Your Top 5 Patient Portal Questions Answered

Lea Chatham April 24th, 2014

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As a follow up to our recent webinar, The Patient Portal: Meaningful Use, Engaged Patients and More, speaker Laurie Morgan and Kareo have answered the many questions posed by participants. Here are the five top questions posed by attendees:

 

Q: Are there any tips for implementing a portal in a place where patients don’t always have access to the Internet readily available?
A:  Even when patients don’t have computers, many will have smartphones—so check with your EHR/portal vendor to learn what kind of support for mobile devices is (or will be) available for your portal.

Setting up one or more computers in your reception area that patients can use to access the portal may be another solution. It will be important, though, to be sure the computers are a bit segregated to allow for privacy. The system should automatically log patients off after a brief period of inactivity, and other available measures should be implemented to protect personal information. (Check with your vendor(s) before setting up a public computer.)

Q. How do you identify the uninformed patients and reach them?
A: Providers and nursing staff are often in the best position to identify patients who are timid, discouraged, or overwhelmed.

It may be useful to designate a staff person to provide a bit of extra support and coaching to patients who are intimidated by the patient portal. Tweet This

Many practices are designating a clinical staff member—often an RN—as a care coordinator or case manager as part of the medical home (PCMH) certification effort. This person will also be in a perfect position to identify uninformed, unengaged patients and help get them on board—since coordinating care across multiple providers and engaging patients with chronic conditions more directly is a key focus of the medical home.

Q. Do text or email reminders meet the MU2 requirement for secure communication with patients?
A:  Text and email don’t typically meet HIPAA standards on their own (although some email providers do state that they offer HIPAA compliant encryption). For this reason, it’s usually not advised to use text or email as two-way communication with patients. Instead, secure communications should take place via your portal, and use the secure messaging functionality built into the portal and your EHR. This way, patients can respond securely—which is the key to meeting the 5% threshold requirement. Email can be used to remind people and direct them to your portal to receive their secure messages and respond.

Q. We have many patients who have a family caregiver. Can caregivers access the patient portal for their family member? Are there any privacy issues we need to consider?
A:  HIPAA allows for sharing of information with family members and other authorized caregivers. Be sure to get authorization from the patient to share the information via your portal.

Q: We have a lot of elderly patients who do not have computers or Internet access. How can we meet the requirements for MU?
A: One important thing to do is not assume that elderly patients aren’t online. In the early years of the Internet, older people were slower to adopt, but they’ve been making up for lost time in recent
years. Recent Pew Research data shows that more than half (57%) of Americans over 65 years old are online, and nearly 90% of those 50-64. Also, many caregivers are online (see answer above). A bigger obstacle for older people may be convincing them that using the portal will be better for them.

When introducing the portal to older patients, emphasize the features that are likely to help them most: the ability to set appointments without waiting on hold, more convenient access to prescription refills, and the option to provide access to a family member caregiver are examples of portal features that might be more compelling to an older patient. Additionally, doctors can play a critical role with older patients, who may be more likely to follow physicians’ instructions to the letter.

If you missed this informative event, you can view the recording or download the slides. And consider joining us for the next free webinar from Kareo, Your Medical Office Software: Coding Pitfalls & Promises.

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ICD-10 Delay Just One of the Topics Discussed at AAPC

Lea Chatham April 22nd, 2014

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By Lisa Eramo

Kareo ICD-10 ResourcesNearly 1,900 physician practice coders and other healthcare and compliance professionals gathered in Nashville, TN earlier this month for the 22nd annual AAPC conference. Hot topics included how to make the most of the ICD-10 delay, coding for various specialties, mitigating compliance and legal risks, preparing for ACOs, and understanding Value-Based Payment.

The conference was held just days after the U.S. Senate passed legislation that delayed ICD-10 until at least October 1, 2015. Many coders voiced frustration about the delay, stating they were more than ready for the transition.

