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E-prescribing: Use it 10 times for Medicare Patients Between Now and June 30, 2011 or Lose Money in 2012

Should I consider ePrescribing in 2011 if I’m not ready to install an EMR? 

Physicians prescriptions carefully prepared. J...

  • In 2012 eligible professionals who are not successful eprescribers, based on claims submitted between January 1, 2011 ”“ June 30, 2011, may be subject to a “payment adjustment” (read payment cut) in their Medicare Part B Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) for covered professional services.
  • Those that don’t eprescribe as a part of 10 Medicare patient encounters by June 30, 2011 will only receive 99% of their Medicare payment for all encounters in 2012.
  • Those that don’t ePrescribe as a part of 25 encounters by December 31, 2011, will only receive 98.5% of their Medicare payments for all encounters in 2013 and only 98% of their Medicare payments for encounters during 2014 and going forward.
  • The payment adjustment does not apply if <10% of an eligible professional’s (or group practice’s) allowed charges for the January 1, 2011 through June 30, 2011 reporting period are comprised of codes in the denominator of the 2011 eRx measure.

The DENOMINATOR is the visit code that is eligible for an eprescribing code (see list below.)

Patient visit during the reporting period (CPT or HCPCS): 90801, 90802, 90804, 90805, 90806, 90807, 90808, 90809, 90862, 92002, 92004, 92012, 92014, 96150, 96151, 96152, 99201, 99202, 99203, 99204, 99205, 99211, 99212, 99213, 99214, 99215, 99304, 99305, 99306, 99307, 99308, 99309, 99310, 99315, 99316, 99324, 99325, 99326, 99327, 99328, 99334, 99335, 99336, 99337, 99341, 99342, 99343, 99344, 99345, 99347, 99348, 99349, 99350, G0101, G0108, G0109

The NUMERATOR is a prescription generated and transmitted via a qualified eRx system and reported using a quality data code.

G8553: At least one prescription created during the encounter was generated and transmitted electronically using a qualified eRx system (reported via claims, a registry, or an EHR.)

Please note that earning an eRx incentive for 2011 will NOT necessarily exempt an eligible professional or group practice from the payment adjustment in 2012.

How to Avoid the 2012 Payment Adjustment

An eligible professional can avoid losing 1% in 2012 if (s)he:

  • Is not a physician (MD, DO, or podiatrist), nurse practitioner, or physician assistant as of June 30, 2011 based on primary taxonomy code in NPPES,
  • Does not have prescribing privileges. (S)he must report (G8644) at least one time on an eligible claim prior to June 30, 2011;
  • Does not have at least 100 cases containing an encounter code in the measure denominator;
  • Becomes a successful e-prescriber; and
  • Reports the eRx measure for at least 10 unique eRx events for patients in the denominator of the measure.

Exemptions from the Medicare Payment Adjustment in 2012

  • An (EP) eligible professional or selected group practice may request an exemption from the eRx Incentive Program and from the payment adjustment based upon a significant hardship.
  • The qualifying circumstances are based upon two “hardship codes” that need reported on at least one claim prior to June 30, 2011 should one of the following situations apply:

G8642 – The eligible professional practices in a rural area without sufficient high speed internet access and requests a hardship exemption from the application of the payment adjustment under section 1848(a)(5)(A) of the Social Security Act.

G8643 – The eligible professional practices in an area without sufficient available pharmacies for electronic prescribing and requests a hardship exemption from the application of the payment adjustment under
section 1848(a)(5)(A) of the Social Security Act

To Recap:

  1. Each Physician or practice that does not currently ePrescribe should consider whether or not ePrescribing is worthwhile. (Note:  For group practices participating in eRx GPRO I or GPRO II during 2011, the group practice MUST become a successful e-prescriber. Depending on the group’s size, the group practice must report the eRx measure for 75-2,500 unique eRx events for patients in the denominator of the measure. Check out the Group Practice Reporting Option here.)
  2. In estimating the value of ePrescribing, the practice manager must consider on one hand the expense (which there is, even for free standalone eRx systems) surrounding the implementation of ePrescribing, and the potential income from the ePrescribing Incentive.
  3. The practice must also determine if an EMR is in their future, and if so, if the installation will take place soon enough to report the 10 encounters with Medicare patients.
  4. Individual eligible professionals (EPs) may choose to participate in either the PQRI, eRx, or both. PQRI and eRx are separate incentive programs.
  5. If an eligible professional (EP) earns an incentive under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, he or she cannot receive an incentive payment under the eRx Incentive Program in the same program year, and vice versa. However, if an EP earns an incentive under the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, he or she can receive an incentive payment under the eRx Incentive Program in the same program year.
  6. Eligible professionals must have adopted a “qualified” eRx system. There are two types of systems: a system for eRx only (stand-alone) or an electronic health record (EHR system) with eRx functionality. Regardless of the type of system used, to be considered “qualified” it must be based on ALL of the following capabilities:
    • Generating a complete active medication list incorporating electronic data received from applicable pharmacies and benefit managers (PBMs) if available.
    • Providing information related to lower cost, therapeutically appropriate alternatives (if any). Selecting medications, printing prescriptions, electronically transmitting prescriptions, and conducting all alerts.
    • Providing information on formulary or tiered formulary medications, patient eligibility, and authorization requirements received electronically from the patient’s drug plan, if available.

