured.

The video is a straightforward, approachable overview of a complicated subject, and would make a fantastic post on the website of a physician or medical office. Even providers without a website could educate patients  by posting this link to Facebook or Twitter, or by including it in an email newsletter. My partner Abraham wrote a primer on talking to patients and staff about reform last July, but this video is even simpler, and is everyone’s favorite – an entertaining movie! It even has clickable icons inside the video for calculating premiums and finding out the status of state health insurance exchanges by state.

Why is a video like this a great piece of content to share with your patients and readers? Here are three reasons:

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Posted in: Amazing Customer Service, Headlines, Leadership, Medicare & Reimbursement, Practice Marketing, Social Media

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Learn How One Practice Used a Credit Card on File Program to Collect Patient Balances and Increase their Cash Flow

Collect Patient Balances and Improve Your Practice Cashflow with a Credit Card on File Program

It’s always a fantastic feeling when other people speak on behalf on your products or services, so we were thrilled to see a very nice comment on a recent article at Physician’s PracticePatient Balances: Get Them or Get Ready to Close Your Practice.” The article details the importance of collecting patient balances as quickly and effectively as possible as doctors face declining reimbursements and increasing overhead and regulation. We have long championed the Credit Card on File system – where patients leave a credit card securely on file with the practice’s gateway and the card is charged after insurance is billed for any patient balances under $100. Balances above $100 (or whatever limit a practice may set) are either placed into a payment program, or paid in full after contacting the patient. One of our very successful clients whose practice has implemented such a program commented on the article about her own experience.

We started a year ago with a Credit Card on File program, on the advice of Mary Pat Whaley. After 1 year, our patient balances are very small, and for practically every balance over 90 days old, the patient is on a payment plan, but since our overall patient A/R is very small, it doesn’t represent a lot of outstanding income. We have over 2000 credit cards on file. Patients are not allowed to see the doctor without leaving a card on file, and they agree to this over the phone when they make an appointment. I’ve found it very challenging to understand and charge patient balances upfront, so we’ve opted for Credit Card on File instead. We charge the copay, file the claim, then charge any remaining balance to the card, once the EOB is received. We charge the card if the balance is under $100 (with an email receipt), and if over $100 we call the patient to determine if they want to pay in full or in installments. Most pay in full, and most appreciate the call. We do not send out paper statements. It takes about 1/4 FTE to manage the credit card collections, but I have an excellent receptionist who handles this very nicely with the patients. There are some issues when the card declines, but we follow up with a weekly phone call, and if necessary, a paper statement (not often). There will always be a few that will never pay, but you can’t escape that in this business. We are proud of our credit card collections, which is why I’ve detailed it here so you can consider it for your practice.

Marian @ Tue, 2013-07-23 11:12

Why, thank you very much, Marian!

If you’d like to learn how to start a Credit Card on File program in your own practice like Marian did, then you’ll want to join us next Thursday, August 8th at 3pm EST for “How to Start a Credit Card on File Program in Your Practice” our popular 60-minute webinar and Action Pack that will give you the tools and plan you need to implement the policies.

Spending one hour of your time and $59.95 now can mean all the difference in your bottom line tomorrow.

Click here to register now!

 

 

 

Posted in: 12 Ways to Supercharge Your Practice, Collections, Billing & Coding, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance, Innovation, Medicare & Reimbursement

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