Bill Gracey, CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, said that payers are also frustrated by this surprising change in the timeline that seemed to have been ‘snuck in’ at the last minute. Gracey delivered the conference’s opening keynote, touching on not only the ICD-10 delay but also topics such as the shortage of primary care physicians nationwide, the role of big data and informatics in population health, and healthcare pricing.

“The game keeps changing. For the last six months, it has been a real challenge,” said Gracey.

To date, there have been more than 40 changes and delays in the specifics of healthcare reform.Tweet this Kareo story

BCBS of TN has spent $13 million to prepare for ICD-10 with no clear implementation date on the horizon, Gracey said with frustration.

AAPC CEO Jason VandenAkker said coders must continue to move forward despite the delay. “Be part of the solution—not part of the problem,” he urged attendees.

Healthcare reform offers coders opportunities to advance their careers, said VandenAkker. “More covered lives means more patients walking through the doors, which means more services rendered, which means more coding. That’s guaranteed … Revenue cycle management will remain at the heart of every discussion, and [coders] are at the heart of revenue cycle management.”

VandenAkker urged coders to embrace these opportunities and ensure that physicians are fully prepared for the transition. “If there is a greater focus on coding, that means there is going to be greater visibility for coders in their organizations. People are going to be looking at you for answers. There is a greater need for trained certified professionals.”

During a panel discussion about ICD-10, Rhonda Buckholtz CPC, CPMA, CPC-I, CGSC, COBGC, CPEDC, CENTC, vice president, business and member development at the AAPC, said:

Coders need to keep the ICD-10 momentum going in their practices. Tweet this Kareo story

“If our coders aren’t ready, they’re going to be putting their practices at risk,” said Buckholtz. She urged coders to use this extra time to prepare physicians using simple documentation tips and strategies, she added.

“You have either another year to prepare or you have another year to procrastinate,” said Michael D. Miscoe, founding partner of Miscoe Health Law, LLC. He said coders should ask these questions:

Physicians need to be aware of how unspecified codes may impact their revenue, said Angela Boynton, director of provider regulatory compliance, communication, adoption, and training at UnitedHealth Group. “No two payers are going to have the same policy around unspecified codes,” she said. “I’ve heard some payers will issue flat-out denials and not accept a single unspecified code in ICD-10. I’ve also heard some payers say, ‘Yes send us the unspecified code. We’re immediately going to flag you for education.’ This is another way of saying audit. I’ve also heard payers say, ‘Send us the unspecified code. We’re going to send you a payment, but we’re going to reduce it by 50%.”

Speakers participating in the ICD-10 panel each reiterated the importance of end-to-end testing. “Make [vendors and payers] test with you,” said Buckholtz. “If they say they don’t have to test with you, make them prove why they don’t have to test specifically with you. One size really doesn’t fit all. Just because it works for another practice that has your systems or programs doesn’t mean it’s going to work inside of your practice.”

Ask your payers to prove whether they’ve tested with another practice similar to yours, said Boynton. Ask your vendor or payer to publish testing results based on geographic location (e.g., urban vs. rural) and number of physicians in the practice.

Aside from the tangible buzz about ICD-10, other sessions at the conference focused on specialty-specific coding dilemmas, compliance questions, hiring and retaining coders, and more. During a legal trends panel, many coders asked questions about concierge services—specifically whether practices must legally bill for covered services. Other questions pertained to cloned medical records, write-off policies, and non-compliant patients.

Health attorneys participating in the panel identified these top compliance challenges in today’s practices:

  • Modifier -25
  • EHR cutting and pasting
  • Modifier -59
  • Incident-to billing

Although coders generally lamented the ICD-10 delay, speakers encouraged a ‘forge ahead’ attitude, encouraging coders to continue to improve documentation and address ongoing compliance challenges.

For more on the ICD-10 delay, visit the Kareo ICD-10 Resource Center. And watch for more updates from AAPC from Lisa Eramo in April.