For a list of qualified registries and qualified EHR vendors and products, click here.

An excellent article, Choosing the Right E-prescribing Application: Should you buy a standalone app or an EHR-integrated module? was published in January 2011 by Physicians Practice here.

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Six Reasons Why Your Doctor’s Office Doesn’t Call You Back and a Few Solutions

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...

Patients want to know why they can’t get a return call from their doctor’s office – here are six reasons why the calls have increased and physician offices are having trouble meeting the needs of their patients.

  1. Medication questions and requests for a prescriptions change. The average number of retail prescriptions per capita increased from 10.1 in 1999 to 12.6 in 2009. (Kaiser Family Foundation calculations using data from IMS Health, http://www.imshealth.com.) Because it is not easy to access prescription cost by payer in the exam room, medical practices get lots of callbacks from patients asking to change their prescriptions once they arrive at the pharmacy and find out how much the prescription costs.  Related issue: Many national-chain pharmacies have electronic systems that automatically request a new prescription when the patient is out of refills.  Also related: Patients calling to ask for additional medication samples.
  2. Patients are delaying coming to the physician’s office by calling the practice with questions. Patients want to forestall paying their co-pay or their high-deductible by getting their care questions answered without coming to the doctor’s office.
  3. Patients call back with questions about what they heard or didn’t hear in the exam room. They may not remember what the physician told them, they may not have understood the medical jargon, or they may have a hearing problem and were not comfortable asking the physician to repeat something.
  4. Impatience: we live in an instant gratification world and patient expectations are not aligned with what physician offices can realistically provide.
  5. Some patients will not leave voice mail messages and will call back multiple times until they get a live human being or will punch in options until they find someone to answer the phone.
  6. Physician offices are often understaffed. Physicians find it untenable to add more staff to do more tasks for less money or no money at all.

And here are some possible solutions:

  1. Have formularies for all major health plans on hand in the exam room. These could be paper lists, or electronic lists for the tablet or smartphone. (Note: Epocrates currently has a deal with Walgreen’s to support their discount program on the smartphone.) Don’t underestimate the patient satisfaction and reduction in callbacks for sending the patient out of the exam room with the right prescription.  Automatic refills are not an appropriate function of pharmacies.  Physicians should provide samples (check the formulary!) and a prescription to get filled if the samples do the job.  If a patient can’t afford the brand name prescription, a prescription assistance program is the next step.
  2. Patients need to be advised appropriately when they need to see the physician and when they don’t. Good triage nurses can be worth their weight in gold, but you can hold the costs down by hiring a triage nurse or several to work from their homes taking calls from your patients.  The nurse will need to have access to your practice management system to schedule appointments and to document the conversation if the patient is given advice.
  3. Provide patients with different modes of assimilating health information. Some patients are recording office visits via voice or video and one of the goals of meaningful use is providing patients with an office visit summary when they exit the practice. Websites should be loaded with educational information that physicians can “prescribe” to their patients. Some physicians help to cut down on return calls and improve understanding by asking the patient how they’ll describe the visit to a family member.
  4. Give patients (on the web, in the practice, on your on-hold messages) realistic timelines for callbacks and make it so.
  5. Yes, some patients will game the system to get their needs met ahead of others. Ask them to adhere to the practice guidelines. There will always be some cheaters, but most patients will respect you if you respond to them when you said you would.
  6. The only answer to understaffing is technology. Use a patient portal to allow patients to request refills, schedule appointments and chat with billing staff or nurses. Replace paper charts with EMR. Use efaxing to eliminate paper faxes. Use the cloud to store information and collaborate.

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