About the Author

Lisa A. EramoLisa A. Eramo is a freelance writer/editor specializing in health information management, medical coding, and healthcare regulatory topics. She began her healthcare career as a referral specialist for a well-known cancer center. Lisa went on to work for several years at a healthcare publishing company. She regularly contributes to healthcare publications, websites, and blogs, including the AHIMA Journal and AHIMA Advantage. Her focus areas are medical coding, and ICD-10 in particular, clinical documentation improvement, and healthcare quality/efficiency.

 

 

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6 Experts Offer Advice for Reducing Medical Practice Wait Times

Lea Chatham April 21st, 2014

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1653094172_e370ec42f0_zWait times can be the bane of a medical practice. Physicians get called away for an emergency or run over with a particularly needy patient. Suddenly you are 10 minutes behind. Within a couple of hours, you’re 30 minutes behind. And it doesn’t just happen in the waiting room. It happens on the phone and in the exam room. On top of that, sometimes patients have to wait to get an appointment in the first place. All that waiting can have a negative impact on your practice.

 

The problem is that patients are less patient these days. They see your medical practice more like a retail or other service industry business, and they want to get in quickly and get their needs met.

To help you reduce wait times and improve your customer service, six medical practice consultants and experts offer their top suggestions.Tweet this Kareo story

  1. Laurie Morgan of Capko & Morgan suggests measuring your wait times. “Too many practices rely on gut or (often incorrect) assumptions,” she says. “You need to track and analyze where your bottlenecks are to know for sure.”
  2. Judy Capko, also of Capko & Morgan, says eliminating waste and inefficiency throughout your practice can help. She suggests, “Ask every employee to examine their entire day and document all of their tasks then look for duplication and waste across the whole practice. Then, be very critical in your review of those processes.”
  3. Audrey Christie McLaughlin, RN believes that reducing wait times is a team effort. “Make sure all staff are trained to hear the phone ringing and the hold alert buzzing back,” she says. “The receptionist may be busy checking in patients, in the clinic, or stuck on the line with a chatty patient. Anyone in the clinic can pick up and assist the next person calling. In addition, it takes an aware team to move patients through efficiently. If the doctor is waiting on a nurse to get a suture removal kit for instance, this is time wasted. It is up to the nurse to know what the patient is there for and set it up in advance so that everything runs smoothly.”Tweet this Kareo story
  4. Kathy Young of Resolutions Billing & Consulting advocates for checking eligibility for every patient before they arrive. “Checking eligibility before the patient arrives can save time for the practice and avoid delays for the patient,” she explains. “When the scheduler speaks to the patient on the phone to make that initial appointment, taking the full insurance information is very important. It is even better if patients complete information online or through the main and then send it back ahead of time. Then, the process of checking in and paying the co-pay is much faster.”
  5. Deborah Walker Keegan is a fan of same day appointments, but she recommends creating a very streamlined process for them. “Patients will place telephone calls to the practice early in the morning to seek a same-day appointment,” says Walker Keegan. “To avoid delays in responding, hold a huddle in the morning to identify specific slots in the day where same-day appointments can be made without involving the nurse or physician and simply slot the patient in the schedule when they call.
  6. Jessica Altman from ZocDoc wants to remind practices that offering 24/7 online scheduling provides a new level of access and convenience to patients. “If you use a service like ZocDoc, both new and existing patients can find you easily online and schedule an appointment at their convenience. You can also provide a link to online scheduling on your own website. It can shorten the time patients have to wait for an appointment.

The main thing to remember is that to stay competitive in these changing times, you need to meet or exceed patient expectations. Tweet this Kareo story

That means spending as much time on improving their experience in your practice as you spend on giving them clinical care or processing their claims and statements. If you are looking for more and better ways to improve the patient experience, download Engage! 10 Powerful Ways to Engage Patients in Every Aspect of Your Practice.

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The Pros and Cons of Using an EHR Scribe

Lea Chatham April 17th, 2014

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Kareo EHRBy Charles Settles

Electronic health record (EHR) adoption has brought new triumphs and new challenges. Coping with these challenges has caused many changes, few more interesting than the rise of the EHR scribe. While there are a seemingly unlimited number of EHR vendors in the marketplace, it’s no secret that not all of these programs have the clinical efficiency providers require. Because of this, many physicians end up looking for a new solution. For some, switching EHRs still isn’t enough because of their unique workflow needs. As a result, EHR scribes have popped up as a strategy to allow providers to structure their workflow the way they want while maximizing the benefits of the EHR.

What is an EHR Scribe?
An EHR scribe is someone employed by the provider to interact with the EHR program on the physician’s behalf.Tweet this Kareo story

According to Dr. Kathleen Myers, CMO and founder of Essia Health, a scribe training/staffing firm, scribes are typically aspiring nurses, nurse practitioners, or physicians. In a patient encounter, a scribe will input all of the physician’s comments and orders into the EHR, as the doctor dictates. Sometimes called “at-the-elbow” support, a scribe follows the doctor from encounter to encounter, to the point of occasionally needing to be told by physicians like Myers, “I’m going to the bathroom, you don’t have to follow me here.”

Scribe Training
According to Dr. Myers, Essia’s scribes are vetted for academics, typing skill, and medical passion before being admitted into the training program. Independent study of medical jargon, how to create encounter notes, and how to create differential diagnoses is followed with 20 hours of classroom training, where they practice charting in the EHR. Following independent study and classroom time, the new scribes progress to an actual encounter. They’re paired with existing scribes and trainers for an additional 80 hours of observation and instruction before becoming a full-fledged scribe themselves.

Scribe Impact on Clinical Efficiency
While scribing might not seem efficient at first glance, according to Dr. Myers and several studies, scribing can actually help some practices. According to a study published in the Journal of ClinicoEconomics and Outcomes Research, physicians who used scribes saw an increase of 1.3 patients per hour, and 2 work relative value units (wRVU) per day. There was even a rise in levels of patient and provider satisfaction of 6 and 50 percent, respectively. Perhaps the most (or least) surprising benefit is the rise in patient satisfaction. Having an additional person involved in every patient encounter might seem awkward, but if the physician is spending more time interacting with the patient instead of a screen, it’s not surprising that patients felt better engaged.

Future of Scribing
As data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) shows, nearly half a million providers have begun to use EHR programs since the Meaningful Use incentive program began, and the number continues to rise. A brief Google search turns up hundreds of companies moving into the medical scribe training and placement business to meet an increasing demand. For providers who can’t seem to find the right workflow efficiency with an EHR, this can be a good solution, but there is a cost. According to Myers, most Scribes make $10-$15 per hour. So, consider carefully if hiring a scribe is the best option. Then, look for someone with experience using your EHR to minimize training and onboarding time.

But keep in mind that the long term goal of an EHR should be to simplify medical workflows, not add additional staff.Tweet this Kareo story

So you may want to balance the option of a scribe against the time and cost of additional personalized training for providers who are struggling to adapt to an EHR.

About the Author

charles settleCharles Settles is a content writer at TechnologyAdvice. He frequently covers topics related to Health IT, business intelligence, and other emerging trends.

 

 

 

 

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Use Patient Engagement Technology to Add Loyal Patients, Earn Profits

Lea Chatham April 15th, 2014

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Part B News logo

By Roy Edroso, Part B News

Push patient engagement with electronic health record (EHR) tools not just to meet meaningful use standards but also to keep patients coming back.

Patient engagement features include patient dialogue with providers that goes beyond the office (e.g., secure messaging) and health interventions that require the active participation of patients, such as diet and exercise monitoring.

Practice managers might consider those features low-impact and not worth pursuing beyond regulatory requirements. Yet some measures are actually what patients say they want, according to Lea Chatham, a content manager and patient engagement expert at EHR company Kareo.

The Optum Institute, for example, finds that most patients want an online relationship with their providers, and Aeffect Inc. finds “access to EMR tools appears to be one of many elements that are likely to contribute to higher levels of satisfaction and patient retention.”

“Patients are starting to view health care like other consumer services,” Chatham says. “They begin to expect the same kind of access that they get from retail. They want tech notifications—balance due, service reminders, the ability to use electronic communication.”

Along with giving patients what they want, the EHR tools can help your practice meet stage 2 meaningful use measure 7 (portal access to health records) and measure 17 (secure messaging with patients) (PBN 1/13/14).

Use tech to improve your image
Patients’ perceptions of tech-savvy practices also have changed, says Robert Tennant, senior policy adviser for the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) in Washington, D.C.

“I think it used to be that Medicare patients were tech-averse, but now they’re coming in with smartphones themselves,” says Tennant. “For a practice to be seen using tech like this is to be seen as cutting-edge in clinical standards too—and an older, paper-based office may not seem up to the latest clinical standards. Look at Kaiser Permanente’s ads: They’re about patient engagement and technology now—they position themselves as tech leaders, therefore health care leaders.”

The further you go with patient communications, the more tightly you bind them to your practice, suggests Todd Searls, director of Wide River LLC in Lincoln, Neb.

“If the patient communication tool is one way only—like an email stating that a lab result is in—then not much is changing from how we do things today,” says Searls. “However, if the email leads the patient to a portal where they can schedule appointments, review educational resources, upload their own medical history then you are starting to really build a portal for patient engagement that can transform patients from ‘audience’ status to ‘participant’ status.”

How simplification saves money
As these technologies develop and patients get used to using them, their financial advantages will become easier to see, says Tennant. He anticipates your skepticism: In the meaningful-use era, physicians who’ve been spending bundles to come up to standards may find that hard to believe anymore.

But Tennant expects the next tech wave will show savings through administrative simplification. For example: “A pretty significant number of medical claims are rejected on transcription error,” says Tennant. Practices lose more than $3 per claim that they have to rework, according to a 2013 AMA report (PBN 7/1/13). “That would be reduced by a smart health card.” Also, he says think of the phone calls and unnecessary office visits that will be headed off by a more robust online communication link between providers and patients.

3 tech tips to do now
The smart cards are a ways off, but take advantage of technological advances that are now available:

  • Use text messaging with proper HIPAA security standards. Studies show that many doctors already are using text messaging to communicate with patients. Several companies have developed texting systems that they say meet HIPAA standards to protect patient’s information (PBN 6/24/13).
  • Find apps that work specifically for your practice. “There are tens of thousands of health-care-related apps out there — and most of them are useless,” says Tennant. But some are effective, especially for patients with chronic diseases like diabetes, he says. “We’re looking forward to practices leveraging that type of tech, and maybe even having their own apps,” says Tennant. “An endocrine practice with a lot of diabetics could get an info feed from their patients, for example, that goes directly into the EHR system. And they can use the same tech to push out information—on healthy living, things to avoid, things to do, news … there are a lot of opportunities.”
  • Handle over-communicators. As your online patient communications improve, some patients will expect an immediate response, even when they only have a sore elbow, Tennant notes. “Typically Medicare will not reimburse for that service, so you have to be cautious opening that up,” he says. “Also, you don’t want to diagnose via text”—even if the patient sends a picture. The model is for the patient to make an off-hours call to your phone service; generally the answer will be to have the patient go to an emergency room or come to the office in the morning.

This article was reprinted with permission from Part B News. To subscribe to Part B News, click here.

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Successfully Implement Patient Portal for Meaningful Use

Lea Chatham April 10th, 2014

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Register NowPatient Portal: Meaningful Use, Engaged Patients & More
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
10:00 AM PT, 1:00 PM ET

Practices that have invested time and money in choosing, implementing, and converting to electronic health records are ready to reap the benefits—and patients portals are an important key to success. A well-implemented patient portal will help you achieve Meaningful Use incentives AND improve patient engagement and compliance while also simplifying time-consuming office tasks like reporting lab results and medical records requests. In addition to the financial and workflow benefits, patients are actually eager to connect with their physicians electronically. You just need to know how to make it all happen

In this webinar, Laurie Morgan will share strategies to help you:

• Successfully implement your patient portal
• Improve patient engagement, compliance, and outcomes
• Meet some requirements to attest for Stage 2 of Meaningful Use

You’ll leave this webinar able to realize more of the benefits of your EHR and patient portal!

Who should attend? Practice managers, healthcare providers, and anyone else who is interested in using and make the most of a patient portal

Register now to learn how to make the most of your patient portal

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Great Meaningful Use Updates in Kareo April Newsletter

Lea Chatham April 9th, 2014

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The April edition of the Kareo Getting Paid Newsletter is packed with Meaningful Use tools and tips to help you attest along with our latest infographic on making increasing demand for healthcare services an opportunity for your practice. The newsletter also provides a chance to discover upcoming events, news, and resources from Kareo and links to connect with Kareo on social media. Plus, you’ll learn about how to register for our upcoming free educational webinar, Patient Portal: Meaningful Use, Engaged Patients & More, presented by Laurie Morgan. Read all this and more now!

April Kareo Getting Paid Newsletter

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Patient Portals: If You Build One, Will Patients Engage?

Lea Chatham April 8th, 2014

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by Laurie Morgan, Capko & Morgan

Register Now to Learn How to Make the Most of a Patient PortalLately we’re finding that the mere mention of the words patient portal prompt a shudder of fear among some of the practice managers and physicians we work with—as if the very idea of implementing one conjures images of the most painful aspects of the EHR implementation process. And nobody seems to even consider the upside. As with so many other technology waves that have crashed onto practice shores in the past few years, administrators and physicians assume that the benefits of implementing a patient portal couldn’t possibly outweigh the cost (and may not even exist!).

You, too, may be thinking that a patient portal is just another must-do for Meaningful Use—with no upside for your practice. But what if I told you that there is a growing body of research showing that a well-functioning patient portal has tangible benefits for patients and your practice? Not pie-in-the-sky, but measurable benefits like significantly improved adherence to preventive care and vaccine schedules and medication recommendations.  Research even shows that an effective portal can help you retain existing patients and recruit new ones. One recent study found that 73% of patients were more loyal to their physician when there was a portal, while another showed that two-thirds of patients would consider switching to a provider who offered access to medical records online.  And if you consider that adding just one patient a week as a result of offering an easy-to-use portal and online tools, that could mean $5,000 to your annual bottom line—and that’s just one way to profit.

A successful portal implementation can put you on the path to meeting Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements and so much more. But it’s not enough to simply launch your portal. Success requires carefully determining what you will offer to patients, deciding how you will interact with them via the portal, and developing a roll-out plan to ensure patients know about your portal and its benefits to them. It’s not rocket science, and it needn’t be overwhelming, but it does require a bit of planning and research.

Please join me on April 16 for a free webinar, The Patient Portal: Meaningful, Engaged Patients, and More, that can help you effectively launch and maximize the benefits of a patient portal!

About the Author
Laurie MorganLaurie Morgan is a senior consultant and partner at Capko & Morgan. She managed both start-ups and large-scale operations in the media industry before turning her focus to medical practice management. Her consulting focus is on driving and capturing revenue and operating more efficiently. Laurie has an MBA from Stanford University.

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Privacy Statements in Plain Language

Lea Chatham April 2nd, 2014

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By Jean Eaton, B Admin, CHIM

Primary care practice managers and clinic managers are required by legislation and regulated standards to develop forms and notices to inform their patients of what to expect at the clinic. These documents usually have one of two main purposes:

  • Inform our patients and client about how their information is being collected, what will be done with it, and what their choices are.
  • Inform our patients and clients about their care and treatment.

Each purpose is important–important enough for us to take the time and effort to make the documents easy to read and easy to understand.

What is plain language?
The objective of plain language is to write in simple conversational English at about an eighth grade reading level. Here are some basic plain language guidelines that make documents easy to understand.Tweet this Kareo story

  • Omit legal/technical jargon and limit defined terms
  • Use positive language
  • Avoid double negatives
  • Use active voice
  • Pare down sentences to one thought
  • Omit wordy phrases (instead of “in order to” use “to”)
  • Use personal pronouns
  • Keep the message personal by using question and answer format to explain common situations
  • Describe complex issues in “if this, then that” terms (e.g., “If you have a question or complaint, then contact us here.”)

Revising your privacy statement into plain language helps you review your own practices and often provides clarity and improvements. An easily understood privacy statement helps to meet regulations and standards compliance of the clinic. Perhaps most importantly, when the patient understands the privacy statement, the patient becomes actively involved in the process of collection, use, and disclosure of their personal information. Using plain language may not be simple but it can help you improve your practice management.

Design the poster or handout using a reader friendly format much like an advertisement. Avoid fancy fonts and images, just frame the text in a simple box.

Here is a sample of a plain language poster:

Privacy Poster Sample

 

About the Author

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJean L. Eaton, B Admin, CHIM, CC is the Practice Management Mentor. She believe that people working in healthcare know that they want to provide good services and have a profitable business. They have a sense of what they need to do to get there, but sometimes need the confidence, details, and resources to help them. She helps with templates, user guides, real-life examples, networking, practical resources, and mentoring. She can give you the confidence to take care of the elephant in the room.

 

 

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Winter Weather Got Your Revenue Down? Here Are 4 Ways to Pick It Up

Lea Chatham April 1st, 2014

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It’s been a rough winter. Bad weather (heavy snow, icy roads, and high winds) impacts small businesses of all types, including medical practices. Employees can’t make it in so you are short staffed or not staffed at all. Patients call and cancel because they don’t want to risk being out and about. Whether you actually have to close or you have high no shows and cancellations, it affects your bottom line.

Kareo recently asked medical practices if they had to close for one or more business days because of inclement weather. It turns out about 55% of Kareo customers surveyed had closed as a result of bad weather this winter.  The result was an average drop in revenue of 12% for practices that actually closed. Yikes! If your monthly revenue is $30,000 per provider then you’re short about $3,600 per provider per month. This doesn’t include practices that saw reduced patient visits but kept their doors open. When every dollar counts, that’s a hit.

You can recoup these loses with a little work. Bad weather is a lot like recovering from a disaster. Try the same 4 strategies. Tweet this Kareo story

  1. First and foremost, get those cancelled/missed appointments rescheduled as quickly as possible. If you have remote access to your practice management software, you can work on this from any location while your practice is closed.
  2. Consider extending your practice hours for the coming weeks to accommodate additional appointments. By adding evening hours or a few Saturdays, you should be able to get many appointments rescheduled in a matter of weeks.
  3. Get in touch with other patients who need follow up appointments. If you have patients who are in need of follow ups but haven’t scheduled, give them a call too. For example, contact patients who need a surgical procedure or a colonoscopy but haven’t scheduled. It can help boost your revenue in the coming months to balance out the losses.
  4. Consider doing a little marketing. Many small medical practices don’t do any marketing to patients or the community. It may seem like it takes too much time or costs too much. In fact, there are lots of easy ways to conduct simple marketing to boost your business. If you haven’t been doing this, now may be the time to try. Start with your existing patients. HIPAA allows you to market your services to your own patients. Send a simple postcard out to encourage patients to come in for routine preventive care. You can do it for more generic visits like flu shots or for specific groups of patients like women who need annual exams.

To do any of these tasks effectively, you need a good practice management solution. Cloud-based software allows you to access the system and work from home. Customizable scheduling lets you change and adapt your schedule to add hours. Good reporting enables you to run reports on patients to do follow up and marketing.

As a last note, to help keep open appointment slots down, be sure to use reminders (phone, email, and text) to reduce no shows, and to fill empty appointment slots by continuing to reach out to patients who need follow up and offering 24/7 online appointment scheduling.

Share your strategies for recouping revenue after an unforeseen closure in the comments!

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Welcome to Getting Paid, a weblog by Kareo offering ideas, news and opinions about medical billing and practice management with the goal of making medical billing easier and yes, getting you paid. Visit the Product Blog for more information on our products.

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